How to Handle Pre-Interview Screening Questions
When you’re applying for a job, you may be asked to answer screening questions. Your responses will determine whether you have the basic qualifications for the job and will be invited for an interview.
Some companies want candidates to respond to questions in advance of scheduling a job interview. When they do, they may send a pre-interview screening questionnaire with questions to fill out. In other cases, you may answer questions online or be screened by phone to determine whether you're a fit for the job.
What is Included in Pre-Interview Screening
If you're asked to complete a questionnaire, you may need to share some of the same information that is on your resume and on the job application you submitted.
You may also be asked questions related to your background, your skills, your experience, and your availability for work.
The questionnaire might also include test questions to measure your ability to do the job.
Employers who use pre-interview questionnaires typically send them to candidates before an interview. The questions may be completed online or via email, depending on the company. You will be instructed on how to complete them when you get the questions.
Why Employers Use Pre-Interview Questionnaires
Pre-interview questionnaires allow employers to gather more information about you than that provided in your resume and cover letter. The goal of asking pre-interview questions is to find out whether you are a good fit for both the job and the company, as well as to ask questions that might not be posed during the interview.
It saves the hiring managers time because they will have some of the information they need to make a hiring decision in advance, which leaves more time for other questions during the actual job interview.
Tips for Answering Pre-Interview Questions
Although you may have an interview lined up when you receive the questionnaire, you still need to take the pre-interview seriously. Occasionally, employers will opt not to schedule a formal interview or to cancel an interview if your responses indicate you're not a match for the job.
Most questionnaires are designed to take the candidate about half an hour to fill out. Thoroughly answer each question without providing too much detail, just as you would in an actual in-person or phone interview. If the questionnaire includes space in which to answer each question, don't exceed the space given. Keep your answers concise but complete.
Rather than asking these questions during the actual interview, employers often ask more detailed, recruiting-related questions during the pre-interview. Below are some examples of these questions:
- Where did you see our posting?
- Would you be willing to participate in a phone interview?
- What is the minimum starting yearly salary that you would accept for this position?
- Is there anyone that you would like to meet or talk to during your visit for an interview?
- What decision criteria will you use to decide whether you will accept this job offer if it is made?
- What other companies have you applied to recently?
- May I contact the references you listed on your job application?
- What is your availability? When could you begin work if you were hired?
- What other companies have you applied to recently?
Strengths and Weaknesses
An employer will likely ask you about your strengths and weaknesses during the actual interview. However, pre-interview questionnaires often also contain questions about your strengths and weaknesses, just in case these questions are skipped over during the interview.
Here are typical questions regarding strengths and weaknesses:
- What knowledge areas and technical skills are your strongest?
- What team and leadership skills are your strongest?
- Do you have any additional skills or experiences that you did not include in your resume that we should know about?
- Can you provide us with a sample or demonstration of your best work?
Motivation and Frustration
Employers want to know whether or not you will fit their company's culture and managerial style. They also want to know what motivates you to work at your best: do you have long-term goals, and are they appropriate to the position to which you are applying? Below are sample questions you may be asked about motivation and frustration in the workplace.
- Describe a time when you were asked to work overtime without compensation. How did you manage the situation?
- Where do you expect to be in two years? Five years?
- Are you interested in further professional development?
- How does this position fit in with your long-term goals?
Skill Test Questions
There may be test questions on the pre-interview questionnaire. For example, if you are applying for a writing or editing position, you may be asked to take an editing test. If you're applying for a social media job, you may be asked to explain how to create a Facebook post or live video, Instagram post or story, Twitter post, or ads on these or other major platforms. For applicants applying for programmer jobs, you may be asked about the programs you know and the certifications you hold.
The types of skills questions you will be asked, if any, will be related to the type of position the company is hiring for.
Check Your Responses
Before you send back or submit your questionnaire, be sure to proofread your responses to make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors.
Also be sure that the information you submitted matches your resume and job application. Discrepancies will be a red flag for an employer and could cost you the interview.
Information About the Interview
In addition to asking questions, employers often include information that will be necessary for the upcoming interview (if you have one scheduled) in the questionnaire.
This information may include details on what to wear to the interview, directions to the office, and the materials you will need to bring.
TAKE PRE-INTERVIEW QUESTIONS SERIOUSLY: Hiring managers will assess your responses to the questionnaire, as well as your interview responses, when making a hiring decision.
QUESTIONS CAN VARY: They may be related to your background or abilities, or may even be test questions designed to assess your skills in specific areas.
FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY: If you're asked to provide three sentences, do so—not four or two. Proofread your responses before submitting.