Ever find yourself in a heated discussion with other members of a hiring committee because you couldn’t seem to reach consensus on a candidate?

There are a number of reasons for this type of disagreement, but they generally boil down to a single issue: You haven’t clearly defined the role. This means that some interviewers may end up evaluating candidates on irrelevant criteria or neglecting to assess the most important qualities for the role.

That’s why the structured interview approach is so powerful.

Instead of relying on gut feelings and the personalities of the interviewers, you begin with a strategic kick-off meeting between the hiring manager and talent acquisition. During this meeting, both parties work together to define the purpose and business needs of the role, then outline which skills and qualifications the ideal candidate should possess, and finally decide how you’ll evaluate candidates on this criteria.

While this sounds simple, it can be challenging to shift from an unstructured to a structured approach to interviewing.

That’s why we’re providing the only structured interview template you’ll ever need. This is the way the recruiting team at Greenhouse (and many other forward-thinking recruiters such as the team at Oscar Health) approaches hiring. For best results, talent acquisition and hiring managers should use this framework each and every time a new role opens up.

Here are four steps to guide you through structured interview planning.

Step 1: Who are you trying to hire?

Outline all the key information for this role: What is the job title? Which department will the person belong to? Who will they report to?

Make sure that you’re aligned on the business objectives you’re trying to meet with this role. Then you can begin to define success: What will this person need to do in their first year on the job? What will they need to accomplish in their first 90 days to begin tracking toward those goals?

If you’ve hired for the role before, this will be easier since you’ll know what worked well in the past. If it’s a new role, think about a few people who’ve been successful in similar roles.

Once you’re aligned on all these points, you can move onto the next step—deciding which criteria you’ll use to assess candidates.

Step 2: How will you evaluate candidates?

Now that you have a list of overall goals and business objectives for the role, you can begin to outline the necessary skills, characteristics, and qualifications the role requires. We consider “skills” to be well-defined abilities, e.g. knowledge of a particular type of software or coding language, while traits define someone’s personality, e.g. “action-oriented” or “autonomous.” Qualifications are things like degrees, certificates, or specific career milestones.

When creating your list of criteria, remember to keep it brief. The more things you add to the list, the more interviews you’ll need to conduct, since you can only evaluate a candidate on a few criteria at a time. It’s also important to be realistic. Do your best to differentiate between “need to haves” and “nice to haves.” And if you are considering something to be a “nice to have,” make sure that this is clearly communicated to everyone who’ll be evaluating the candidate!

Step 3: What will the interview process look like?

In this step, you’ll match the qualities you’re looking for to different stages in the interview process. A good rule of thumb is to screen for the basics first. If there are any things that are deal-breakers, e.g. a candidate must possess a CPA, be sure to cover this in one of the first stages.

Here’s an interview framework you can use as the basis of your plan. Feel free to add, subtract, or change stages depending on the role and your team’s capabilities:

  1. Application review: Use this stage to screen out candidates who are most obviously not a fit based on things like relevant work experience and required qualifications.
  2. Phone screen: During this stage, you can get an initial sense for each candidate. Review their work at a high level to make sure it aligns with the role, and make sure they have the basic communication skills to fit in with the team.
  3. Take-home test: Craft a test that’s reflective of what the candidate will have to do on the job, such as a demo or sample campaign. This may be assigned to candidates before to complete at home or during the on-site interview stage, depending on the nature of the test. The main idea here is to give candidates a taste of what they’d be doing on the job and your team the ability to assess their work.
  4. In-person interview – culture fit: Assess whether a candidate’s values align with your company values and determine if the candidate would be a strong fit at your organization.
  5. In-person interview – team panel: Give the team that will be working most closely with the candidate a sense of what it would be like to work together.
  6. In-person interview – hiring manager one-on-one: Give the hiring manager the chance to explore the candidate’s working style and sell the candidate on the role.

What comes after a structured interview?

After a candidate has made it through each of your interview stages, you can gather everyone who was involved in the interview for a round-up meeting. This is when you’ll review the candidates against the criteria and make a hiring decision. It should be much easier when you’ve followed all the steps outlined above!

If you’d like a little more help implementing structured interviews, be sure to download the Structured Interview Workbook. This interactive resource is designed to help you through each stage of the process, making structured interviewing easier than ever.

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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.

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Kayla Kozan

Kayla Kozan

Director of Marketing at Ideal
Kayla spent the last few years studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship on 3 different continents. Now covering the latest in predictive analytics, workplace diversity and big data. She has a keen interest in tech and discovering underrated brunch spots.
Kayla Kozan