Structured Interview – A 5-Step Guide

Time to read: 7 Minutes
Structured-Interview-Definition

Hiring the best candidates for your company is crucial to increasing profits and solving problems. This article highlights what a structured interview is, how to prepare and conduct one, and the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about structured interviews.

Structured interview – In a Nutshell

In a job setting, structured interviews are ideal for saving time, comparing resources, and quickly evaluating the best candidate to hire. You can still have structured conversational interviews and include follow-up questions that may prompt interviewees to expand on the answers you get. This article elaborates the 5 steps of carrying out a structured interview:

  1. Defining the goals and objectives
  2. Constructing the questions
  3. Choosing the sampling methods
  4. Choosing the medium
  5. Conducting the interview

Definition: Structured interview

A structured interview is a meeting that involves asking candidates questions in a standardized order. An interviewer asks candidates to answer “yes” or “no” to queries or multiple-choice questions, allowing a comparison of the candidates’ responses, various patterns, and areas that require further research.1

When is it relevant to use a structured interview?

A structured interview reduces ambiguities and mitigates potential biases in the analysis. Therefore, you can use the interview method when:

  • You understand your topic well enough and can develop solid and practical structured questions
  • You don’t have enough resources or time, yet you need to analyze your data efficiently

A strong sense of equality runs your research questions, and you must keep environmental conditions constant.2

Overview of different types of interviews

During recruitment, you must research and choose the ideal interview technique. The table below highlights the similarities and differences between the methods of interviews:

Structured interviews Semi-structured interviews Unstructured interviews
Fixed Questions Yes Yes No
Fixed Order of Questions Yes No No
Fixed Number of Questions Yes No No
The Option to Ask Additional Questions No Yes Yes

Pros and cons of a structured interview

Although structured interviews provide a clearer and streamlined process of candidate comparison, some pros and cons exist with this method.

 

The pros of a structured interview are:

  • Efficient, cost-effective, and simple: Structured interviews present the topic from a broader angle while making the questions easy to answer, hence, requiring less time.
  • Increased reliability, credibility, and validity: Structured interviews are listed the same way for every participant, so they’re more credible than any other interview method.
  • Reduced bias: Structuring questions in the same order for all participants reduces the risks of bias in the form of environmental factors or the nature of the questions asked.

 

On the other hand, the cons of a structured interview include:

  • Limited flexibility: Once you select the fixed questions, you no longer have the power to change them without damaging the interview’s quality.
  • Limited scope: Whenever a question is close-ended, that interview has a limited scope. The participants don’t have space to expound on their answers or give more information.
  • The questions are too formal: The formality of the questions doesn’t allow the participants and the interviewers to build a connection. The formal nature of the questions may cause the participants to become uncomfortable or tense, affecting their answers.

Creating questions for a structured interview

Here are some tips to help you write a high validity structured interview:

  • Define what you want to learn before drafting your questions
  • Use simple-to-understand questions instead of complicated jargon
  • Be concise and clear to solicit straightforward answers from the structured interview

 

Here are some examples of structured interview questions:

  • Do you believe that employers should have team-building sessions at work?
  • Did any of your previous positions have team-building sessions?
  • Does your current position offer team-building sessions?
  • How many times per week do you spend on team-building?
  • Do you enjoy the team-building sessions?

5 steps to conducting a structured interview

The following are the five main steps entailed in conducting structured interviews:

Step 1: Define your goals and objectives

Start by brainstorming some questions to assist in the ideation stage of your research question. It would help if you considered what you aim to find from your structured interview and why the method is ideal for you.

Step 2: Construct the questions

Remember that your questions should be closed-ended, easy to understand, concise, and simple. Therefore, let the structure of the questions remain the same.

Step 3: Choose your sampling method

Choose one of the following sampling methods depending on your topic:3

  • Voluntary response sampling: This includes posting flyers and getting participants from the recorded responses.
  • Convenience sampling: This uses answers from people accessible to you, like college students.
  • Stratified sampling: This classifies samples based on age, ethnicity, gender identity, or other characteristics of interest.
  • Judgement sampling: This incorporates samples of people you already know.

