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Savvy Answers to Structured Interview Questions


Structured interview questions may at first appear daunting to the job seeker. By design, these questions are intended to make the candidate objectively evaluate themselves and their performance, which is not always a simple task. But because of their predictable nature and standard formatting, with proper preparation, these questions may be the best opportunity to appear polished, savvy, and the best candidate for the position. Whether a seasoned interview veteran or an entry-level candidate, read on for tips and tricks for answering even the toughest structured interview questions.

Question Categories

Structured interview questions generally fall into three categories. Hypothetical questions usually start with, “What would you do if…” or “How would you handle…” Conversely, behavioral questions seek to reveal your past responses to situations and challenges. They will be centered on a difficult task in the past, such as a conflict with a co-worker or Client, or how a new project or program was handled. Finally, open-ended questions revolve around the candidate, including qualifications, background, and future goals.

Hypothetical and Behavioral Responses

Knowing the category of a specific structured interview question makes it easy to break down and reply with a savvy, well-designed answer. Looking to hypothetical and behavioral questions, it is clear that they not only require self-analysis, but also an understanding of the situation in question. The best response is an answer divided into three specific parts. First, describe the circumstances of the situation, including who was involved and why. Next, describe the action that was taken, why the action was taken, and any alternatives that were available. Finally, describe the result of the situation, and any modifications to the original action.

Open Ended Question and Answer

Open-ended questions, including personal history, education, or reasons for choosing a specific company or position, require a different approach. Potential employers are looking for clues that you will be a good match with the company, both in experience and personality. Before answering, it helps to do some research. Read about the company’s mission statement, history, community involvement, and notable achievements, and tie that information into your own answers. Don’t draw connections where there are none, but if you identify with the company, it shows that you may be a good fit culturally.

Practice Makes Polished

When gearing up for an interview, make sure to prepare and rehearse answers ahead of time, either in front of a mirror or with a friend or family member. Despite having well crafted answers, body language plays an important role in the interview process as well. While answering structured interview questions, focus on sitting up straight, making eye contact and facial expressions. Without practice, answers may appear robotic, so make sure to include inflection and appropriate tone in your speech as well.



“Structured Interviews: A Practical Guide.” United States Office of Personnel Management. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2010.

McNamara, Carter, and LLC.. “General Guidelines for Conducting Interviews.” Free Management Library (SM). N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2010.

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