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Interview Preparation

The Screening Interview: What You Should Know

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What is a screening interview?What to expect during a screening interviewHow to prepare for a screening interviewScreening interview tips

Guide Overview

An introduction to the screening interview

A screening interview can be a critically important part of the hiring process. Performing well at this event could impress the recruiter and move your job application forward. You can ensure your performance meets and exceeds expectations by learning about this method of recruitment. For an overview about this type of interview, what to expect, and how to prepare for it, explore this article.

What is a screening interview?

A screening interview is an event in the hiring process through which a recruiter gauges the suitability of a job applicant for an occupation and decides whether or not to add their name to a short list of potential hires. Typically, this is the first interview a candidate will face when applying for a job. Employers use this interviewing method to separate suitable candidates from unsuitable ones, and it involves a brief discussion in which straightforward questions are asked to evaluate a candidate’s qualifications in relation to key job requirements. There are several reasons that make this interview important, such as:

  • It enables an applicant to grab the attention of the recruiter: This event is likely to be the first substantial interaction you have with a representative of the employer, so it can be a great opportunity to impress the recruiter with your communication skills, answers to interview questions, appearance, body language, and professionalism.
  • It gives a candidate an opportunity to learn about the position and the employer: At the screening interview, a recruiter will normally tell an applicant a little about the job opportunity and the company, so this event can be a great way to gain an insider’s perspective into the occupation you’re applying for and the employer.
  • It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the job: A screening interview is used by the recruiter to find out if a candidate meets the minimum requirements of the job, so it’s your chance to clearly show that you meet or exceed these expectations.

Learn more: Questions to Ask an Interviewer About Their Job

What to expect during a screening interview

You can expect the following things during a screening interview: 

  • Timing: After applying for a job, you can expect the screening interview in the initial stage of the hiring process. For example, it’s likely to occur after you send your job application and before you’re called for an in-depth interview with the hiring manager.
  • Setting: There can be several settings in which this event can take place. For example, you can be interviewed via phone, video conference, during a face-to-face meeting at the employer’s premises, or through an informal interview in a casual setting.
  • Duration: This recruitment event usually includes a relatively brief meeting when compared to the second and third interviews that are held in the later stages of the hiring process.
  • Interview questions: You can expect to be asked several questions at the screening interview. These questions are likely to be preliminary ones that focus mainly on your interest in the job, your qualifications that match the key criteria in the listing, and logistics.
  • Interviewer: Unlike the interviews that take place during the later stages of a process of recruitment, you’re likely to be interviewed by a junior representative of the hiring manager who does not have the power to choose to hire you. However, remember that your interviewer’s decision on your performance matters because the hiring manager will use it to decide whether or not to move your application forward to the next round.

How to prepare for a screening interview

You can use the following steps to prepare for a screening interview:

1. Research the company and position

Learning about the employer and the occupation you’re hoping to be hired for can give you the information you need to perform well at this event. Use the job description; company publications such as the website, press releases, and social media accounts; and employee reviews to get the information you need.

Learn more: How to Write an Interview Confirmation Email

2. Develop answers for generic interview questions

There are questions that most recruiters ask at screening interviews. Prepare for them in advance by researching questions, writing your answers, and polishing them to avoid any errors in grammar, flow, or syntax. Here are a few samples of screening interview questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Describe your employment history.
  • What management style do you prefer?
  • What kind of company culture suits you best?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • When can you start?
  • If necessary, can you commute for the job?
  • Can you relocate if necessary?

Learn more: Answering ‘What Can You Bring to the Company?’ in an Interview

3. Develop answers to job-specific questions

Prepare for questions that directly relate to the position to which you’re applying. For example, if you’re applying for a teaching job, you could be asked about your bachelor’s degree or your experience in teaching a specific type of student, such as those with disabilities, to ascertain whether these qualifications match the core expectations of the employer. However, you’re unlikely to be asked technical or behavioral questions at this stage. Use the job description to identify the main criteria in education, skills, and industry experience, and write down how to handle any straightforward questions in these areas.

4. Optimize your answer delivery

Prepare to impress the interviewer by practicing your answer delivery before the interview. Talk to yourself as you stand before a mirror or role-play with a dependable friend in advance to improve your confidence, answers, and the impact you make on the recruiter at the event.

5. Present yourself professionally at the event

Regardless of the setting in which the screening interview takes place, it’s a critically important event in the hiring process. Use the following steps to communicate your professionalism:

  • If you’re meeting in person or via video chat, dress appropriately in accordance with industry norms and company culture.
  • If it’s a phone interview, use the accepted phone etiquette to greet the interviewer, maintain the dialogue, and end the interview.
  • If you’re at home and interviewing for the position via video chat, organize a suitable background for your discussion that communicates your professionalism and does not distract the interviewer. For example, a suitable video background is a clean, blank wall. Avoid distracting backgrounds on your end of the chat such as children playing, clutter, or pets.
  • If you’re meeting at the company or in a casual setting, organize your time to arrive ten minutes early, so you’re ready to start the interview in accordance with the recruiter’s schedule.
  • If you’re being interviewed via video, check your internet connection and devices before the meeting so there will be no interruptions during the interview due to your equipment.

Learn more: Thank-You Email Subject Line for After an Interview

Screening interview tips

You can use the following advice to optimize your screening interview performance:

  • Learn about how you should behave. It’s important to communicate the right things through your clothing choices, body language, speech, post-interview correspondence, and other forms of behavior to make a great impression on the recruiter. Appropriate behavior could differ based on the interview setting and company norms. Research professional etiquette for the relevant setting, such as phone interview, video chat, or in-person interview in advance. Use internet search engines and speak to social or professional contacts employed in the industry to learn about the requirements. Then, modify your behaviors accordingly.

Learn more: Job Interview Outfit Examples and Tips

  • Prepare your opening greeting. A recruiter could form an initial impression about your candidacy in the first few minutes of the screening interview. Consequently, how you greet the recruiter can impact your success. Use a standard salutation that is appropriate for the interview setting, and thank the interviewer for the opportunity at the beginning of your interview. For example, you could say, “Good morning! I’m very grateful for this amazing opportunity to learn about working at [Include company name].”
  • Prepare your questions. Use this opportunity to learn about the company, occupation, and the hiring process by preparing sensible, professional questions that can give you valuable insights, impress the recruiter, and move your application forward. 
  • Prepare your closing statement. Focus on ending the screening interview on a positive note. Write down what you could say at the end of the interview to show your appreciation for the meeting and move to the next round of the hiring process. For example, you could say, “Thanks for a great interview! I learned a lot about this fantastic job opportunity. Please let me know what can I expect next?”
  • Avoid alienating the recruiter with any of your questions or answers. It’s important to avoid saying things that preclude the recruiter from short-listing your name. Consider possible questions on difficult topics, such as salary expectations, and prepare answers that keep your options open. For example, you could respond to a question on salary with a remuneration range instead of a single figure.

A screening interview is an important step of some interview processes. With the above tips and tricks, you can ace your next one.

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