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How to use employment screening questions to identify top talent


If you want to optimize the hiring process in terms of time and money, you will want to spend less time on unqualified applicants and more with the candidates who fit your requirements.

It’s easier said than done though.

Bad hires are expected: nearly three in four employers admit they have hired the wrong person and the reasons behind this are multifaceted. 

Recruitment isn’t as simple as looking at what someone stated on their resume and using that information to determine whether they’re best suited for the job. After all, 78% of job applicants stretch the truth on their resumes to appear the more qualified candidate for the position. 

How can you ensure that we hire the right person?

Fortunately, there are a few approaches you may take to identify the best candidates for your company.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of them, and we will explain what applicant screening questions are and how to use them.

What are employment screening questions?

Employment screening questions, sometimes known as ‘screeners,’ are a powerful tool for targeting a specific demographic.

Recruiting managers can use them to approve or dismiss applicants based on behaviors and skills that the general screening criteria don’t allow you to evaluate. 

They are usually delivered through quick questionnaires completed online as a part of the initial application process. Still, there are more complex variations that may be used during the screening interview.

Therefore, to achieve an optimal result, you will need to combine two or more types of employment screening questions.

Why should you use screening questions in your recruitment process?

Hiring unqualified or unsuitable candidates for your company frequently results in high employee turnover, which is bad for business and can hinder performance.

Employment screening questions reduce the risk of making a bad hire while also allowing you to filter the applicants quickly and efficiently. 

The following are some advantages of using screening questions while hiring:

  • It’s cost-efficient. Generally, the more candidates you screen, the more money you need to pay. This is because most screening questions surveys exclude the candidates who don’t meet your requirements and only charge for qualified respondents.

  • It saves time. If you don’t use employment screening techniques, you’ll have to filter out unqualified candidates after the survey is completed. It is a waste of time for both the applicants and yourself! Screening questions save you both time and effort.

  • It improves the respondent’s experience. When respondents start answering questions and realize that they are of little relevance to them, they abandon the survey early on. That way, you won’t have to wade through irrelevant applications and waste time on them, and applicants don’t waste time on applying for positions for which they don’t have the necessary experience or qualifications.

  • It helps you hire qualified candidates. According to the Aberdeen Group, companies that conduct pre-employment assessments are 36% more likely to be satisfied with their hires. In addition, screening questions provide a more objective view of your candidates’ hard and soft skills. 

How can you use pre-employment screening questions to filter candidates?

Hiring managers can use screening questions in various ways, but none of them can guarantee you a 0% chance of hiring an unsuitable candidate.

However, when used correctly, employment screening questions may minimize that risk and help you decrease the risk of employee turnover as much as possible. 

To aid you during the recruiting process, we have developed this step-by-step guide on the various stages of the recruitment process regarding screening questions. 

Here are some things you can do to improve the efficiency of recruiting for your company:

1. Use skills tests to identify the best candidates

Pre-employment skills tests consist of a sequence of media-led or text-based questions or tasks designed to measure a candidate’s ability in a particular skill. They usually take up to 10 minutes, and there is only enough time to answer every question; the purpose is to go along as quickly as possible. 

Choosing the right sort of skills tests can make all the difference between hiring an employee that brings value to your company and hiring one that reduces its productivity.

In addition, using a range of tests can help you base your decision on facts rather than gut feeling or prejudice. 

2. Proceed with a brief phone interview with shortlisted candidates

Phone interviews are a more important part of the hiring process than we often give them credit for, and they need meticulous planning on both the recruiter and applicant’s parts. 

After shortlisting the candidates using pre-employment skills tests, you can set up a phone interview with those you believe are qualified for the position. Prepare a list of job-specific questions that are of interest to you ahead of time. 

Remember that phone interviews might run up to 30 minutes. So try to make the most of them!

3. Conduct structured, in-depth interviews with your top applicants

The final stage is to conduct structured interviews with your top applicants — those who responded positively during the phone interview. 

