By: Helios on August 9th, 2013

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Most Important Screening Questions to Ask Candidates

Best Practices | Talent Acquisition

Finding the perfect candidate isn’t always easy, especially when doing it alone. As a recruiter, I have had the privilege to successfully place hundreds of qualified candidates at organizations around the DC area. What’s my secret? Asking the right questions.

During the recruiting life cycle process, it is imperative that you obtain as much information as possible from the candidate under consideration early in the process. A thorough, detailed phone screen or virtual interview that uncovers a candidate’s actual skill set, goals, desires, likes, dislikes, work history, etc., can make the interview process run smoothly if done correctly.

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Top 10 Questions to Ask When Phone Screening a Candidate

Successfully obtaining answers to the following questions when first connecting with a candidate is an excellent start to the process:

  1. Why are you looking? It is important to understand why a candidate is looking for a new opportunity. Whether for career advancement, more money, layoffs, etc., an employer must understand the candidate’s search.
  2. What are you looking for in your next position? By uncovering what a candidate is looking for in terms of the scope of the work the position entails, the company culture, work environment, it will help determine whether or not a candidate is a right fit for your position and organization as a whole.
  3. Tell me about your skill set and areas of expertise. Run through the position description and have the candidate give examples of what they have done in their current and past roles related to the open requisition. If the candidate is in the early stage of their career, you can focus on their education and career interests.
  4. Why did you leave each of your previous positions? Another important question to cover is asking questions about a candidate’s work history. An employer must understand the logic of why a candidate left each of their previous positions, especially if they were only there for a short amount of time. This can uncover “red flags” and reasons not to hire.
  5. What motivates you and gets you excited? An employer must understand what motivates the candidate. In general, if employees are happy with their organization and content with their role within their organization (given they possess the necessary skills), they will likely produce quality work.
  6. Tell me about your ideal work environment. When looking at prospective employers, job seekers must see the work location/facilities in person, meet employees, and observe how everyone interacts with each other (i.e., open or closed-door environment). This will help them decide whether or not they can envision themselves working at your firm.
  7. Tell me about your current compensation and your desired compensation. Compensation is often one of the leading reasons candidates look for new positions. It is essential to understand what the candidate is currently making in base salary and bonuses (if any), what they were making in previous positions, and their desired compensation if they were to leave their current employer. The recruiter must then compare their desired compensation against the requisition, negotiate if necessary, and ultimately determine if the candidate is affordable based on the salary parameters of the position.
  8. Where are you willing to commute? While some candidates do not mind traveling far distances to and from work, many do. It is important to figure out the candidates preferred work locations and inform them of telecommuting options, if applicable, and public transportation (i.e., Metro stops) close by. A candidate’s commute can impact their quality of life and cannot be overlooked.
  9. Where are you in the process of interviews with other organizations? An employer screening/interviewing a candidate must know where the candidate is interviewing and how far they are along in the process. This will give your organization a better idea of what they would have to offer to be competitive with other firms and how much time they have to complete the interview/offer process.
  10. When are you able to start a new position? While the average is 2-3 weeks, it is essential to know if a candidate has anything planned that may prevent them from starting a new position within a reasonable time frame.

With these tools, you are now well-equipped to have a successful phone screen to determine if a candidate is likely to be a good fit from both a culture and skills perspective.  Just remember, to avoid asking questions that will result in yes or no answers, and stay away from the questions NOT to ask.  Best of luck in your search!

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