Structured interviews can benefit from spontaneity

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When a prospective employer asks for a skit or to see your Spotify playlist during an interview, they may be promoting creativity—but they owe interviewees some rationale.
 
Olivia Bland, a 22-year-old U.K. woman, recently went viral for her description of an “interview from hell,” where a web company’s CEO criticized everything from her posture to her playlists in an interview. 
 
The firm’s avoidance of structured interview questions was allegedly intended to foster an informal sense of interviewees’ working personalities. However, the executive’s derisive input calls unstructured interview formats into question. 
 
As tech, design, and other creativity jobs abound in the employment market, potential employers have every right to pursue a sense of their candidates’ work styles and characters. Interview questions ranging from a favourite movie to a favourite meme often reveal people’s personality and character. But when those questions make people feel uncomfortable, they diminish the professional nature of the interviewing company as a whole. 
 
Traditionally, interviews are structured, asking every candidate the same questions. This format allows candidates to prepare and gives everyone a fair chance. They mitigate bias, limiting interviewers’ chances to pursue questioning that could reveal personal biases or prejudices. 
 
That said, creative companies benefit from creative questions. They bring out personality because they’ll eventually be working side-by-side with their successful candidate, and they ensure the chosen person reflects their workplace’s values and spirit.
 
These questions can cross appropriate boundaries. Bland’s case went too far when her interviewer actively expressed his opinions about her responses to his unstructured questions—he diminished the entire company’s professionalism through his criticism. 
 
While it’s beneficial for interviewees to understand the person interviewing them, that can’t come at the cost of a candidate’s respect and dignity. 
 
Unconventional interview questions can be more telling than cut-and-dried lines of inquiry. They show candidate personality and working style, revealing who those people are and what they stand for. Even within our own student government’s hiring processes, the opportunity to express your individuality is valuable when pursuing a position.  
 
Unstructured interviews should always have a clear intent. For instance, if interviewing for a design firm, technical questions might be followed by asking a candidate about their favourite design work. Similarly, someone interviewing in food services might be asked about their favourite meal. That mix of structured and unstructured questions assess candidates for their originality.
 
Bridging the divide of fun and formal brings out people’s personality, but only where effective. A workplace needs to encourage best-suited candidates to flourish under the strictures of the institution’s environment and goals. 
 
Whether that’s accomplished through anti-oppressive hiring training or a curated list of “fun” questions, job candidates need to be treated with respect and professionalism, regardless of their favourite meme. 
 

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