How to get the most out of screening interviews


Recruiters and hiring managers know that time is of the essence when it comes to filling vacancies. The sooner a qualified candidate steps into this position, the sooner they can begin to make a valuable contribution to the organization. At first glance, therefore, it may seem odd to add another step to the hiring process by conducting screening interviews. Why not just bring in promising candidates for “real” job interviews?

Overall, screening interviews can actually save time. They narrow the talent pool to the people most likely to fit the job and fit into the corporate culture. Screening increases the level of confidence that one of the candidates brought in for a formal job interview will work. And with COVID-related security restrictions still in place at many companies, screening interviews help limit the number of strangers brought into the building.

A screening process often benefits applicants as well. With fewer people moving on to the next round, the hiring process often goes faster, which improves the candidate experience. Interaction also gives job seekers the chance to learn things that can help them judge whether or not they feel like the right fit. A job seeker may not see the value of moving forward if, for example, salary expectations differ significantly or the responsibilities presented do not match their career goals.

What is a screening interview?

A screening interview collects information and impressions that help recruiters and HR professionals decide who to go through in the first round of the formal interview process. If done by phone call or video chat, the conversation usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. Screenings can also be done online in the form of a short survey or basic skills test.

Employers shouldn’t feel pressured to pre-screen every person who responds to their job offer. Only the potential candidates who are the most promising, perhaps those ranked highest by the company’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS), warrant a phone screen or other screening measure.

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In addition to restricting the scope, screening offers an advantage when the actual interview takes place. Candidates often arrive less nervous because the ice is already broken. The conversation can flow more naturally and they can come up with good questions worded while thinking about what happened in the pre-screen.

Examples of screening interview questions

Don’t view a screening interview as an opportunity to bundle everything you would ask for in a formal interview into a shorter period of time. Rather, see it as an opportunity to get a clearer picture of the candidate beyond the CV.

To get started, you might want to verify the credentials needed for the job. For example, if possession of a certain license is required, confirm that the person has the document and that it is up to date. No need to proceed if the applicant does not have an essential requirement.

Likewise, address anything that is not clear on the CV. If the work history is presented in a way that makes it difficult to determine exactly how many years of relevant work experience a candidate has under their belt, ask without hesitation. Or, maybe the tasks someone lists for their current job seem unusual for their job title. Find out about the gap. You might find either someone who’s overdone on the resume, or a superstar who performs well beyond their basic job description.

For the most part, try to ask questions that require more than a simple yes or no answer. You will learn more about a candidate by letting them express themselves, including how they communicate and think.

Employers can cover any topic they want in the pre-interview based on what they would most like to know before moving forward. Professional accomplishments, technical skills, soft skills, and fit with company culture are some of the areas that recruiters and hiring managers often pick questions.

Here are some specific questions to consider:

  • Tell me about you. Every good candidate prepares an answer to this softball. Regardless of the type of interview or the location, this is still an effective way to start a conversation and let the nerves calm down.

  • What is your ideal work environment? See if their details match your offers. Someone who wants to work from home may not be content with a completely on-site role. Or, they can state how much they enjoy collaborating with others, but the job posting really requires mostly freelance work.

  • What do you look for in a manager? Employees differ in the direction and contribution they expect from their leaders. If the role is in a department led by someone with a very passive management style, one type of worker may be frustrated with lack of involvement while another may appreciate independence.

  • What do you think are your greatest professional achievements? Again, this type of question allows the candidate to highlight accomplishments. It also offers insight into what the person defines as an accomplishment. Some may speak of rewards or promotions; others may mention overcoming obstacles or making connections with co-workers or clients. You receive valuable information about what motivates that particular person.

  • What is your definition of a great place to work? Answers can span the gamut. Some applicants may focus on the money, the perks, and the perks. Others may cite interesting work and professional development opportunities. Confidence, pleasant colleagues, an important mission, respect and flexibility are also common responses. While there is no right or wrong answer per se, you can get a feel for whether or not what this person values ​​in a workplace is the reality of your business.

screening interviews-450x350px-2Address key logistics issues

Asking a few questions requiring a short or one-word answer can be helpful in confirming understanding. For example, by stating “The pay scale for this position is $ 20-25 per hour depending on experience.” Are you comfortable with that? ”Determines whether the two of you are on the same page. An employer can ask questions in a similar setup to verify that the person understands the work schedule, the location (especially if remote work is involved), travel obligations, start date, or specific tasks. At the end of the pre-interview, you can even ask “Now that you know a little more about the job.” position and the company, do you still want to continue your application? “

Whatever you choose to ask, be sure to enter information and impressions into your candidate tracking recruiting software. This action allows other members of the recruitment team to learn more about the candidate and to refer to the comments before conducting the formal interview.

Beyond telephone interviews

When screening using an online form, make sure that what you are requesting is as relevant as possible to the job at hand. Overwhelming candidates with too many questions or stuff to fill out decreases the chances that they will do it carefully and completely. And while there is something to be said for job seekers who are willing to go through a lot of obstacles, you run the risk of scaring people away.

Here are some possibilities for collecting information on technical skills, soft skills, skills, personality and cultural suitability:

  • A skills test, such as proofreading or work-related math.

  • A writing sample based on a prompt (to judge both content and communication ability).

  • Present common scenarios to the open role and ask how they would handle the situation.

  • Ask job applicants to describe an example from their past of a certain action or behavior – dealing with conflict, demonstrating leadership skills, working with a diverse group, etc.

  • A quiz on the style of work.

Potential red flags

Screening interviews not only help a recruiter or hiring manager distinguish between qualified and unqualified candidates, but the interaction can give rise to warning signs. Although a screening is not as formal as a face-to-face interview, it still makes an impression. Beware of job seekers who treat them too casually and don’t do their best.

Think twice before going around with someone who doesn’t seem prepared. Company websites, social media, etc. make it easy to access basic information, so there is no excuse for not knowing anything. Likewise, if someone can’t come up with a few good questions to ask you, it probably means they haven’t done their research or really don’t care to find out more.

When shortlisted candidates ask questions, watch for the nature of the topic. Someone who is focused on the pay scale and benefits but asks nothing about the actual job posting may be more concerned with a paycheck than whether or not it’s the right one. candidate.

Finally, use the pre-screen to get subtle information that might affect whether or not the person moves through the hiring process. Are the written documents filled out completely and thoughtfully or collected haphazardly? If conducting a video interview, does the candidate appear poised and professional? Does the interviewee seem aroused and engaged enough during the phone screen or as if they can’t wait for the conversation to end? Make the screening process worth it by using all the information you can!


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