What is a Pre-Screening Interview & How To Conduct One

Miriam Groom, VP Sales & Marketing
Miriam Groom

22 March 2024 • Estimated reading time : 11 mins

The hiring process is a critical phase for organizations aiming to onboard talent that aligns with their strategic goals. Central to this process is the Pre-Screening Interview, a pivotal step designed to streamline candidate selection and enhance the efficiency of recruitment strategies.

The Purpose of Pre-Screening Interview

The Purpose of Pre-Screening Interview resides in its ability to sift through the applicant pool, identifying individuals whose qualifications, experience, and aspirations match the demands of the role and company culture before committing to more in-depth interviews.

By conducting pre-screening interviews, companies are able to:

  1. Scrutinize applications effectively, ensuring only suitable candidates proceed.
  2. Gauge initial interest levels and compatibility from both the employer’s and candidate’s perspectives.
  3. Save valuable time and resources by reducing the number of full-length interviews required.

These preliminary discussions set the stage for more successful hiring outcomes by focusing efforts on a refined list of prospects. Pre-screening is not just about filtering applicants; it’s about creating a foundation for meaningful engagement that can lead to long-term employment relationships.

What is a Pre-Screening Interview ?

A pre-screening interview is an initial step in the recruitment process, serving as a filtering mechanism to identify candidates who meet the basic requirements of the job. It is typically a brief conversation, either over the phone, via video chat, or through an online survey. The primary objective is to assess a candidate’s qualifications, gauge their interest in the position, and determine if their salary expectations align with what the company offers.

How Do Pre-Screening Interviews Differ From Traditional Interviews ?

Pre-screening interviews are distinct from traditional interviews in several ways:

  1. Length and Depth: They are usually shorter and less comprehensive, focusing on essential criteria rather than a deep dive into a candidate’s experience and competencies.
  2. Format: Often conducted remotely rather than in-person, enabling recruiters to efficiently screen a larger pool of applicants.
  3. Purpose: Designed to verify basic qualifications before investing time and resources into more intensive interview stages.

What is the Pre-Screening Interview Process ?

A typical pre-screening interview unfolds following these steps:

  1. Initiation
  • Contact candidates who appear to match the job requirements based on their application materials.
  • Schedule a convenient time for both parties to conduct the pre-screening interview.
  1. Preparation
  • Review the candidate’s resume, cover letter, and any other provided documents in advance.
  • Develop a list of standardized questions that relate to the job’s core requirements.
  1. Conducting the Interview
  • Begin by introducing yourself and explaining the purpose of the call.
  • Ask about work experience relevant to the role at hand.
  • Inquire about professional development goals to ascertain career alignment.
  • Discuss salary expectations early on to ensure they are within company parameters.
  • Evaluate communication skills and overall professionalism throughout the conversation.
  1. Wrapping Up
  • Invite candidates to ask questions about the role or company.
  • Explain next steps clearly – whether that’s advancing them to a formal interview or informing them about when they can expect further communication.
  1. Documentation and Evaluation
  • Take notes during the interview for later reference.
  • Score responses based on predetermined criteria for an objective assessment.
  1. Follow-Up
  •  Notify candidates promptly about their status, whether it’s moving forward or not.

It’s important for recruiters to maintain professionalism throughout this process, as this stage sets the tone for the candidate’s perception of the company. Additionally, clear communication helps manage expectations on both sides and establishes trust early in the relationship between potential employer and employee.

By adhering closely to this structured approach during pre-screening interviews, organizations can effectively streamline their hiring process while simultaneously enhancing candidate experience. Moving forward, companies that incorporate these strategies will be well-equipped to identify top talent efficiently.

Get a free assessment of your recruitment needs

Contact us

Benefits of Incorporating Pre-Screening Interviews in Your Hiring Strategy

When you integrate pre-screening interviews into your hiring protocol, you open the door to a multitude of benefits that enhance the recruitment experience for both your team and potential candidates. Taking a closer look at these advantages reveals how they translate into tangible outcomes that support the overarching objectives of your hiring strategy.