Prepare questions ahead of time regardless of whether you’re conducting the interview in person or via video call.

First, introduce yourself and talk a bit about the vacant position in your company, as well as about the company itself. You can then begin by asking some general questions to ease the tension before moving on to discussing how the candidates can provide value to your company. 

As an interviewer, it’s best to follow the 80/20 rule, which states that you should spend 80% of your time listening and only 20% of your time talking.

However, make sure to keep the interview moving in case the candidate spends too long on one question. Time management is essential for a successful hiring process.

What are the different types of screening questions?

There are several types of employment screening questions, and determining which ones are the most appropriate for the job position you are looking to fill is an integral part of the hiring process.

Each position would need a new set of screening questions; additionally, the sorts of screening questions would vary depending on the stage of the recruitment process. 

We’ve compiled a list of the most popular forms of screening:

types of screening questions

1. Job-related skills tests

Testing the candidates’ required hard skills is crucial if you want to hire skilled employees for your company. There are several types of job-related skills tests, such as:

  • Language tests. They allow you to evaluate an applicant’s level of proficiency in your target language by testing their reading and listening comprehension, grammar, vocabulary, and sentence composition. For example, you’ll be able to determine if they’re capable of handling sales calls, speaking with clients, engaging in negotiations, or working in a foreign or unfamiliar setting. On TestGorilla, you can find tests in 7 languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese, and Mandarin

  • Programming skills tests. According to Forbes, there is a shortage of developers. A large part of that is because employers mostly rely on resumes when looking for candidates with programming expertise. Eighty-seven percent of developers say they’ve taught themselves a new programming skill or language! However, they don’t have a certificate to prove it. That’s why it’s critical to use skills tests to determine what your applicants are truly capable of. 

  • Software skills tests. Sixty percent of job applicants admit to lying about being proficient at a skill they rarely use, such as Excel or Google Analytics. You can use software skills tests to determine whether your prospective hires have the required level of proficiency for the job vacancy you’re attempting to fill. 

  • Role-specific skills tests. They can help you assess the candidate’s skills for specific job positions. Check out TestGorilla’s in-depth guidelines on recruiting qualified candidates for various job positions, such as an expert developer or a professional social media manager

2. Cognitive tests

Cognitive tests allow you to assess your applicants’ analytical, reasoning, and cognitive skills with the help of a professional tool. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and reading comprehension are examples of cognitive tests that can evaluate candidates for many job positions. 

3. Situational judgment questions

Situational judgment questions are designed to measure candidates’ ability to negotiate complex business situations they will face if you hire them. Applicants are provided with work-specific conditions and asked to evaluate how they respond to the work dilemma in question. 

You can use situational judgment tests to evaluate the candidates’ leadership, communication, business judgment, as well as many other sorts of skills in conjunction with role-specific tests. 

This exam is helpful for fast-paced work environments in which your employees will have to make important decisions under pressure.

Further reading: Top situational judgment skills that are essential for your team

4. Personality & culture add tests

The purpose of these types of tests is not to screen applicants but rather to provide you with the bigger picture & a better understanding of candidates. 

Personality assessment such as the Big 5 (OCEAN) test assists you in selecting the best fit for your team based on the personality traits, such as extraversion and emotional stability. Culture tests such as the culture add test lets you learn about the candidates’ interests and values and determine if they’re compatible with your company. In this article on the topic, you will learn more about how to use personality tests effectively for hiring.

5. Job simulations

Job simulations help you better understand the competency of the skills required by your candidates for the tasks they would be performing on a daily basis if you hire them. Such simulation tests can be taken online, in an assessment center, or even over the phone. 

The type of tasks and their complexity vary depending on the job role and the stage of the hiring process in which the candidate is assessed. It can range from typing a certain amount of words per minute to drafting a complete marketing strategy. 

6. Interview questions

The interview is a critical component of the hiring process. It’sUnfortunately, it’s not easy to select the correct style of an interview or the method to conduct it effectively.

