5 Examples of Unstructured Interview Questions to Ask [+What to Expect]

5 examples of unstructured interview questions to ask

Job interviews can take many formats. An interviewer, be they the HR team or your hiring manager, has different approaches to prepare for an interview with a candidate.

Unstructured interviews are one of these forms that offer a unique experience for both candidates and hiring teams.

Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of unstructured interviews and the questions posed is crucial to determine whether it’s the right approach for your organization’s interview process or not.

By being confident in your approach to job interviews, you can create a positive and effective hiring experience.  

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what an unstructured interview is and how they are different from structured interviews. We’ll also explore the top unstructured interview questions to ask and the responses to expect. 

What is an unstructured interview?

An unstructured interview is a type of interview that encourages applicants to express themselves freely.

This format provides flexibility and a more conversational atmosphere between the interviewer and the applicant. In an unstructured interview, the interviewer asks thought-provoking questions to gather information about a specific topic from the applicant.

This type of interview often leads to interesting and engaging exchanges between the interviewer and the applicant.

 

Structured vs unstructured interviews

As mentioned, there are various ways of conducting interviews for applicants applying to vacancies in your organization.

The basic format is a structured interview. However, other types like unstructured and semi-structured interviews may offer more opportunities for recruiters and candidates alike.

Interviewers may also conduct one or more of these types of interviews: group interviews, video interviews, and individual interviews.

However, all interviews can be categorized into three types, which are as follows

Structured Interview: This type of interview involves a set of standardized questions that the interviewer asks the candidate. The candidate is evaluated based on their responses to those predetermined questions.

Unstructured Interview: In this type of interview, the interviewer does not have a set of questions prepared in advance. They form and ask questions based on how the candidate responds to them.

There is a third alternative to the black-and-white thinking, which  is the semi-structured interview.

What is a semi-structured interview?

A semi-structured interview is a type of interview that combines structured and unstructured interviews.

The interviewer has a guide to follow during the interview, but they also introduce different conversations based on how the candidate responds to them.

 

Examples of unstructured interview questions

Now, let’s look at some examples of common unstructured interview questions HR professionals and hiring managers often ask and how to respond to them

  • Tell us about yourself

Recruiters commonly begin job interviews by asking candidates to tell them about themselves.  This common unstructured interview question is used to evaluate the candidate’s personality traits.

It is an introductory question that helps to build rapport and set the tone for the interview. It is typically used during the early stages of the interview and sets the stage for the rest of the process.

As a recruiter or hiring manager, you can expect the candidate to give you a brief history about their work experience.

Candidates should also use this question to highlight their strengths or previous experiences that make them a good fit for the job they’re applying for.

  • What’s an ideal job, in your opinion?

Recruiters evaluate candidates’ work values by asking this question to ensure they align with your organization’s mission and vision.

  • Tell us about an accomplishment you are most proud of and why

 

The question helps recruiters understand a candidate’s work ethic, core values, and see how confident they are through their greatest accomplishments.

Some candidates may talk about a work accomplishment, while others may talk about a self-development accomplishment they made, like completing a difficult diploma, or something else.

 

  • When making a decision, how do you compare or weigh the pros and cons? 

The purpose of this question is to gain valuable insight into a candidate’s strengths in logical reasoning, critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving.

This information will allow recruiters to make an informed decision about the candidate’s potential fit for the role. This question is particularly important when interviewing candidates for senior or managerial roles.

  • In your work, do you often rely on others? If yes, who do you depend on?

The purpose of this question is to uncover the candidate’s opinion about collaboration and ability to work in a team.

Often, candidates want to appear independent. This question helps recruiters and team leaders assess the candidate’s ability to collaborate with others.

Managers who manage multiple teams need to find candidates who are friendly with a team spirit.

 

Tips for conducting a successful unstructured interview 

If you’re looking to conduct an unstructured interview, here are a few tactics you should keep in mind.

  • Don’t ask leading questions: A leading question is one that’s framed in a specific way to elicit a specific answer. It usually involves one or more hiring biases. ‘How do you feel about working 10 hours a day?’ is a leading question.
  • Ask the same list of initial questions to all candidates. While unstructured interview questions will vary based on candidates’ responses, an initial list will help you compare candidates and find the best one for your company or team.
  • Avoid asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Because you’ll get a curt ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer with no conversation.
  • During an interview, dig deeper by asking related questions and expanding on the original question if necessary.
  • When addressing statements, factual errors, and inconsistencies, rephrase the same question in multiple ways to ensure a consistent answer.
  • If possible, record the candidate’s responses without interpretation or interference.
  • Take notes during the unstructured interview, whether about body language, candidate responses, or other questions for other candidates.
  • Keep the goal of the interview in mind and avoid losing control of the conversation or engaging in unnecessary banter. Avoid letting the candidate steer the direction of the interview.

 

Conclusion 

Although unstructured interviews often involve conducting an interview without predetermined questions, it’s best to have an initial set of questions.

One of the main benefits of unstructured interviews is they allow recruiters to adjust the conversation to extract specific information about the candidate.

This type of interview is useful in the final stages of recruitment where the remaining candidates have similar qualifications and experience.

Unstructured interviews give interviewees an opportunity to display their personality and soft skills, while giving the interviewer an opportunity to gain more information about the candidate.

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