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Pre-Screening Interview: 6 Insightful Types of Questions to Ask

Ever been flooded with applicants after posting a job? It can be a little overwhelming. How do you find the best candidates to interview? Start by whittling down the list with a pre-screening interview. 

It’s pretty simple. Set up a 15-minute call with the top candidates. Ask a few questions, and pay close attention to what each candidate says. The pre-screening interview can save you time and money by narrowing your candidate pool.

What should you ask in the pre-screening interview?

There are six insightful types of questions you should ask in the pre-screening interview. When you ask these questions, you can:

  • Learn a little more about each candidate
  • Gauge their interest in the position
  • Find out if they’re actually ready to make a career move
  • Determine if their skills, experience, and expectations are a match
  • Get a sense for how this person might fit in with your staff

Here’s how it works…

Book a pre-screening interview with your top candidates. Let them know it’s part of your hiring process, and the call will take 15-30 minutes. Right away, you’ll probably get a few who will decline, helping you narrow down the list.

Once you’re on a call, here are the five types of questions to ask in the pre-screening interview: 

1. Keep-it-simple questions 

Most people in the job market aren’t just applying for a single job. They’re putting their name out there for multiple jobs. And it can be stressful for them. Start off the pre-screening interview with some easy-to-answer questions:

  • How did you hear about this position?
  • How’s your job search going?
  • Why are you interested in this role?
  • If we hired you, when could you start?

TIP: You can learn a lot about candidates in a pre-screening interview by asking simple questions. For example, if they’re not available to start for a month, they might not be a good fit for a position you need to fill right away.

2. Compensation-expectation questions

Even if you included salary range and benefits in your job description, it’s a good idea to revisit this in the pre-screening interview. Why? It’s one more way to narrow down your list.

  • How much would you like to earn in this role?
  • Would you be comfortable with a pay range of $____ to $_____?
  • Besides pay, what benefits are important to you?

TIP: Asking about salary, benefits, and compensation expectations in the pre-screening interview helps you find out if you and the candidate are a good match. If there’s too big of a gap between what they want, and what you can offer, you’ll probably need to move on.

3. Gauge-interest questions

A lot can change from the time a candidate applies for your job to the pre-screening interview. Maybe they changed their mind. Maybe their situation has changed. Or maybe they’re still interested. How long has it been since they applied…a few days…a week…a month? Ask a couple of questions to find out if they’re really interested in the position.

  • Why do you want to leave your current job?
  • What interested you in this position?
  • What do you enjoy about the work you do now?
  • How would you feel about working ___ hours a week or (Time) to (Time)?

TIP: You’re getting valuable intel here. These interest questions can tell you a lot about a candidate’s work ethic, interpersonal, problem-solving, and leadership skills. It’s also another check to see if they’re reliable and comfortable with the hours.

4. Company-homework questions 

Most candidates aren’t going to know everything about your organization. But if they’re serious, they’re going to make the effort to learn a little more about your business and what it’s like to work there. The pre-screening interview gives you a chance to find out.

  • What attracted you to working for us?
  • What do you know about (Name of Business)?
  • Do you know anyone who works here?

TIP: Candidates who take the initiative to learn more about your organization after applying for position demonstrate interest and resourcefulness. It’s a good indicator, they’re not just after a paycheck, and want to make sure the company they work for aligns with their career goals.

5. Experience questions

Most candidates submit a resume, work experience, cover letter or all three when they apply for a position. This can tell you a lot about their skills and ability to contribute to your organization. But asking about this in the pre-screening interview can help you learn more about the candidate.

  • What are your top skills that match this position?
  • Have you recently completed a training, course, certification, or program related to your skills or this position? (If yes, ask for more details)

TIP: If there’s anything odd about a candidate’s work history, resume, or application materials, this is the place to ask. 

6. Open-it-up: The final question

The last question for the pre-screening interview…open it up. 

  • Do you have any questions for me?

TIP: Ask the question, and wait for the candidate to talk. Give them a chance to add to any of their previous answers, or ask you questions about the position and your organization.

Make a shortlist of candidates with a pre-screening interview 

The pre-screening interview is really designed to help you create a shortlist of candidates to invite for an in-depth interview. Asking these questions in a brief call helps you gauge enthusiasm, interest, character, and experience. A pre-interview screening also helps you find out if you and the candidate are in alignment on salary, benefits, hours, etc. 

If any of these things don’t check out, your list of candidates just got a little more manageable.

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