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Unstructured interview: When structure is missing, how can you still be prepared?

Unstructured interview: When structure is missing, how can you still be prepared?

  • How do unstructured/structured interviews differ?
  • What makes unstructured interviews tricky?
  • Common unstructured interview questions
  • Can you tell me about yourself? 
  • What drew you to this position?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of? 
  • Do you have any questions for me?
  • Key takeaways

Unstructured job interviews, centered around freeform chats between recruiters and job seekers, can be tricky to prepare for! Read this article for tips on how to anticipate key questions and market your strengths to your interviewer.

No tests, no forms to fill out–at first glance, unstructured job interviews seem easy as pie. In practice, though, unstructured job interviews are tricky to handle because of their lack of structure! If you’ve got an unstructured job interview coming up, you’ll need to prepare for a wide range of potential questions and proactively show off your strengths as an employee. This blog will show you ways to do just that!

When you’re prepping for an unstructured interview, make sure you’re up to speed on the following topics in this blog:

  • Differences between unstructured and structured interviews

  • How unstructured interviews can trip you up

  • Answering common unstructured interview questions

How do unstructured/structured interviews differ?

Both structured and unstructured job interviews are conversations between a job recruiter and a job seeker. The job seeker tries to present themselves as a strong candidate for the job opening. The recruiter tries to figure out whether the candidate’s skills and attitudes fit the job. But what exactly makes structured interviews different from unstructured interviews? In a classic structured job interview, the guidelines for accepting a job seeker are set up in advance. Sometimes this means recruiters will have the candidate answer a multiple-choice question quiz, solve brain-teaser puzzles, or take a test that proves they have the needed job skills (i.e. using office software). More often, recruiters at structured interviews will have a pre-written list of interview questions paired with a list of ideal responses; if a job seeker answers these questions in ways that match these sample answers, odds are good they’ll get the job. Unstructured job interviews are just that: unstructured. True, recruiters in an unstructured job interview may have a list of favorite interview questions or specific information they want to get from interviewees. Fundamentally, though, an unstructured interview is a conversation where job seekers are free to tell recruiters what makes them unique and recruiters are free to decide for themselves whether a candidate is “strong” or not.

What makes unstructured interviews tricky?

The big challenge of unstructured interviews is that their criteria for success is fuzzy. Without rigid guidelines for what answers are right or wrong, recruiters running unstructured interviews must rely on a mix of analytical skills and gut feeling to figure out which job candidate is the best. Because of that, they need to be extra careful to avoid biased thinking or asking biased questions while running their interviews.

At unstructured job interviews, recruiters generally hire the candidate that impresses them the most. For job seekers, that means being memorable and interesting is just as important as listing a large number of skills and personal accomplishments. If you’re a job seeker who doesn’t communicate clearly during interviews, you might just get overlooked in favor of more charismatic candidates, even if your qualifications are stronger.

If you have an upcoming unstructured job interview, you probably won’t get an email with a list of questions to prepare for before the interview date. You can, however, prepare answers in advance for the following questions, which show up a lot in both structured and unstructured job interviews.

Common unstructured interview questions

Can you tell me about yourself? 

Recruiters ask this question when they want you to talk about your career history. Prep for this question by writing up a short speech where you describe your educational background, the jobs you worked at, your work style, and your goals for the future.

What drew you to this position?

Recruiters ask questions like these to learn about your drives and make sure you understand the job’s responsibilities. Prep for this question by researching the company you’re applying to–its history, the services it offers, the cool things it’s done, and the more appealing parts of its workplace environment. 

What accomplishments are you most proud of? 

To prepare for this question, make a list of career path accomplishments–moments in past careers where you got promotions, commendations, and so on–along with more personal accomplishments such as mastering a skill, helping a colleague or customer in distress, and so on. Show your recruiter that you’re a hard worker who can learn and rise to any challenge.

Do you have any questions for me?

Answer this question by asking questions about topics you’re genuinely interested in. Salary, rates of promotion, benefits, workplace culture, ideal employee traits–questions about these job aspects, when asked politely, show recruiters you’re invested in their company and eager to tackle its challenges. If this unstructured interview question comes up at the end of the interview, ask for feedback about how the interview went.

Career.io’s Interview Prep service can offer you more ways to handle the challenges of a job interview.

Key takeaways

  1. Unstructured job interviews are freeform conversations between a recruiter and job seeker, with no specific guidelines for what they discuss or what skills the candidate needs to display.

  2. Because unstructured job interviews are freeform, building rapport with recruiters and coming across as likable is just as important as showing off your qualifications.

  3. Before attending an unstructured job interview, make a list of past accomplishments you want to share, questions you want to ask, and reasons why you’re genuinely interested in the company you’re applying to.

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