Structured vs Unstructured Interviews

Structured and unstructured interviews are two of the major interview methods. Where the former is carried out by enquiring the candidates through a well-defined set of questions. Although, the latter is based on impromptu questions, going with the flow of conversation.

Now, let us understand, what is an interview?

An interview is a process of interrogating the candidates to analyze whether their efficiency and skills match the job requirement. It further facilitates the recruitment of an appropriate person to occupy the vacant position.

Content: Structured vs Unstructured Interviews

Comparison Chart – Difference Between Structured and Unstructured Interviews

BASISSTRUCTURED INTERVIEWUNSTRUCTURED INTERVIEW
MeaningA structured interview is a formal process of candidate evaluation through a predefined series of questions.An unstructured interview is an informal method where the free flow questioning of the candidates takes place.
ApproachPositiveInterpretative
Question typeClose-endedOpen-ended
Accumulated dataQuantitativeQualitative
Factors analyzedExplicitImplicit
ResearchDescriptiveExploratory
For job performance analysisEffectiveLess Effective
PurposeResult authentication in case of bulk candidatesInvestigation of personal information for ensuring that the right person is employed for the right position.
FacilitatesComparisonIn-depth Discussion
Time EfficientYesNo
Response RateHighComparatively Low
Interpersonal ConnectivityLowComparatively High

Examples

Structured Interview

The company interviewed for the post of Data Entry Operators. 43 candidates were called out of which 12 were to be selected. A standard questionnaire was prepared.

All the 43 candidates were made to answer the same set of questions and each question was rated on a 1-5 scale for the excellence. Where the answer rated 1 is the lowest, and 5 is the best score.

The total of all the questions is the final score of each candidate. The top 12 scoring candidates are finally recruited.

Unstructured Interview

While recruiting for the position of Sales Manager, the company interviewed 7 candidates.

Based on their resumes, the interviewer asked immediate questions to the candidates. The conversation here is unplanned and informal.

The candidates are assessed in terms of their body language, skills, experience, knowledge and attitude. The best candidate is thus selected.

What is a Structured Interview?

A structured interview can be explained as a systematic approach of posing a standardised set of close-ended questions to the candidates for acquiring quantitative data.

Structured Interview Process

The step by step activities carried out in a structured interview are given below:

Structured-Interview-Process
  1. Conduct Job Analysis: The foremost function of a structured interview is to interpret the job description and specification of the vacant position.
  2. Elaborate the Requirements: Based on job analysis data, the necessary skills, traits, abilities, competencies, qualification, etc required for a position are well-defined.
  3. Design a Set of Questions: Now, with the help of prior information, a standard list of questions is prepared which remains constant for all the candidates.
  4. Select Appropriate Grading Scale: Next, to simplify the process of comparison among the candidates, their responses are analyzed through a standard rating system. Thus, a grading scale is selected for this purpose.
  5. Carry Out the Interview: Lastly, proceed with the structured interview with the help of a standardized interview form.

What is an Unstructured Interview?

An unstructured interview is an informal process of open-ended questioning from the candidates. It helps the interviewer to establish a healthy social connection with the interviewee to gain qualitative information.

Unstructured Interview Tactics

To conduct a successful unstructured interview, the interviewer must keep in mind the below-given tips:

Unstructured-Interview-Tactics
  • While interviewing the candidates, the interviewer must seek the finest information.
  • Stay within a peripheral of the concerned topics by smoothly controlling the conversation.
  • Record or note down the information as it is crucial for better results.
  • The observance is one of the best means of interrogation. Since their body language and expressions while answering can say much more about the candidates.
  • Moving with the ease of interaction, helps the candidates to speak fearlessly in front of the interviewer.

Structured Interview Advantages

A structured interview is highly preferred in the companies where bulk-hiring of lower-level staff is common. It is also adopted for technical hiring.

Let us understand the various benefits of this technique below:

Structured-Interview-Advantages
  • Time Efficient: This method is highly time-saving. Since a uniform set of questions are posed to all the interviewees where the responses are easily comparable.
  • Provides a Fair Opportunity: Every candidate needs to answer similar questions during the interview, which gives them an equal opportunity to prove themselves.
  • Standardization: In this interview technique, the guidelines are set in advance, along with the limits of questioning. Thus, shortening and simplifying the whole process.
  • Higher Response Rate: It facilitates bulk recruitment and initiates a better response due to its simplicity and easy accessibility.
  • Generate Statistical Output: The data so collected is quantitative and can be summarized in statistical figures.

Unstructured Interview Advantages

When it is the matter of selecting candidates for the job positions which require high interpersonal competency, an unstructured interview is conducted.

