Structured or Conversational Interview? Which yields the best results?
If you’re not a seasoned interviewer (or sometimes even if you are), it can be hard to decide on the right interview approach to gain the most (or most useful) knowledge from prospective candidates.
Here at Sprint HQ we interview a number of candidates on a weekly basis and each and every interview is different. The style of interview depends largely on the role that we are recruiting for, and the style of the company that we are interviewing the candidate for.
I personally like to make my interviews more conversational as I feel as though I really get to know my candidates that way. After honing my interview technique over the last 6 or so years in the industry I have found that candidates tend to be more truthful about their future plans and objectives when I take this approach. They open up about their personal lives, and I feel that I get a true insight into what company cultures they would perform well in.
This being said, while I like to keep it fairly conversational, that’s not to say that behavioural questioning doesn’t have its place. Asking candidates to provide detailed examples of their experiences is essential to find out if they are simply “talking the talk” or if they actually have the experience that they claim to.
I do like to ask candidates about, their strengths, personality etc. However, I find that that most candidates have pre-rehearsed answers for these questions (and let’s face it, every candidate thinks they have great communication, presentation and time management skills). To avoid this, I often make a slight adjustment to the question by asking the candidate to see themselves through someone else’s eyes. E.g. “What do you think your last manager would say your strengths are?” Or
“How do you think your current work colleagues would describe your personality, and why?” It can sometimes be easier for candidates to critique themselves by putting themselves in others shoes.
However, with this in mind, there are times when a more structured formal interview is more appropriate. This has a lot to do with the style of environment that I am interviewing, for example if I am recruiting for a corporate business, where the manager has a more formal style, then it can be misleading to take an informal approach with the candidate.
As an interviewer it is always our role to make sure the candidate leaves excited about the prospect of the role that they are interviewing for. However, it is important to ensure they have realistic expectations about the process to come and the environment that they could be working in.
So as a professional interviewer, what do I recommend…?
Ultimately you need to find a style that you are comfortable with, and that most encourages candidates to be open and honest in the recruitment process. Two people can ask the same question of a candidate, but receive a very different response due to the way that they phrase the question, the tone they use and or the body language they are showing. So don’t copy your colleagues, or follow a strict template. Do what yields the best results for you!
If you would like to chat more about perfecting your interview technique, please get in touch with either myself or Naomi – we’d be delighted to help. Alternatively, we have plenty more tips on our website at Sprint Coach.