What Is An Unstructured Interview? 2023

It’s critical to understand the many sorts of interview frameworks before preparing for an interview. Unstructured interviews are a sort of interview that has no set format and develops as the conversation progresses.  

Unstructured interviews are an excellent way to do exploratory research. They can elicit enthralling replies from your participants because of their informal and adaptable nature.

What is an Unstructured Interview?

The most flexible sort of interview, with freedom for spontaneity, is the unstructured interview. The questions and order in which they are presented are not predetermined, unlike in a structured interview.

Instead, the interview moves forward based on past responses.

Unstructured interviews are unstructured and unscripted. This lack of structure can aid you in gathering precise information on your subject while yet allowing you to spot trends during the analysis stage.

When to Use an Unstructured Interview

It’s difficult to choose which form of interview is most appropriate for your topic. Unstructured interviews might be difficult to conduct and aren’t always the ideal option for answering your research question. When doing unstructured interviews, keep the following in mind:  

  • You’re a seasoned interviewer with a solid understanding of your research topic.
  • The nature of your study question is exploratory. While you may have created hypotheses, you are open to learning new information or changing your mind.
  • You’re looking for descriptive information and are prepared to ask questions that will help you clarify and contextualize your first ideas and hypotheses.
  • Forming connections with your subjects and making them feel comfortable expressing deeper feelings, thoughts, or life experiences is critical to your research.  

It’s even more important to stay organized and build a method for keeping track of participant responses than it is in structured or semi-structured interviews. Because the questions aren’t pre-determined, data collecting and analysis become more difficult.  

Asking questions to your interviewer shows seriousness and an understanding of the job. Discover the 30 Best Interview Questions To Ask The Employer

Advantages of Unstructured Interview

When compared to other types of interviews, unstructured interviews have a few advantages.  

Very flexible  

Unstructured interviews are like a normal discussions in that they are both flexible and structured. This creates a welcoming atmosphere in which new ideas and themes might flourish.  

Respondents are more at ease  

Unstructured interviews have a more natural flow, which can make your respondent feel at ease. The power difference inherent in the interviewer-interviewee relationship can be mitigated sometimes by increased rapport.  

Reduced risk of bias 

Similarly, more powerful respondents may be less prone to skew their comments toward what they think is socially desirable. As a result, unstructured interviews are frequently used in sensitive or traumatic topics study.  

More detail and nuance

Unstructured interviews, while comparable in terms of procedures to other forms of interviews, questionnaires, and surveys, add additional complexity and detail. You can ask as many follow-up questions as you like, and there’s a good chance you’ll get some ideas you hadn’t thought of before.  

Disadvantages of Unstructured Interviews

When compared to other data collection approaches, unstructured interviews have a few drawbacks.  

Low generalizability and reliability  

Unstructured interviews’ flexibility can facilitate the flow of new ideas, but it can also compromise their reliability and generalizability. When participants are not all given the same questions, it’s difficult to compare responses, making the analysis step problematic. Unstructured interviews have modest sample sizes because of their length.  

Risk of leading questions

Because of the open-ended nature of unstructured interviews, it’s easy to fall into the trap of asking leading questions, which will bias your responses. It may be more difficult for the interviewer to keep their responses or genuine opinions to themselves in this conversational context.  

Very time-consuming 

Both the interviewing and the analysis stages of unstructured interviews can be time-consuming. Encouraging long, detailed responses can enrich the data, but it also means more time spent transcribing and evaluating it, as well as the danger of crucial information getting lost in the shuffle.  

Risk of low internal validity

Similarly, keeping unstructured interviews “on course” can be difficult, with the potential of tangents and side inquiries derailing your research goals. Your research’s internal validity may suffer because of this.  

Unstructured Interview Questions Examples

While an unstructured interview does not follow a set of pre-planned questions, the interviewer frequently has a list of basic subjects in mind. 

Most questions presented in an unstructured interview are open-ended, which means they can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Here are some common unstructured interview questions and responses:  

1. Tell me about yourself  

The interviewer will frequently begin an unstructured interview with a question like “tell me about yourself.” This is an excellent opening question for an unstructured interview since it allows you to direct the conversation toward the subjects you want to emphasize. 

You can respond to this question by emphasizing the talents and attributes that make you a good fit for the job, talking about your current experience, and expressing why you are interested in this position or industry.  

Example: “I started my sales management career in the retail industry.” My retail experience has shown me how committed I am to giving outstanding customer service to every one of my customers. I was picked for a supervisory role at my business because I could show my strength as a sales associate while also volunteering to assist my supervisor and manager with their responsibilities. This job gave me the opportunity to experience what it was like to be a leader and inspire others to achieve success.  

I am interested in the position as a call center supervisor with your company because I believe being in a call center environment will provide me the opportunity to have a greater impact on my team through my preferred leadership style. 

Outside of work, I am an avid reader and love attending leadership conferences where I can learn new things. I also enjoy volunteering for an organization that serves children with disabilities within our community.”  

2. Describe your ideal job

This question is used by interviewers to learn about your work values and how they may or may not coincide with their corporate culture.  

Focus on your biggest strengths and what you believe makes a wonderful work environment when answering this question. Make sure your response is tailored to the position you’re interviewing for.  

Example: “I’ve always wanted to be a published author since I was a small child.” As a result, I pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. I worked as an intern at the New York Tribune during my studies, assisting senior journalists with their research and interviews, as well as reviewing their pieces before they were posted. 

My ideal working environment is one that allows me to be creative and share my thoughts. Because of my good writing abilities, as well as my acute attention to detail and time management skills, I believe copywriting is the ideal vocation for me.”  

