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Key Questions to Evaluate Candidates in a Screening Call

David Law

Mon, 10 Jun, 2024


  • Reading Time:
    ~ 7 minutes

Finding the right candidate for a job is crucial for any company. A well-structured screening process helps to identify the best fit for the role efficiently. Conducting a phone screening interview with each candidate is an effective way to evaluate their skills and experience early on. At Fulcrum, we use these initial conversations to assess whether a candidate’s job history, competencies, and values align with our client’s needs.

This article provides an overview of the top 10 questions employers should ask candidates during a screening call, as well as tips for candidates on how to prepare and what questions they should ask their interviewer. In no more than 30 minutes, you can assess if the candidate is the right fit for the job, if their values match the company, and if their availability fits your timeline and budget. To cover all that in a short phone interview, make sure you ask the right questions.

This blog is intended to help recruiters create a positive candidate experience for phone interviews. We’ll provide guidance on the most significant questions to ask and how to organise the data gathered. At the end of this blog, candidates will find recruiter advice on how to prepare for phone screenings and a list of questions to ask the interviewer that will help them decide if they wish to move forward with the application.

Top 10 Questions to Ask Potential Candidates in the Initial Interview

  1. Can you tell me about yourself? One good strategy for beginning the conversation is to ask simple questions. This helps the candidate to feel comfortable and more likely to share information about themselves. This is a great question to determine if the individual is a good match for your organisation’s culture. The purpose of the query is to learn more about the person, not to judge their job performance. Finding out who will be working with the team can give you a sense of how well they will fit in. Although it is important to consider cultural fit, be mindful of the risk of “like me bias” and be careful not to misconstrue the meaning of “hiring for cultural fit” (see our Company Culture Guide for more information).
  2. What has motivated you to seek out a new job opportunity? Asking this question will give you a better understanding of why the candidate is choosing to leave their current employment. You’ll be able to figure out what they are looking for in a new employer and position by finding out why they are leaving their current job. This will give you an idea of whether they would be a good match for your organisation.
  3. Why are you interested in working here? It is essential to determine whether the potential hire is suitable for your organisation during the early stages of the recruitment process. This will also give you an idea of their knowledge of the company, which is essential to know if they need to be persuaded to join your company. With plenty of jobs available, it is important to use the phone screening interview to its fullest potential and ensure that the applicant is aware that your company is the most attractive option.
  4. Can you please tell me about your most recent working experience? If you’re hiring graduates, ask about work experience instead of work history. Rather than asking about work history, inquire about team projects, volunteer work, and self-taught skills. If you’re interviewing someone with extensive work experience, focus on the most recent years. This keeps the interview concise and relevant. Understanding the candidate’s recent experience will help you decide who to interview.
  5. What accomplishment are you most proud of? When conducting these short telephone interviews, it is critical to demonstrate enthusiasm for what the applicants appreciate doing. Asking which project they felt most proud of or satisfied with is an excellent way to discover what they prefer working on. This helps ascertain if the candidate’s interests align with the job duties of the position you are looking to fill.
  6. What do you need to be successful in this position? By asking a candidate-centric version of “How will you succeed in this position?” you can gain information about the candidate’s skills and experience as well as the support they would need from the company. This can reveal their preferred management style and working environment, providing an understanding of their ability to do the job and succeed in the company’s current culture.
  7. What is your desired salary? Answering this difficult query right from the start is essential for both the interviewer and the applicant. Knowing whether the potential hire’s salary expectations fit within your budget will save time and energy. If the candidate’s wage demands surpass your budget, you will need to decide if you can adjust your budget or inform them that you cannot proceed.
  8. When can you start? During the early stages of the interview process, it is important to know when the candidate can start working. If you are looking to fill the position by the end of February but begin phone screening interviews in early January, be aware of candidates with notice periods of over a month as they would not be suitable for the role.
  9. Are you engaged in any other activities at the moment? The response to this query will tell you how quickly you should move to secure the ideal candidate. If the individual has already had interviews with other organisations, expedite them through the recruitment process to improve your chances of hiring them.
  10. Do you need me to clarify anything? This final query allows you to gauge the applicant’s enthusiasm for your organisation and the job. If a hopeful has minimal or no inquiries, it may indicate that they are not very interested in your proposition. Additionally, it provides further understanding of what aspects of your business and the role the candidate is most passionate about, which is helpful when determining if they’re a good fit. Lastly, it is part of delivering a positive candidate experience by ensuring you respond to any queries they may have.

