A structured interview has a pre-set list of questions and this makes the interviewer get into the interviewing room already prepared. A structured interview is usually used when consulting a survey. This is to ensure that the questions put forward are the same and the answers could be tabulated. Therefore if six people were to come for a job interview where the type of interview used is the structured interview, their answers could be put side by side and then weighed according to the merits of the answer. However if an unstructured interview were used for this same group of interviews it would be hard to weigh their answers against each other as the questions would very well have been different.
This sort of interview is very reliable because the group to be interviewed can be sure that they will be asked the same questions. It is very accurate in getting facts and information about the thought people may possess for different situations. When interviews are being administered in the classrooms the teachers tend to use the structured format of interviewing. The down side of this however is the fact that the presence of the interviewer could make the interviewee doctor their answers. It has also be claimed that there are other factors like ethnicity and race that affect the answers given by people that have been pigeon-holed as a result of any of the two groups.
Just like the name implies, interviews of this format are usually consisting of questions that have not been pre-set. The interviewer is guided by the answers given by the interviewee with regards the questions they get to ask. While such interviews may be appropriate in getting to know the individuals been interviewed, it short-changes the interviewee as relevant questions that may require answering may not be asked due to the direction the interviews may have taken. If the above is true, one may have to wonder why then such interviewing types are still utilized till date.
Many of the proponents of the unstructured interviews have argued that there is indeed no accurate proof to show that one cannot achieve the same expected results as those gained from the structured interviews. They have also added that unlike with the structured interviews where the interviewee is seemingly put on edge and made to provide answers they believe the interviewer is seeking, the unstructured interview allows the interviewee to show a deeper side of themselves when they believe they are the ones driving the questions being asked. They tend to uncover information that is important to them and a good interviewer could note this for future purposes.
One of the drawbacks of the structured interview is the fact that the information received will always be a product of the quality of questions asked. So if there is a set of interview questions that have been set for an interview and these questions may be missing some vital elements, this form of interview does not give one the leeway to tweak the questions and as such some necessary information could be lost. However the unstructured interview chooses the questions on the fly based off the interviewee’s answers. This type of interview could make some important questions fall through the crack as the interviewer would have deviated so far from questions that he may have asked otherwise.
James Nathan Miller said that “there is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are a breadth of life for a conversation” (Zee, Bakker & Bakker, 2002). Many people have taken this approach with regards to interviews and they believe that in order to get the best from an interview time must be put in order to get questions that need answering. These pre-set questions will ensure that the interview goes according to plan and that the interviewer is able to get the information they have deemed most important through the asking of their prearranged questions.
Because interviews are mostly used to access peoples level of experiences, employers of labour structure their questions in a way that the specific experience and knowledge they are looking to employ shines through in the answering of their set questions. A structured interview is standardized in a way to minimize favouritism or bias as all candidates get to be asked the same set of questions. In this sense they are similar to surveys except that they are administered orally as opposed to in writing. The unstructured interview on the other hand is used to elicit social realities as they are viewed by people and can be called informal conversations as their questions and answers are not predetermined. They rely on the social interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee (Dana, 2012).
The unstructured interview is more difficult and is time consuming to sieve through all the information given in a bid to pick out the required information. While the structured interview has the questions they want answers to already set, the unstructured interview has to go through the whole conversation with the person being interviewed in a bid to pull out information that is relevant to the cause. And in most cases the direction the interview may have taken may mean that the interviewer at the end of the day will still have not gotten all the information they needed.
. The unstructured interview on many occasions sees control leaving the interviewer and going to the interviewee. This happens as the interviewee begins to determine the pace and direction of the interview through the conversation that is taking place. At times the interviewee moves the conversation in a direction that is not needful with regards the interview and it now falls on the interviewer to steer the interview back without rudely interrupting the interviewee.
Structured interviews are better because they cover the scope of information required by the interviewing body. They also reduce question bias as all the people that will go through a particular interview will be asked the same set of questions irrespective of how they may choose to answer the questions. Therefore no matter what benefits could be achieved from promoting the use of the unstructured interview, the structured interview at the end of the day is still better.
Dana et al, (2012). “Belief in Unstructured Interview: The Persistence of an Illusion.” PDF. Retrieved from http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~danajd/interview.pdf
Zee, K., Bakker, P., & Bakker, A. (2002). “Why are Structured Interviews so Rarely Used in Personnel Selection.”