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Unstructured Interviews: Pros, Cons, and Best Practices

Understanding Unstructured Interviews

Unstructured interviews are a type of interview where the interviewer does not have a set list of questions to ask the candidate. Instead, the conversation flows naturally and the interviewer can explore different topics based on the candidate's responses. This type of interview allows for more flexibility and can provide deeper insights into the candidate's skills, personality, and fit for the role.

One of the key characteristics of unstructured interviews is that they are open-ended. This means that the questions asked are broad and allow the candidate to provide detailed responses. The interviewer may ask follow-up questions to dig deeper into certain areas or to clarify the candidate's answers. This approach encourages a more conversational and relaxed atmosphere, which can help the candidate feel more comfortable and open up.

Pros of Unstructured Interviews

There are several advantages to using unstructured interviews in the hiring process. First, they allow for a more holistic assessment of the candidate. Since the interviewer has the freedom to explore different topics, they can get a better understanding of the candidate's skills, experiences, and thought processes.

Unstructured interviews also provide an opportunity to assess the candidate's communication and interpersonal skills. By engaging in a conversation rather than a rigid question-and-answer session, the interviewer can observe how well the candidate articulates their thoughts, listens actively, and builds rapport.

Another advantage of unstructured interviews is that they can uncover unexpected information about the candidate. Since there is no predetermined set of questions, the conversation can take unexpected turns and reveal valuable insights that may not have been uncovered through a structured interview.

Additionally, unstructured interviews can be more engaging and enjoyable for both the interviewer and the candidate. The conversational nature of the interview can create a positive and relaxed atmosphere, leading to a more authentic interaction.

Cons of Unstructured Interviews

While unstructured interviews have their benefits, they also come with some drawbacks. One of the main challenges is the potential for bias. Without a standardized set of questions, there is a risk that the interviewer's personal biases may influence their evaluation of the candidate. This can lead to subjective decision-making and unfair treatment of candidates.

Another disadvantage of unstructured interviews is the lack of consistency in the evaluation process. Since each interview may cover different topics and follow a different path, it can be difficult to compare candidates objectively. This can make it challenging to make fair and informed hiring decisions.

Additionally, unstructured interviews can be time-consuming. Without a predefined set of questions, the interviewer needs to spend more time actively listening, probing, and guiding the conversation. This can prolong the duration of the interview and require more effort from both the interviewer and the candidate.

Lastly, unstructured interviews may not be suitable for all types of roles or organizations. Some positions may require specific skills or qualifications that can be better assessed through structured interviews or other assessment methods. It is important to consider the job requirements and the desired outcomes of the interview when deciding whether to use an unstructured format.

Best Practices for Unstructured Interviews

To conduct effective unstructured interviews, it is important to follow some best practices. First, prepare a general outline or themes to guide the conversation. While the interview should be flexible, having a rough structure can help ensure that important topics are covered.

Active listening is crucial during unstructured interviews. Pay attention to the candidate's responses, ask follow-up questions, and show genuine interest in their experiences and perspectives. This will not only help you gather valuable information but also make the candidate feel heard and valued.

Maintain a conversational and friendly tone throughout the interview. Create a comfortable environment where the candidate feels encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas. Avoid dominating the conversation or interrupting the candidate unnecessarily.

Take notes during the interview to capture key points and observations. This will help you remember important details and compare candidates later on. However, be mindful not to let note-taking distract you from actively engaging with the candidate.

After the interview, evaluate the candidate based on their qualifications, skills, and fit for the role. Use the insights gathered during the unstructured interview as part of the overall assessment process. Compare the candidate's performance and characteristics with the job requirements and the organization's culture and values.

Lastly, ensure fairness and minimize bias by establishing evaluation criteria and using them consistently across all candidates. Avoid making decisions solely based on personal preferences or subjective impressions.

By following these best practices, you can maximize the benefits of unstructured interviews and make informed hiring decisions.


Unstructured interviews offer a unique approach to assessing candidates and gaining deeper insights into their skills and fit for a role. They provide the flexibility to explore different topics, assess communication skills, and uncover unexpected information.

However, it is important to be aware of the potential biases and challenges associated with unstructured interviews. Consistency and fairness in the evaluation process are crucial to ensure objective decision-making.

By following best practices, such as having a general outline, actively listening, and maintaining a conversational tone, you can conduct effective unstructured interviews and make well-informed hiring decisions.

So, consider incorporating unstructured interviews into your hiring process and unlock the potential of this valuable assessment method.


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