People think screening candidates is easy, but there’s an art to correctly filtering out candidates at the very initial phases of the interview process.
When faced with tens, hundreds, or even thousands of applicants, what are the best unique candidate screening questions to ask to get to your shortlist? How many questions do you ask? What do you need to know?
Lots of questions might work, but we’ll give you a few of the best in just a bit as we discuss all things related to great candidate screening. After we’ve learned a little more about the pre-screening process, we’ll give you 79 unique and insightful candidate screening questions that you can steal for your hiring team.
🧠 Already know what you’re interested in? Skip down to the relevant section:
- What is a Pre-Screening/Candidate Screening Interview?
- How Are Pre-Screening Interviews Done?
- Why Ask Candidate Screening Questions?
- The Types of Questions to Ask When Screening a Candidate
- 79 Unique Candidate Screening Questions You Can Steal
What is a pre-screening/candidate screening interview?
Pre-screening interviews are all about getting to know your candidates on a basic level before moving them on to an extensive formal interview process. Recruiters use pre-screening interviews to gain insight into a candidate’s career history, key skills, personality, and job preferences.
Pre-screening interviews are a great way to filter out candidates interested in the role but aren’t actually a good fit — whether because they lack the necessary skills to succeed on the job, or there’s a misalignment somewhere else.
The pre-screening interview also helps recruiters and suitable candidates get to know each other and build a little bit of rapport before a full interview. You may know pre-screening interviews under other names, too, such as a candidate screening interview, filter interview, or phone interview.
How do you conduct a pre-screening interview?
Once upon a time (like literally a few years ago), phone calls were the traditional way of conducting pre-screening interviews, allowing recruiters and candidates to connect without meeting up in person.
Now, async video interviews make pre-screening simple, effective, and time-agnostic, delivering an all-around better experience for recruiters and candidates alike. Here’s what that looks like in 2024…👇
Why ask candidate screening questions?
You may be asking why you’d actually use candidate screening questions. After all, if you’re super old school, you’ll have a list of resumes, and if you’re using modern tech, you’ll have skills test answers. So why even bother with candidate screening questions?
Put simply, a resume or a skills test can only tell you so much. Talking to a candidate one-to-one allows you to assess their interpersonal skills, re-confirm the job role, and learn a little more about them in their own words.
Ultimately, pre-screening interviews help ensure you don’t over-invest in a formal interview by sense-checking that the candidate is a good fit during a quick pre-screen.
Types of questions to ask when screening candidates
So, now we know what pre-screening is, how it’s done, and why it’s so important — what do you actually ask?
There are several different types of candidate screening questions that you can ask, depending on what you want from this stage of your process. Here are some of the most common types:
- Candidate Background: Here, you want to find out about the candidate outside of work. You’ll ask questions about their background, education, hobbies, and interests. This can help you build up a rapport, but be careful that it doesn’t introduce any unconscious hiring bias. (You can try blind hiring if you want to stay super-impartial)
- Career History: These questions focus on the candidate’s previous work experience, including any key achievements, case studies, or accolades. If hiring for an entry-level job, you may focus on experience from volunteering roles or extra-curricular activities instead.
- Aspirations & Development: These questions are forward-looking, helping you get a sense of where the candidate wants to go and what they want to achieve in their career. These will help you gauge long-term alignment between the candidate and your organization.
- Work Environment Questions: These traditional interview-type questions help you understand how candidates operate in the work environment. In a pre-screening interview, you can throw one or two of these in to understand how your candidate conducts themselves day-to-day.
- Our Company Questions: Here, you’re asking the ‘why us’ questions, getting to the bottom of why a candidate wants to work for you. Use these questions to check that culture, salary, and working pattern expectations line up between you and the candidate.
Remember that a pre-screening interview is designed to be quick, allowing you to understand a candidate at a basic level. For that reason, don’t go for more than 6-10 questions, and keep it to 20 minutes or less.
79 unique candidate screening questions to steal
Looking for some inspiration? Steal our 79 unique candidate screening questions and start using them in your hiring process right now.
