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Submitted by marclawrence13 on


Hi manager tool members,

BLUF: Can you determine fit effectively with an inflexible script and emotionless interview?

I was hoping that the MT members could give me some (free form) feedback. I recently read this article on structured interviewing and didn't like the underlying concepts. The article seems to go in exactly the opposite direction with interviewing that I go. Is the article wrong, or am I? Or is there something in the middle?

The core proposition of the article seems to be that Structured Interviewing is the most effective way (up to 8 times better) of ascertaining an interviewee's fitness for a role. The technique promotes complete standardization between each interview. The questions are totally scripted and adhered too. The end result is a sterile process that removes bias. The article does note that the overall effect can give a negative impression to interviewee's.

So here is my opinion. When I interview I'm way more interested in fit, personality, interests, growth potential over specific skills. I care about the skills, and ask about them, but assume they are roughly equal in the sense that no one will be a perfect fit. I'd rather have the person with 70% of the skills that will go learn the rest, than the person with 90% who doesn't fit with the team.

Obviously I have a script for the questions, but I inevitably find tantalizing questions that I want to ask and will take short trips down these roads before coming back to the script. Think dynamic sales script over a play script.

About me: I'm a relatively new manager and have conducted roughly 5 job searches with probably 25~30 interviews.

Thanks for your time.

drinkcoffee's picture

Hi Marc,

I'm also a relatively new manager but I've been doing about 1-2 interviews per week over the last year-and-a-half or so (we're a growing company). What I've found is that having a good script can help compare candidates. If you've already hired people and they're working out well, then you can evaluate the notes from THEIR interviews and compare them with the candidates you are currently interviewing. That being said, I do tend to ask follow-ups and veer away from the script when necessary, and I also change the order of the questions around. The initial ten minutes is also a great time to mix things up with informal questions before diving into the meat of your script.

Is that helpful at all? I didn't read the whole article, but in my mind, using a script and having an interview devoid of emotion do not necessarily correlate.


aspiringceo's picture

Because I work for an equal opportunities employer we use a structured interview format where all candidates are asked the same set of 10 - 12 questions. It works well when the interview panel take the time to sit down before hand and talk through the qualities they are looking for and designing the right questions to get the information we want and what a good answer would contain. The difficulties I have seen are usually connected with less experienced interview panel members who think they have to ask the questions the way they are written and dont allow themselves any flexability or fail to probe the answers further or ask suplementary question.


wendii's picture
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Hi Marc,

I'd say that the article accurately reflects current research in interviewing - the best result would come from an 'inflexible script and emotionless interview' as you put it, but then the candidates wouldn't want to come work for us!

We use standard competency based questions, on 9 competencies and there's a choice of about 9 questions for each, so 81 in total. I interview for everyone from school leavers to senior managers and in every discipline from engineering to commercial, bomb disposal experts to marketing grads.

Even if you use the standard questions, you do still get an idea of 'fit'. One of my favourite questions is: Tell me about a time when you worked in a really effective team. What made it effective?

Task oriented people will tell you about how the tasks were shared out, that everyone did what they were responsible for, that everyone was good at their tasks and didn't interfere with other people's tasks. Team oriented people will tell you about how everyone got on well, how they helped each other out, and listened to each others problems. Leaders will tell you about inspiring everyone to a common goal. Managers will tell you about progress and how that was assessed.

Depending on what you are looking for, you can either say thanks and move on, or ask a follow up question (which normally isn't scripted for you) to see if the task person appreciates team orientation, or a team person understands that the tasks still have to be done, etc.

So the long answer to your question is - yes, there's a middle way, and the candidates will appreciate you using it, and you can still get a good idea of the candidates capabilities.

Hope that helps.


marclawrence13's picture
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Thank you for your helpful responses.

I'm going to review the questions discussion threads more closely and think about standardizing my personality probing questions. It sounds like a good script (that you know and understand) is better than of the cuff questions. I'll have to spend more time on the structure interviews.

Bill great point about reviewing how people are doing after the hire. It seems kind of obvious after you think about it *smacks forehead*. Also hearing that a structured approach can be effective is good, thanks Edmund. All of you also mentioned that having a bit of flexibility built into the script or alternate question is a good idea. Wendii, bomb disposal experts, wow, I imagine there is a bit of an extreme personality that goes with that job.

Thanks agian,