Many factors go into any well-thought-out recruitment process, and an interview guide is one that can make your life easier if you are willing to put in the time to develop one. This guide will cover how it works, its most essential elements, how it's beneficial, and how to best go about creating your own interview guide template.
What Is an Interview Guide?
An interview guide is a guide that serves the purpose of structuring an interview in a way that is easy to follow. These guides have specific questions and general talking points that can help you as the interviewer stay on track during the interview, allowing it to go as smoothly as possible.
There is no specific length for an interview guide, but keeping them as short as possible is typically the best approach for both the interviewer and the interviewee. If you're the interviewer, you will want to consider the length of the interviews when crafting your interview guide. You do not want to put too many talking points on the guide if you do not have enough time for them all.
However, you also don't want too few questions and talking points. Otherwise, you may run out of things to discuss with the interviewee before the interview ends. Finding the right balance does take a bit of trial and error, but one way to go about developing your first interview guide is to think of what questions are most important.
The questions will no doubt vary depending on the position you're interviewing candidates for. However, if you understand the requirements of the position, then you will not struggle to think of pivotal questions to ask. Wording the questions in a way that is easy for the interviewee to understand is the more challenging part, so always try to keep questions short and to the point.
We'll cover how to specifically create structured interview questions more in the section. Before we get to that, let's go over some of the main reasons you should consider using an interview guide.
The Benefits of Using an Interview Guide
A wide range of positives come with an interview guide and almost no downsides. Because of that, it's impossible to cover every one of them here, but we'll look at four of the most important ones.
Creates Better Structure
Structure determines how well your interview flows from question to question. One of the main pitfalls that most interviews without a guide suffer from is a lack of good flow. It is not easy to memorize a whole list of questions and talking points in your head normally. Trying to memorize everything while also conducting an interview is even more difficult.
You'll often forget certain essential things while focusing on the interviewee's answers, or you and the interviewee may go off on a tangent that causes you to forget your next question. All of this can lead to many pauses in the interview as you try to remember certain things, which wastes both your and the interviewee's time.
Depending on how well thought out your interview guide is, it can make for a roadmap you can follow throughout the interview that keeps you from losing your place.
Although interview guides provide a lot of structure, they also allow you to be as flexible as you would without them. An interview guide is something that you don't necessarily have to follow at all times. There will come moments where you may want to branch off from the guide to ask a specific question you did not think to include.
You may also want to spend more time on specific questions that seem more pertinent depending on the candidate you're interviewing. This is sometimes the better option instead of following your interview guide strictly. And you can always return to following the guide after you go off script for a bit.
Knowing when and how to deviate from your interview guide is something that does take practice, but it's a handy skill that can make your interviews much more successful. It'll also keep you from becoming overly reliant on always having an interview guide for every interview, as that can potentially take away from your interviewing skills.
Another way to understand the use of an interview guide is that it’s supposed to help you control the interview, not the other way around.
Maximizes Information Gathering
Because you can craft an interview guide using whatever questions and talking points you like, they are a great way to maximize the information you can get from an interview. It would be best if you create a mixture of general and broad questions with specific questions pertaining to the interviewee's skillset and background.
You can also include additional follow-up questions on specific points to ensure you get answers to things the interviewee may not touch on in their responses. This does make for a decent amount of additional work if you want to do it for every question. So, consider only doing it for the more general questions to help narrow down their scope.
Another way to maximize the information you receive is by structuring the questions in an order that makes sense from a progression standpoint. Whether you are asking a question about the job position specifically or a question about the interviewee's skill set, try to make each follow-up question directly related.
This is a great way to help the interviewee keep focus easily, as jumping from one topic to the next can sometimes catch them off guard, and you don't want that if you're aiming to get detailed answers. Make each question lead to the next one as naturally as possible.
Provides Greater Consistency
Suppose you're someone who prioritizes getting consistent results in your interviews. In that case, interview guides are something you'll most definitely want to implement into all your interviews. Having a structure that you can follow for all your interviews means you're putting each candidate through the same questions in the most consistent way possible.
Whether an interview goes good or bad, you'll always want to try and improve upon the experience as a whole. Doing this is significantly easier when you have a consistent, standardized formula for all your interviews that you can also tweak to improve the results.
You may not automatically know what changes to make to achieve greater levels of consistency out of your interview guide, but it is still an essential aspect to consider. This all leads to the final benefit we will cover in this section.
