Top 13 screening questions recruiters should ask

Last updated:
October 4, 2022
April 6, 2023
min read
Adrie Smith
Martina Di Gregorio
screening questions
Table of contents

It's no secret that hiring is tough, and finding someone who meets all your qualifications during good economic times can be even more challenging. With the national unemployment rate at a low 3.6%, employers are scrambling to hire the best of the best.

And to make matters even more complicated, top talent only takes ten days to get off the market. Therefore, as you look for the best talents who are the right fit for your company, it's vital to reevaluate your recruitment strategy.

One area you should pay close attention to is your screening questions. Besides looking into a candidate's qualifications, a good screening process will help determine who is best suited for your team and culture. 

If you're looking to build a cohesive team of talented individuals to drive company objectives forward, you're in the right place.

In this article, you'll find a comprehensive definition of screening questions, why they're important, and examples of the ones successful companies use.

What are screening questions, and why are they important?

Screening questions are used during an interview to help identify if a candidate has the necessary skills and qualifications for the role they're applying for.

Screening questions are essential because they help you save time by weeding out candidates who aren't qualified for the role. By using screening questions, you can focus on interviewing individuals who have the potential to be a good fit for your company.

What are some types of screening questions?

As mentioned, screening questions during a phone screen interview aim to help sift from the large pool of candidates to find the best ones for your organization. Therefore, comprehensive screening questions should cover diverse elements to generate the best results. 

As such, there are different types of questions for each key area you need to evaluate. Here are some examples:

  • Technical skills questions: These questions assess candidates' ability to do the job they're applying for. They focus on a candidate's technical skills, knowledge, and abilities.
  • Personality questions: Such questions are structured to help you understand a candidate's work style and how they would fit into your company culture.
  • Work experience questions: These questions help gauge a candidate's past work experiences and see if they have the necessary skills for the role.
  • Motivation questions: This group of questions helps you understand what drives a candidate and why they're interested in the role.
  • Behavioral questions: These explore how the candidate has behaved in past situations to understand how they might behave in similar situations in the future.

All these screening criteria are essential. However, behavioral questions are often considered the most crucial type of screening question. This is because they provide insight into a candidate's character and work ethic. 

Also, when crafting your screening questions, avoid illegal questions about a candidate's age, race, religion, or country of origin. Additionally, avoid leading questions that candidates can answer with a simple yes or no - instead, opt for open-ended questions.

Regardless of industry, there are many things top brands have in common. Key among them is a robust and effective screening process. So, by modeling your screening questions from brands, you can also enjoy similar recruitment success. 

Here are examples of screening questions successful companies use:

#1 In what way did your previous position fail to fit your expectations?

This type of question is a great way to open up the prescreening process for a couple of reasons:

  • It will give you an idea of what will motivate (or fail to motivate) the candidate.
  • It can give you insight into exactly what sent this person scurrying off to find a new job.
  • It can help you understand whether or not your company will be able to meet those expectations (and keep the employee satisfied).

For instance, if the candidate states they were disappointed with the lack of flexibility in the working schedule, and your company does not offer flex scheduling, this employee will likely not be satisfied in your available position either.

Things to look out for with this screening question are:

  • Honesty
  • Blame
  • Self-awareness

If the candidate places all the blame for their unhappiness on the company or his/her coworkers, that can be a red flag barring some sort of actual harassment or similar issue.

You’re looking for an honest answer, but it should also show that the candidate has a bit of self-awareness regarding their own portion of responsibility in the unhappiness they felt in their last position.

#2 What specifically attracted you to this particular position or this company?

Obviously, the job seeker is looking to be gainfully employed. That is a given.

However, they should have a couple of specific reasons why the position (or your company) is appealing to them.

You may want to continue your search if they can’t name anything specific. A potential employee should have some level of excitement or interest in the role's responsibilities, the things that can be learned from your business, or the company's overall mission.

Look for answers that show a good understanding of the job duties or an understanding of the products/services provided by your company.

A very generic or vague answer likely means the candidate isn’t very invested in winning the position with your company and that they are simply looking for any available job.

#3 What did you learn from your biggest failure?

This is another screening question that will help you decide whether the potential employee is self-aware.

Everyone has failed at something in their life, either in the workplace or on a personal level.

And while someone may not be willing to share the details of their biggest failure within the confines of a job interview, they can describe what they learned from those errors without feeling like they are baring their soul.

Again, it is important to listen to signs of blame. They should be willing to take responsibility for their mistakes and see the opportunities for growth and learning that reside within each failure.

#4 Do you have anything you are passionate about?

This question will give you more insight into what motivates a potential employee. The candidate should be able to give an honest answer about their passions without needing a whole lot of thought.

As a screening question, it is a good one because it is another way to assess if they are a good fit for your company and your position.

When asking questions specifically related to the job, a smart interviewer will skew their answers to match the job description. However, this question comes off as more general, and the potential employee may answer more truthfully and in line with their personality.

For instance, if a person mentions they are passionate about things where they get to be creative, but the position is very structured with little room for creativity, then it may not be the best for this particular candidate.

#5 What do you think you can contribute to the company?

For this question to be an effective screening tool, the recruiter or interviewer needs to really understand the ins and outs of the open position.

When the candidate describes their specific talents or skill sets, it is crucial that you understand whether those talents will be needed in the role he or she will potentially be playing in the company.

It is also a good indicator for gauging the candidates understanding of the job duties. They should be able to connect their hard-earned skills with the position they applied for.

The answers should be thoughtful and enthusiastic.

#6 What are your expectations regarding salary?

Many interviewees will be reluctant to admit to an actual number because they don’t want to accidentally undercut themselves.

