10 screening questions successful companies are using

Last updated:
December 15, 2020
September 13, 2022
min read
Adrie Smith
screening questions
Table of contents

When you’re overloaded with applications or conducting interviews with remote candidates, finding the right fit is not easy. But having an excellent set of screening questions can help narrow the playing field.

That’s why we took inspiration from some of the most successful companies hiring talent today and did a little digging into their favorite screening questions.

#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.

A few 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.

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

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.

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.


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