Think back to going through the application process for your current or most recent job. What did it look like? Did you have a casual conversation with your current supervisor? Were you asked about the most recent book you read or your plans for the summer? If so, you likely participated in an unstructured interview.
What are unstructured vs. structured interviews?
Employment interviews range from low to high on structure. Structure means the degree of discretion that an interviewer is allowed in conducting an interview (Levashina et al., 2013). This includes both the interview questions asked as well as how responses from the applicant are scored.
For example, a job interview that is low in structure for interview questions means that each applicant may be asked different questions. Low structure on applicant scoring means that little to no notes are taken on how interviewees respond and there is no rubric to evaluate how they responded.
High structure interviews involve a script for which questions will be asked to every applicant as well as a scoring rubric to evaluate responses. Follow-up questions and “small talk” are minimized or eliminated entirely in these structured interviews.
Why should organizations use structured interviews?
For a long time, researchers and scientists have been advocating for the use of structured interviews over unstructured interviews for a variety of reasons, including lower levels of bias and higher levels of predictive validity. Unfortunately, there has been push back from those doing the work in practice.
Often, individuals like to have casual conversations and see if they can “vibe” with the person they’re interviewing. This can lead to high levels of bias as the interview becomes less about finding the best candidate for the job and more about finding someone the interviewer gets along with.
Recently the field of I/O Psychology was shaken up by a meta-analysis from Paul Sackett and others that showed that structured interviews are the top selection procedure for predicting job performance.
Not job knowledge or general intelligence or some personality trait, but the use of structured interview techniques. Further, these techniques are far less open to bias than other selection procedures, leading to lower levels of subgroup differences across race.
How can structured interviews help to improve DEI?
So, how does it work? How does increasing structure in a job interview lead to a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization?
Structured interviews are more objective. This means that they are less likely to be influenced by unconscious bias, which can lead to the hiring of less qualified candidates.
Structured interviews are more consistent. This means that all candidates are asked the same questions, in the same order, which makes it easier to compare their responses.
Structured interviews are more focused on skills and competencies. This means that they are less likely to be derailed by irrelevant factors, such as the candidate's personal background or appearance.
Structured interviews can be used to assess a wider range of skills and competencies. This means that organizations can be more confident that they are hiring the right candidate for the job.
Structured interviews can help to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace. When individuals are given the opportunity to demonstrate their worth to the organization, they will feel that their voice is being heard in a fair and equitable way.
Next time you’re asked to help out in finding the best candidate for an opening in your organization, consider advocating for the use of structured interviews. This fair and equitable practice is a great way to start your candidates off on the right foot, showing your organization prioritizes inclusion and performance. Further, the research shows that this practice gets the best candidates in the door, especially because diversity and merit go hand-in-hand.
Looking for guidance on how embed DEI across every stage of the employee lifecycle? Contact Mattingly Solutions today to learn how we can partner to advance your DEI goals. Together.