Components of a Structured Interview Process

If you’re looking to improve your success rate with new hires, focus on implementing a structured interviewing process.  To be considered a “structured” interview process:

  1. Your interviews must be scripted, with all questions predetermined.
  2. Your interviews must be consistent; all candidates get asked the same questions.

Using a structured interview process can improve your hiring success rate by as much as forty percent.¹  With the potential to improve your results by such a large margin, you simply cannot continue to interview your job applicants with random questions spread across your ad hoc process.  You’re leaving a lot of wasted time and money on the table by doing so.

There are three main types of structured interviews that you should employ to determine the best candidate for the job. These interviews are the telephone interview, the experience interview and the behavioral interview.

Telephone Interview

The timing: This is the first interview step after you’ve determined that the applicant is a potential fit based on your pre-screening questionnaire.  This interview should last between 15 minutes (for lower-skill roles) and 60 minutes (for higher-level roles and management jobs).

The goal: To quickly determine whether or not the person being interviewed is qualified for the role.

The approach:  The telephone interview is your first opportunity to speak live with the applicant.  Start big picture, and gradually work your way down into the details of the job.  Remember, the goal of this interview step is to determine whether or not the applicant is worth spending more time with in-person, so as soon as you determine that they’re not, end the interview as quickly and graciously as possible.

For a free, fully scripted telephone interview guide that you can use, click here.

Experience Interview

The timing: This interview is the first in-person interview that you’ll conduct with the candidate.  This interview can be designed to take as little as twenty minutes, or as long as two hours, depending on the level of role being considered.

The goal: To understand whether or not this individual’s skills and work experience will give them a high likelihood of succeeding in the role for which they’re being considered.

The approach:  Using the candidate’s resume as an outline, you’re going to review their experience in reverse-chronological order.  By starting from the end and working your way forward, you will build trust with the person being interviewed and ensure that their most recent experience gets discussed with full transparency.  Your mindset in this interview should be, “What did you do, and how did you do it?”  You’re going to find out, for each role, what they were accountable for doing, how their performance was measured, the makeup of their team, and how their manager will rate their performance when asked to do so.

For a free, fully scripted experience-based interview guide that you can use, click here.

Behavioral interview

The timing:  If the candidate has made it to this step of the process, you have at least 75% confidence in their ability to deliver on the desired outcomes.  This interview will naturally take a big longer; you’re going to spend a minimum of forty five minutes, and as long as two hours (or more) diving into the details of how they do what they do.

The goal: To dig deep into the work style tendencies, habits and strategies of the job applicant to determine whether or not they’ll be a fit for the role, your company’s management style and workplace environment.

The approach: You’ve already determined that they have the requisite experience to do the job; now it’s time to focus on the “how.”  By using targeted questions, you’ll determine whether or not the candidate will be able to work within your company’s culture and environment to accomplish the specific outcomes that you’ve defined for this role.  Your mindset during this interview should be to take no answer at face value.  Instead, make sure that you’re following up with, “tell me more about that” each time they answer.  By peeling back the layers of the answer, you’ll cut through the canned responses and get to the real story.

For a free, fully scripted behavioral interview guide that you can use, click here.

Structured interviews are your best tool to use when assessing the candidate’s fit for the role.  These interview steps, when combined with pre-hire assessments, reference checking and skills testing will dramatically improve your hiring results.




  1. Source: Hireology, Inc; company research.