The three screening questions you must ask before meeting a candidate

Man with beard on phone in office

We’ve all had it happen to us. We spend an entire day interviewing one candidate after another only to realize at least half of them were a complete waste of time.

They all looked great on paper, but one seemed to know absolutely nothing about the company, another thought she was interviewing for a different position, and a third wouldn’t be available to start for three months. It can be incredibly frustrating.

That’s why you should always ask three screening questions prior to inviting someone in for a face-to-face chat, either by phone or by email.

Of course, one of the most important things you need to determine before hiring someone is whether they are a good fit for your organization, and this is something that must be done in person. You can’t really tell if someone is a fit until you meet them. But, before you get to that, you need to know the following:

      • Can they do the job?


      • Do they really want the job?


    • Are they available to do the job when you need them to do it?


If the answer to any of these questions is no, you’re not going to hire them. And these are all answers you can get – or at least get a sense of – by phone or email.

So, here are the three questions you need to ask to screen candidates before you meet them:

1. What is it that attracted you to this position? The answer to this will tell you several important things. It will tell you if they even remember applying for the position – which some people might not if they’ve sent out 150 resumes in the past month – and how much they know about it. And it will tell you whether they can do the job, as a good candidate will immediately use this opportunity to tell you how the job suits them and how they are suited for it, ideally mentioning specific skills asked for in the job description that they possess themselves.

2. What is it that attracted you to our company? If someone wants the job, they will have done their research. This answer will tell you if the candidate has done any research into your organization. A good candidate will take this opportunity to show you that they are eager by demonstrating that they have made an extra effort to learn about the workplace. They will also try to showcase why they are a good fit for your company (which you still have to determine fully later) by telling you how their skillset and experience fits with that they have learned.

3. Where are you in your search? Are they just putting out feelers or are they actively going on interviews and even already getting offers? If you are very interested and the candidate is in danger of being snatched up, you would consider moving quickly. If the person is not working, why are they unemployed? Ask. If they currently hold another position, you need to know how much lead time they need to give before leaving. If they can’t start for six weeks, you need to either have a plan for the meantime or be ready to pass.

With these three questions, you can determine the three aforementioned important factors. Only if the candidate passes the first screen is it then time to bring them in for an in-person meeting.

You’ve learned what you need to know, and everyone has saved a bit of time.


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