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Different Types of Interviews

Different Types of Interviews

Unstructured interviews

An unstructured interview is one in which the questions asked and topics covered vary considerably from interview to interview, and candidate to candidate. Unstructured interviews tend to be more like “conversations” that meander and are more of a “getting to know you” journey than matching a candidate’s skills against a pre-established set of job criteria. Many interviewers who prefer this method think that their natural intuitive skills make them good interviewers, but the research just does not support this view.

Structured interviews

A structured interview is one that is pre-planned by analyzing the job in advance and asking questions that relate directly to the specific job demands of the position. The degree of structure can vary from very loose, such as just a listing of categories to ask about, to quite structured, in terms of specific questions to ask of all candidates, and a rating scale for evaluating responses. The research favors the use of structure to increase the predictive validity of the interview as a valid selection tool.

Situational interviews

A situational interview is a specific type of interview that includes future-focused questions about what the candidate might do in a given situation that is similar to what he or she might encounter on the job. These are also called “hypothetical” questions. Examples of situational questions are:

  • If you were appointed to this position, what would be the first change you would make?
  • What would you do if someone on your team “went over your head” to get approval for a project from your manager after you already turned this person down?

The research generally does not favor the use of situational questions in interviews because these types of questions are hard to evaluate, are not necessarily linked to the candidate’s own experience, and tend to measure the ability to think quickly on one’s feet rather than actual skill in a given competency.

Behavior description interviews

The techniques of asking behavior description interviews (on a structured basis) involves asking all interviewees the same (or similar) standardized questions about how they handled past situations that were similar to situations they may encounter on the job. The interviewer may also ask discretionary probing questions for details of the situations, the interviewee’s behavior in the situation and the outcome. The interviewee’s responses are then scored with behaviorally anchored rating scales. The research generally supports this method more than others because past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.

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About Anne Sandberg

With a degree in Experimental Psychology and a masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Anne Sandberg has 25+ years of experience in the human resources, training and management consulting arenas. Anne is President of ReadyToManage, Inc. and can be contacted at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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