Following are some of the pros of adopting such an interview:

Unstructured-Interview-Advantages
  • Qualitative Data: An unstructured interview provides valuable input about every candidate. This is because each interviewee encounters a unique set of appropriate questions to be answered.
  • Discloses Candidate’s Real Personality: The interviewer develops a friendly and comfortable environment which helps to bring out the real selves of the candidates.
  • Detailed Analysis: Since it is an open-ended interview, there is no limit of questioning. Thus, it is a method which facilitates complete investigation of the candidates.
  • Facilitates Final Selection: It is one of the finest means to make the right choice of candidate for a certain position, after an in-depth analysis of their attributes, personality and mindset.
  • Provides Valid Results: Here, the questions are tailormade for every interviewee, the answers to these are also highly relevant.
  • Builds Strong Relationship: This kind of interview develops a personal understanding and interpersonal relation between the interviewer and the candidates.

Structured Interview Disadvantages

The structured interview is considered to be a formal method and because of its inflexibility and standard pattern, it has the following limitations in today’s dynamic work environment:

Structured-Interview-Disadvantages
  • Lack of Spontaneity: The structured interview process fails to motivate or encourage the candidates to break the formal boundaries and provide extended information about themselves.
  • Misinterpretation: The interviewer may misunderstand the answers provided by the candidates, influencing the results of the whole process.
  • Misrepresentation: It is mostly affected by the false personality portrayed by the candidates due to social desirability. Also, the interviewer’s attitude or tone may lead to a fake response.
  • Discourages Interpersonal Relations: This type of interview discourages any interpersonal connection between the interviewer and the interviewee, leading to a cold conversation.
  • Rigid: This format is quite inflexible, therefore any additional information about a candidate, which, however, be extremely important cannot be incorporated for evaluation.
  • Limited Evaluation: When it comes to the job position which requires excellent communication skills as key desirability, this method fails to provide the expected results, due to its impersonal interviewing process.

Unstructured Interview Disadvantages

The unstructured interview provides valid results, though it is criticized for its complexity.

Let us now go through its multiple drawbacks:

Unstructured-Interview-Disadvantages
  • Time Consuming: Probing different questions to each candidate consumes a lot of time which is a major challenge for the interviewer.
  • Exposed to Biasness: The interviewer’s personal preference or dislike may influence the interview process since he can accordingly pose or interpret the questions.
  • Improper Comparison: When interviewees are examined through varying questions, it becomes quite difficult to compare their skills and competencies.
  • Difficult to Interpret: Sometimes, the interaction reaches another level, complicating the overall analysis process.
  • Lack of Interviewer Skills: Since the unstructured interview has no standardized format, the whole process is based on the interviewer’s conversation skills. Thus, in the absence of such competency, such an interview may go in vain.

Summary

To develop a better understanding of the comparison chart, let us elaborate on each point:

In a structured interview, the same set of questions are posed to all the prospective candidates making the process quite formal. However, the unstructured interview is carried out informally to go with the flow while questioning the candidates to build strong interpersonal relations.

The former is usually practised by the interviewers with a positive perspective. On the contrary, the latter is an explanatory approach.

A structured interview comprises of a standard list of question. Whereas, in an unstructured interview, the questions have no particular criteria and framed immediately as per the need of the conversation.

By putting up uniform questions in the former interview type, many candidates can be interviewed on the same platform, providing quantitative data. While in the latter different candidates are enquired on the ground of varying questions which initiates qualitative analysis.

In the structured interview, a specific set of factors are studied in every candidate. But, in an unstructured interview, the interviewer moves a step further to analyze the implied factors.

The former is based on descriptive research, aiming at the collection of standard information which is easy to interpret. Although, the latter uses an exploratory research method where the focus is on the collection of valuable information.

Structured interview proves to be more efficient for analyzing the job responsibilities as the questionnaire revolves around the skills required for the work position. However, an unstructured interview focuses more on the interpersonal skills of the candidates.

The prior method is useful for recruiting multiple candidates at once. Whereas, latter is useful for the selection of a suitable and skilled employee through detailed investigation.

Where structured interview provides a base for comparison among the candidates, the unstructured interview helps to analyze the personal information of the interviewee.

The former is a time-saving process while the latter is a time-consuming method.

In a structured interview, a higher number of candidates participate actively. But, in an unstructured interview, a minimal number of candidates genuinely respond.

Since the former is a formal way, the interpersonal connectivity is meagre. Although, the latter helps to build robust interpersonal relations between the interviewer and the interviewee.

Which one is a better, structured interview or unstructured interview?

The debate on this question can go on endlessly. However, both of these methods of an interview are equally important.

Where a structured interview is more of a formal, standardized, time and cost-saving means of interrogating the candidates; the unstructured interview is an informal, casual and friendly way of examining the candidates.

Thus, both of these methods are widely used by various organizations.

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