The Art of the Prescreen: 5 Critical Questions

Before you even start your interview process, it’s critical to do a round of prescreen interviews, whether by phone or video conference. You’re already in great need of help — thus the upcoming interviews — so bandwidth is slim by definition, which means it’s key to be efficient.

Well-executed prescreen interviews will effectively weed out candidates who aren’t the right fit before you bring them in for a more rigorous in-person interview. When you’re busy, there’s nothing more frustrating than bringing in a perfectly delightful, qualified candidate — then realizing there’s a clear roadblock to going further in the process, like a huge disparity in compensation expectations, true skillset or miscommunication about job location or on-site requirements.

At Glassdoor, we cut right to the chase in our prescreens to make sure everyone is largely on the same page before we roll out the red carpet to welcome a potential candidate onsite for an in-person interview that will be a positive experience for everyone involved. Here’s our list:

Glassdoor’s Essential Prescreen Interview Questions

1. Are you comfortable with our location?

Different companies and different roles within that company have vastly different expectations or requirements about being onsite. Some positions lend themselves to a flexible schedule — and some do not. A candidate may have seen Glassdoor reviews saying how great the remote work capability is for a specific team, but it doesn’t always apply to the team they’re looking at joining. Similarly, your candidate might know your corporate headquarters are in New York and assume the work will be there. Sometimes, however, it may turn out that their team is located in Hoboken, for example. Use the prescreen interview as an opportunity to make sure your candidate knows exactly where your group’s physical office is — and what the expectations are around presence.

[Related: 5 Interview Questions to Get Quality Candidates in the Pipeline ASAP!]

2. What compensation range are you targeting?

Without asking your candidate about his or her current compensation is (that’s been shown to play into pay gap due to gender bias — and in some cities asking about salary history is even illegal), we like to ask early on what compensation range they’re targeting. And make sure that you clarify how exactly your company values the total compensation package, including stock, benefits, and bonus. Salary transparency from the get-go helps you establish that you’re in the right ballpark with potential hires before bringing them onsite for an interview. Companies who care about their employer brand and their ability to draw top talent spend a good deal of time getting everyone prepped and ready to make a great impression. So if the compensation is off kilter, it’s a royal waste of time for everyone.

3. Why do you want to work here?

Informed candidates who research jobs and companies on Glassdoor are two times more likely to be hired than candidates from other sources. (1) That’s because they have not only educated themselves on the company and the role — they have also familiarized themselves with the marketplace or business sector your company is part of, and they’ve self-selected into a role that’s right for them. By asking candidates why they want to work at your company, you uncover how market-savvy they are, and how aligned they are with your company’s mission and goals. Understanding exactly why they want to work for your company serves a secondary role, too. If you progress in your process and find that you’re competing with other companies to bring on a highly qualified candidate, understanding what motivates and drives them becomes an important tool for negotiation. As a recruiter or hiring manager, you can research the other company where they have an offer and determine what you can offer that they can’t.

4. How do you see yourself applying your unique skills to this job? 

Knowledge of the role is the most critical piece of being an informed candidate. Tailor your questions to find out how well the candidate understands the role and why he or she feels it is a fit. If the applicant is unable to get specific about his or her experience with a critical tool or approach, it’s a good sign that the match isn’t ideal. If, however, they are able to speak passionately about how they were able to quickly master another similar process or methodology in the past, you may have a very coachable and committed candidate on your hands. Take their skills and experience seriously, but don’t discount your instincts: this is one place they will serve you well.

[Related: How To Speed Up Hiring For Sought-After Skills]

5. What are you looking for in a manager?

As a recruiter or hiring manager, you are in the unique position of knowing exactly what the style is of the person who will be overseeing this role. Asking your applicant for specifics about what they do and don’t like in a boss can help close in on the type of hire who will thrive on the job.

As you evaluate your responses and choose the best candidates to bring in, remember to follow up with rejected candidates in a timely fashion. Then get ready for the interview process, keeping in mind that candidates are always evaluating you, too.

Want to hone your interview process further? Glassdoor’s latest Interview Trends Report lets you quickly and easily discern patterns in how your company conducts interviews and paces toward a hire, so you can build on what works and pivot where needed to strengthen your ability to draw top talent faster — and for less.

(1) Based on app-to-hire ratios in a 2015 study of 30 million applications from a leading third-party recruitment agency

(2) Glassdoor.com U.S. Site Survey, Aug 2016

Learn More & Download:

Candidate Screening Checklist