Skip to page navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites. / Policy / Assessment & Selection / Other Assessment Methods
Skip to main content

Structured Interviews

The employment interview is one of the most widely used methods of assessing job applicants. Due to its popularity, a great deal of research on improving the reliability and validity of the interview has been conducted. This body of research has demonstrated that structured interviews, which employ rules for eliciting, observing, and evaluating responses, increase interviewers' agreement on their overall evaluations by limiting the amount of discretion an interviewer is allowed.

The level of structure in an interview can vary according to the constraints placed on the questions asked and evaluation criteria. Interviews with a low degree of structure place no constraints on the questions asked and allow for global evaluation of applicant responses. Interviews with a very high level of structure involve asking all applicants the same exact set of pre-defined lead and probe (i.e., follow-up questions) and are scored according to benchmarks of proficiency. Interviews with higher degrees of structure show higher levels of validity, rater reliability, rater agreement, and less adverse impact.

Interviews also vary according to the specific competencies being measured. Employment interviews can focus on past, present, or future behavior, beliefs, opinions, or attitudes of the applicant. Information may also include behavior observed during the interview itself (e.g., oral communication), work experience, training, education, and career aspirations. Research shows interview questions based on specific job competencies identified through job analysis as being critical to job success demonstrate high levels of validity, rater reliability, and rater agreement.

The most common methods for developing specific, job-related questions are based on either the situational or behavioral description format. Situational interview questions ask applicants to describe what they would do or how they would behave in a situation similar to those encountered on the job. An example of a situational question is, "You have been assigned to work on a project with some of your coworkers. While on the job, you notice several of them goofing off. You know you are falling behind schedule to complete the work by the deadline. What would you do?" This format relies on applicants' ability to project what they might do in a future situation. Behavioral description interview questions ask applicants to describe a past behavior demonstrated in a situation relevant to the competency of interest. An example of this type is, "Describe a situation where you analyzed and interpreted information." This type of interview is based on the behavioral consistency principle that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

Both methods rely on the development of job-related critical incidents (e.g., examples of notably good or notably bad job performance). Both types of interview formats have proven to be effective. Behavioral description interviews have shown higher levels of validity where the nature of the work is highly complex (e.g., professional and managerial level jobs). Structured interviews are usually scored by a panel in which each member rates applicant responses individually and then participates in a group discussion to resolve significant scoring discrepancies. Faking occurs less frequently during structured interviews than paper-and-pencil inventories measuring the same competencies.


  • Validity - Situations presented in structured interview questions are highly representative of the situation encountered on the job (i.e., a high degree of content validity), performance on structured interviews relates highly to performance on the job (i.e., a high degree of criterion-related validity), and show moderate relationships with measures of cognitive ability and personality (i.e., construct validity); Can add validity beyond other selection measures (i.e., a high degree of incremental validity), such as cognitive ability and personality variables
  • Face Validity/Applicant Reactions - Interviews typically result in more favorable applicant reactions compared to other popular selection measures, however, interviewers and applicants tend to favor less structured formats
  • Administration Method - Individual administration only; Can be conducted face-to-face or over the telephone or via video conference
  • Subgroup Differences - Generally little or no performance differences are found between men/women or applicants of different races; Some differences in interviewer ratings have been found for different races (dependent on race of candidate and interviewer(s), job complexity, and types of questions asked)
  • Development Costs - Costs are generally low and depend on the complexity of the job, the number of questions used, dimensions measured, and development and administration of interviewer/rater training
  • Administration Costs - Typically not costly to administer but may depend on costs related to train interviewers, rater time required, and number of applicants to assess
  • Utility/ROI - High return on investment if you need applicants who possess specific, critical competencies upon entry into the job; If the competencies measured by the interview can be learned on the job or are not highly critical, then the return on investment will be significantly lower
  • Common Uses - Used for recruitment, selection and promotion purposes; Frequently used late in the assessment process as a final screen or in situations where the applicant pool is moderate or small in size


(See Section VI for a summary of each article)

Campion, M. A., Palmer, D. K., & Campion, J. E. (1997). A review of structure in the selection interview. Personnel Psychology, 50(3), 655-702.

Conway, J. M., Jako, R. A., & Goodman, D. F. (1995). A meta-analysis of interrater and internal consistency reliability of selection interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80(5), 565-579.

Huffcutt, A I., & Arthur, W. (1994). Hunter and Hunter (1984) revisited: Interview validity for entry-level jobs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79(2), 184-190.

Huffcutt, A. I., & Roth, P. L. (1998). Racial group differences in employment interview evaluations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(2), 179-189.

Huffcutt, A. I., Weekley, J. A., Wiesner, W. H., DeGroot, T. G., & Jones, C. (2001). Comparison of situational and behavior description interview questions for higher-level positions. Personnel Psychology, 54(3), 619-644.

McFarland, L. A., Ryan, A. M., Sacco, J. M., Kriska, S. D. (2004). Examination of structured interview ratings across time: The effects of applicant race, rater race, and panel composition. Journal of Management, 30(4), 435-452.

Taylor, P., & Small, B. (2002). Asking applicants what they would do versus what they did do: A meta-analytic comparison of situational and past behavior employment interview questions. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 75(3), 277-294.

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) website contains information on interviews.

Back to Top

Control Panel