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What are differences between a structured interview and an unstructured interview?

  • By barraiser
  • June 23, 2022
  • 6 mins read
differences between a structured interview and an unstructured interview
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    When recruiting employees, firms typically use two types of interviews: structured and unstructured interviews. Each one, like job candidates, has its own set of strengths and shortcomings. However, do the benefits of a structured interview outweigh those of an unstructured interview?

    You want to identify the model that produces the best outcomes as a hiring manager or business owner, right? You want one that can assist you in swiftly finding the proper prospects so that you can get the right individual on the job to help your company flourish. While organized interviews are commonly used in quantitative research, unstructured interviews are widely utilized in qualitative data collection since they focus on describing the study subjects.

    As a result, the interviewer must comprehend the numerous distinctions between a structured interview and an unstructured one. In this article, we will provide you with a comparison of structured vs unstructured interviews to help you get a better understanding of these two concepts.

    Also Read: Important Recruitment Metrics You Must Track In 2023

    What is a Structured Interview?

    The most systematic sort of interview is the structured interview. Unlike in unstructured interviews, the interviewer uses predefined questions in a predetermined order.

    Structured interviews are frequently one-sided. They can be either multiple-choice or dichotomous, which implies that participants must select one of two options for each question. Although open-ended structured interviews exist, they are uncommon.

    You may compare responses between participants in a uniform context by asking a set of questions in a predetermined order. This can assist you in identifying trends and highlighting areas for additional research, and it can be a beneficial explanatory or exploratory research tool.

    Have you heard of structured interviews for hiring? They’re a great way to assess candidates fairly and objectively. Here is a helpful resource on how to conduct them effectively.

    What is an Unstructured Interview?

    An unstructured interview is the most adaptable since it allows for spontaneity. Unlike in a structured interview, the questions and the order in which they are presented are not predetermined. Instead, the interview moves forward based on the participant’s past responses.

    Unstructured interviews are free-form. This lack of organization can assist you in gathering detailed information on your issue while also allowing you to notice trends during the analysis stage.

    Did you think about using unstructured interviews to evaluate job candidates? They can give insight into a person’s personality and compatibility with your company.

    Also Read: Explained: What Are Game Based Assessments?

    Difference between Structured and Unstructured Interviews

    As mentioned above, the fundamental difference between structured and unstructured interviews is that one has all of the questions prepared ahead of time, but the other does not follow any specific framework or type of questions. Here are the ten differences between structured vs unstructured interviews.

    Comparison Factor

    Structured Interviews

    Unstructured Interviews


    These interviews are directive in character, meaning a sequential approach with correct parameters is followed. The method of leading questions with favored replies remains prominent. These are primarily facilitated discussions.This type of interview is non-directive, meaning the interviewer is not required to follow any predetermined pattern or leads. He or she must, however, take a non-judgmental stance and seek no preferred response. Active listening is still an essential tool for starting descriptive dialogues. This is more of an exploratory interview.


    The interviewer must follow a defined interview sequence with questions established in a specific order during a structured interview. Typically, one does not deviate from the established pattern.The interviewer is permitted to ask whatever questions during an unstructured interview. He or she may prepare a few questions beforehand but is not required to follow any interview sequence. It relies on the chance to turn the interview into a dialogue.

    Data Collection

    A systematic interview yields quantitative information. While this data is measurable, it lacks specifics about the candidate’s behavior in a particular setting or occurrence. Furthermore, candidates cannot be discovered outside of the format.In qualitative research, an unstructured interview is utilized to obtain data. Because the candidate can use descriptive language, the interviewer can get detailed information and better understand a person’s situational comprehension.

    Types of questions

    Close-ended questions are used in this type of interview, allowing the interviewer to limit the available responses to pre-conceived possibilities. Compared to unstructured interviews, the validity of the data recorded is significantly lower.This interview contains open-ended questions that allow the candidate to explore many points of view. Furthermore, modifying the research questions enables the interviewer to acquire a better understanding. These interviews have greater legitimacy because the interviewer obtains detailed information about the discussed issue.

    Example of questions

    In a structured interview, all candidates are asked the same questions, such as:
    • Tell us about yourself.
    • What are your strong points and weak points?
    • What do you know about our business?
    • Why should we employ you?

    Such questions encourage a regulated and uniform response, simplifying comparison and minimizing the impact of personal bias.

    The questions in an unstructured interview vary from candidate to candidate and follow a conversational pattern, such as
    • Do you enjoy utilizing our product/service?
    • What changes do you think we can make?
    • What are your thoughts on industry trends regarding our product/service?
    • Why do you prefer or use our product?

