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Screening Interview

You’ve sifted through a mountain of resumes and picked out applicants that meet the bare minimum requirements. How do you best utilize your time to ensure that you interview the top candidates—potential employees that fulfill the demands of the position and match your organizational culture?

Screening interviews allow you to learn more about applicants’ experience and personality without dedicating weeks to formal interviews. Continue reading to find out what a screening interview is, why you should conduct them, and what questions will help determine which candidates pass through to a second interview.

What is a Screening Interview?

A screening interview is a step in the hiring process used to determine whether a candidate fulfills the necessary qualifications to be successful in the role. Screening interviews are conducted after reviewing resumes and compiling a list of applicants that meet the minimum education and experience requirements.

Why Conduct Screening Interviews?

The hiring process can be time-consuming. If the applicant isn’t the right fit, you don’t want to waste your time or the candidate’s.

Preliminary screening interviews help identify the most qualified candidates from a pool of applicants. Conducting pre-screening interviews can:

  • Determine if the candidate meets the demands required to successfully complete the job
  • Identify whether the candidate’s compensation requirements fall within the salary range
  • Allow you to share information about your organization with candidates
  • Allow candidates to ask questions about the organization and the role

Screening interviews save time by learning more about the candidate before bringing them in for a second interview.

Types of Screening Interviews

You can conduct screening interviews via phone, video, or questionnaire.

Phone Screening Interview

Phone screening interviews are common when narrowing down a final list of candidates. Preliminary phone interviews are less stressful on candidates and are a convenient way to conduct the interview with no interruptions. One drawback is that since you can’t see the candidate, you aren’t able to observe their body language and gestures throughout the interview.

Video Screening Interview

Video screening interviews can be conducted one of two ways:

  • Face-to-face, using a video conferencing service like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meets
  • One-way, pre-recorded responses to prepared questions sent ahead of time to the candidate

Using video, you can observe the candidate’s body language and gestures. This type of screening interview is more in line with the formal interview process. Consider potential roadblocks when using video for pre-screening interviews, including:

  • Poor internet connection
  • Technological issues, specifically related to audio and video quality

Questionnaire Screening Interview

If you want to narrow down an extensive list of candidates in a timely fashion, consider conducting a questionnaire screening interview. Provide the candidates with specific questions that assess their qualifications for the position and fit with the company.

Questionnaires allow you to screen a large pool of candidates without taking time to speak to every person. One drawback to this method is you don’t physically speak to the candidate to get a first impression of their personality.

How to Prepare to Screen an Applicant

There are a few steps to complete before conducting screening interviews, including:

  • Developing hiring criteria that accurately reflects the requirements of the position
  • Preparing screening interview questions that assess the hiring criteria
  • Re-reviewing resumes for any areas in question or that need clarification
  • Contacting candidates via email to schedule a time for the interview

Screening Interview Questions to Ask

Screening interviews are preliminary and should gather basic information about the candidate’s skill set, relevant experience, personality traits, and potential cultural fit. While there are countless options, the following screening interview questions should provide enough insight to determine whether they should proceed through the hiring process.

“What is Your Required Salary Range?”

Before diving into the nitty-gritty, it’s best to address compensation requirements. Candidates may be hesitant to provide this information, but their desired salary is a deciding factor in whether to move forward with the interview process. If they’re looking for $100,000 and the salary is $50,000, negotiation is unlikely and it makes sense to remove the candidate from consideration.

“Can You Tell Me About Yourself?”

Once you’ve determined that their salary requirements match the position, let the candidate provide an overview of their background. This is their “elevator pitch,” where you can gather high-level information about their professional and cultural fit for the position. It can also help them ease into the interview and relieve some of their nerves.

Pay attention to their experience and personality traits. They’ll likely cover a majority of the information listed on their resume, but may give additional insight into experience or skills that weren’t included.

“Why Are You Looking for a New Role?”

Whether the candidate has another job or is currently unemployed, their answer will give you a better understanding of their motivation for job searching. They can also explain any gaps in employment or clarify why they’re currently unemployed.

An ideal candidate will explain how this role fits into their career progression and what skills or experience they are looking to gain. If they speak negatively about their previous employers, that’s a red flag that they may not be the right cultural fit for the company.

