Closing the Scientist-Practitioner Gap: The Importance of Structured Interviews

Levashina, J., Hartwell, C. J., Morgeson, F. P., & Campion, M. A. (2014). The Structured Employment Interview: Narrative and Quantitative Review of the Research Literature. Personnel Psychology, 67(1), 241-293. doi:10.1111/peps.12052

Synopsis By: Juliette Lloyd, Brooke Ackerman & Brandon Jordan

Preparing your interview is the best way to get a prepared employee: the importance of structured interviews

The employment interview is the most widely used selection method used. It is rare, nearly impossible, to be hired without the use of an interview. But what makes some interviews effective, and others ineffective at choosing the right candidate? How can an organization create interviews to be a valuable selection tool to find the best possible new hires?

Numerous studies have consistently found that structured interviews are more successful overall than unstructured interviews in both identifying competencies & predicting other important outcomes (i.e. ethical behavior, job performance, etc.) An interview is defined as a personally interactive process of one or more people (i.e. interviewers) asking questions verbally to another person (i.e., candidate) and evaluating the answers to determine the qualifications of that person for employment decisions. They can be unstructured (i.e. the interviewer does not prepare questions in advance) or structured (i.e. the interviewer has preset questions to ask across each applicant.) “Probing” is a follow-up question that is intended to supplement an incomplete response from an applicant or seek to clarify information.

..studies have consistently found the structured interviews are overall better & more successful..

We review this article which organized a deep examination of the extant literature to see what an interview was, what constitutes a structured interview, why it’s important, what concepts an interview can assess, what types of questions are asked, how interviewers can evaluate candidates, and how interviewers can follow-up or probe on questions in a structured interview.

How can you avoid interview bias in personality assesments?

Structure in an interview reduces the impact of implicit biases against race, gender, disability, etc. Having a set structure for interviewers to follow reduces the impact of their own perceptions, as every candidate is asked the same questions.

Often, candidates engage in impression management, a process where people attempt to influence the perceptions & images others form of them during social interaction. Structure may have an impact on impression management as well. While research is a little mixed, a structured interview may reduce the amount of impression management tactics taken by the interviewee, the level of “faking” done by the interviewee, or allow more time for the interviewee to show their true self.

Structured interviews can assess more than just job-related knowledge, skills, and abilities. Research has shown that structured interviews are an excellent way to assess personality, especially when the questions are written to assess personality traits.

What are the components of “structure” in a structured interview?

Components are split between content structure (i.e. things that have to do with the content of the interview questions & answers) and evaluation structure (i.e. things that have to do with how the interviewer(s) rates the candidate).

The authors found 18 categories of structure used in interviews. Most successful interviews used at least six of these categories in structuring their interview. The most frequently used categories to structure an interview are:

  1. Basing questions on a job analysis
  2. Asking the same questions to each candidate
  3. Using better types of questions (i.e. situational or behavior-based)
  4. Using anchored rating scales
  5. Rating each question rather than the candidate as a whole
  6. Providing interviewer training

What types of questions are asked in a structured interview? (PBQ vs. SQ)

In general, there are two types of questions a structured interview can ask:

  • Past-Behavior Questions (PBQs): Based on the premise that past behavior predicts future behavior, these questions ask applicants to describe what they did in past job-related situations. Generally assesses experience and perhaps some personality facets.
  • Situational Questions (SQs): Based on goal-setting theory and the assumption that intentions predict future behavior, these questions asks applicants to describe what they would do in hypothetical job-related situations. Generally assesses job knowledge and cognitive ability.

Structured interviews can assess more than just job-related knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Both are relatively equal in terms of consistency and linking to the desired outcomes, so it all depends on what you want to assess your applicants for!

Can interviewers follow-up structured interview questions?

Yes! These researchers have proposed that planned probing (i.e. set out questions to follow up with in case of a deficient answer) will both lead to more informational answers overall & better user experience than unlimited probing or restricting probing. Having more difficult probing questions may also lead to a decrease in interviewers “faking” their answers.

What can interviewers use to evaluate their applicants? (rating scales)

Many structured interviews use anchored rating scales (ARs), which provide behavioral, descriptive, or evaluative examples to illustrate points on the rating scale. Through using ARs, the interviewer can compare the applicants’ responses to the different “anchors” for each question.

Using ARs (or BARs) makes interviews more consistent and more accurate by controlling for biases, encouraging consistent ranking across interviewers, and producing consistent information for interviewers. These need to be job-relevant, and these researchers have proposed that having all rating points anchored (i.e. a description for 1, a description for 2, etc.) will lead to an even more reliable and accurate interview process.

Below is an example of what a customer service worker would look like for an “Attention to Detail” competency:

• Did not provide answers
• Exhibits inability to communicate simple ideas to others
• Does not make sure if others understand the information that they communicate
• Shows some ability of breaking down information in an easily understandable format
• Follows up with others to make sure they understand
• Able to clearly break down information in to simplest formats for understanding of others
• Ensures others understand information during and after communication
An example of an anchored rating scale for an “Attention to Detail” competency.


Structured interviews are a reliable & accurate way to assess the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other competencies that predict job performance. Having structure in your interview process provides a framework for which interviewers can review an applicant in an unbiased & simple way.

Workforce Lifecycle Analytics works with a number of organizations to improve employee hiring and selection. We have a number of core structured interview templates for various job families and often customize structured interviews for clients from job analysis or competency models.


Levashina, J., Hartwell, C. J., Morgeson, F. P., & Campion, M. A. (2014). The Structured Employment Interview: Narrative and Quantitative Review of the Research Literature. Personnel Psychology,67(1), 241-293. doi:10.1111/peps.12052

Article By Brooke Ackerman, Juliette Lloyd, and Brandon Jordan

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