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What Is a Nondirective Interview?

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A nondirective interview, also known as an unstructured or nondirected interview, is one in which a hiring manager has few, if any, prepared questions. The point is to allow interviewees a more open forum to present their strengths and experiences. These interviews are used in many industries and job settings, though public offices and more formal private companies typically avoid them.

Format and Benefits

The biggest difference between a structured and a nondirective interview is the limited number of prepared questions. Instead of asking standard job-related questions, the hiring manager asks a few open-ended questions and then follows up responses with additional questions. "Tell me about yourself," for example, is a common opener to a nondirective interview.

Creating a friendly and less threatening environment for the candidate is a key goal of a nondirective interview. The interviewee also has greater control over the direction of the interview. This format works well in situations in which a hiring manager wants to assess an applicant's spontaneous leadership, communication skills and assertiveness.

Risks and Drawbacks

The lack of structure may backfire if a candidate isn't prepared to communicate openly or to guide the direction of the interview. Also, it is more difficult for the hiring manager to ensure that all important topics come up during the interview.

Another significant concern is the lack of consistency across interviews if each candidate is given different questions. Asking different questions and assessing different responses across candidates could open the door for potential discrimination claims as well. Unstructured interviews don't hold up as well against hiring practice lawsuits as structured interviews do, according to small-business resource HR Unlimited.


Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.

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Jose Luis Pelaez Inc./Blend Images/Getty Images