The Science of Sales Hiring: The Structured Interviewing Difference

Written by
Lucas Price
August 9, 2023
4 min
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Is there a single method to help identify high-performing candidates, avoid bias, save time, and improve the candidate experience during the interview and evaluation process? According to research studies (and even Google’s proprietary research), the answer is yes.

Instead of asking questions off the cuff, companies like Google use structured interviewing, in which the interviewer asks a set of prepared questions in a standardized manner. These interviews may be conducted in person, by phone, or online. The goal here is to ensure all candidates are asked the same questions and their responses are evaluated objectively and consistently.

4 Benefits of Structured Interviews

So, what makes a structured interview so valuable in the sales candidate interviewing and evaluation process? What are the main benefits that set structured interviews apart from unstructured interviews?

1. They’ll Tell You Which Candidates Will Succeed

Structured interviews have high predictive validity, meaning they predict future job performance. Studies show structured interviews are twice as effective as unstructured interviews at predicting which candidates will succeed. For example, a meta-analysis of 245 studies found that structured interviews had an average predictive validity of 0.51 (on a scale of 0 to 1). In contrast, unstructured interviews had an average predictive validity of only 0.38.

What makes structured interviews different? Structured interviews are designed to assess specific job-related competencies and skills required for the job. They ask all candidates a standardized set of questions, which helps to ensure that they are evaluated based on the same criteria. Furthermore, high-performing candidates prefer structured interviews and are more likely to accept job offers. They convey that your organization is fair, inclusive, and rigorous and that your management is professional and of high quality.

2. They Help to Reduce Bias

Structured interviews help to reduce bias by defining what is essential to success in a given role. In fact, when structured interviews are used in a well-defined role, there is little difference in aggregated scores across different races and genders. They use a standardized set of questions, and you can ensure you use the same criteria for candidates regardless of age, gender, race, sexuality, etc. This improves the objectivity and impartiality of the interviews. The focus is on the candidate’s responses to the standardized questions rather than on their personal opinions or impressions of the candidate. So, structured interviews reduce the potential for subjective biases to influence the evaluation process.

They also eliminate irrelevant information. Structured interviews are designed to evaluate candidates based on job-related criteria, which helps reduce bias based on personal characteristics or factors unrelated to the job.

3. They Save Time and Reduce Frustration

The consistency of structured interviews helps to save time. Interviewers are prepared and know what to expect. As a result, they can focus on relevant information rather than irrelevant details, which would only decrease the effectiveness of the interview process.

At Yardstick, we recommend using structured interviews as part of a four-interview process, as each additional interview past this number only has about a 1% chance of changing the hiring decision. On the other hand, unstructured interviews allow essential details to be overlooked and not discovered until the fifth, sixth, or seventh interview. This only wastes time and creates additional frustrations for the candidate and the hiring team.

They also save time during the evaluation process. Since each candidate is evaluated based on the same set of questions, it is easier for the interviewer to compare and assess candidates’ responses, which can speed up the evaluation process.

4. Candidates Prefer Them

A structured interview is beneficial for both employers and candidates. First, it ensures consistency in the interview process by asking all candidates the same questions in the same order. This creates a fair and transparent process, which candidates appreciate. They can be assured that they are being evaluated based on the same criteria as other candidates, reducing the potential for bias and discrimination.

Secondly, a structured interview provides clarity on the employer’s expectations for the position. By asking questions that relate to specific competencies or skills, candidates can better understand what is required for the role and prepare accordingly. This helps to reduce anxiety during the interview process and ensures that candidates can showcase their strengths effectively. In addition, with a clearer understanding of the employer’s expectations, candidates can better demonstrate if they are the right fit for the job.

Finally, a structured interview provides valuable feedback for candidates. By evaluating candidates against a predetermined set of criteria, interviewers can provide specific feedback on areas where the candidate excelled and where they could improve. This feedback can help candidates prepare for future interviews and improve their chances of success.

Why Aren’t Structured Interviews Used More Often?

One of the biggest challenges organizations face when it comes to structured interviews is resistance to change. Traditional interviewing methods may be deeply ingrained in an organization’s culture, making switching to a structured approach difficult. To overcome this challenge, organizations may need to invest in change management strategies, such as education and training, to help employees adapt to the new process.

Some hiring managers may also see structured interviews as seemingly rigid or impersonal. Educating managers on the benefits of structured interviews, such as reducing bias and ensuring a fair and consistent process, may be necessary. Organizations may also consider incorporating elements of conversational interviews into the structured approach to make it feel more personal.

It also takes time to develop a set of standardized questions, train interviewers to ask the questions consistently and evaluate responses can be a lengthy process properly. To address this challenge, organizations can lean on technology solutions like Yardstick that optimize the interview process. Yardstick’s Intelligent Talent Selection software uses a structured interviewing methodology to help organizations hire the best sales candidate the first time, reduce biases, save time, and improve the candidate experience.

Spot A-players early by building a systematic interview process today.

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