Interview screening questions to help you find the best candidates

Developing a strong set of interview screening questions helps both companies and candidates as they move through the recruiting process.

A screening interview is a valuable opportunity for employers and candidates alike. From an employer perspective, this early stage in the job search helps to define candidate interest, suitability and qualifications. It can also provide important indications about an applicant's career plans and overall alignment — or lack thereof — with the open position.

Let's take a closer look at how to build your organization's list of questions to use in the screening process and how these queries can build your understanding of candidate suitability.

Defining the purpose of a screening interview

A screening interview is often the first opportunity for a candidate and a business to interact face to face — or at least through a phone call or video interview. The introductory nature of this meeting must be kept in mind when developing questions and defining goals. The focus on candidate qualifications and interest should drive the interview.

While it's important to filter out candidates who simply aren't a good fit for the position during these interviews, that necessary task should be performed in the appropriate context: relatively basic questions revolving around the foundational aspects of the position, the company and its priorities.

The Harvard Business Review highlighted steps businesses can take to make the larger interview process more effective. Companies should always seek out opportunities to make interviews more engaging, useful and beneficial for everyone involved, and that often means moving on from traditional methods and questions.

When it comes to a screening interview, frequently used queries have a clear purpose: narrowing the candidate pool to create a smaller group of eager, engaged and high-achieving candidates. While your company can and should look for new ways to leverage the information that comes from these meetings, interview screening questions themselves can generally remain the same.

conducting phone interview

Developing effective interview screening questions

The screening interview is an opportunity for your organization and each candidate to learn about one another. You will want to assess several aspects of each candidate's historical performance and potential, including:

Education and professional experience

Some positions have exacting requirements for education and certifications, due to the nature of the work candidates will be expected to perform once on the job. Others have more flexible standards, or rely on past experience above educational attainment. Asking the following questions, depending on context, provides candidates an opportunity to demonstrate basic suitability for the position — as well as demonstrate that they understand these foundational needs:

  • What is your professional experience?
  • Can you describe your academic achievements?
  • Which relevant certifications do you hold?


Learning about a candidate's motivations, interests and personality can help establish if they will be able to contribute to company priorities and help you and others involved in the hiring process better get to know them. A statement as simple as "tell me about yourself" can yield valuable information. Other questions to ask could include:

  • What are your most important personal and professional achievements?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Feasibility and suitability

Requesting information about if, how and when a candidate can take on an open position isn't particularly complicated, but it provides vital information. Questions will vary significantly based on the position, but should cover these topics:

  • Whether the candidate would be able to work on-site (if the position is fully or partially on-site), is willing to relocate or work remotely.
  • How soon the candidate could begin work, if hired.

You also need to determine, on a basic level, if the candidate will be a good fit for the job description and work environment. To increase transparency in this regard, consider asking:

  • What parts of your current or past jobs motivated or excited you?
  • Why do you feel this job is a good fit for you?
  • Which management style suits you best?
  • How has your past work experience prepared you for this position?

Salary and benefits

Pay, health insurance and other forms of compensation and benefits shouldn't be the only thing on a candidate's mind, but these are crucial elements of every job. A screening interview is obviously not the right time to dive into detailed salary discussions, but it can help you identify if a major, irresolvable gap exists between the candidate's salary expectations and what your company has to offer. You might ask questions related to:

  • The candidate's desired salary range.
  • Any benefits that are an absolute must-have for the applicant.

Candidate preparedness

A screening interview is also the time to assess how a candidate prepared for the interview, indicating qualities like attention to detail. You could ask them:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • What made you decide to apply to our company for this position?

A dependable talent acquisition partner

Determining if a candidate is a good fit for both position and culture, has the required background and certifications, and aligns with the salary and benefits offered is a complicated task. Expert recruiters at Beacon Hill are ready, willing and able to assist your efforts to find the best talent possible, from initial screening through onboarding and beyond. To learn more, get in touch with our team today.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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