The Semi-Structured Interview: Definition, Benefits, Requirement

The Semi-Structured Interview: Definition, Benefits, Requirement

Conducting an interview is an essential part of recruitment: it’s vital to assess the candidate correctly to exclude the risk of a bad hire in the future. There are many types of interviews. In this article, we will elaborate on a semi-structured interview.

So, what is a semi-structured interview? It’s a type of interview in which the interviewer doesn’t stick to a rigid plan. Instead of asking all the questions, the interviewer prefers open or general questions to let the conversation evolve independently.

How Does the Process Go?

To carry out a semi-structured interview successfully, an HR specialist needs to know the basics or how it works. In general, the process is pretty much the same as a traditional interview. The major difference is noticed at two stages that involve creating and asking questions.

So, here are the basic steps:

  1. Assess job requirements. The first and most common step is to identify what skills and expertise are necessary to show outstanding performance. Here, there is nothing new: just make up a list as usual.

  2. Identify the profile of a perfect fit. Logically, the next step is to specify what your ideal candidate looks like. Based on the job requirements, develop a portrait of an ideal fit.

  3. Think up some questions. Now that you know who you are looking for, it’s time to ask the questions to test the candidate’s skills, knowledge, and work experience. Here the changes come: you can focus on general questions only or create possible follow-ups to ask, if necessary.

  4. Go with the flow. The ultimate feature of the semi-structured interview is that you don’t follow a pre-determined plan. Instead, you let the natural flow prevail.

To get a better understanding, let’s consider an example. You are asking an interviewee, “What played a major role in your success in the previous occupation?” When answering, the interviewee briefly mentions a key technique – for instance, SPIN selling for a sales representative. You can elaborate and ask why the method is useful in assessing the candidate’s practical experience.

The Main Advantages of a Semi-Structured Interview

Why do recruiters choose this type of interview? Some of the benefits they gain include:

A Discussion Instead of Interrogation

Two-way communication lies at the core of the semi-structured interview, and it fosters discussion. It contributes to a comprehensive discussion of one or several topics.

Since an interviewee can also ask questions, you can unintentionally learn more about his true knowledge and experience. In such a situation, the rehearsed replies don’t work, which is a considerable advantage over standardized tests.

Comfortable Environment

Since the interview looks like a mere conversation between two people, an interviewee is likely to feel more comfortable. The lack of interrogation makes the atmosphere more pleasant for a person to relax and show his true colors.

Such circumstances always reduce stress. Thus, a candidate will show himself as he is: he won’t stumble and mumble because of pressure.

What Is the Key to a Successful Semi-Structured Interview?

The requirements for a semi-structured interview can be divided into two groups:

For an Interviewer

The person who carries the interview out is responsible for its success. Their duty is to ensure a thorough assessment of the candidate. That’s why the key element is the recruiter’s expertise. Only a person with an extensive background and good people skills can identify whether the candidate is a fit or not during two-way communication.

The recruiter’s ultimate challenge is not to get carried away. They must always keep in mind the final purpose: evaluation of the interviewee. That’s why you need to keep the conversation flowing in the right direction.

Beginners will find this type of interview much more complicated compared to a structured one. In order for you to make a comprehensive analysis and collect as much information as possible, we advise preparing a list of precise questions. Although not all of them may be answered, it will serve as a blueprint for a discussion.

When preparing for an interview, it’s advisable to tailor the questions to every candidate. That’s why a company needs to store applicant’s data for HRs to instantly access it. If you are looking for such a solution, visit Lanteria’s website to learn more.

For an Interviewee

The main problem for an interviewee is that they don’t know what semi-structured interview questions will arise. The conversation may evolve unpredictably. To be prepared, a candidate must do his homework and study:

  • The job specification. Interviewees should devote their attention to the set of the required skills, knowledge, and experience.

  • The company. Its mission, vision, values, and rewards – all of these can help make a favorable impression.

  • Possible interview questions. It can be a good idea to look through typical questions asked during an interview. A candidate can prepare the answers to the most complicated ones.

If you want to prepare properly, you can imitate an interview with a mentor or friend. Such a practice helps to master the answers and hone the learned information.

How Does a Semi-Structured Interview Differ From Structured and Unstructured Ones?

Last but not least – what is so special about the semi-structured interview, and how does it differ from the structured and unstructured ones? To begin with, let’s clarify what the latter two mean.

A Structured Interview

The name speaks for itself – an interview goes according to a pre-determined structure. It implies:

  • Preparation in advance

  • A set of questions to ask

  • The same procedure for every candidate

This comes with perks. Although creativity doesn’t fit into the context, it’s compensated by easy assessment and evaluation. A recruiter can compare answers quickly because the same questions go in the same order. Therefore, the decision-making process is more comprehensive and fair.

However, this type of interview requires significant effort at the preparation stage. To work out a successful plan and the right set of questions, you should:

  • Develop a list of precise questions

  • Test them

  • Adjust the questions, if necessary

By the way, testing is essential every time new questions are introduced.

An Unstructured Interview

An unstructured interview is the complete opposite of a structured one. If we are to look for an example, let’s turn to leadership styles. This one is like a laissez-faire leadership style – there are no rules to follow.

Spontaneous is a good way to describe an unstructured interview. There are no questions prepared in advance. Instead, it’s the manifestation of improvisation. The interview looks like a conversation between two people that are discussing a particular topic.

The advantages of this interview type are obvious:

  • No stress. Since there is no plan, there is no interrogation. The conversation is usually rather casual, which eliminates any stress factors. This helps a candidate to relax and, therefore, create a favorable impression.

  • High personalization. Since the discussion can evolve in any direction, it’s usually highly tailored to the candidate’s expertise. This is a good thing if your potential employees have a drastically different background.

However, there are disadvantages, as well. For example, a comparative analysis is a real problem in this case. Moreover, a beginner-recruiter risks forgetting something and get carried away.

Semi-Structured Interview: A Combination of Both

Since a semi-structured interview combines both types mentioned above, it encompasses all the advantages. A recruiter can draft a general plan yet maintain a casual, stress-free atmosphere due to its conversational nature.

Which one to choose is up to you. However, the final decision should be taken according to your needs. Otherwise, you risk undermining all the efforts.

Whichever method of interview you choose, it can take significant time to draft a plan and assess the candidate. By freeing up mundane tasks with Lanteria HR, you can devote more time to in-depth recruitment practices. Try out a demo today and see for yourself how our innovative software can make your life easier!

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