Structured and Unstructured Interviews



As you look forward to your upcoming interview it is important to take a moment and consider how to properly prepare. Knowing the nuances of structured and unstructured interviews will allow you to better prepare for when the interview day arrives giving you a much needed edge against other candidates.

Structured Interview

The structured interview is by far the most common type of interview used by employers and consists of basic, straight forward questions. These questions only serve to reveal the most rudimentary of information about candidates without revealing too much about you as a person.


Questions that you may encounter in a structured interview are:

  • How long were you with your last place of employment?
  • What were your duties?
  • What was your area of study in college?

A structured interview is serviceable but more and more interviewers are looking to unstructured interviews as a way to learn more about candidates.

Unstructured Interview

These unstructured interviews are favored by employers that desire to know more about candidates before hiring them. By using open ended questions interviewers will be able to glean information about you that may not otherwise come up in the context of a job interview. While the questions in a structured interview are designed to ask you directly relevant questions about your ability to do the job in a technical fashion, the questions in an unstructured interview are more aligned towards finding out information about your personality and character.

It’s important to understand that, from the perspective of the employer, these aspects of the applicant are just as important as their skills and abilities. In the modern business world, most all businesses are run with something called an “organizational culture” at the center of everything, guiding leadership, strategic decisions, and virtually every aspect of the organization. This organizational culture is always founded in values that are important to the organization, and management generally wants to be certain that anyone they hire is going to represent these values to the fullest. For example, if an organizational culture is founded in communication and interpersonal relations among staff, then management isn’t going to want to hire someone who is incredibly introverted, because they simply would not be a good fit for the organization.

That said, some of the questions you might encounter during an unstructured interview are as follows:

  • So, applicant, tell me a little bit about yourself?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What is your greatest asset?
  • Can you tell me about a time outside of work when you demonstrated leadership abilities?
  • What do you feel is the most important quality in an organizational leader?
  • If you could restart your career from the very beginning, what would you do differently the second time around?

Many people cringe at the prospect of answering such questions, and it’s easy to understand why. Structured interviews tend to have “right” and “wrong” answers, or at least it’s easier to understand what the interviewer wants to hear. When you’re getting unstructured questions, things are more open-ended, and the possibility of making a mistake and blowing the interview can seem overwhelming. This being the case, the best advice is simply to learn as much as you can about the organization beforehand so that you’ll know what sort of person they’re looking for. Then you can deliver answers that are in keeping with what you know about the organizational culture and really wow the interviewer.

The most important tip of all, however, is to just be yourself! Let your natural ability as an effective worker and leader shine through in your answers, show that you’re enthusiastic about the business, and things will almost certainly go in your favor.

Adapted From The Everything Job Interview Book, 2nd Edition by Joy Darlington and Nancy Schuman, Copyright � 2008, 2001 by F W Media, Inc., published by Adams Media, a division of F W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


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