- Tell me about your background before work.
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What is your biggest regret, and why?
- What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
- What do you like doing outside of work?
- Describe your personality in 3 words
- What’s your most annoying habit?
- What do your friends say about you?
- If you were at a restaurant and ordered a rare steak, and it came well done, what would you do?
- Who’s your biggest inspiration, and why?
- If you found out that your company was doing something illegal, what would you do?
- Tell me about your last X years of work experience
- What did you like least about your previous job?
- When were you most satisfied with your job?
- What would your current boss say about you?
- Which work achievement makes you most proud?
- What do you love about your current job?
- What do you hate about your current job?
- What did it take you to be successful in your previous job?
- What would you have lost if you hadn’t taken up your previous job?
- What areas you would say you’re better than most?
- What can you do that others can’t?
- How was your previous team better because you were a part of it?
- What is the typical role you play on a team project — the leader, the ideas person, the organizer, the doer?
- How will this job differ from your current job?
- How did you learn it is the right time for a change?
- What’s the best accolade/award you’ve ever won?
- What was the moment you knew you needed a new role?
- Who was your favorite manager/leader, and why?
- In your experience, what qualities make a terrible leader?
- What do you think of your previous boss?
- How have the workplaces changed you throughout your career, if at all?
Aspirations & Development
- In 5 years’ time, where do you hope to be?
- What do you ultimately want to become?
- If, in one year’s time, you could be better at any skill, what would it be?
- How do you invest in yourself?
- How do you know you’re adding value to the company?
- What was the last business book you read, and when was it?
- What would your current boss suggest you work on improving?
- What kind of goals would you have in mind if you got this job?
- If you could be anything you wanted, what would you be?
- Where do you think this industry is going? What would you do to keep up?
- How important is status to you?
- How does the phrase ‘never settle’ resonate with you?
- If you knew you could not fail, what would you try?
- If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?
- What does the ideal training package look like to you?
- What sort of manager would bring out the best in you?
Work Environment Questions
- What does quality mean to you?
- What does integrity mean to you?
- What is your work style?
- What is the difference between a good manager and a bad manager?
- What is the difference between a good place to work and a bad one?
- What are some daily tasks that you are looking for in your job?
- What was the last project you led, and what was its outcome?
- Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to deliver
- Tell me about a time you were criticized. How did you feel, and how did you react?
- What is your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?
- What would the definition of the “world-class employee” mean to you? Would you say you match this definition?
- What would you expect to happen if you underperform?
- How much time do you need to be successful?
- If you had an option to build a team, what qualities and skills would you look for in candidates?
- What tools or techniques do you use to stay organized?
- How do you handle working with people who annoy you?
- If you were asked to finish multiple jobs, but there was no conceivable way you could do it, how would you react?
Our Company Questions
- Describe our company in 3 sentences
- What did you think of our company before you saw the job advertisement?
- Why do you want to work for our company?
- What things can the company do to help you?
- How long do you want to be here, and how can we help you help us on your path?
- Is it the job role or the company that attracted you to this role? Or both?
- If you were in my position, what traits would you look for in a candidate for this job?
- What’s your current notice period?
- What are your salary expectations?
- What would you expect to be doing within the first 30 days of being hired for this job?
- What person in the company would you like to mentor you? What do you want to learn from them?
- Describe what a four-day workweek looks like to you.
When hiring for a new role, getting the candidate screening questions right helps you uncover the superstars your business needs.
Whether you use traditional phone methods or leverage async video technology, ask various background, career history, aspirational, and work environment questions to understand your candidates truly. Fail to do so, and you’ll be left with candidates who simply don’t make the grade, wasting your time in the formal interviews while running the risk of a bad hire.
Want to streamline the entire hiring process and avoid those bad hires? Implementing skills testing is another great way to hire the right people with the right skills — and do so faster, better, and more efficiently.
See how skills testing works, or watch this one-minute introduction to Toggl Hire’s skills testing platform.
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.