The 3 Questions to ask yourself when designing a structured interview process (workbook)

Screen Shot 2016 03 23 at 10 07 01 PM

5 mins, 30 secs read time

Melissa Suzuno is Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse, where she gets to share her love of the written word and endorse the use of the Oxford comma on a daily basis. Before joining Greenhouse, Melissa 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.

How capable is an interview of predicting a candidate’s performance on the job? That all depends on how well you’re interviewing!

Companies normally take one of two approaches: unstructured or structured.

In the unstructured approach, the interviewer will make small talk, perhaps ask the candidate a few questions about points on their résumé, and do a whole lot of improvising depending on what the candidate says.

The unstructured approach may be more common, but a structured interview is much more effective. Using an unstructured approach is ineffective and leads to poor hiring decisions (in other words, we do not recommend this approach. Not even a little bit). When an interviewer follows the structured approach, on the other hand, they have a roadmap to guide them through every stage. They know what the purpose and focus of every interview should be, so they are accurately assessing candidates against meaningful criteria. And, candidates are getting a clear idea of what they’ll need to do on the job, so they’re set up for success before they even start. Does your current interview process provide all that? If not, you’ll definitely want to keep reading!

In addition to making things easier on your interviewers, creating a structured interview process can:

  • drastically improve your chances of making the right hire
  • help you focus on planning for the future, not just on your immediate needs
  • allow you to maintain objectivity during the interview process
  • provide a legally defensible approach to hiring

Download our new interactive workbook, Designing a Structured Interview Process.

Clearly, structured interviews are the way to go. If you want to create a framework for structured interviews at your company, you’ll need to consider the following questions:

  1. Who are you trying to hire?
  2. How will you evaluate the candidate?
  3. What will the interview process look like?

Read on to learn how to approach these 3 critical questions and plan your structured interview process accordingly.

1. Who are you trying to hire?

The recruiting process will depend on who you’re trying to hire, so it’s best to get that figured out first. Start with a thoughtful, holistic view of your ideal candidate to give clear direction and purpose to the rest of your process. For best results, get a team together to create your plan with you. Try to include people from various departments—executives, hiring managers, and People/HR team members so that the description you come up with will be comprehensive.

Consider things like the job title, department, manager, and business objectives you’re trying to meet with this role. It’s also essential to define what success will look like. What do you want this person to achieve during their first year on the job? And what will they need to do during their first 30, 60, or 90 days to begin working towards those goals?

Once you’ve considered the overall outline of the job, zoom in on what type of person you’re looking for. Think about people who are doing an awesome job at similar roles within your company. What do those people have in common?

Finally, take a moment to think about your company culture. Which elements are most important? Which traits would a person need in order to be a good culture fit?

After you’ve given all these questions some careful consideration, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

2. How will you evaluate the candidate?

Now that you know who you’re trying to hire, you can use that information to clearly define the hiring criteria for this job by listing out the required skills, personality traits, and qualifications. What would a candidate need in each of these categories to succeed on the job?

As you consider the answers to these questions, try not to get carried away. Remember that the more things you add to your list of requirements, the more interviews you’ll need to assess each candidate.

And be open to refining and changing your process—it may take a few iterations until you get it right!

Next, you’ll need to consider how to set up an interview process that will assess for each of these qualities.

3. What will the interview process look like?

Now it’s time to design your interview plan. Interviewing candidates requires a tremendous amount of time from your team, so it’s important to make sure that time is well spent. Crafting an effective interview pipeline is all about asking the right questions at the right time. You’ll want to get just the information you need at each stage to decide whether you want to move the candidate to the next stage in the process.

Here is a pretty standard interview flow: application review, phone screen, skills testing, and in-person interviews. You may also find it beneficial to divide in-person interviews into sub-sections like team, company culture fit, and hiring manager one-on-one sessions.

For each type of interview or evaluation, consider which skills, traits, and qualifications you’re looking for. Then jot down some ideas about which questions you could ask in order to evaluate a candidate on these particular qualities.

Get started

Once you’ve taken the time to thoroughly answer these three questions, you’ll have defined exactly who you’re looking for, determined how to evaluate candidates, and decided what the interview process will look like.

Want to really dig in and ensure you’re designing an effective structured interview process? We put together this interactive workbook to make it really easy for you to follow these three steps. Download a copy for yourself or forward it on to your hiring managers so that you can collect all the information you need to build a structured process. It’s an easy way to get everyone aligned and take a lot of the improv out of interviewing!

Design a Structured Interview Process