Creating Better Prescreening Interview Questions With These Tips

When you are recruiting entry-level candidates, sorting out candidates for the interview can be a tough process. There are hundreds of applications to choose from, and a few dozen of them may stand out, so what would be your criteria? An average interview may last from half to an hour – holding interviews with only a dozen candidates will take you a day or two. And what if, only ten minutes into the interview, you know that this person is not fit for the role? Therefore, prescreening interview questions are always a must to quickly assess potential applicants may be a good solution.

1. What is pre-screening interview?

A pre-screening interview is a list of questions that help you learn more about your candidates. This is a supplementary process prior to the extensive interview to shortlist the candidates before you submit them to your hiring managers or pass them to your clients. Entry-level candidates are everywhere, and your jobs will not necessarily require great expertise and experience. However, finding the ones who are motivated and fit the role requires some effort.

Here comes the challenge: screening juniors differs from sorting out senior candidates. Thus, the same questions that you apply to hiring normal applicants usually backfire as the young ones simply have not had a track record in the industry. Additionally, questions for a pre-screening interview should stay at the surface level and deal with broader and more abstract topics such as the candidates’ aspirations and goals, their personal preferences, or their academic journey – anything that they did not make explicit or did not mention in their resumes.

2. Why should you add this step?

Save time: The list for this step contains candidates with exciting traits that may fit the hiring position when you review their applications from the application process. Having insights about them helps to eliminate any applicant that may not meet the requirements and thus saves time when not inviting them for the official interview.

Supporting materials for interview/ future recruitment: Even if the candidates are not chosen for the official interview, their answers provide more data for a set of specific job titles that can help recruiters conduct better recruitment programs (for example, to insert more/ fewer requirements in the application process for the next campaign). This is essentially important when you interview fresh undergraduates and graduates as you can have realistic information about (1) the quality of graduates from specific universities and (2) young people’s expectations for their future jobs.

Improve candidate experience: Adding another step in the process means having another chance to communicate with candidates. As candidates have an opportunity to speak with recruiters in advance, they may feel more relaxed when it comes to the actual interview, ensuring a smooth conversation with a confident candidate. Another way to create an engaging experience for candidates is to streamline the scheduling process to make it effortless, eliminate old-fashioned back-and-forth communication, and enable candidates to self-schedule.

recruiters preparing prescreening interview questions

3. How Should We Conduct Prescreening Interview Questions?

First of all, let’s consider pre-screening interview methods. The pre-screening interview can be conducted through phone call, video call or even with a questionnaire. Each of these tools has its pros and cons, as illustrated below:

Phone call/ Video Call


  • A quick assessment of candidates’ personalities, working attitudes, and temperaments.
  • Time efficient.


  • Similar to an in-person interview, conducting a phone call/ video call interview requires the recruiter to take detailed and extensive notes for future reference and assessment.



  • A questionnaire can adopt a different set of questions for comprehensive assessment.
  • Recruiters can easily revisit the questionnaires’ responses later.


  • Time-consuming: It usually takes a few days for candidates to complete the questionnaire
  • Questions may be confusing or unnecessarily overlapped if not written carefully

4. Sample Pre-screening Interview Questions

The questions may vary based on the positions on the table, but working with entry-level candidates does share similar patterns. As they do not have much working experience, you may want to consider some assessment methods or delve more into their academic records, their student activities, or even their unrelated working experience to give you a more transparent overview of the candidates. In addition to that, you should pay attention to the following three aspects:

1. Background questions

This type of question can give you an overview of the candidate’s professional manner. Based on the answers, you can also assess the applicant’s reflection skills and confidence.

Sample questions:

  • Can you list three of your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How can you overcome them?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What was the biggest challenge in your previous role/ you have ever faced (if the candidate has no prior experience)?
  • How do you describe your working style?

2. Culture expectations

You are looking for a person who can help your team and grow with your company, so making sure that he or she can be comfortable in the new environment is essential. A firm understanding of the working environment the candidate is aiming for can enable you to consider having him on the team better. The questions can be:

  • How do you prefer to be managed?
  • What is an ideal manager for you?
  • Have you ever had a manager that is close to your ideal one?
  • What characteristics of a workplace culture can help you enjoy your work?
  • What career accomplishments can motivate you to thrive in this job further?
  • Have you ever been part of an unmotivated team? What did you do to keep yourself motivated?

3. Job aspirations/ expectations

Due to limited experience, some entry-level candidates may not have a grasp of the role they are applying for. Informed candidates would have done some research and may pass these questions easily, but even with candidates who are not familiar with the role, you can still get to know how far they can go for the job. Sample question:

  • What inspired you to apply for this job?
  • Are you willing to travel for work?
  • Are you available to work on the weekend? For how many hours?
  • In your opinion, what types of challenges you may face in this position?
  • What are you looking for in this job?


All in all, pre-screening interview is a small but essential step for effective recruitment. A pre-screening interview can be a 15-minute phone call/ video call or a short questionnaire to give you insights about candidates before deciding to advance them to the official interview round. With entry-level candidates, you should pay attention to their cultural fit for the company as well as their job inspirations to decide if they can become your next colleague.