What Is a Screening Interview?

Definition & Examples of a Screening Interview

Illustration of screening interview tips found in article.

The Balance

A screening interview is a job interview that’s conducted to determine if an applicant is qualified for a job. Typically, employers hold screening interviews in the first round of the hiring process.

Learn more about what to expect from a screening interview and how to prepare for one.

What Is a Screening Interview?

A screening interview is a brief job interview to determine whether you're a qualified applicant. In most cases, a screening interview includes a brief review of your background and a few questions. The questions will be about your qualifications, but the interviewer may also want to know your salary requirements and availability to work.

A screening interview can be conducted over the phone, via video chat, or in person. In any case, the results of the screening interview will determine if the candidate moves to the next round of the interview process.

How a Screening Interview Works

Prospective employers will contact you to set up a time for your screening interview. During the interview, expect very functional questions. At this stage, the interviewer is often a recruiter, not the actual manager for this position. The interviewer’s goal is to create a shortlist of candidates who will continue to the next step in the interview process.

Typical questions during a screening interview include:

  • Tell me about yourself: This icebreaker is intended to make you more comfortable and to provide the hiring manager with insight into your personality. Your answer will help them determine if you’re a good fit for the position and the company culture.
  • Describe your work history: In addition to helping the interviewer fact-check your resume, this question allows you to show how your prior jobs have helped you to gain valuable skills and experience.
  • Salary requirements inquiry: Prepare several ways to answer this question so that you can keep your options open without alienating the interviewer. For example, you might give a range rather than a specific number.
  • Why you want the position: Be as specific as possible and demonstrate your passion for this job and employer—not just any open position in your field.
  • Skill-based questions: For example, “Have you worked deploying newsletters?” or “Do you have experience setting up successful store displays?” are skill-based questions.

If you're doing your screening interview via video conference, test out your set-up well before the interview. Make sure your camera is at eye level and that speakers and microphone work properly.

Requirements for a Screening Interview

To succeed at your screening interview, take the time to prepare. Keep in mind that your interviewer is likely speaking with many people for this position.

Remember, your goal is to make it to the second round of interviews. To stay in the running, you need to demonstrate that you're a highly qualified, passionate candidate who will solve the company’s problems and further their goals.

To prepare for a successful interview:

  1. Review the job description: The job description is a cheat sheet for the company's wants and needs in a candidate. Review the desired qualifications, as well as the main responsibilities involved in the role.
  2. Research the company: While you don't need to do a deep dive, researching the company can help you understand the company's needs and culture better.
  3. Prepare your interview space: If your interview is on the phone or by videoconference, find a quiet place to talk with the interviewer and minimize distractions. It's important to be able to focus on the conversation, not on what's happening around you.
  4. Know your resume: Your resume may have the answers to many of the questions you'll be asked. Be patient if it seems as though your interviewer hasn't read it—they may be interviewing many people. Be prepared with brief descriptions of your previous jobs and stories that prove your abilities.
  5. Be straightforward: Remember, the interviewer is sorting candidates into two piles with screening interviews. You want to wind up in the pile of candidates moving on to the next round. Make it easy by providing exactly the information the interviewer needs. Making a personal connection is a bit less important at this stage of the hiring process.
  6. Follow up with an email thank-you note: As with any point of contact between you and a company, you want to acknowledge your appreciation for the time. Use your thank-you note to remind the interviewer of your qualifications and your enthusiasm for the position. Because this is a first-round interview and the employer may be making decisions on second interviews quickly, send an email thank-you note as soon as possible.

Key Takeaways

  • A screening interview is a job interview that’s conducted to determine if an applicant is qualified for a job.
  • Screening interviews are often by phone or video chat, but they may be in person depending on the company and the position.
  • Take the time to prepare for your screening interview by reviewing potential questions and researching the company.
  • Send a thank-you note via email soon after the interview.  

Article Sources

  1. CareerOneStop. "Types of Interviews," Accessed June 15, 2020.