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Structured interview: tips on the process, questions + preparation

A structured interview is a little different than a typical job interview. In contrast to the free interview, all applicants are asked the same questions that are closely related to the advertised position. The clearly structured process and the questions defined in advance are intended to make the candidates more comparable. This has advantages for you: Applicants can prepare well for it. We will show you how to master the structured interview and what you need to know about the process and the questionnaire ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is a structured interview?

If the interview takes place as a structured interview, it follows a fixed choreography and a catalog of questions drawn up beforehand. This is what distinguishes the “structured interview” from the “free interview”, in which HR managers tend to ask spontaneous questions.

Not so in the structured interview: For personnel selection, HR (or service providers) develop targeted questions that exactly match the job profile. In the interview, crucial qualifications, skills and experience of the applicants are queried. The aim is to compare candidates better and according to criteria that are as objective as possible.

There are structured interviews not only in the application process. It is also used in psychology and medicine. There, however, scientists use it to diagnose Alzheimer's or sleep disorders.

Structure of the structured interview

Structured interviews usually last 45 to 60 minutes. For highly qualified specialists and management positions, it can also take up to two hours. The structured interview hardly differs in the process from a free interview. The main difference lies in the preparation and the questionnaire. The structured interview also follows the typical five phases:

1. Small talk

The small talk is the introduction to the structured interview. Usually a brief introduction of the interviewer follows after a brief greeting. Afterwards there is a chat (“How was the journey?” “Did you find your way here?”) And drinks are offered (always accept!). Finally, there is a brief overview of the planned course of the conversation along with an outlook on the duration.

2. Getting to know each other

As a rule, the host - i.e. the company - introduces itself first. The HR manager explains details about the advertised position and provides important information about what to expect from future employees. This is the time for applicants to listen carefully, take notes if necessary and write down any questions they may have.

3. Self-presentation

Even in the structured interview, those present now expect a compact self-presentation of the candidate. Often started with the request: "Tell us something about yourself!" The phase can, however, also be controlled with the help of the questionnaire. HR managers then ask questions about the motivation of the candidate, for example:

  • "Why did you apply for this position?"
  • "Why do you want this job?"
  • "Why should we hire you?"

Depending on the position and form of the structured interview, the interviewer also asks biographical questions as well as questions about professional skills, working methods or social behavior in previous conflict situations. In the case of a manager, the leadership style is also questioned: How does the applicant make decisions? Is he able to delegate or formulate target agreements?

4. Questions

At the end, the candidate has the opportunity to ask questions. Please always provide this! You show interest and that you followed the explanations carefully. The more detailed your questions, the better. Questions about vacation, leisure time or payment are (not yet) taboo. It is all the more important that the questions in the structured interview are asked in a structured manner about the job:

  • "Why is the position vacant?"
  • "What do you expect from the ideal candidate?"
  • "What challenges await me in the first 90 days?"
  • "How do you measure success in this position?"

5. Graduation

Please never underestimate the final phase. It shapes the last impression - and it resonates. Before you say goodbye, ask about the next steps: How will the selection process continue? When can a decision be expected? Who can you stay in contact with (email!)? Maintain professionalism and body tension until you have said goodbye and are out of sight.

Questions in the structured interview

The HR manager determines what the questionnaire looks like in the structured interview individually and depending on the position to be filled. However, there are typical areas and questions that are particularly common. These are important for all applicants - regardless of industry and profession:

Questions about the ability to work in a team

  • "What role do you take on in a team?"
  • "Do you prefer to work alone or together?"
  • "How do you fit into a group?"
  • "Would you describe yourself as a team player?"

Questions about motivation

  • "Why did you apply to us exactly?"
  • "What is your greatest motivation?"
  • "Why should we hire you?"
  • "What do you want to achieve in our company?"

Questions about resilience

  • "How well do you deal with stress?"
  • "Have you failed before?"
  • "How have you dealt with stress in the past?"
  • "What is your attitude towards overtime?"

Questions about creativity

  • "What do you do when you don't have a solution to a problem?"
  • "Are you creative in your work?"
  • "When do you use creative approaches?"
  • "How creative are you?"

Questions about personality

  • "How do you describe yourself in three words?"
  • "What is your most important character trait?"
  • "At what point in your personality do you want to work?"
  • "What do your friends say about you?"

Interview: Checklist with 100 questions

With the help of structured questions, HR managers try to find out more about previous experience, acquired competencies and soft skills - and whether the information you provided in the application is true. To help you prepare, you can download a list of 100 typical questions here for free.

Download questionnaire

Types of structured interview

The structured interview - also known as the “standardized interview” - has different focal points depending on the area of ​​application. In addition to selection processes such as the assessment center, the structured interview offers another way of increasing the comparability of candidates. There are different types of structured interviews with different focuses. Which type a recruiter chooses is often a question of personal preference.

Behavior Description Interview (BDI)

This type of structured interview is biographically oriented. The HR manager asks about specific situations in the professional past in order to evaluate the applicant's behavior. Often it is about difficult situations, problems or conflicts that the candidate had to deal with. This completely avoids applicants merely reciting textbook knowledge. It also reduces the risk of prepackaged answers. Instead, previous behavior can be compared with the requirement profile.

Questions in this structured interview:

  • "How did you behave in the situation?"
  • "What solutions did you have?"
  • "What was your first thought on the problem?"
  • "How did you cope with the situation?"

Situational interview (SI)

In a situational interview, the HR manager gives the applicant a fictitious situation and asks how he or she proceeds. Structured interview at SI means that all applicants are asked the same questions with the same situations. Often cases are constructed for this which are directly related to the later position and the area of ​​responsibility. For applicants, this is also an opportunity to indirectly find out something about the later job and its challenges.

