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Getting Started’ Best Questions For Pre-Screening Interviews

David Law

Wed, 8 Jan, 2020


David Law

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 4 minutes

Someone once said, ‘Time is more precious than gold’. That certainly applies to company time— and specifically, to the time of hiring managers. Analyzing CVs, interviewing, and hiring candidates is no short process and it can divert the team’s focus from other urgent matters. Plus, as the old adage goes, that diversion costs the company money. 

But what to do when you need to fill a position, like, yesterday? And what if your initial candidate pool is as wide as the Pacific? Interview everyone until you (hopefully) find a good enough fit? Remember that a hiring mistake can cost you even more time and cash.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to finding the perfect candidate fast. 

But there is a tried and true approach to minimising the hassle: the pre-screening interview.

The basics— What’s a pre-screening interview?

It’s very simple. After you have a list of promising applicants, what you need is to narrow it down to the best probable fits. To achieve this, you have to get a little more information than the basic CV and cover letter.

The pre-screening interview is a short distance meeting based on a series of surface-level questions. These can let you see, in broad strokes, who could be a good choice for the role— and eliminate those who looked good on paper but just won’t cut it. 

The difference between a pre-screening interview and a normal interview are depth and detail. You’re looking for basic information that gives you an insight into the applicant’s culture, career direction, and applied abilities or skills. Later, in the normal (and more extensive) interview, you’ll delve into all those profound experience-based or STAR method questions.

Benefits of doing pre-screening interviews:

  • You get to know the candidate before the more stressful interview setting— meaning they’ll feel less pressure and have a better experience (good for your employer brand!).

  • Weeding out any unqualified applicants lets you focus time and resources on the most promising ones.

  • It’s a process that saves your hiring team time and company money. The pre-screening takes under 30 minutes against the 45-minute to an hour of a full interview (plus preparation time, scheduling issues, etc.).

Method— How to conduct your pre-screening interviews.

Now that we’ve established the advantages of holding pre-screening interviews, how do you go about it to get the best results? 

Pre-screening interviews are, by definition, not an in-office affair. There are three key methods to conduct them— we’ll let you decide which one suits you best:

  • Phone interview: The most conventional method, it involves a simple phone call and lets you assess the applicant’s personality and attitude a bit better than their written documents. Downsides: the insight you can gain from voice alone is limited and the new generations of talent (millennials and Gen Zers) hate voice calls.

  • Online form: The most basic of screening processes, this method gets your applicants to fill in your standardized chosen fields with their answers. Downsides: while you can try to set insightful questions, there’s only so much impersonal text can convey, and the longer your form, the less careful they will be about filling it.

  • Video interview: When you use a video interview platform like FulcrumVision (yeah, we’re biased), you get a better chance to see the candidate’s real personality and assess culture fit. You can present them with a set of tailored questions, have them record their answers on the platform, then get to see those directly. We think video makes for a faster recruitment process as well as fostering diversity and giving both sides more scheduling freedom.

The best questions for pre-screening interviews.

While, as we’ve mentioned, the pre-screening takes a more superficial approach to the interview’s deep one, you still need to ask the right questions. 

The key to deciding if a candidate should move forward to the next stage is to diversify your strategy. Ask about motivation and culture, skills and experience applying them, and general career development— areas that’ll paint a general portrait. 

Our most effective pre-screening interview questions:

  • Tell us about your professional goals. Is this role aligned with your projected career development? How?

  • How would you describe a position that’s interesting and motivating?

  • What type of job is your favourite? And what management style do you prefer?

  • In your previous work experience, have you worked with managers that met your ideal?

  • Tell us about your career benchmarks that make you the best fit for this job.

  • What challenges do you expect in this role? How have your past challenges prepared you?

  • What has been your biggest professional challenge? How did you face it? What happened?

  • Ever had several tight deadlines in the same week? What strategy did you use to face that?

  • Ever missed a deadline? What went wrong and would you change your approach now?

  • Can you show us a work sample that shows you’re a qualified fit for our company and role?

  • What’s your preferred self-management method? Do you have a system to prioritize tasks?

  • Please, tell us your expected salary range.

  • What are your typical weekly responsibilities? Have they changed throughout your time on the job?

  • If your past or current manager could do something to keep you in that position— what would that be?

  • Is there something that frustrates you about your current or last position? How did you approach a possible solution?

  • Are you going through an interview process with any other company? When can you start, if hired?

  • Company culture— what are the values you feel support you and your work? What kind of environment is best for your enjoyment and performance?

Of course, these are pretty general questions that’ll help you assess the candidate’s fit for your company and its culture. Remember to also add questions more specific to the role you’re offering to round out the profile. 

Recap— Why do pre-screening interviews matter?

Choosing the right (general and specific) questions for your pre-screening interview is crucial to get those time-saving benefits for your hiring team. Done right, the pre-screening process helps you streamline and shorten hiring times.

If you don’t know what questions are best for your pre-screening interviews, make sure to check in with the team members and managers. 

At Fulcrum, we can help you tailor questions to match your needs and assess both skill and culture fit. Our video platform is also a winner— you can use it to cut time and costs, make communications easier, and get to know your best talent right from the beginning. Why not get started now?

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