If you’re reading about unstructured interviews, you should know about: 15 Crazy and Weird Interview Questions that Top Recruiters Ask

3. What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?  

Interviewers inquire about your biggest achievement in order to assess your work ethic, core values, and confidence in your own talents, which are shown through examples of your work. Choose an accomplishment that applies to the position you are looking for and use the STAR interview response technique to respond to this question.  

Example: “In my most recent employment, I was to prepare and train new salespeople. We discovered that many new hires didn’t find the content engaging and had difficulty keeping the information they were learning by looking at the training program completion rate and analyzing course evaluation questionnaires. 

I oversaw a project in which we revamped the training program’s material to make it more interesting. The training program’s completion rate has risen from 50% to 95%, and new workers frequently give us favourable feedback on our course assessment form.  

I am most pleased with this achievement since it allowed me to have a lasting beneficial impact on the careers of many other people and my own.”  

How to Conduct an Unstructured Interview

Step 1: Set your goals and foundations

Consider starting with some leading questions as you plan your research question, such as:  

What exactly are you hoping to gain or understand from an unstructured interview?

Why is an unstructured interview, rather than a distinct form of interview or another research approach, the greatest fit for your project?

What is your research’s guiding principle? What will be the starting point for your unscripted and follow-up questions?  

While you don’t need to prepare your questions ahead of time for an unstructured interview, it doesn’t imply you shouldn’t. To ensure that the interview stage is fruitful, unstructured interviews cause substantial preparation ahead of time.  

Perhaps you’ve been studying it for a long time, or you’ve done other types of research on a related topic in the past.

Perhaps you’re looking for a little more detail or depth to corroborate or refute previous findings, or you’d like to delve deeper into a specific question that came from previous research.  

You can begin brainstorming categories of questions to ask once you have a firm grasp of your research subject. Start with a broad, overarching question and discuss potential avenues for the conversation.  

Step 2: Assemble your participants

You can use a variety of sampling strategies to find interview participants, including:  

Posting flyers in the dining hall and seeing who responds is voluntary response sampling.

Stratified sampling of people of a specific age, race, or gender identity who apply to your study.

Sample other students, coworkers, or acquaintances at your university.  

Further Reading: 50 Behavioral Interview Questions You Must Know

Step 3: Decide on your setting  

You should decide whether your interview will take place in person, over the phone, or via video conferencing ahead of time.  

In-person, phone, and video interviews all offer their own set of benefits and drawbacks.  

In general, live interviews might cause uneasiness or interviewer effects, in which the respondent feels compelled to respond in a way that pleases you.

Videoconferencing, in particular, might feel unpleasant or stilted, affecting your results. Your participant may feel more at ease in their own house.

When respondents are not face-to-face with you, such as in a phone interview, you may get more honest replies. However, external factors or diversions by the participants may influence their responses.  

Step 4: Conduct your interviews  

Pay close attention to any ambient factors that can influence your responses as you do your interviews. Noises, temperature, and environment are all factors, as is your body language. To avoid interviewer effects, keep your tone of voice and any comments mild.  

Keep in mind that one of the most difficult aspects of unstructured interviews is keeping your questions balanced and unbiased. Strive for open-ended language, and let your participants establish the tone by asking follow-up questions that naturally flow from their previous responses.  

Tips for Acing an Unstructured Interview

Be sincere and show your actual self 

When answering questions, it’s crucial to be honest because it will let the conversation flow more smoothly and allow you to steer the subject in the direction you want to go.  

Concentrate on your assets  

Spend more time talking about your strengths and only bring up your weaknesses if the conversation organically goes there. If the conversation leads to a topic that isn’t your strong suit, you can use it as an opportunity to talk about the value of continuing to learn and grow.  

Answer questions about specific themes that the interviewer is looking for

Even if the interviewer does not have particular questions prepared or only has a few essential questions, they will most likely be looking for you to address specific subjects in your answers. Use the job description and the information you gleaned from your research about the firm and the position–along with any information you gleaned from the conversation–to show how you fulfill the specific skills and qualifications they’re looking for.  

Consider the interview as a behavioural interview when preparing

Because the interviewer will most likely use your resume to identify which questions will assist lead the conversation in the direction they want it to go, behavioral interview questions such as “tell me about a time when…” or “describe…” are quite popular during an unstructured interview. Unstructured interviews might be prepared by finding many example scenarios from your job experience that show your skills.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Unstructured interviews are the most adaptable, but they aren’t always the perfect fit for your research topic.

When doing unstructured interviews, keep the following in mind:

Because it is difficult to ask spontaneous, colloquial questions, you are an experienced interviewer with a good foundation in your research area.

The nature of your study question is exploratory. While you may have generated theories, you are willing to learn new things or change your mind during the interview process.

You’re looking for descriptive information and are prepared to ask questions that will help you clarify and contextualize your first ideas and hypotheses.

Forming connections with your subjects and making them feel comfortable expressing deeper emotions, life experiences, or thoughts is critical to your research.

The four most common types of interviews are:

Structured interviews: The topics and order of the questions are pre-defined.

Semi-structured interviews have a few questions that are scheduled ahead of time, but the rest aren’t.

Unstructured interviews have no pre-defined questions.

Instead of one person, the questions are delivered to a group of people in focus group interviews.


The interviewer can customize and direct the conversation to gather precise information without the constraints of pre-planned questions. If the remaining candidates have similar qualifications and experience, this can be especially valuable in the last phases of recruitment.

An unstructured interview allows the interviewee to show off their personality and soft skills while also allowing the interviewer to learn more about the candidate as a person.  


  • indeed.com – How to Succeed in Unstructured Interviews  
  • Scribbr.com – Unstructured Interview | Definition, Guide & Examples


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