If the company is willing to pay a lot of money, the potential employee doesn’t want to admit that they would be willing to work for less.

However, they should at least be able to give you a range or a ballpark figure.

This screening question can help recruiters in two ways:

  1. It offers is a bit of insight into the employee’s previous salaries and an understanding of what the candidate thinks they are worth. A person with a lot of experience and appropriate education should put forth a number that is equivalent to their credentials.
  2. It shows whether their expectations are in line with what the company is able to offer. If the expectations are too far out of range, then the candidate can be eliminated from the hiring pool

#7 Can you describe what our company does, as if I had never heard of it before?

Getting the candidate to “pitch” your business is an excellent way to see if the potential employee has done any sort of homework on the company.

If the potential hire has a genuine interest in the position or the company, they will be able to give a fairly accurate explanation of what the business has to offer.

This screening question is a better way of asking the employee to describe the company because it requires actual understanding and not just rote memorization of the “About Us” page on the website.

Being able to pitch the company or products requires thought about the process and the way that the business helps its customers. Excellent candidates will have a leg up on this knowledge.

#8 What characteristics are you looking for in a supervisor/manager?

Being able to gauge how the candidate will fit in with the team they will be working on and how well they will get along underneath the leadership of the role is a key factor to consider.

In most businesses, no employee is an island, and the candidate will need to mesh with the current company culture.

If the potential employee states that they enjoy a lot of feedback from their supervisor, but the person managing this particular position is very hands-off, the candidate may not be a good fit on the team.

To dig deeper, you may want to ask if they can work well under a variety of managerial styles.

In order to get a more direct answer, you may want to expound on the question and ask the candidate to tell you about their favorite past manager as this should give you more insight into their supervisory preferences.

#9 In what capacity do you see yourself growing within our company?

Successful screening questions will help you identify the candidates that are interested in growing within your company.

Eliminating the applicants that are simply trying to use the position as a stepping stone will give you a candidate that is looking to stay with your company for a long time which means money saved on hiring and training a new employee.

Any applicant can give a flippant answer about how long they expect to stay with the company, but a candidate that has put effort into researching the hierarchy of the business and the ways that he or she can move u through the ranks is truly looking for longevity.

This answer can also help you determine whether the candidate has realistic expectations of the position which they are applying for.

#10 Do you have any questions for us?

This is one of those screening questions that seem unimportant or unoriginal, but it can actually be used as a bit of a litmus test.

The interviewee should have at least one question. And if they don’t, they probably aren’t all that invested in the company or the role to begin with. A savvy candidate knows that their questions are just as important as the questions asked by the interviewer.

The questions that are asked are also an important thing to pay attention to because it gives you another look into what the employee is hoping for with the position.

Do they ask about benefits or compensation packages? Do they ask about ways to grow within the company? Does she ask about the timeframe for making a decision?

All of these questions can let you determine what they are placing the most importance on.

#11 What are your thoughts on teamwork? 

Asking this question is crucial as it can help you gauge the candidate's ability to work well with others.

If they are unable or unwilling to answer this question, that could be a sign that they may have difficulty working as part of a team.

You're looking for an answer that shows the candidate values teamwork and believes it is vital for getting the job done right. The best candidates will be able to give you specific examples of times when they had to rely on teamwork to get the job done.

#12 What are your thoughts on change? Give me an example of a time when you had to adapt to a new work situation

Change can be difficult for some people, so it's essential to gauge the candidate's comfort level with change and adaptability.

This screening question allows you to find out if the candidate can adapt to new situations quickly and how they feel about change in general.

The answer to this question will also give you some insight into the candidate's ability to deal with unexpected challenges that may come up on the job.

Some things you may want to look for in the candidate's answer are: 

  • Whether or not they are comfortable with change
  • How they handle being thrown into a new situation
  • The steps they take to adjust to the new situation If they have difficulty dealing with change or adapting to new things
  • How they feel about change in general

#13 Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake at work? How did you handle it?

Mistakes are an inevitable occurrence in the workplace and occur for various. As such, the most important thing how people handle them. You can easily find out by asking this question.

The answer to this question will give you some insight into whether or not the candidate is able to take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes.

Some things you may want to look for in the candidate's answer are: 

  • If they admit fault and take responsibility for their mistake
  • What steps they took to fix the problem
  • How they prevented the mistake from happening again in the future
  • If they involved a manager or other co-worker in resolving the issue

Build a curated talent pool with screening questions

The entire hiring process can be lengthy as well as costly, and it is important that companies make it as manageable as possible.

Using screening questions to weed out candidates that aren’t a good fit and allows you to focus your efforts on candidates that will vibe with company culture and get along well with the team.

You also want to ensure that candidates who move forward in the process will be interested in an offer if one is made.

Cutting out those with expectation beyond what your company can provide keeps everyone from being disappointed when a job offer is rejected due to not meeting the candidate’s salary and benefit expectations.

Make your job as a recruiter or HR team member easier by pre-screening your candidates with these questions used by some of the most successful businesses.

Leverage technology to build a winning team

These are just a few screening questions that successful companies use. By asking these questions, you will get a better idea of the type of person the candidate is and whether or not they would be a good fit for your company. 

Remember to pay attention to both the content of their answer and their body language when answering these questions. This will give you the most accurate picture of who the candidate is and what they can bring to your company. 

However, getting the best candidates is not just about screening questions. You also need an efficient system to guide the recruitment process. 

This is where Recruitee comes into play. It's a state-of-the-art modern collaborative hiring software designed to help you find the perfect candidates for your company.

Optimize your hiring with Recruitee

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