“How Did You Learn About This Position?”

This question simply identifies how the candidate found the position. If they mention any internal employees that recommended them, you can leverage the employee as a reference outside of those provided by the applicant.

Their response also gives you feedback about the efficiency of your recruitment methods. If multiple candidates found the job posting at the same source, you can use that as your primary recruiting medium for future roles.

The only thing to look for here is a genuine response from the candidate. As long as they show interest in the company and the position, where they found the posting shouldn’t make a significant impact.

“What Do You Know About the Company?”

Whether the candidate was familiar with the company prior to applying or not, they should have a foundational knowledge of the organization. They don’t have to memorize every detail, but they should know the type of company, the products or services it provides, its mission and values, and major competitors.

Not only does this question inform you of any previous experience with the company, but it also displays their preparedness for the interview. If they put in the time to learn about the company, they are likely to bring that same thoroughness to their day-to-day tasks on the job.

“What Skills From Your Previous Experience Make You the Right Fit for This Position?”

Though the screening interview is preliminary, you want to assess their skill set and abilities. Specific experience from other jobs can be used to measure their ability to fulfill the duties of the position they’re interviewing for.

The key word: specific. Generic responses don’t demonstrate their ability to apply skills from their resume to the demands of the position.

“What Motivates You in a Job?”

Hard skills aside, you should dig into the cultural compatibility of a candidate. Find out what drives the candidate to put forth their best effort. You want to find people who are motivated by the responsibilities and environment that match your organizational culture.

Responses that exemplify a drive to produce high-quality work and contribute to the overall success of the company signify a strong candidate.

“What Type of Work Environment and Management Style Do You Prefer?”

Building off of their motivation, continue to assess the cultural fit by learning about the candidate’s preferred work environment and management style. You’ll gain valuable information about their personality and ability to work with different types of individuals.

Ideally, the candidate’s preferences will align with the organization and the position. If they prefer working independently but the role is heavily team-based, they wouldn’t be the best match.

“What Do You Look For in a Company’s Culture?”

You’ve assessed the candidate’s hard skills and personality traits as it relates to the position. Dive deeper into the cultural fit by pinpointing their ideal organizational culture. Look for candidates whose values align with the company, and who are eager to contribute to the existing culture.

“If Hired, When Could You Start?”

This screening question is straightforward: find out when the candidate can begin working should they be selected for the position.

  • If they’re currently employed, look for a start date approximately two weeks after an offer would be extended, unless they need to give their current employer extended notice.
  • If they’re unemployed, they should be ready to start immediately upon receiving an offer.

“Do You Have Any Questions For Us?”

Once you’ve asked all of your prepared questions, open the floor to the candidate. Let them ask any questions they may have. This allows applicants to clarify any uncertainties about the position and the company while also gauging their interest in the position.

If they don’t come prepared with questions, that can be a red flag indicating they’re applying to jobs in bulk for the sole purpose of getting a job.

After the Screening Interview

Following the screening interview, it’s time to decide which candidates pass through to a second interview. Using any notes you took, select the most qualified candidates that meet the hiring criteria and fit culturally. If there is a separate hiring manager for the position, review notes from the screening interviews with them.

Candidates that meet the requirements for education and experience but displayed red flags should be considered carefully. If they have different preferences in work environment and management style but possess the hard skills required to succeed, you may still consider them for a second interview.

Conclusion

Conducting screening interviews is an efficient method of narrowing down your list of qualified applicants to the top candidates. Once you determine the method that best suits your organization, prepare a list of questions and start interviewing. You’ll be one step closer to making the right hiring decision!

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Screening Interviews

Who Should Be Involved in a Screening Interview?
Screening interviews are typically held by a recruiter or another member of the HR department. The recruiter will share notes from the interview with the hiring manager, who will decide whether to bring the candidate in for a second interview. Small business owners may conduct screening interviews themselves if they don’t have an HR department to handle the task.
Do I Always Need to Hold Screening Interviews?
No, you don’t always need to conduct screening interviews. If you don’t receive enough applicants or you need to fill the role quickly, you can jump ahead to the formal interview process. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to hold screening interviews to ensure that you target the best candidates and avoid wasting time with candidates that aren’t the right fit.
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