    Such questions are susceptible to interpretation and spark more significant debate.

    Time Duration

    Structured interviews can be completed in less time if a pre-planned set of questions is in place. When appealing to a bigger pool of candidates, it is most effective.Unstructured interviews become time-consuming when there is no predetermined questionnaire in place. The longer the interview, the deeper the conversation.


    Structured interviews are a type of descriptive research that involves the systematic collection of data. In addition to being cost-effective, these interviews can yield results quickly.Unstructured interviews are descriptive research methods typically used to examine a small data sample. These interviews are tailored and require experienced interviewers, which is both costly and time-consuming.

    Tools surveys

    Surveys and questionnaires are used to collect helpful information during structured interviews. Such tools make data administration and comparison easier. A structured interview can also occur physically or online, using predetermined formats and methodologies.An unstructured interview uses audio recorders, camcorders, and cell phones. Furthermore, these interviews require a personal connection between the interviewer and the interviewee to obtain accurate information.


    The information gathered during a structured interview is compared. The collective data samples are all subjected to identical investigation conditions, making them perfect for quantitative observation and analysis.Data samples cannot be compared because an unstructured interview is more likely to differ for each participant. The interviewer is instructed to inquire about the candidate’s details, spontaneity, and situational awareness to make the final decision.
    UsagePositivists, who emphasize a quantitative nature, employ data acquired through structured interviews to provide statistics. A positivist approach can be rigid but creates sound decisions based on logic and scientific understanding.Data from unstructured interviews are used by interpretivists, who prefer qualitative data and draw conclusions only after thoroughly analyzing all social actions. An interpretive argues that human behavior is complex and cannot be measured by social activities or quantitative measures.

    Structured vs Unstructured Interviews: Choosing the Right Approach for Hiring

    The difference between structured and unstructured interviews lies in the questions asked. Structured, more formal, and consistent interviews are expected in mass hiring, such as university internships.

    Unstructured interviews, on the other hand, are best suited for assessing candidates who are being hired for specific roles. They allow for more creative exploration, are more adaptable, and encourage a more accessible flow of discussion.

    However, BarRaiser fills this gap by closely examining a person’s skills with structured interviews in various domains.

    Also Read: 5 Most Common Interview Questions And How To Answer Them


    In conclusion, when it comes to hiring, the choice between a structured and an unstructured interview depends on the goals of the hiring process. Structured interviews can help standardize the interview process, while unstructured interviews allow more flexibility in assessing applicants’ skills and qualities. It’s important to realize that both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, companies should choose the best suits their hiring goals and job requirements.

    By incorporating structured and unstructured interviews into the selection process, companies can develop a well-rounded hiring strategy that leads to successful recruitment and an excellent workforce. Moreover, whether you’re an employer or a job seeker, knowing structured and unstructured interviews can help you master your next interview.

    Frequently Asked Question

    What are the three differences between structured and unstructured interviews?

    Ans: Structured interview vs unstructured interviews differ in several key aspects:

    Standardization: Structured interviews have predetermined questions and scoring criteria, ensuring consistency across candidates. Unstructured interviews lack a standardized format, allowing for more flexibility in questioning.

    Question types: Structured interviews use specific, predetermined questions with fixed response formats. Unstructured interviews are open-ended and allow for a more conversational approach.

    Reliability and validity: Structured interviews are considered more reliable and have higher predictive validity due to their standardized nature. Unstructured interviews are more subjective and can be influenced by biases, leading to lower reliability and predictability.

    What do structured vs unstructured interviews mean in hiring?

    In hiring, structured vs unstructured interviews refer to the different approaches to questioning candidates. Structured interviews use predetermined questions, ensuring consistency. Unstructured interviews are more flexible, allowing spontaneous discussions based on candidate responses.

    How do structured interviews work in the hiring process?

    Structured interviews follow a systematic approach with predefined questions in a specific order. These questions are often closed-ended, providing uniform responses for easier comparison. This method is effective for quantitative data collection and objective assessment.

    What defines an unstructured interview in hiring?

    An unstructured interview is characterized by its free-form and spontaneous nature in hiring. Questions are not predetermined, allowing the conversation to flow based on the candidate’s responses. This qualitative approach provides detailed information and insight into the candidate’s situational comprehension.

    Which interview approach is better for hiring structured or unstructured interviews?

    The choice between structured vs unstructured interviews depends on the hiring goals. Structured interviews standardize the process, making them ideal for mass hiring. Unstructured interviews offer flexibility and are best for assessing specific roles, fostering a more open discussion. Combining both approaches in the selection process creates a comprehensive strategy for successful recruitment.

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