New types of interviews and techniques pop up all the time. There are stress interviews, strength interviews, case interviews, virtual interviews, puzzle interviews, firing squad (panel) interviews, and the list goes on.

But which type of interview is best, and which type is right for your company?

To help you sort through and evaluate interview options, it’s helpful to remember that interviews basically fall into one of two categories:  Unstructured and Structured. There are pros and cons of each, as we note below.


Unstructured Interviews

Unstructured interviews flow like a conversation. The interviewer builds rapport with candidates and allows them to express themselves in their own way. In this case, there are no prearranged questions and there is no interview guide. Rather, the interviewer asks questions as he or she sees fit.


This type of interview helps the interviewer gain an impression of the candidate and allows him or her to guide the direction of the interview.


The downside is that candidates do not all receive the same questions or information, making it difficult to compare and evaluate responses. Unstructured interviews are also less legally defensible, as there is no structure or plan to the questions, and questions may or may not be job-related.

Structured Interviews

The other type of interview is a structured interview. In this case, all candidates are asked the same predetermined, job-relevant questions. In addition, the same rating criteria are used to assess all candidate responses.


In structured interviews, candidate responses are much easier to compare. This type of interview is also more legally defensible since all candidates are receiving the same interview experience. Structured interviews are also proven to provide higher accuracy in predicting the candidate’s success on the job.


By their nature, structured interviews are less flexible. The interviewer is expected to stay on script and does not have much leeway to add impromptu questions.  A potential drawback is that candidates with limited job experience may have more difficulty answering job-related questions.

To overcome this issue, questions can be expanded to include school experience if the candidate has not previously held a job.

Finding an Interview That’s Right for You 

Because of their higher accuracy and legal defensibility, we are strong proponents of structured interviews.  Structured interviews help you find better people—and are more likely to keep you out of court.

Structured interviews can either focus on hypothetical questions, asking what the candidate would do in a particular situation (situational interviews); or they focus on what the candidate has done in a similar situation (behavioral interviews). We like behaviorally-based structured interviews best, and here’s why.

We believe the best interview questions target job-specific behaviors and allow candidates to back up their responses with concrete examples. With hypothetical questions, you’ll get hypothetical answers. If, on the other hand, candidates are asked to provide a real-life example of a past work or related experience, you’ll get a much clearer picture of how the candidate will actually perform once they’re on the job. After all, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

So, what are the next steps in finding an interview that best suits your needs? Here are a few options:

1. Develop the interview in-house. To do this, you’ll need someone with experience in developing this type of interview, but the questions can be customized specifically for your company. Be sure to check out next week’s blog where we’ll highlight the legal aspects of interviewing and other key components of a great interview.

2. Another option is to purchase an interview package that is already tailored for a specific job. Our company has been developing job-specific structured interviews for more than 25 years, and we have a library of proven interviews that can be easily integrated into your current selection process.

3. The third option is to work with a consultant to help you customize an existing interview package, or to create a fully customized interview solution based on your specifications. Click for details about our customization experience.

Regardless of the option you choose, the key is to ensure that all interview components are legally compliant and accurately predict who will be successful on the job.


Looking ahead:  Next week we’ll explore the legal aspects of interviewing, including tips to ensure that your interviews are compliant.