How Structured Interviews Improve Small Business Hiring

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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

Updated January 21, 2022

What are Structured Interviews?

A structured interview uses a uniform script of questions and a scoring system. As a result, the interviewer follows the same script for each candidate. To be effective, the questions should be chosen specifically for the job skills. In addition, you should have questions that identify behavioral attributes. In contrast, in an unstructured interview, the interviewer is free to change the line of questioning on the fly.

Standardized Scoring

It’s important to note that structured interviews are used with a formal rating system for rating applicants. Naturally, the scoring system is tied to the interview questions. If you want to get the most benefit from structured interviews, use standardized scoring as well.

Above all, structured interviews and scoring improve candidate evaluation. Consequently, if you want to improve your hiring, consider using structured interviews and scoring.

How Does a Structured Interview Process Improve Hiring?

Now that we’ve defined what we’re talking about, let’s discuss the benefits.

  • The process is more objective—all applicants are asked the same questions in the same order
  • Structured interviewing minimizes confirmation bias (when the interviewer seeks to confirm a subjective first impression or initial bias)
  • In addition, it is better for identifying soft skills
  • Plus, it helps the interviewer cover all the important topics
  • And it helps the employer comply with laws governing hiring practices
  • Lastly, it is more efficient

How Do You Create a Structured Interview?

In this section, we describe how to create a structured interview. It isn’t hard, just follow these simple steps:

  • Write a highly-detailed job description
    • Include skills/certifications/experience (hard skills)
    • Identify the behavioral qualities (soft skills) you are looking for
    • Use the STAR method to create behavioral questions
  • Put the questions in order
  • Create a scale to rate the answers to each question
  • Keep interview variables as uniform as possible—time of day, location, interviewer
  • Train hiring managers on the system
    • Make sure interviewers are familiar with the script before they interview a candidate
  • Interview applicants
  • Rate each applicant on each question/answer
  • Schedule feedback meetings with the hiring team
    • Score applicants using the ratings

What are Soft Skills?

Many employers are discovering the importance of soft skills. Soft skills are behavioral attributes and competencies that help an employee be good at their job. Clearly, they are helpful for positions that require working with a team. In addition, they are important for management roles.

What are Behavioral Interview Questions?

Behavioral questions (also called situational questions) focus on how the candidate performed in previous jobs. Certainly, to identify soft skills, you need to ask behavioral questions. This is because behavioral questions are better at predicting how an applicant will perform.

What Soft Skills are Important?

In this section, we list important soft skills. The following soft skills help employees be successful in their jobs:

  • Positive attitude
  • Communication (written and verbal)
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Collaborating with a team
  • Coachability
  • Ability to learn from criticism
  • Ability to resolve conflict
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Dependability
  • Self-confidence
  • Honesty and integrity

What is The STAR Method for Behavioral Questions?

The STAR method is a common system for creating behavioral questions. STAR stands for situation, task, action, result. Indeed, the STAR method works best when you are specific as possible. To write an interview question using the STAR method:

  • Identify a challenging situation common to the position
  • Determine the task you wish to achieve (your goal)
  • Describe what action should be taken to accomplish the task
  • Explain the ideal result

Examples of Behavioral Questions and the Soft Skills They Reveal

  1. Why do you feel you are the best person for this job? (Strengths, self confidence, ambition)
  2. Tell me about a time you made a mistake. What did you do about it? (Weaknesses, maintaining composure under pressure, ability to receive criticism, self-awareness)
  3. Explain a problem at your previous job and how you solved it. (Problem solving ability)
  4. Describe a situation in a previous position where you had to resolve a conflict between members of your team? What did you do? How did it turn out? (Conflict resolution, creative thinking, ability to work as a team, leadership, positive attitude)
  5. What’s  your favorite thing about [insert applicable job position]? (Values, goals)
  6. How would you prioritize competing projects that have the same deadline? (Organization, creative problem solving)
  7. Explain a time you disagreed with your manager and what you did about it. (Coachability)
  8. Describe a time you had to persuade team members to do something they didn’t want to do. (Leadership, management)
  9. Relate a time you had to learn something fast for your job. (Adaptability, creative problem solving, critical thinking)
  10. Did you ever fail to meet a deadline? Why? What did you do about it? (Work ethic, organization, time management)
  11. Have you ever had an ethical dilemma at work? What did you do? (Integrity, honesty)

Make sure you tailor these questions to the position. For example, for a customer service position, ask the applicant to describe a time they solved a problem for a customer. For a teaching position, use scenarios involving students. Keep in mind that behavioral questions can reveal whether a candidate is a better fit for another position. Consequently, if that happens, retain the applicant in your candidate pool for future openings within your company.

Can Software Help Create a Structured Interview Process?

Because a structured interview process requires organization and documentation, it helps to have specialized tools. An applicant tracking system (ATS) makes it easy. Let’s discuss they features that help.

First off, a cloud-based system provides centralized access and electronic records. Consequently, everyone on your team can see the feedback and scoring for each applicant.

Secondly, an ATS has templates. These include job posting templates, job description templates, questionnaires, interview scripts, and ratings scorecards.

Thirdly, search tools help you track hundreds of applications for your open jobs. Speaking of applications, an ATS also creates a candidate pool. That way, you can reach out to previously rejected (but qualified) applicants for future openings. Therefore, you will have you a head start for each job opening.

Lastly, an ATS simplifies interview scheduling. This is because you can email applicants automatically from the software. For example, you can create email templates for the standard ‘Thank you for your application’ emails. Of course, you can write personalized emails when you can. But if let the system send auto-emails when you don’t have time, it makes hiring a whole lot easier.

Hiring is a Top Concern for Small Businesses

We recently polled small business owners about their workforce management challenges. 80% listed hiring and recruiting as their #1 concern. Small businesses using manual hiring processes will struggle to be competitive in today’s labor market.

Applicant Tracking Systems With Interview Tools Make it Easy

Fortunately, ATS are affordable for businesses on tight budgets. In fact, most have a small (or no) sign-up fee. Consequently, you can start small and scale up as your company grows. If you are wary of long-term contracts, look for a month-to-month subscription. For a small investment, you can try it out.

Swipeclock ApplicantStack for Structured Interviews

ApplicantStack helps small businesses use the same type of structured interviews used by large employers. ApplicantStack solutions help you thrive in today’s competitive labor market. You can try ApplicantStack for free and start improving your hiring outcomes.

Get our new eBook How to Onboard Quickly and Remotely for Post-Pandemic Hiring and learn proven strategies for efficiency and new hire engagement when the new hire and/or HR team are working offsite.

ApplicantStack can be purchased as a standalone solution, or in our unified time and labor system, WorkforceHub.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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