Talent Acquisition

Hiring essentials: A structured Interview process & question bank

two people in an interview

We’ve got some news - relying on your gut feeling isn’t the most effective way to hire new talent.

If you’re hiring via unstructured interviews in your early-stage business, it probably means you interview each candidate based on a random set of questions, letting the conversation stir in various directions that differ from person to person.

Once the evaluation stage rolls around, you’re at your wit’s end, not sure of who the right person for the role is.

This is why large companies like Google use standardised – or structured – interviews. The senior recruiter Lisa Stern Haynes has said:

“Structured interviews are more predictive of a candidate’s future performance on the job compared to unstructured interviews.”

Need more convincing? Let’s look at how a structured interview works in practice and what its benefits are. Then we’ll unpack some examples of great interview scorecards and question bank ideas to show you how to create your own interview process.

Let’s go!

  1. What a Structured Interview Looks Like
  2. 6 Benefits of Structured Interviews
  3. How to Create Your Interview Scorecard
    A) To Give You an Example
    B) Question Bank Ideas
  4. FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

What a structured interview looks like

Let’s jump right in and start this off with a question bank. This is a set of questions that target various facets of the candidate’s personality and skills, such as:

  • Knowledge and expertise related to the job position (“How would you go about fixing [insert a particular job-related issue]?”)
  • Core values and personality traits (“How do you approach team projects?”)
  • Problem-solving and communication (“Tell me about a time you encountered a challenging customer.”)

Your question bank might include dozens of questions, but you should choose only about eight to ten that are most suitable to the position you’re hiring for. When you’re hiring a sales development representative, for instance, your questions will vary from those you ask an engineer.

Next, ask each candidate the same questions in the same succession.

Keep your answer guidelines and interview scorecard at hand. This is a document that details the signs of an excellent and a poor answer. Based on what your candidate says, rate their answer on a scale of 1-5.

When all interviews are done and dusted, compare your candidates’ scores to determine who the best person for the job is.

And voila! There you have it – a structured interview process in a nutshell.

6 benefits of structured interviews

Minimised bias. You may not realise it, but the questions you ask are influenced by subconscious assumptions that hinder the hiring process.

To give you an example, research has shown that men and women get asked different questions during unstructured interviews. Namely, women are required to prove their worth more often through questions such as:

  • “Tell me why we should hire you.”
  • “What are your greatest weaknesses and strengths?”
  • “Why do you want the job?”

When you ask each candidate the same set of questions, you’re less likely to fall for these unconscious biases, which in turn makes for a fair and equal interview process.

More diverse teams. Seeing as you’re not operating on gut feelings or assumptions, you have a better chance of hiring the right people and providing fair opportunities for diverse candidates.

Efficiency and speed. Instead of racking your brain trying to figure out how you feel about this and that candidate, you’re looking at objective data. This makes it much easier to compare candidates and make a final decision.

Validity. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology confirms that “structured interviews, regardless of content, are more valid than unstructured interviews for predicting job performance criteria.”

And this also means that you might benefit from…

Higher employee retention. If you hire the right person for the job, there’ll be less need to look for someone else. And that’s definitely a plus for busy startups like yours. Of course, keep in mind that a structured interview is only one cog in the machine– employee retention largely relies on other factors, such as career opportunities, salary, and flexibility.

Better interview experience. Finally, the results of Google’s internal research are clear – structured interviews make for happier candidates and interviewers. The process is fair, clear, and saves time.

How to create your interview scorecard

Let’s say you’ve gathered some questions for your question bank.

(If not, scroll down – at the end of this section, you’ll find 10 questions you can ask your candidates.)

The next step is to create answer guidelines and an interview scorecard.

…but how?

Create a table with six columns:

  • Criteria (what you’re testing for, e.g., solution orientation or curiosity)
  • Questions (the specific questions themselves)
  • Rationale (why you’re asking this question and any extra tips)
  • Expectations (positive signals and warning signs that serve as answer guidelines for your rating)
  • Score (on a scale of 1 to 5)
  • Comments (any additional feedback)

To give you an example…

  1. Let’s say you’re testing for customer-centricity.
  2. Your question is: “Tell me about your most challenging customer.”
  3. You’re asking this because you want to see whether the candidate is empathetic toward the customer. For this reason, resist the urge to add, “What did you do to turn them around?” Instead, invite them to talk about the experience on their own terms.
  4. A positive signal is that your candidate shows empathy. They try to frame the problem through the customer’s eyes and they understand that the person must have felt frustrated, which may have led them to act out.
  5. A negative signal is that your candidate assumes a negative approach toward the customer, assigning blame or rolling their eyes while explaining how they’ve managed to get through the situation. This is a warning sign their attitude isn’t customer-centric.
  6. Based on your candidate’s answer, assign them a score of 1 to 5.
  7. Add any additional comments for why you chose to give them this rating.

Question bank ideas

  • What’s the most constructive bit of feedback you’ve ever been given?
  • Tell me about a critical work situation that you think you’ve handled well.
  • What’s your ideal workspace?
  • What nonprofessional skills would you like to learn?
  • Can you recall an instance when your actions positively impacted someone else’s day?
  • How do you handle conflict with colleagues?
  • Imagine X has happened. How would you go about solving the situation?
  • Describe to me how you manage your time and meet your targets.
  • What has been your most challenging work experience so far?
  • What’s the most recent book or article you’ve read about [a job-related topic]?

Final words

The wonderful thing about structured interviews is how much confusion goes out the window once clear and objective data is in the picture.

Remember to tailor each set of questions to the specific role you’re hiring for and to optimize your hiring process for ED&I as much as possible.

Finally, don’t forget to ask your candidate whether they have any questions or feedback for you. This is a collaborative process, after all. The more feedback you have, the better your hiring process becomes.


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FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

What is an interview scorecard?

An interview scorecard is a document or a sheet of paper that allows the interviewer to give their candidate a rating based on their answer. It is most frequently used in structured interviews.

What are the advantages of a structured interview?

A structured interview is an effective way to ensure your hiring process is optimized for ED&I and mitigates any unconscious bias. It’s also a better predictor of job performance than an unstructured interview and it makes for a more enjoyable interview experience.

How do you close an interview?

Ask the candidate whether they have any questions for you. Then thank them for taking the time to speak with you and ask if they have any feedback to give you (or if they’d be happy to complete a short email questionnaire about their interview experience).

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