Screening Questions

Hiring Success Glossary

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Initial phone screens or interviews are an essential part of the hiring process. They offer employers an efficient way to identify candidates that do not possess the requisite skills and/or comportment for the available position and remove them from the job search.

Phone screens typically last around 15-20 minutes and usually consist of similar questions.

Screening Question Categories:

Below are sections that outline the core categories for phone screening questions.


Screening questions typically start with a candidate’s background. Background questions allow employers to verify that candidates have the requisite skills, experience, and qualifications for the position.

Common background questions include:

  • Tell us about your employment history?
  • What were your responsibilities in your last job?
  • What major challenges did you face in your last position, and how did you address them?
  • Why are you leaving your current position?

New Job Requirements & Responsibilities

Questions about the available position allow employers to gauge your qualifications for, interest in, and plans for your potential new role.

Common questions in this category include:

  • Are you still interested in this position?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What relevant experience for this position do you have?
  • What attracts you about this position and our organization?
  • The requirements for this position include x, y, and z. Briefly describe how you meet each of these requirements.
  • What is your biggest professional accomplishment, and how do you think it pertains to this position?

Questions about the candidate

After an interviewer inquires about a candidate’s background and verifies that they meet all of the qualifications for the position, phone screens typically transition to specific questions about the candidates themselves--their expectations, career plans, ideal work environment, and so forth.

Questions in this category include:

  • What are your salary expectations at your next position?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What is your ideal work environment?

Questions for the employer

Finally, phone screenings often conclude with interviewers asking interviewees if they have any questions. As a job applicant, it is imperative you prepare questions for the interviewer about the role and the organization in advance. Declining to ask any questions when afforded the opportunity to do so is a major red flag for employers.

Here are some suggestions for strong questions to ask your interviewer:

About the Job

  • What does a typical day look like in this position?
  • What are the short and long term goals for a new hire in this position?

About the Organization

  • Why do you enjoy working here?
  • How would you describe the organizational culture?
  • What are the companies goals, both short and long term?
  • What have been the most significant recent challenges the organization has faced?

About the Hiring Process

Industry/Job-Specific Questions

While the above list covers the general questions asked in a phone interview, each industry has its own set of questions tailored to their profession.

For Example:

  • Project Managers: What management tools and strategies do you employ? How do you quantify performance, relative to your competitors? How much money have you saved your company in your current position?
  • Sales Managers: How do you measure performance? How do you measure your team’s and your own performance?
  • Salespersons: What is the greatest obstacle in closing a sale?
  • Managers: Describe your management style?

Red Flags

Here is a list of red flags for the phone screen. Employers should be on the lookout for these common behaviors, which indicate a candidate might not be the best fit for your role. Job seekers, on the other hand, should be sure to avoid making this crucial mistakes.

  • Lack of enthusiasm - a lack of enthusiasm in the interview likely means a lack of enthusiasm for the position
  • No questions for the interviewer - no interest in learning more about the position and the company could mean no interest in the position or the company.
  • Distracted during phone interview - a lack of focus could mean a lack of interest. It could also be indicative or the candidates work ethic.
  • Negative comments about former employers - criticizing former employees shows a lack of professionalism. It also shows, potentially, an inability to take responsibility for professional missteps.
  • Too much focus on money, benefits and perks - employers are looking for someone who is passionate about joining their organization and filling the available role. If a candidate focuses mostly on salary, vacation, work benefits, etc. it suggests that they are not truly interested in the organization, which is not a good indicator of long-term success.
  • Other inappropriate behavior - cursing, inappropriate comments, or other examples of unprofessional behavior are obvious signs a candidate is not right to join an organization.

Tips for a Successful Screening Process

Here is a list of tips for both interviewers and interviewees, on how to ensure the screening process is effective, efficient and successful.

For Interviewees:

  • Make sure you know the job description, backward and forward
  • Know your resume, backward and forward
  • Be concise in your answers
  • Be straight-forward
  • Always follow-up with a thank you note/email

For a detailed list of guidelines on how to succeed in a phone interview, click here. For a similar set of guidelines for Skype or video-interviews, click here.

For Interviewers:

  • Schedule a specific date and time for the interviews to take place
  • Send candidates email/calendar invitations and reminders to verify the interview
  • Prepare your questions. Make sure they are clear and easy to understand
  • Test your technology ahead of time to avoid any hiccups
  • Test your room to make sure it’s quiet and devoid of any noisy distractions
  • Ask follow-up questions, as needed
  • Take brief notes during the interview and more detailed ones afterwards
  • Compare notes with those of the rest of the hiring team
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