A structured interview is a standardized methodology used in various fields, including research and recruitment, to collect information in a uniform manner. This approach involves asking all participants the same set of predetermined questions, thus facilitating comparison and reducing interviewer bias. By providing a systematic framework for data collection, structured interviews enable a comprehensive and objective analysis of the information gathered.
Definition: Structured interview
A structured interview is a meeting that involves asking candidates questions in a standardized order. An interviewer asks candidates to answer “yes” or “no” to queries or multiple-choice questions, allowing a comparison of the candidates’ responses, various patterns, and areas that require further research.
When is it relevant to use a structured interview?
A structured interview reduces ambiguities and mitigates potential biases in the analysis. Therefore, you can use the interview method when:
- You understand your topic well enough and can develop solid and practical structured questions
- You don’t have enough resources or time, yet you need to analyze your data efficiently
A strong sense of equality runs your research questions, and you must keep environmental conditions constant.
Overview of different types of interviews
During recruitment, you must research and choose the ideal interview technique. The table below highlights the similarities and differences between the methods of interviews:
Pros and cons of a structured interview
Although structured interviews provide a clearer and streamlined process of candidate comparison, some pros and cons exist with this method.
The pros of a structured interview are:
- Efficient, cost-effective, and simple: Structured interviews present the topic from a broader angle while making the questions easy to answer, hence, requiring less time.
- Increased reliability, credibility, and validity: Structured interviews are listed the same way for every participant, so they’re more credible than any other interview method.
- Reduced bias: Structuring questions in the same order for all participants reduces the risks of bias in the form of environmental factors or the nature of the questions asked.
On the other hand, the cons of a structured interview include:
- Limited flexibility: Once you select the fixed questions, you no longer have the power to change them without damaging the interview’s quality.
- Limited scope: Whenever a question is close-ended, that interview has a limited scope. The participants don’t have space to expound on their answers or give more information.
- The questions are too formal: The formality of the questions doesn’t allow the participants and the interviewers to build a connection. The formal nature of the questions may cause the participants to become uncomfortable or tense, affecting their answers.
Creating questions for a structured interview
Here are some tips to help you write a high validity structured interview:
- Define what you want to learn before drafting your questions
- Use simple-to-understand questions instead of complicated jargon
- Be concise and clear to solicit straightforward answers from the structured interview
Here are some examples of structured interview questions:
- Do you believe that employers should have team-building sessions at work?
- Did any of your previous positions have team-building sessions?
- Does your current position offer team-building sessions?
- How many times per week do you spend on team-building?
- Do you enjoy the team-building sessions?
5 steps to conducting a structured interview
The following are the five main steps entailed in conducting structured interviews:
Step 1: Define your goals and objectives
Start by brainstorming some questions to assist in the ideation stage of your research question. It would help if you considered what you aim to find from your structured interview and why the method is ideal for you.
Step 2: Construct the questions
Remember that your questions should be closed-ended, easy to understand, concise, and simple. Therefore, let the structure of the questions remain the same.
Step 3: Choose your sampling method
Choose one of the following sampling methods depending on your topic:
- Voluntary response sampling: This includes posting flyers and getting participants from the recorded responses.
- Convenience sampling: This uses answers from people accessible to you, like college students.
- Stratified sampling: This classifies samples based on age, ethnicity, gender identity, or other characteristics of interest.
- Judgement sampling: This incorporates samples of people you already know.
However, you should be aware that you can encounter sampling bias, which involves a specific population more than others.
Step 4: Choose your medium
Decide the method you’ll use to collect your sample, whether pen-and-paper format or in-person through video conferencing or over the phone. Before you begin the structured interview, get consent from the interviewees, such as written informed consent, confidentiality agreement, or video/audio recording.
Step 5: Conduct the interview
Ensure that all conditions remain constant during your interviews and organize your response to avoid data errors. This includes asking questions in the same manner and order while keeping your voice tone and body language (raising eyebrows, nodding, etc.) constant at all times.
Analysis of a structured interview
Once you finish conducting your interviews, analyze your results. First, give your participants a pseudonym or number for organization purposes and transcribe the recordings using software or manually. Then, conduct a thematic or content analysis to look for patterns or groups in responses.
The analysis should be as follows:
Transcribe your interviews
You’ll have to transcribe audio-recorded interviews and add transcriptions to the appendix of your paper. When laughter, pauses, or filler words like “mmm” affects your conclusions, use verbatim transcription and include these fillers.
However, use intelligent verbatim transcription if your interviews don’t have these fillers, making them easier to analyze. The transcription process helps cleanse your data, identify errors, and resolve inconsistencies.
Code and analyze your interview
Conduct content or thematic analysis; you may use words, patterns, codes, or themes to separate the responses into categories.
Closed-ended questions usually lead to content analysis, conducted in the following way:
- Count the occurrences of the phrases, concepts, subjects, or words to quantify the categories chosen during the coding stage
- Organize and summarize the information using descriptive analysis after coding
- Use inferential statistics to conclude your hypothesis and make future predictions
Account for the results
After getting the findings from your structured interview, combine the results in a research paper. The results sections and discussion areas of your research paper highlight the number of occurrences of your coded groups. In the methodology section, explain the technique you used to collect your data and conceptualize your analysis.
The result section also has a report of your p-value, test statistic, and effect size if you made descriptive statistics and inferential statistics. These values explain if your results are practically significant or justify you rejecting the null hypothesis. Finish with your main avenues and takeaways for any further research.
The four major interview types are structured, semi-structured, unstructured, and focus group interviews.
Interviewers have identifiers like gender, race, age, etc., that may influence their responses, causing the interviewer effect bias.
Structured interviews have two main benefits: a respondent uses a lower cognitive load to answer the questions, and it reduces the thinking required to complete specific tasks.