Enhanced Efficiency and Time Savings

  • Streamlined Candidate Pool: By asking pointed questions early on, recruiters can quickly ascertain which applicants meet the basic qualifications for a role. This initial filtering saves hours that would otherwise be spent reviewing countless resumes.
  • Accelerated Hiring Process: With fewer candidates to consider after pre-screening, you can move through subsequent stages more rapidly. This acceleration is crucial in today’s competitive job market, where top talent is often considering multiple offers.
  • Focused In-Person Interviews: When only the most promising candidates reach the face-to-face interview stage, interviews become more productive. Discussions can delve deeper into specifics rather than covering basic qualifications.

Improved Candidate Quality and Fit

  • Alignment with Role Requirements: Pre-screening interviews provide a platform to verify that a candidate’s experience and skills are aligned with the job’s requirements. This leads to shortlisting individuals who are more likely to succeed in the role.
  • Cultural Compatibility Assessment: These early conversations can also shed light on a candidate’s values and whether they resonate with your company culture. A good cultural fit is essential for long-term employee engagement and retention.
  • Clarification of Candidate Expectations: This stage is an opportunity to discuss candidates’ career aspirations and expectations from potential employers, ensuring alignment between their goals and what your organization offers.

Cost-Effectiveness through Initial Candidate Assessment

  • Reduced Turnover Costs: Hiring mismatches are costly. Pre-screening mitigates this risk by weeding out unsuitable candidates early on, which can save the company significant costs associated with turnover.
  • Optimized Resource Allocation: Your HR team’s time is valuable. By concentrating their efforts on the most promising applicants, resources are allocated efficiently, maximizing return on investment in recruitment activities.
  • Improved Budget Management: With a streamlined process and reduced risk of hiring mismatches, budget management becomes more predictable and controlled.

By embracing pre-screening interviews, companies harness these advantages to foster a robust hiring strategy. The result is not only a more efficient recruitment process but also an increase in the quality of new hires, driving organizational success forward.

Different Types of Pre-Screening Interviews You Can Use

When you decide to incorporate pre-screening interviews into your hiring process, the next step is to determine which type of pre-screening interview will best meet your company’s needs. Let’s explore three prevalent types: Phone Pre-Screening Interview, Video Pre-Screening Interview, and Online Survey Pre-Screening Interview.

Phone Pre-Screening Interview

A Phone Pre-Screening Interview is the traditional method where recruiters conduct a brief conversation with the candidate over the phone. This approach has several benefits:

  • Convenience: Phone interviews can be scheduled at a time that suits both the recruiter and candidate, reducing scheduling conflicts.
  • Time-Efficient: They are typically shorter than in-person or video interviews, saving valuable time for both parties.
  • Cost-Effective: There are no travel costs involved for either the recruiter or candidate.

However, phone interviews come with their own challenges:

  • Lack of Visual Cues: Recruiters cannot observe candidates’ body language, which often provides valuable insights into their confidence and communication skills.
  • Potential Miscommunication: Without visual aids, there may be misunderstandings that could have been easily clarified in a face-to-face interview.

Video Pre-Screening Interview

With advancements in technology, Video Pre-Screening Interviews have gained popularity. They provide advantages such as:

  • Visual Interaction: Video interviews allow recruiters to observe candidates’ body language and non-verbal cues.
  • Flexibility: They can be conducted from any location with a stable internet connection, offering convenience for remote candidates.

Yet, they also present certain drawbacks:

  • Technical Difficulties: Unstable internet connections or poor audio/visual quality can disrupt the flow of the interview.
  • Non-Inclusive: Not all candidates may have access to the necessary technology, potentially excluding a pool of talented individuals.

Online Survey Pre-Screening Interview

An Online Survey Pre-Screening Interview involves sending candidates a set of questions through an online platform. This method offers benefits such as:

  • Standardization: All candidates answer the same questions, ensuring a fair and consistent evaluation process.
  • Time-Saving: Recruiters can review responses at their own pace and choose to proceed with candidates who meet the criteria.

However, there are also limitations to this method:

  • Limited Interaction: The lack of personal interaction may not provide a comprehensive assessment of the candidate’s soft skills.
  • Low Response Rate: Candidates may overlook or ignore online surveys, leading to lower participation rates.

Incorporating pre-screening interviews into your hiring strategy requires careful consideration of various factors. These include the role you’re hiring for, the size and capabilities of your recruiting team, your company culture, and the resources available.