These queries should provide you with helpful information to decide if the potential hire you are speaking with will be a great addition to your staff.

Tips for Candidates Preparing for a Phone Screening Interview

To ensure the best possible outcome during a phone screening interview, candidates should thoroughly prepare beforehand. This involves familiarising oneself with the role, outlining qualifications and certifications, crafting an elevator pitch, researching the company’s culture and mission, and taking time to think before responding to questions. Doing all this in advance will help candidates give thoughtful answers that demonstrate why they would make an ideal fit for the position.

How Candidates Can Prepare for a Phone Screening Interview

A phone screening interview is an important step in the hiring process and can be the deciding factor in whether a candidate gets a job offer. Therefore, it’s important that candidates prepare for their phone screening interview to ensure they make a great impression. Here are some tips on how to best prepare for a phone screening interview:

  1. Get in touch with your interviewer beforehand: Contacting your interviewer beforehand shows that you’re proactive and eager to start the conversation. Try to reach out at least 24 hours before the scheduled call and inquire about any materials or information they might need from you ahead of time. This will help you get off on the right foot and make sure you have all the necessary materials prepared.
  2. Research the company and position thoroughly: Make sure you do plenty of research on both the company and position before your call so that you can answer questions confidently. Brush up on industry trends, review recent news articles about the company, read through their website, and look through job postings for similar positions. This will demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in working for the company.
  3. Ensure you have a good signal/quiet place to take the call: You want to make sure there aren’t any distractions during your call so that it runs smoothly without any interruptions. Find a quiet place with minimal background noise where you can focus solely on your conversation. Additionally, ensure that your device has a strong signal to avoid any connection issues.
  4. Be prepared to talk salary expectations: It’s likely this topic will come up during your phone screening interview, so it’s best to think about a reasonable salary range for both parties beforehand. Doing this preparation will save time as negotiating salaries can often be lengthy if not pre-planned accordingly.
  5. Make a positive impression: As mentioned earlier, first impressions count! During your call, try to keep it professional but also show off who you are as an individual. Highlight relevant experiences, skillset, and qualifications. Speak clearly, be mindful of tone/pace/volume, and ask thoughtful questions related to why you would be suitable for this role. These are just some ways to ensure you leave a lasting impression.

By following these tips, candidates can put themselves in good stead when preparing for their next phone screening interview, giving themselves every chance possible at getting their dream job.

Top Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

When it comes to selecting the right candidate for the job, employers need to make sure they are asking the right questions during a screening call. Asking effective questions during a screening call can help employers gain insight into the position, team/department, company culture, and next steps in the hiring process. Below is a list of top questions that employers should be asking their interviewer:

  1. What would a day in this job typically involve? Having knowledge of what tasks you are expected to accomplish and what duties you will likely be performing when employed will help you determine if this job is something you would like to pursue. Knowing this data will help you decide if you should move forward in the recruitment process.
  2. What obstacles is the team/department currently facing? By inquiring about this, you will gain insight into the type of workplace and surroundings you will be entering. Additionally, you will be able to tell if you have the relevant experience and qualifications to support the team with their difficulties.
  3. What is the company’s stance on work-life balance? It is essential to question yourself if this job will be the right fit for your everyday life. To make sure that the job is satisfying and you will be able to give your best, find an organisation that puts a similar emphasis on work-life balance as you do.
  4. Can you give me an overview of the company’s environment? Asking this question is just as significant as enquiring about work-life balance if you want to be content in your job. It is probable that you will appreciate your job even more if your individual values correspond with those of the company.
  5. What comes next in the recruitment process? Many recruiters will tell you this, but inquiring about the next steps in the recruiting process is an effective way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job opportunity. It’s also helpful to ask about the timeline from start to finish so that you can plan accordingly.

By asking these questions, employers can gain invaluable insights into an applicant’s qualifications and personality while also understanding what it would be like to work at their company and within their team/department structure—all without even stepping foot inside their office! For applicants, these questions provide valuable information regarding expectations, responsibilities, and potential growth opportunities if they were to accept a position with the organisation—allowing them to make an informed decision on whether they feel they would be successful in that particular role at that particular company or not.

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