According to LinkedIn, job interviews have become predictable and inefficient, and we should be exploring new ways to optimize the process.

Here is something that can help you with that: that’s a list of the different types of interviews from which you can pick the most relevant and appropriate one for the job position you’re looking to fill.

  1. Video Interviews. Video interviews are most popular with high-tech companies and those in the communications sector, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and with companies broadening their search for candidates nationally and internationally, it’s providing interviewers with numerous benefits.

    For example, it reduces travel costs, allowing you and your applicants to make the most of your time, and will enable you to observe the candidate’s body language, unlike reviewing resumes or conducting a phone interview.

  2. Asynchronous video interviews. These are similar to regular video interviews; however, the main difference between asynchronous video interviews and traditional video interviews is that candidates record themselves on camera answering a series of questions while no human interviewer is present.

    They offer the same advantages as video interviews and provide greater flexibility for your company and the applicants. However, the lack of real-time communication might be challenging: respondents don’t have the opportunity to ask you any questions that might interest them, and you might miss asking them to elaborate on something important on the spot. 

  3. Phone interviews. Phone interviews are a quick and low-cost option that can provide you with plenty of information about the candidate as long as you have prepared the right set of questions.

    Focus on their reason for applying to your company and their expectations from you. Of course, establishing if they have the necessary hard and soft skills required for the job is also essential.

    Typically, this type of interview is used to screen specific applications so that only the best candidates have to invest time in a face-to-face interview.

  4. Panel interviews. In this type of interview, there are two or more interviewers present. They typically represent different departments related to the job position or are a supervisor with a small team.

    It can also be an HR manager and members of their hiring team. They ask questions that are often related to different fields. That interview style allows for more information and details about the candidate’s skills to be collected, but it can also be somewhat stressful if left unstructured. 

  5. Face-to-face interviews. Remote interviews have started to replace face-to-face interviews as a result of COVID-19.

    Tiffany Ballve, a talent sourcing manager, shared on SHRM that before going virtual, she could only conduct roughly 15 events where they could interview engineers for Microsoft each month. Her team conducted 30 to 35 events per month when hiring had to be done entirely online.

    Although being less time-efficient, face-to-face meetings provide the highest level of engagement and are especially effective for jobs that require strong social and communication skills. Perhaps the answer is balance: 41% of hiring managers said they want to use a combination of virtual and in-person interviews during the recruitment process. 

Learning how to conduct organized interviews is another technique to improve the efficiency of the interview screening process. Here is an interview guide template that can help you with that. 

Screening questions guide: Top pre-screening interview questions for candidates

It’s a good idea to conduct pre-screening interviews with the approved candidates after completing the pre-employment skills test.

Picking the right questions for the interview is a crucial part of the hiring process. Here are some things that are important to ask:

  1. What about current and previous working experience makes you a good fit for this position? What challenges have you faced that have prepared you for this job?

  2. What are your goals for professional development? How will getting this job help you with that?

  3. What makes you a good fit for this job position?

  4. How do you imagine the perfect work environment for you?

  5. What keeps you motivated to work efficiently?

  6. What are the achievements that you take the most pride in? 

  7. How do you usually organize your tasks and projects?

However, conducting an interview isn’t only about asking the right questions. Pay close attention to what the candidates aren’t saying directly but reveal a lot about their intentions.

Some red flags to look out for are:

  1. The candidate doesn’t appear interested in the position and barely asks you any questions about it or the company.

  2. They are mainly concerned with the salary and job benefits.

  3. They haven’t done much or any research about the job or the company.

  4. They complain about their previous employer or workplace and their negative working experience. 

Use the right employment screening questions to hire the best applicants

Employment screening questions are a powerful tool for identifying and attracting top talent for your company and may take various forms: skills tests, interview questions, pre-screening questions, asynchronous video questions, and more.

Using the correct combination of employment screening questions can help you quickly identify the best candidates effortlessly, making your recruitment process faster and more efficient. To get started with TestGorilla, try our free plan today.


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