Allows for Revisions
The ability to go back and revise an interview guide as often as you feel the need to do so is something that can't go undervalued. It means you can take something away from every interview you conduct and use it to improve your current interview guide. By doing this, you will naturally make all the above qualities that we discussed even more beneficial.
It's impossible to have a perfect interview guide because the questions on the guide may not be the best for certain interviewees, but you can polish your guide to the point where you'll likely feel no real need to change it further. However, even when you get to this point, you will always have the option to tweak something later that you might not have thought about before.
In this way, an interview guide provides you with almost unlimited potential regarding how much it can improve your interviews.
What Is a Structured Interview?
A structured interview is an interview that follows a particular set of questions and talking points every single time with little to no deviation. These are different from unstructured interviews, where an interviewer has much more freedom to branch out with differing questions for each interview. Both have pros and cons, but structured interviews are always better if you want consistency.
By asking the same questions in the same order from one interview to the next, you'll see precisely what responses interviewees give and if there are any common trends between them. In contrast, you wouldn't get that if you asked different questions every time or the same questions in a slightly different order.
This practice is not always great for stand-alone interviews because you won't have a large enough sample size to see trends. However, it's an excellent way to handle doing a large number of interviews for the same position. Not only does it show you the trends, but it also gives you a consistent plan going into every interview.
You don't have to bother with tailoring each interview to every candidate, which will save you a significant amount of time in the long run.
What Are the Best Practices for Creating Structured Interview Questions?
The best practices for creating structured interview questions are two main things. First, tailor the question to the position candidates are interviewing for. Second, revise your questions after the initial conception.
Focus on Aspects of the Position the Interview Is For
Every question you include in your interview guide should relate to the position in some way. The more specific you get, the better. Not only does that help you get to know the interviewee, but it also lets you test their knowledge about the position.
If you understand the specifics of the position you are interviewing candidates for and are still struggling to develop questions, try to think of both broad and narrow questions to start. You want the structure of your interview to start broad and slowly work its way down to the more specific talking points.
This approach ensures you get all the general questions out of the way early on before bringing up the additional questions that you may or may not have time for. It also helps ease the interviewee into the interview, as you don't want to start by asking them the most complicated questions you have on your guide.
You also shouldn't hesitate to take a look at other interview guides if you need a point of reference to start from. It's always best to use your ideas for developing an interview guide. However, there is nothing wrong with using other guides for inspiration to help you get the ball rolling.
Do Multiple Revisions
After you've put together enough questions to feel satisfied with your interview guide, you need to work on revising them as much as possible. The best way to know what revisions to make comes from conducting interviews and taking notes on what did and didn't work. Before that, you can also focus on revising the more general aspects of your guide questions.
Some of these aspects include how you phrase your questions, the order in which you ask them, and whether or not they are getting the information you desire. The last of these three aspects is the most difficult to ascertain without first using the interview guide in an interview. However, it's the most important because you must ensure your questions function the way you desire.
If your questions aren't serving that purpose, then there isn't much point to the interview guide, even if it's put together well in every other aspect.
Interview Guide Template for Structured Interview
Here is a general interview guide template to use for your next structured interview:
Step 1: Develop different sections for specific question types.
Step 2: Develop questions that pertain to the position the interview is for.
Step 3: Ensure each candidate receives the same interview process.
Step 4: Review each candidate's answers and compare and contrast them against each other.
How Skills Tests Help Enhance the Recruitment Process After the Interview?
Skills tests are tests that employers sometimes use to determine whether a potential candidate for a job possesses the necessary skills to fulfill the position. They don't test an individual's knowledge or personality, as different tests cover those specific areas.
Think of a skills test as a way to further streamline the hiring process after you've gone ahead with conducting an interview. You can learn a lot about a candidate from an interview. However, it's common not to immediately know if they are the right candidate for the position. This is where a skills test can prove very useful.
Using it properly will tell you if the candidate has the necessary skills you are looking for, making you feel even more confident in hiring them. Simply, it's another way to refine your recruitment process to ensure you get the best individual for the job.
Some people are very good at answering interview questions because they are naturally talented or have much practice from doing many interviews. This means they can excel in the interview portion of the recruitment process while not performing as well in other areas, like taking a skills test.
However, it is crucial to remember that you should not make your final hiring decision based solely on an interview or skill test results. That can also apply to other parts of the recruitment process that help you learn more about a candidate.
Instead, you want to utilize all the information you obtain in conjunction to give yourself a complete picture of the individual you may potentially hire. Doing this gives you the highest possible chance of picking the most qualified candidate, which is the main goal of any recruitment process.