Questions in this structured interview:

  • "How would you behave in the situation?"
  • "What would you do first?"
  • "What tools would you use to solve the problem?"
  • "What would your reaction be?"

Biographical Interview (BI)

Here, the applicant's biography in the résumé is examined even more thoroughly. HR professionals need a lot of experience to identify the key milestones in the candidate's career from the documents and the course of the interview. The questions in this structured interview are similar to the BDI mentioned above. They question and deepen the applicant's biography.

Questions in this structured interview:

  • "How exactly did you achieve this success?"
  • "Why did you choose this path and no alternative?"
  • "What did you learn from the situation?"
  • "If you were in this situation again, what would you do differently?"

Multimodal Interview (MMI)

This type of structured interview is a combination of the applicant's biography, simulation and property-based diagnosis. The MMI is divided into eight phases. Three phases are part of the natural course of a conversation. They serve as information for the applicant. The remaining five phases help the interviewer with the overall assessment.

  • Start of conversation (without evaluation)
  • Self-presentation (with evaluation)
  • Free conversation part (with evaluation)
  • Career orientation and choice of organization (with assessment)
  • Biography-related data (with assessment)
  • Information about the activity (without evaluation)
  • Situational questions (with evaluation)
  • Conclusion of the interview (without evaluation)

Stress questions in a structured interview

With so-called stress questions, HR managers want to find out how the candidate reacts under pressure. Managers, above all, have to be able to deal with stress. Therefore, HR managers particularly like to use this type of question for them. Some of these can actually be inadmissible questions (“Do you have debts?”). More likely, however, are questions that are intended to get you into a mess. For example:

  • "What is the worst quality that others say of you?"
  • "What question do you not want to be asked?"
  • "How many sheets of paper are copied in Germany in a day?"
  • "How am I doing in your eyes as an interviewer?"

The following applies in all cases:Keep Calm! In any case, your answer should signal sovereignty and a high level of self-motivation. There is no right answer to guesswork. This requires a logical and systematic approach.

When is the structured interview used?

A structured interview can be used for the selection of personnel in any job - whether top manager, civil servant in the public service, trainee or university graduate. However, employers consider carefully whether the additional effort for a structured interview is worthwhile. Rule of thumb:

  • Structured interview for higher hierarchical levels, for more complex positions and senior positions with many years of experience.
  • Situational interview when filling entry-level positions.

The structured interview can be carried out by the future employer or by service providers entrusted with it who offer specially developed diagnostic procedures.

How can I prepare for it?

Depending on which position you are applying for, the likelihood of a structured interview increases. You can and should prepare for this too. The possible interview types and typical questions are a first step. In addition, we have these tips:

  • Research company data
    Get an overview: How big is the company? Do you have branches in Germany and abroad? What products are there? What about competitors and the current market position? What does the company stand for? You can often find important information on the company's own website. You can also use the daily press, specialist magazines and social channels such as Facebook, Xing or LinkedIn.
  • Internalize strengths
    Analyze the job profile: Which must and can requirements are expected of you? Find out which competencies the position requires and make a list of your suitable strengths. You can find important key qualifications HERE. Don't forget smart answers about possible weaknesses.
  • Find examples
    You can best convince HR professionals with concrete examples. For the structured interview, think about comparable situations that illustrate your skills and abilities. To prepare, you can use the so-called STAR method:
    • Situation (situation): What was your starting point?
    • Task: What was your task in this situation?
    • Action: What did you say or do?
    • Result: What were the consequences of your actions?

    Ideally, your examples demonstratehow you solved problems or realized successes in the past. Even if you have failed, it is crucial that you show that and what you have learned from it.

Advantages and disadvantages of structured interviews

A structured interview can avoid wrong appointments in the selection process. However, the effort is also comparatively high and expensive. Therefore, when making a decision, HR managers should weigh up the most important advantages and disadvantages of a structured interview.

advantages

  • High objectivity
    A catalog of questions and clear criteria for the answers facilitate a neutral assessment of the candidates based on the defined profile.
  • More fairness
    The HR manager's subjective impressions have less influence on the judgment. Just like attractiveness, similarities, gender or origin.
  • Better fit
    All applicants will be rated based on their answers to the same questions. That improves the choice.

disadvantage

  • No conversation
    Due to the exact guidelines, no spontaneous dialogue develops. Some structured interviews resemble an interrogation.
  • Less flexibility
    Little or no mention is made of individual aspects of the selection or personal experience of the candidate. The specifications do not allow that.
  • No chemistry
    Sympathy or antipathy are faded out. However, when assessing candidates, experienced HR managers often have a good sense of who fits into the team.
[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]

Even more interview tips
➠ Job interview: all the tips

Job interview process
➠ Interview preparation
➠ Application questions + answers
➠ Job interview clothes
➠ Introducing yourself
➠ self-presentation
➠ End the interview

Interview types
➠ Second interview
➠ Assessment Center
➠ Stress interview
➠ Job interview English
➠ Video interview
➠ Telephone interview

Typical questions
➠ These 100 questions can come
➠ 25 trick questions + answers
➠ Stress issues
➠ What are your weaknesses?
➠ What are your strengths?
➠ Why should we hire you?
➠ What was your last salary?
➠ Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
➠ Why did you quit?
➠ Inadmissible questions
➠ Inquiries to HR managers

Tips & Tricks
➠ Practice interview
➠ Interview mistakes
➠ White lies in the job interview
➠ body language tips
➠ Overcome nervousness
➠ Where to put your hands?

organization
➠ Confirm the interview
➠ Postpone the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Follow up after the conversation