Interviews can be nerve wracking and challenging at the best of times. For this reason its important to have some idea as to what to expect in an interview, and to have an understanding as to how an interview is going to be structured, and what the hiring manager aims to get out of the interview.

There are various different types of interviews, and depending on the company and in many cases the hiring manager, you may be faced with either a structured interview, or an unstructured interview.

When interviewing, hiring managers basically have three key areas they want to explore. Firstly, can you do the job? Secondly, will you be happy in the role? And thirdly, will you fit into the company? How they decide to conduct the interview in order to obtain this information from you, will depend largely on the company.

A  fair amount of hiring managers interview poorly, they are not trained to know how to interview, or what questions they should be asking, or what they should be looking out for, because they are just not trained in this area, and do not have the experience. For this reason some companies tend to prefer a structured interview over an unstructured interview. It is important to know the difference between a structured and unstructured interview, as they are conducted very differently, which can be disconcerting when being interviewed.

What is the difference between a structured interview and an unstructured interview?

Structured Interview

In a structured interview you will be asked a set of predetermined questions. Typical questions would include questions that would help to identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as to how you handle certain situations in the workplace, as well as your skill level, among other areas. These questions are specifically designed, based on the company’s requirements in terms of a job match, as well as to whether you have the right aptitude and temperament to do the job. Your answers are then graded based on an evaluation system to determine whether they feel you are a right fit or not.

During the interviewing process each candidate that is interviewed will be asked the same questions, and their answers evaluated. Some companies find that structured interviews tend to be better at predicting job performance. A structured interview also takes the pressure off of the interviewer, as he will know exactly what to ask next, structured interviews are also quicker to conduct as there is no deviation from the questions being asked. A structured interview allows the company to find out exactly what it needs to help quickly determine if a candidate has what they are looking for, and if they should move on to the next level of the interview process.

Unstructured Interviews

An unstructured interview is more like a conversation where the conversation runs more freely. There are no structural interview questions, but the recruiter will as a whole have a list of items that they will cover, such as asking questions around work experience, education and skills. The conversation tends to flow more freely. The questions asked in an unstructured interview can also change, depending on how the individual responds and the flow of the conversation. The problem with unstructured interviews is that errors in the information that has been obtained can sometimes happen, and sometimes an unclear impression may occur. However unstructured interviews can also be beneficial as sometimes information is gained that was not planned and may not have come up in a structured interview.

With an unstructured interview it is also possible to explore issues  or potential problem areas that may come up during the course of the interview , as the hiring manager may deviate to cover areas where there may be concerns, because the interview is more flexible and will allow for a deviation. The unstructured interview is also very effective in finding out more about a candidate’s personality, how they handle pressure, and to get a good feel about a candidates understanding of a situation before making a hiring decision.

When it comes to interviewing techniques, there is really no right or wrong, and both structured and unstructured interviews have their place. However as a job seeker regardless as to what type of interview you will be facing, you always need to prepare for an interview.


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