Interview Structures


An interview is a meeting, typically in person, arranged for the assessment of particular qualifications.  When employers and potential candidates come together for an interview, both parties should equally interview each other.

There are many different types of interviewing structures.  This article focuses on the following four types: core competencies, situational interviews, patterned behavior description interviews and realistic previews.

Core Competencies

The focus of a core competencies structure is typically on intentions.  As you structure your interviewing questions, be sure they relate to the core competencies needed to perform the job.  Work closely with Human Resources to ensure you are probing for the right information.  There are two elements of core competencies:

Situational Interviews

The focus here is typically on the future… “What would you do?”  Situational interviews help identify a candidate’s true intentions.  When you have understanding of an individual’s intentions, you have a better chance at predicting how they are going to react.  And when you match an individual’s intentions with the values and culture of an organization, the candidate will most likely respond in ways that the organization readily accepts and rewards.  The following serves as a criteria for good situational questions:

  • Address a core competency without providing clues as the “right” answer
  • Generate a variety of answers that most people find acceptable
  • Pose a dilemma, which forces the candidate to make a choice
  • Provide enough information that candidates do not need clarification
  • Close with a question that asks the candidate to describe what they would do

Patterned Behavior Description Interviews

Here is where the focus is on the past… “What did you do?”  The purpose of the patterned behavior description interview is to help you identify the skills and abilities that a candidate has demonstrated previously in their work experience.  If the candidate has previously demonstrated the skills you are looking for, they will most likely be able to repeat those same behaviors with your organization.  The key, then, is to identify what skills and abilities the job requires and ask questions during the interview that will help you to determine if the candidate possesses the necessary attributes.  The following serves as a criteria for good situational questions:

  • Identify the core competencies
  • Ask the candidate to think of an incident where they performed the specific skill
  • Ask the candidate to explain the circumstances
  • Have the candidate describe what they did
  • Ask the candidate to tell you the outcome

Realistic Job Preview

This is where the focus is placed on self-selection… “This is what it’s like to work here.”  The purpose of a realistic job preview is to be honest with candidates about the job.  There are positive and negative aspects to every job, in every organization.  This gives the candidates an opportunity to self-selection themselves out of the job if they do not feel it is the right fit.  It is important that there are no surprises on the job for newly hired employees.


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