Structured Versus Unstructured Interviews

When you envision sitting in a room and actually interviewing for a position, you are most likely thinking of a structured interview. This is where the interviewer asks a prescribed set of questions and you give brief answers. If you have done your research, you should feel fairly confident that the interview will go smoothly—or at least without too many surprises!

In an unstructured interview, the questions are more open-ended. The interviewer asks questions specifically designed to get you to reveal more about yourself than you would if you were asked the same old standard questions. The interviewer is trying to find out more about you, your character, your skills, your background, and your aspirations. Candidates are not asked the same questions, and the interviewer lets the conversation flow more freely than in a structured interview.

Interviewers do not necessarily limit themselves to one style. In fact, it is common practice for a recruiter or hiring professional to start out with some basic objective questions and finish the interview with the more open-ended inquiries. To be on the safe side, you should anticipate both.

Common open-ended questions include the following:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • Cite some past problems relating to managing others and how you resolved them.

  • What do you know about our firm?

  • If you could start your career all over, would you follow the same career path? Why or why not?

These questions may seem like they are harder to prepare for, but if you come prepared with your research about the company and your assessment of your skills, you should be able to answer them well.

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