Is a structured interview really necessary? Yes and here’s why

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5 mins, 24 secs read time

When was the last time you were involved in making a hire at your company? Think for a moment about what that process was like and how satisfied you were with it. Whether it involved getting the job req approved by the recruiting team, grilling a hiring manager about what exactly they were looking for, or interviewing a candidate who was being considered for your team, chances are that there was some friction and at least a little room for improvement.

At many companies, there’s no formalized process for opening up roles and interviewing candidates. This can lead to confusion and frustration as everyone involved in recruiting has different ideas about what they’re looking for and different approaches to finding the best candidate.

But it doesn’t have to be this way: You can keep people from different departments aligned by creating and following a structured interview process.

A structured interview process follows a straightforward framework: The main parties involved in the hiring process kick off the hiring cycle with a meeting. During this working session, they determine the answer to three key questions: Who are they trying to hire? How will they evaluate the candidate? And what will the interview process look like?

Read on to discover the 4 benefits of a structured interview process and get some ideas on how to make the case for changing your company’s approach!

1. Drastically improve your chances of making the right hire

How do you know when you’ve made a good hire? This question can be hard to answer if you haven’t defined what success looks like in a particular role.

That’s why the structured approach to interviewing is so powerful: Instead of coming up with a list of qualifications that don’t actually tell you very much (such as the number of years someone has worked in a particular role or industry), you’re instead thinking about what you’d like them to accomplish in the role.

For example, let’s say you’re hiring a content marketing manager to oversee your company blog. You’d like them to enlist both internal and external guest writers and maintain a regular publication schedule. Armed with this information about what the role requires, you can make sure that the interview process covers the candidate’s project management experience and track record of working with strict deadlines. Since you’ve already determined what a successful content marketing manager should be able to achieve, you simply need to evaluate candidates against this criteria.

This approach means you’ll be much more likely to make the right hire, since you’ve outlined what success looks like and can clearly communicate this throughout the interview process.

2. Focus on planning for the future; not just on your immediate needs

Recruiters often find themselves in a difficult position of reacting to hiring managers’ immediate needs. This causes strain since there’s a sense of urgency to the entire process, and it can be tempting to focus on someone who can fill whatever the most immediate needs are.

But if you follow a structured interview process, during the kick-off conversation, you’ll spend some time looking into the future to imagine what someone in this role will accomplish in the first 3, 6, and 12 months on the job. This long-term perspective helps you think about what the progression of this role should look like, and it allows you to give candidates a clear idea of what they’re signing up for and the type of professional development they can expect.

Once hiring managers and recruiters adapt to this approach and timeline, it becomes easier to think long-term strategy when it comes to opening up and filling reqs, rather than simply putting out existing fires.

3. Maintain objectivity and a legally defensible approach during the interview process

If you don’t follow a structured process, how do you make your decisions? It can often be based on personal preferences or biases. And in many cases, people don’t even realize they’re being biased—they just tend to pick candidates who are similar to them.

Having a clear—and thoughtful—set of criteria that you’re evaluating against can help you to maintain objectivity. Just remember that certain types of criteria (like school attended or previous companies) can unfortunately rule out great candidates. It all comes back to your initial ideas of what success looks like in this role and which factors will help you determine someone’s likelihood of success. This should really be judged by their past experiences and results rather than their affiliations or pedigree.

Avoiding bias is not just a good business practice; it’s also an important way to ensure that you’re not making yourself vulnerable to any discrimination lawsuits. Yet another reason that implementing a structured hiring process is simply the right thing to do!

4. Provide a significantly superior candidate experience

At Greenhouse, we think candidate experience is a pretty big deal. So much so, in fact, that our Talent Acquisition team uses candidate experience as the basis for one of their key performance indicators.

And it’s not just something we value within Greenhouse—in today’s workforce, candidates are savvier than ever and have plenty of forums to gather and share information. They can research your company and interview process ahead of time on sites like Glassdoor and Quora. And if they had a negative experience with you, they will likely leave a review telling the world what happened and where you went wrong.

Aligning your whole company around a structured interview process is a key element to creating a positive candidate experience. If each interviewer knows exactly what they’re looking for and how to evaluate a candidate, each interview should be unique and its purpose should be clear. No more rambling sessions where clueless interviewers ask candidates to rehash where they went to college for the fifth time that day. Candidates should not be subjected to the same questions over and over again, and they should feel like their interview process gives them real insight into the company and the role they are applying for. And finally, they should get the impression that your company is the type of place where people from different departments communicate and collaborate on a regular basis!

We have covered how a structured interview process not only benefits the candidate and hiring stakeholders but also serves to protect your company’s reputation and work environment. If you’re thinking that this all sounds pretty sweet and are wondering how to put such a system in place, you’re in luck!

We’ve created an interactive structured interview worksheet to guide you through the process. Download your copy.

Get the worksheet
Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.