Informal vs Structured Job Interviews — Why a ‘Chat Over Coffee’ doesn’t Work

Informal interviews

Why are businesses using informal interviews?

  • we want to stay small and flexible
  • we don’t want to deal with that big-business stuff
  • we don’t want the hassle of structured interviews.

Unfortunately, businesses usually discover that the person hired through an informal interview process is not the right person for the job.


If someone has never considered their own biases, it’s definitely going to come out in interviews, particularly in informal interview.

Impression management

If candidates are overly confident, sometimes it can lead to faking behaviours in interviews.



Proximity effect

Exposure effect

A perfect storm

Structured interviews

Why use structured interviews?

  • you’re setting new employees up for success
  • they know exactly what they’re being hired to do
  • you’re getting the best possible candidate
  • you can make the best possible decision about who’s the right person for the job.

Reducing bias


  • do you consider yourself analytical?
  • tell me about your analytical skills?
  • can you tell me about a time when you had to take a large data set and provide some insights to a management team around that data?
  • what was the process you used?

Hard to fake

  • tell me about yourself?
  • what do you consider your strengths or weaknesses?
  • what would your ex-manager say about you?
  • what kind of manager do you like to work for?
  • who’s been the best manager you’ve ever had? why?
  • tell me about a time you performance-managed a staff member?


The right questions

  • what are the top three skills needed in this role?
  • what are the top three behavioural attributes that mean someone can succeed in this role?

Behaviour-based technique

  • a situation or task
  • the action that they took
  • the result



The Takeaway

  1. take measures to reduce bias
  2. define informative questions
  3. ask consistent and standardised questions
  4. use behaviour-based techniques
  5. listen to candidates

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Karen Kirton

Karen Kirton

Founder of Amplify HR — a consulting company in Australia that specialises in enabling businesses to find, grow and keep great people.