5 pre-screening interview questions to ask candidates

Regardless of your industry, you need responsible, intelligent people on your team who are driven, passionate, communicative — and ready and willing to be part of a productive collective.

But, most important, they need the right professional experience and education to be qualified to do their jobs. As collegial or organized as someone may be, those qualities are moot if that person doesn’t also have the skills to get their job done efficiently and effectively.

To avoid hiring the wrong people, consider implementing a pre-screening process — basically, an interview before an interview — with a series of general questions about a candidate’s career goals, job preferences, and abilities. This will help you determine which candidates you should interview more in depth to decide whether you’d like to offer them a position.

Why should you ask pre-screening interview questions?

By first learning some basic information about potential candidates, you can more effectively

  • Weed out unqualified, casual candidates, saving yourself time and resources
  • Determine who, despite looking good on paper, may be overqualified or misaligned with your company’s culture
  • Help both your recruiters and candidates become more familiar with each other 

It’s best to do pre-screening over the phone or by video chat to best gauge the candidate’s personality and overall temperament. However, if your recruiting resources are limited, online surveys work well too. Just keep them short and sweet to increase the likelihood that candidates will complete them honestly and accurately.

What pre-screening interview questions should you ask?

Pre-screening interviews allow you to ask questions now that you won’t have to ask again later, shaving some time off your formal interviews.

Here are five pre-screening interview questions to ask.

1. Why do you want to work for us?

This may seem like an obvious question, but you can learn more than you might expect by asking a potential employee why they want to work for your company — like their knowledge of your organization and their understanding of the role. If they answer vaguely or, worse, incorrectly about what your company does or represents, they’re probably not the right person for the job.

Additionally, this question serves as a metric for you to analyze your job posting. If it accurately describes the role and what you’re looking for in a new team member, your candidate’s response should reflect that understanding. If, however, most candidates’ responses to this question seem off base, you may want to evaluate and consider tweaking your posting.

2. Why are you leaving your current job?

Uncovering why a prospective employee is looking for a new opportunity provides useful insight into their career ambitions and helps you learn what they value as an employee. Did they quit, or did their employer let them go? How long have they been in their current position?

Pay attention to their tone, too, even if they only offer vague information. Regardless of why they’re leaving — salary, benefits, expectations, management, etc. — it’s important to note any veiled resentment. You want them to be excited about your organization, not just desperate to leave someone else’s.

3. How would you describe your perfect manager?

Since they don’t work for you yet or know your managerial tendencies, candidates may feel more comfortable explaining both good and bad experiences they’ve had with management in the past than they might once you’ve hired them.

What’s more, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how they deal with conflicting personalities and what kind of management style they prefer. For example, if they’ve switched career paths or this role is unfamiliar to them, they may appreciate frequent check-ins to make sure they’re acclimating well. On the other hand, if they’ve been working in the field for decades, they may not like a micromanager.

4. How do you juggle multiple projects simultaneously?

Unless the role you’re hiring for requires zero multitasking, it’s smart to ask potential candidates how they handle working on multiple assignments at once. Can they successfully work on several projects simultaneously, or do they struggle if they have to jump from one to another?

In a similar vein, assess their time management and prioritization skills. Ask them to provide an example of a time when a manager gave them more than one assignment. How did they prioritize the necessary tasks and communicate their decisions?

5. Which areas of knowledge are your strongest? Which are your weakest?

In an ideal world, your candidate wouldn’t have applied for this position if they didn’t have the skills or experience for it (nor would you have contacted them for a pre-interview). Even so, it’s important to be on the lookout for resume padding.

By asking candidates which areas they feel are their strongest and weakest, you have an opportunity to evaluate what part of the job they find the most important (and whether their expectations of the position align with yours). With any luck, you’ll receive honest, accurate information about where they excel and where they can improve that will help you compare them to other candidates.

How should you collect pre-screening data?

Now that you know the ins and outs of pre-screening interviews, as well as the right questions to ask, it’s time to put the knowledge to good use.

Fortunately, software like online form builder Jotform is an ideal solution for both collecting and storing pre-screening data in one place. Thanks to templates like interview forms, questionnaires, recruitment applications, potential candidate information forms, and engaging online surveys, you can gather the data you need without creating these documents from scratch. Jotform is a user-friendly, intuitive, fully customizable, and completely code-free tool, making it easier than ever to interview potential candidates.

Pre-screening interviews are a great tool for helping find the best people to join your team, especially once you consider how much time and effort you’re saving by whittling down the list of potential candidates early on. And with some pre-screening interview questions in your back pocket, you’ll be more likely to find the best fit for your organization.

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

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