 

However, you should be aware that you can encounter sampling bias, which involves a specific population more than others.

Step 4: Choose your medium

Decide the method you’ll use to collect your sample, whether pen-and-paper format or in-person through video conferencing or over the phone. Before you begin the structured interview, get consent from the interviewees, such as written informed consent, confidentiality agreement, or video/audio recording.

Step 5: Conduct the interview

Ensure that all conditions remain constant during your interviews and organize your response to avoid data errors. This includes asking questions in the same manner and order while keeping your voice tone and body language (raising eyebrows, nodding, etc.) constant at all times.

Structured interview 5 steps

Analysis of a structured interview

Once you finish conducting your interviews, analyze your results. First, give your participants a pseudonym or number for organization purposes and transcribe the recordings using software or manually. Then, conduct a thematic or content analysis to look for patterns or groups in responses.4

The analysis should be as follows:

Transcribe your interviews

You’ll have to transcribe audio-recorded interviews and add transcriptions to the appendix of your paper. When laughter, pauses, or filler words like “mmm” affects your conclusions, use verbatim transcription and include these fillers.

However, use intelligent verbatim transcription if your interviews don’t have these fillers, making them easier to analyze. The transcription process helps cleanse your data, identify errors, and resolve inconsistencies.

Code and analyze your interview

Conduct content or thematic analysis; you may use words, patterns, codes, or themes to separate the responses into categories.

Closed-ended questions usually lead to content analysis, conducted in the following way:

  • Count the occurrences of the phrases, concepts, subjects, or words to quantify the categories chosen during the coding stage
  • Organize and summarize the information using descriptive analysis after coding
  • Use inferential statistics to conclude your hypothesis and make future predictions

Account for the results

After getting the findings from your structured interview, combine the results in a research paper. The results sections and discussion areas of your research paper highlight the number of occurrences of your coded groups. In the methodology section, explain the technique you used to collect your data and conceptualize your analysis.

The result section also has a report of your p-value, test statistic, and effect size if you made descriptive statistics and inferential statistics. These values explain if your results are practically significant or justify you rejecting the null hypothesis. Finish with your main avenues and takeaways for any further research.

Example of an interview methodology for a research paper

Let’s say you attend college and you’re passionate about healthcare matters. You think there may be a difference in perceptions because there are international students. Specifically, you hypothesize that these students may find the options of healthcare in the U.K. less satisfying.

You decide to conduct a structured interview to see if the responses would be different. To send the message, you use the campus club that brings local and international students together. You ask:

  • Do you find the campus’ healthcare options: poor, average, fair, good, or excellent?
  • Does your home country have a socialized healthcare system? Yes/No
  • Have you enrolled in the campus healthcare plan? Yes/No
  • Have you ever wondered about your health insurance? Yes/No
  • Have you ever had a severe health complication that insurance failed to cover? Yes/No
  • Has a medical bill ever surprised you? Yes/No

When you finish your interviews and transcription, conduct content analysis and code the responses into different groups. Once you have your results, use the deductive approach to determine if your hypothesis holds.

FAQs

The four major interview types are structured, semi-structured, unstructured, and focus group interviews.

Interviewers have identifiers like gender, race, age, etc., that may influence their responses, causing the interviewer effect bias.

Structured interviews have two main benefits: a respondent uses a lower cognitive load to answer the questions, and it reduces the thinking required to complete specific tasks.

Sources

1 Hampshire College. “What Is Research?.” Accessed August 22, 2022. https://www.hampshire.edu/what-research.

2 Jin. “What is Research Question?.” Researchpedia. October 28, 2013. https://researchpedia.info/what-is-research-question/.

3 Field Studies Council. “Sampling – The Basics.” Accessed August 22, 2022. https://www.field-studies-council.org/resources/16-18-biology/fieldwork-techniques/the-basics/.

4 Vaismoradi, Mojtaba, Hannele Turunen, and Terese Bondas. “Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study.” National Library of Medicine. March 11, 2013. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23480423/.