Why Your Small Business Should Use Structured Interviews

Business Articles

As a small business owner, finding and keeping quality employees may be your most difficult task. According to a survey done by Vistage Worldwide, 60 percent of small business owners said finding and retaining quality employees is their greatest challenge.

One tactic that may help small business owners screen applicants more efficiently is using structured, rather than unstructured, interviews.                                        

Why Unstructured Interviews Don’t Work

Unstructured interviews are the type of interview you are probably used to give. You prepare for the interview by coming up with topics to discuss with the applicant, but not necessarily specific questions about these topics.

This type of interview includes small talk, getting to know the candidate, and asking about work experiences in a natural way. Unfortunately, studies have proven that unstructured interviews don’t accurately predict how a candidate will perform once they are hired.

A study done by Jason Dana, a visiting assistant professor at the Yale School of Management, shows that unstructured interviews don’t accurately determine employee performance. In an article published in the Boston Globe, Dana recommends not giving unstructured interviews at all.

A more effective alternative is a structured interview. This type of interview uses exactly the same set of questions for every applicant, given in the same order. Here are some of the reasons structured interviews will work well for your small business.

Less Room for Bias

One reason unstructured interviews don’t work is that they leave too much room for interviewer bias. Employers may form a bias towards an employee based on intangibles such as appearance or shared experiences. Structured interviews eliminate these biases by asking the same questions of each person in the same order. Panel interviews also help eliminate an interviewer’s personal bias.


Because structured interviews are the same for each person, job candidates usually view structured interviews as fair. This kind of interview leaves your small business less open to suggestions of discrimination.

Questions Accurately Measure Performance

The types of questions asked during structured interviews are both job-related and behavior-related. These questions test job and industry knowledge as well as a candidate’s ability to react to situations. “Describe a situation where you had to work with a difficult person,” is an example of a situational question. An example of a job-related question might include, “Tell me about your sales skills.”

These types of question tell you more about an applicant’s ability to do the job than any other type of questions.

Easier to Analyze Data

Another reason you should use structured interviews is that it’s easier to collect and compare data between applicants. Because applicants are given the same questions in the same order, you can compare individual answers easily.

Used by Governments and Fortune 500

The United States government uses structured interviews for many federal and state positions. Google took a similar stance after research made it apparent that unstructured interviews weren’t working.

If structured interviews work for large organizations such as these, it stands to reason that they will work for your small business as well.

Interviewing prospective employees can be a difficult process. By using structured interviews, you can help your small business more accurately predict whether an employee will be a good fit.