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Structured Interviews

How prepared are you when interviewing candidates for a role? Do you follow a structured interview format? Do you use competency-based questions that address the requirements of the role that you’re seeking to fill?

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What are the benefits?

How prepared are you when interviewing candidates for a role? Do you follow a structured interview format? Do you use competency-based questions that address the requirements of the role that you’re seeking to fill?

Structured interviews:

  • Ensure that your interview process is up to twice as effective as non-structured interviews
  • Help make the interview process more objective and fair
  • Support you from a legal standpoint where candidates feel they were unfairly treated
  • Ensure that, through competency-based interview questions, the focus of the interview is on the actual requirements of the position
  • Prevent poor recruitment decisions and related costs, including:
    • the need to re-advertise
    • recruiting again if the employee leaves
    • time lost on training the new employee
    • downtime and loss of productivity

All too often employers interview candidates with little or no advance preparation and then wonder why the new employee doesn’t work out. Often, we make subjective decisions on candidates based on our mood that day, our first impressions, or how much we like or dislike the look of someone. We need to be more objective – we need to employ people who can do the job, as well as considering whether they’ll mix well with our current team and fit in to our organisational culture.

Without ensuring that you have created a fair and structured interview process, your interviews may be prone to errors which will significantly impact on the outcome of the interview itself – which could be positive or negative for you and/or the candidate(s) being interviewed.

Following are some common interview biases and errors.

First Impression Bias

This refers to our limitation to see beyond the very first piece of information that we are exposed to. So in the case of interviewing a candidate when they walk into the interview room, we are making a judgement based on our first impression – good or bad.

Halo Effect

Have you ever met someone and once you have got chatting experienced positive feelings about one characteristic that they possess (such as their appearance or they watch the same television programmes you do)? If you warm to this person because of the characteristic, everything they say seems valid and in keeping with your thoughts – if you hear something that isn’t quite congruent with the characteristic, the chances are, you will ignore it.

Devil’s Horns

This is the same as the Halo Effect but here the interviewer will tend to overemphasise an undesirable personality trait or past event in the candidate’s previous work experience – again trying to change this negative point of view is very difficult.


This is the formation of beliefs about a person or a group of people while ignoring individual differences. For example, an interviewer may be reluctant to offer a position to a Gen Y candidate in case they will go in pursuit of their job (stereotype – Gen Y’s want to be CEOs of the companies they join and won’t let anyone stand in their way). However, this ignores the individual differences of younger candidates who may be committed, hard working, have excellent ideas and be highly innovative, with a great deal to offer a business.

Contrast Effects

This occurs when interviewees are not compared against the criterion of the role, but against the other candidates being interviewed. One of the major errors here is that a poor candidate who is not ideal for a role may be hired as they are seen as the best of a bad bunch.

Similar to me

Oh, s/he is just like me! They will fit in perfectly! Sound familiar? Yes, whilst you may be a lovely person who is very capable of performing your job, ask yourself – does this candidate possess the skills, experience, and knowledge to do the job that they are being interviewed for?

Poor Validity

Are your interview questions actually focusing on the requirements of the job? Do they measure what they are supposed to measure?

In Conclusion

We are all human so conducting interviews will always involve an element of subjectivity however, introducing structured interview questions can help to put candidates on a more equal footing.