How a Structured Employment Interview Can Make a Difference

Topic(s): fairness, interviewing
Publication: Journal of Personnel Psychology (Spring, 2014).
Article: The Structured Employment Interview: Narrative and Quantitative Review of the Research Literature.
Authors: J. Levashina, C. J. Hartwell, F. P. Morgeson & M. A. Campion
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris

Prospective employees have been subjected to interviews as long as there have been jobs to hire them for. But the question of how to properly conduct an employment interview remains the object of discussion and debate.

In “The Structured Employment Interview,” authors J. Levashina, C. J. Hartwell, F. P. Morgeson and M. A. Campion examine how these interviews should be conducted for maximum benefit. When structured properly, a job interview can help predict various aspects of employee performance even better than cognitive and personality tests, while simultaneously reducing group differences and bias.

That being said, the structured employment interview is not devoid of pitfalls.

What is a Structured Employment Interview?

In broad terms, structured employment interviews have a fixed, standardized format that includes pre-set questions as well as evaluation criteria. They may lack in the kind of free-flowing conversation some interviewers might prefer. But they make up for it in precision and consistency.

Unfortunately, merely standardizing a job interview is not going to guarantee great decision-making. The study explores various elements of the structured employment interview that can help organizations make better decisions.


Asking Questions in a Structured Employment Interview

Obviously the questions presented in a job interview have to be valid. Asking a potential secretary about their preferred ice cream flavor doesn’t qualify. But the way in which the interviewer rates applicants’ answers is particularly important.

The study found it valuable to have a set rating scale, with descriptors for desired behaviors or responses. These can be marked against a set standard, but unfortunately this increases the rigidity of the process. However, having a fixed structure and pre-set questions doesn’t mean there’s no leeway for probing interviewees further. But more research needs to be done on the effects that these unscripted questions could have on the end result.


How Applicants Respond to Structured Employment Interviews

Structured job interviews are the preferred selection method, and are perceived as fairer by applicants. But how will the prospective employee respond to a structured interview process?

The study found mixed results, with some interviewees having a negative reaction to rigidly structured interviews. But while it may briefly influence the applicant’s feelings, this will not automatically translate into the rejection of a job offer (especially under the current employment climate).

Despite being widely used and researched, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the usage of structured employment interviews, and specifically how to maximize their utility. But this research paper makes a strong argument that a properly conducted structured interview could ultimately mean the difference between a good hire and a bad hire.