How to win the talent war (and save time) with 3 types of screening questions

Writing a good job description is important.  But if you add a few screening questions you can greatly improve applicant targeting. One of the most compelling reasons to add prescreening questions is to proactively eliminate candidates who don’t fit the job description and will be a waste of your time (and theirs).  With knockout or prescreening questions you will have a much better understanding of your candidate’s skill levels and aptitudes. Great hiring managers screen candidates throughout the hiring process, from before the application right on up to the moment before the offer. Here’s how prescreening questions separate the great from the good when it comes to hiring.

Write a detailed job description – but add screening questions to knockout or filter candidates pre-application.

While a thorough job description is key, screening questions get the candidate right to the heart of a hiring manager’s expectations. This holds true especially for complex or senior job descriptions as a long list of requirements can make it even more difficult for candidates to determine an employer’s must haves. As a hiring manager, think carefully about what skills the candidate needs to do the job. What two or three things are an absolute must for the position?  Make those into prescreening questions for the candidate.

There are typically three types of questions that work best when screening candidates during application.

Want to whittle down your list of applicants to only those truly qualified? Knockout hiring questions provide a way to quickly eliminate applicants before they even apply. These questions require the applicant to state with a checkbox that they possess a certain quality required to apply for the position. Only after checking all statements will they be able to see the application form.

Why not save yourself some time so you don’t have to wade through all those unqualified applicants. Frankly, I’m surprised these types of questions aren’t on all applications. This is a sure way to eliminate guesswork by the candidate or the employer right at the job application stage. At a glance the applicant can see immediately whether they should apply and the employer isn’t bothered by a lot of unqualified candidates.

Make sure these questions are clear and concise. They should also be used for questions with clear yes and no answers. It’s best not to use these questions as a personality test but to rather to determine qualifications. You don’t want to knock out candidates based on questions without a clear yes or no.

A Custom Yes/No hiring question offers a quick way to evaluate applicants

While this is the easiest way to evaluate candidates, these types of questions don’t offer any nuance. You either do or don’t have a specific skill for the position. These questions are best used when certain skills are a must. They can be used for both hard and soft skills; although a yes or no answer on a soft skill can still leave you with questions afterwards on whether the candidate should proceed through the hiring process.

Again, make sure the questions are definitive yes/no questions. Structure the questions based on the list of requirements for the position. Be clear. Don’t make the questions aspirational – you can leave that for the candidate’s cover letter or use the next type of screening question below.

Custom pre-employment test questions take more time and effort but can yield a much more focused picture of the candidates skills

When a hiring manager designs a custom test question the candidate answers by text. This type of pre-employment screening question is best used when you are measuring competency in a skill. This is also best used when you are looking for a unique combination of skill and competence that can’t be measured by a simple yes or no question. For instance, asking a PR candidate to write a short pitch of no more than 250 words. With text questions, hiring managers can get a good sense of whether the candidate’s skills are relevant.

On the Jobbatical hiring platform our clients use all three types of questions to screen and assess candidates.  Since we added this service to the platform, companies have found it very useful in the screening process. Why move candidates through to application when they don’t have the necessary skills? Once you move them to application you can ask them to answer test questions to further determine if they’re a fit for the job.

Pre-employment screening questions can be a powerful tool to get the best candidates through the hiring funnel. What are the most successful hiring screening tools you use as a hiring manager? Share some of your best screening questions and tools in the comments section.


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