Remember that no one-size-fits-all approach exists in recruitment. Therefore, it is essential to constantly evaluate your recruitment strategies and adjust them according to your evolving needs.

Best Practices for Conducting an Effective Pre-Screening Interview

Preparing for the Pre-Screening Interview

A well-prepared interviewer is a successful interviewer. Familiarize yourself with the candidate’s resume, job application, and cover letter prior to the interview. Develop a clear understanding of the job role and its requirements.

Start With Standardized Questions

Adopting standardized questions ensures fairness and consistency across all candidates. It provides an equal playing field for every applicant and eliminates any potential bias from the interviewer. Here are some sample standardized questions you could use:

  1.   Can you briefly describe your previous work experience relevant to this role?
  2. What are your professional development goals?
  3. How do you handle tight deadlines and prioritize tasks?
  4. Could you share a significant career accomplishment that makes you suitable for this position?

Conducting the Pre-Screening Interview

During the interview, maintain professionalism, be respectful, and listen attentively to the candidate’s responses.

Assess Qualities Relevant to Job Roles

Different jobs require different skills and qualities. Tailor your questions so they help assess qualities specific to each job role. For example:

  • Sales Role: Can you share a challenging sales target you had in your previous role and how did you achieve it?
  • Technical Role: Could you explain a complex project where you used your technical skills to solve a problem?
  • Management Role: Can you describe a situation where your leadership skills were tested? How did you handle it?

Importance of Adequate Preparation and Structured Evaluation

Preparation goes beyond just understanding the job role or having questions ready. It also involves setting up an environment conducive for an open discussion, ensuring there are no interruptions or technical glitches, especially in virtual interviews.

Structured evaluation entails noting down candidate responses systematically for later review and comparison. This could involve a scoring system or a checklist to evaluate different parameters like communication skills, technical skills, problem-solving ability, etc.

Mistakes to Avoid in Pre-Screening Interviews

Avoiding common pitfalls can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your pre-screening interview. Here are some mistakes to steer clear of:

  • Lack of Preparation: It’s not just the candidates who need to prepare for the interview. Interviewers should also thoroughly review the candidate’s documents and prepare relevant questions.
  • Inconsistency in Questions: To make fair evaluations, it’s crucial that all candidates are asked the same basic set of questions.
  • Rushing Through the Interview: Pre-screening interviews are typically brief, but that doesn’t mean they should be rushed. Allocate adequate time for each candidate.
  • Neglecting Candidate Experience: Remember, an interview is a two-way street. The candidate is also evaluating your organization during this process. Ensure that their experience is positive, respectful, and professional to enhance your employer brand.

Incorporating these best practices into your pre-screening interview process can significantly improve your hiring strategy.


Let’s circle back to the core essence of Pre-Screening Interviews – a potent tool in your hiring strategy, acting as a sieve to identify top talent and expedite the recruitment process. It saves you valuable resources such as time and capital, while ensuring a rich pool of candidates perfectly aligned with your corporate ethos and job requirements.

Key Takeaways

We’ve delved into the various types of pre-screening interviews, each with their unique strengths, and how to choose the best fit for your specific needs. Employing these methods effectively will undoubtedly enhance your recruitment process, providing a smoother journey for both you and potential candidates.

The Path to Successful Pre-Screening Interviews

Remember, an effective pre-screening interview is not merely about asking questions. It’s about:

  1. Using standardized questions for fairness and consistency,
  2. Preparing adequately to evaluate candidates effectively,
  3. And steering clear of common pitfalls.

This article provides a compass guiding you towards conducting successful pre-screening interviews. It’s now up to you to use these insights to refine your techniques and optimize your recruitment strategy.

Here’s a toast to your success in finding the right talent that will propel your organization towards its goals. Implement these strategies, watch your hiring process transform, and witness the positive impact ripple through your organization.

Get a free assessment of your recruitment needs

Contact us
Miriam Groom, VP Sales & Marketing
Miriam Groom

Miriam Groom is a nationally renowned Industrial & Organizational Therapist and HR Strategist specializing in strategic and innovative talent management & workforce transformation strategies that are highly employee-centric.