How HR Teams Can Humanize Structured Interviews

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The goal of any hiring strategy is to predict how candidates will perform in a given role, but more of these strategies need to do so systematically. For example, unstructured interviews remain one of the most common hiring methods even though they have a poor record of identifying top candidates. In addition, these interviews often produce more noise than signal and allow bias to creep into the hiring process. 

This is why HR teams are increasingly turning to more rigorous and objective approaches, such as structured interviews. However, unstructured interviews lead to hiring decisions based on interviewers’ instincts, assumptions, and subjective impressions. Structured interviews, on the other hand, are built around a standardized and consistent rubric which allows hiring managers to assess candidates impartially. This reduces bias, provides a more holistic view of candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, and makes the hiring process more predictive. 

There are several downsides to structured interviews: they require more time and effort, while some interviewers prefer having less formal and what they regard as more organic conversations with candidates. But the predictive power of structured interviews more than makes up for the investment necessary to conduct them appropriately. Moreover, there are plenty of ways to humanize these discussions and provide candidates with a positive experience. 

Why HR Teams Are Shifting to Structured Interviews

Companies facing a labor shortage  and high turnover rates  must make better hiring decisions. Beyond the direct costs of hiring and onboarding the wrong candidate, there’s the opportunity cost of missing out on a great hire. It’s no surprise that HR teams want to avoid this scenario, and switching from unstructured to structured interviews is one of the most reliable ways to get the right people in place at the outset. 

A substantial body of evidence suggests that structured interviews provide greater predictive validity than other approaches, such as a 2022 study  in Applied Psychology which found that these interviews outperformed all other selection procedures.

However, further research  has demonstrated that unstructured interviews can “hurt predictive accuracy because exposure to non-diagnostic information is known to dilute valuable information.” Structured interviews can also positively impact the candidate experience, as they indicate that hiring decisions are being made fairly – and not based on personal preferences and prejudices. 

While many hiring professionals will continue to use unstructured interviews for the foreseeable future, the advantages of switching to a more structured approach are only becoming more apparent. HR teams now have to determine how they will make this transition effectively – a process requiring them to develop a deeper understanding of how structured interviews work. 

Debunking the Myths Around Structured Interviews

One of the most common complaints about structured interviews from hiring managers is that they feel too rigid and impersonal, which hurts the candidate experience. But structured interviews don’t have to be awkward and robotic; interviewers can still have open conversations with candidates about the role, the company’s values and culture, and many other topics. Interviewers can also make the process smoother and less stressful by explaining the format and expectations of the interview beforehand. 

There’s also a misperception about how candidates perceive structured interviews and other objective hiring methods. Our research has found that candidates welcome opportunities to prove themselves: 84% believe they can demonstrate their full potential to employers, and 94% think assessment scores can help them. Structured interviews offer another way for candidates to show employers what they can accomplish on a level playing field. 

Despite the expectation that structured interviews will lead to unpleasant hiring experiences, candidates are saying otherwise. When Google’s hiring team tried structured interviewing, it reported an “uptick in candidate satisfaction in feedback scores.” This increase was especially pronounced among rejected candidates, who were 35% more satisfied than those who didn’t have a structured interview. Even when candidates don’t receive an offer, structured interviews leave them with the impression that they were evaluated fairly. 

How HR Teams Can Fully Leverage Structured Interviews

Although the value of structured interviewing is increasingly clear to HR teams, it needs to be clarified precisely how they should build these interviews into their hiring processes. For example, while 81% of hiring professionals say they conduct structured interviews, less than a quarter report that they are “highly structured” with “standardized questions and defined rating scales.” Most companies use “somewhat structured interviews, with some standardized questions and loose rating scales.” 

Two-thirds of hiring professionals believe structured interviews lead to better hiring decisions. Still, they cite several obstacles that make the implementation of these interviews difficult, such as defining the rubric for evaluating responses (47%), defining interview questions (44%), finding the time to develop the process (44%), and getting hiring managers to comply with a more structured approach (40%). 

Several guidelines will help HR teams address these challenges. When defining the rubric and interview questions, hiring professionals should emphasize the traits that are most predictive of success on the job – from general cognitive ability to role-specific skills.

HR teams can address concerns about the time and effort necessary to develop structured interviews by pointing out that this shift will ultimately save time and resources. Google found that “Using pre-made, high-quality questions, guides, and rubrics saves on average 40 minutes per interview,” which should improve compliance among hiring managers. 

As HR teams continue gravitating toward structured interviews to make more predictive hiring decisions, they will need to focus on making these interviews as effective and streamlined as possible. This will drastically improve the quality of their hires and the candidate experience – goals that should never be regarded as mutually exclusive.

If you need help adding a human element to your interviews, our recruiting team can help you today. Contact us today to learn more about our recruiting services and solutions.


Josh Millet is the founder and CEO of Criteria .

By Josh Millet