How to Ask Your Candidates the Right Pre-Screening Questions

There are lots of wonderful people out there, but not all of them will be a perfect fit for your job opening. Instead of wasting time by inviting every candidate round for a chat, sift through your applicants to find the perfect fit with some key pre-screening questions.

Pre-screening is the process of informally interviewing applicants with a series of questions, before you invite them a formal interview. These pre-screening questions are essentially the gatekeeper and talent-seeker of your hiring process — but it’s not just what you ask, it’s how you ask it.

What to Ask

When pre-screening you’ll want to ask both housekeeping and role-specific questions. We’ve broken down these categories to help you narrow down the applicant pool and find the talent your business is looking for.

1. Housekeeping Questions

Housekeeping questions can be tedious, but they’ll ultimately save you time in the hiring process. You’d hate to get to the interview and not be in agreement with the applicant on salary, or find out that a candidate for a driver position doesn’t have a licence. If you’ve gotten that far without addressing those fundamentals, you’ve wasted both parties’ time.

It’s important to keep in mind that applicants are constantly applying for different positions when job searching. Don’t assume that candidates remember everything in the job spec or advert. Try asking questions like these:

  • Do you have a reliable way to get to work?
  • Are you able to travel if necessary?
  • Are you aware of the hours and willing to commit to them?
  • Are you happy with the salary?
  • Are you comfortable with the pension?
  • Are you happy with the healthcare and who it will cover?
  • Are you comfortable with the requirements of this job?

Pre-screening questions will help eliminate applicants who aren’t qualified or suited. It may seem like you’re eliminating potential talent, but realistically, you’re weeding out bad-fit applicants.

2. Role-Specific Questions

You’ll also want to ask your applicants questions related to the role during the pre-screening process. A good practice is to simplify some questions that you would ask in a competency-based interview or assessment. If they do well with the simplified versions, then they’ll likely do well in the interview.

Here are some generic examples, though you should get more specific for each role:

  • You’ve read the job advert — what skills do you possess that would make you successful in this role?
  • What’s your motivation for wanting to join us at (Company Name)?
  • Culture is important to us at (Company Name) — how do you feel you’d mesh with and add to ours?

These pre-screening questions will give you a good sense of which applicants possess the skills, motivation and culture fit you’re looking for.

How to Ask Those Questions

How you’re asking these questions is just as important as the questions themselves. For example, when asking housekeeping questions, consider the cultural norms. In Germany or Ireland, candidates might want to hear the salary right off the bat. In the UK you might need more general chatter to kick off the conversation. In other words, consider what the candidate is looking to hear, and ask your pre-screening questions accordingly.

That hints at a key aspect of recruiting: when you screen candidates, they’re also screening you and your company. That’s true even in these early stages. It may be informal, but it’s still important that you position your brand well and engage your candidate to spark their interest.

At the same time, try not to include any information that’s irrelevant to the role — you don’t want to waste anyone’s time. In general, it’s good practice to keep the pre-screening process light. Imagine you’re conversing with the applicant casually at a networking event. After all, to pre-screen is to informally interview.

Pre-Screen Efficiently

Pre-screening is essential to your hiring process, but doing it manually can take copious amounts of time. Enlisting an applicant tracking system (ATS) can help you pre-screen efficiently by narrowing down candidates automatically. This can drastically cut down pre-screening time and use sophisticated software to inform you of which applicants to call. With an ATS, you’ll ultimately end up with better applicants.

Pre-screening with an ATS can benefit your business by pre-screening faster, cheaper and more effectively. Make sure to enlist an ATS with these capabilities:

  • Recruitment pipeline management
  • Automated alerts for new applications
  • Basic and advanced candidate search options

If you know what to ask your candidates, how to ask those questions and how to do it all efficiently, you’ll be well on your way to streamlining your pre-screening process. To learn more about the benefits of adopting an ATS, check out this blog post!

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