Five Tips to Ace a Structured Interview

One of the toughest aspects of a selection process is to ensure that all candidates are compared fairly and accurately when applying for a job. This is particularly challenging when different questions are asked, there are no pre-set criteria, and multiple interviewers are involved.

One way organizations navigate this problem is by implementing structured interviews into their hiring process.

WHAT IS A STRUCTURED INTERVIEW?
As the name suggests, this type of interview involves following the exact same structure when interviewing each candidate. A structured interview involves pre-determined questions that are meant to examine the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) necessary for the role. Since the questions are identical, the recruiter can compare the individual responses from each candidate and make an objective decision in deciding who the strongest candidate is.

It’s important to note that the interview is process-driven and may be very different from what you are used to. It may seem cold as there is no time for rapport building and notes are taken during your interview, which can cause awkward silences. Do NOT be intimidated! You’ll be evaluated on what you bring to the table and not on whether or not you have the same alma mater.

Follow these five tips and you’ll be well prepared to ace your next structured interview.

STRUCTURED INTERVIEW TIPS:

  1. Study the job description: The KSAOs listed in the job description are the foundation of a structured interview. Interview questions are derived from the KSAOs needed for the role and ultimately help the organization predict the best candidate for the job.
  2. Make a list of 3-5 major projects you worked on and link the KSAOs: Structured interviews are typically composed of behavioral and/or situational questions. You will need to give examples when responding to the interview questions and it is important to prepare in advance. Think about your job history and list 3-5 major projects that you feel confident talking about. Then, next to each project, write down the KSAOs that you displayed while working on it (each KSAO may be exhibited multiple times). You may be unable to anticipate what you’ll be asked in the interview but having a set of anecdotes and their respective KSAOs ready will help you respond with confidence.
  3. Draft 1-2 sample questions per KSAO and structure the response: Create interview questions to help you prepare for what’s to come. Your sample questions may not be asked, but it will help you think critically about your responses and help you practice structuring your responses.
  4. Use the STAR method when answering the interview questions: To structure your responses, use the STAR method:
  5. S – Situation: Set the scene and explain a specific event or situation you were in. Be sure to provide enough information for the interviewer to understand.
    T – Task: Describe your goal or responsibility in that situation.
    A – Action: Explain the steps YOU took to address the situation. Make sure to be descriptive about your contributions and use the word “I”.
    R – Results: Share the outcome of your actions. Explain what happened, the impact you made, and/or what you learned. Do not be shy about boasting about your accomplishments.

  6. Role-play: Practice interviewing with a friend or loved one. It’s one thing to see things on paper and very different to verbally say it. Practice, practice, practice. The more you articulate your responses, the more natural you’ll sound and the more confident you’ll be when the time comes to face the interviewer(s). Role-playing is also important to familiarize yourself with your body language and catch any problems ahead of time (e.g., shaking legs, touching hair, using filler words).

Guest Blogger, Mary Morales is a People Analytics Analyst at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. She holds a Master of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Texas A&M University. Mary has conducted business consulting projects on employee selection, performance appraisals, survey design, and training and development. She has a passion for helping people and ensuring that metrics used to measure or predict employee performance are as objective as possible. In her spare time, she likes to volunteer and give back to her community.

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