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Strategies for Effective Screening Interviews

Did you know that hiring costs, on average, $4,129 per role filled? That kind of money can add up fast, particularly for small businesses, so it’s critical that your hiring process is as efficient as possible.  One step in the hiring process, the screening interview, is particularly important to optimize. In this article, we’ll share […]

Did you know that hiring costs, on average, $4,129 per role filled? That kind of money can add up fast, particularly for small businesses, so it’s critical that your hiring process is as efficient as possible. 

One step in the hiring process, the screening interview, is particularly important to optimize. In this article, we’ll share strategies, tips, and tricks to help make sure your next screening interview is as successful as possible. 

The screening interview is your first chance to evaluate a candidate directly. Conducted after you’ve reviewed the candidate’s resume and found them to be a potential fit, the purpose of this step is to determine whether the applicant can actually execute the role’s responsibilities before moving on to more specialized evaluations, tests, and fit interviews. 

The screening interview is also your chance to showcase the best parts of your organization, hype up the candidate for the role, and answer any questions they may have. Every interview is a two-way street, because top performers always have other opportunities to consider. 

Here are a few strategies to make your screening interviews as efficient as possible and identify top candidates early on.

Preparing for successful screening interviews

First up, be sure to do the groundwork necessary to ensure an excellent outcome ahead of time. One of the most crucial requirements here is to have buy-in from stakeholders in your organization on what a good fit looks like.

Be sure you’re screening for applicants with enough skills and experience to get the job done, but also be aware it’s possible to go overboard. For example, there’s no need to ask for five years of experience for an entry-level role. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests reconsidering long-held perspectives like the need for a college degree when alternate certifications exist. 

Another worthwhile exercise before the interview is to identify what qualities are “nice to have” and which are “need to have.” You may want a seasoned hotel manager with experience in high-end resorts and a bachelor’s degree from a top hospitality management program—but are those requirements necessary? Or would you budge for a candidate that really “clicks” in terms of fit? 

Going in with your wants and needs written out is a great way to organize for your next hire.

Crafting effective screening interview questions

As your first connection with the candidate, it’s imperative the questions you ask are as purposeful as possible. John Sullivan, professor of management at San Francisco State University, wrote in Harvard Business Review that it’s a great idea to ask candidates problem-solving questions like real ones they’ll face on the job—instead of ones that rely on historical experiences which may already be outdated. 

Plus, Sullivan said to keep in mind it’s commonplace for candidates to share, review, and practice questions posted on sites like Glassdoor. Custom questions unique to the individual and the role are a good way to get authentic answers from candidates. 

Consider asking questions that gauge candidates on their potential, not just where they’ve been before. This can help level the playing field for candidates who may have experienced life challenges in the past and is also a great way to get a sense of where the person could grow within your organization. 

Try to find out what they really want, where they see themselves, and what excites them. Encouraging candidates to talk about their passions and professional interests can be an effective way to learn more about the kind of employee they are—and if they really are a fit for your team. 

Leveraging technology in screening interviews

Finally, consider using tech tools to make your process even more efficient and insightful. A variety of general productivity tools, like Trint and Otter for transcribing interviews or Zapier for building automations, can be very useful when you’re handling a large number of interviews. 

Wizehire’s purpose-built hiring platform gives businesses a full suite of screening tools, including built-in DISC+ personality assessments and premade screening questions to ensure only the most qualified candidates make it to the interview. It also has a native applicant tracking system to help you stay on top of numerous candidates; plus, an interview scheduling tool to take the pressure off your calendar. If you want to extend functionality with additional automations or connections to your CRM, our system integrates with Zapier, as well. 


Done correctly, the screening interview is a chance to both weed out unqualified candidates and hook top performers. Done wrong, screening interviews can send faulty information to your team and dissuade great candidates from joining your business. By doing the necessary groundwork ahead of time, deciding on a series of winning interview questions, and strategically deploying tech tools where beneficial, you’ll be able to drastically increase the chances that your cost per role is money well spent. 

Author

Logan Nagel

Find your people. Grow your team. Meet your Wizehire.