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A Pre-Interview Questionnaire for Improving Candidate Screening

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Aug 30, 2004

In Part 1 of this article series I outlined the need to gather more information about a candidate’s interests, expectations, and preferences in order to help better determine if they were a “fit” for the job, the manager, your culture, or your company. I recommend the use of a pre-interview questionnaire to gather information from candidates that you are soon to interview. To reiterate, a pre-interview questionnaire is a series of questions that allow you to learn more about the candidate prior to the interview. It asks them to provide information related to their job preferences, career goals, how to best manage them, what frustrates them, and what their key motivators are. Generally, this questionnaire is provided only to candidates who are selected for an interview. But in some cases, it may also become a quick “first cut” assessment tool to screen out a few candidates from the original interview pool. Pre-interview questionnaires can:

  • Reduce the amount time that managers and recruiters must spend in interviews
  • Allow you do reduce the number of interviews
  • Give you insight into what types of activities they value the most (because preferences are forced)
  • Allow the candidate to provide additional information and provide information specific for the job (since most resumes are not customized to a particular job)
  • Help you improve your offer acceptance rates

An Example of a Pre-Interview Questionnaire There is no standard format for pre-interview questionnaires, so you should feel comfortable in selecting whatever questions you like from each of the three distinct areas. Most firms focus on identifying information about the candidate that is generally not in their resume or that is seldom discussed during interviews because of time limitations. However, some firms also include some actual interview questions in the questionnaire in order to reduce the time required for formal interviews. Please note that currently employed candidates (the most desirable kind) are generally willing to spend up to 30 minutes filling out this questionnaire, so pick your final questions judiciously from this “long list” of questions that have been included in this sample. Note: This example contains a master list of questions, and as a result, it is much longer than the final questionnaire that candidates will receive should be. In addition, some questions may appear on the surface to be duplicates of previous questions. However, what you are seeing is that the questionnaire contains several questions that approach a similar topic in slightly different ways, in order to give few choices. But when you narrow down the list and select your final questions, be aware of this potential overlap and make a concerted effort to eliminate any obvious duplications, so that you don’t confuse or frustrate your candidates. CANDIDATE PRE-INTERVIEW QUESTIONNAIRE Resumes and applications provide us with useful information but we find that is also helpful to provide candidates with an opportunity to provide additional information on their interests, skills etc. Please help us understand you better by answering these questions. It’s important that you answer the questions honestly, so that we can accurately assess your “fit” with this job and the organization. Please be aware that your answers may be verified during your interview or during reference checks. Your name _______________________________________ Job title you are applying for ___________________________ Please answer each of these questions to the best of your ability. We don’t expect any “deep thoughts,” so just answer the questions quickly and as honestly as you can. Please remember that several of the questions require you to assign points or weights to your answers, while others ask you to list your preferences in descending order (i.e. to list the most important one first and the least important last). Category 1. Your strengths and weaknesses A. What job responsibilities and duties do you excel at? In order to ensure that this job allows you sufficient opportunity to perform the duties where your performance as clearly excellent, we need to know which jobs duties and responsibilities that you are most proficient at. Using the job duties and responsibilities listed in the job description for this job (if it is not available, just list the responsibilities for your desired job) list the #1 responsibility that you do best. Then list the remaining job duties in descending order. Job responsibilities and duties that you excel at: Note: Please start the list with the job duty or responsibility where your performance is the highest. B. What technical skills and knowledge areas are your strongest? In order to ensure that this job utilizes your best skills, it’s important that we know which of the skills and knowledge areas that you are most proficient at. Using the job skills and knowledge areas listed in the job description for this job (if it is not available, just list the skills for your desired job), rank the ones that you excel at in descending order. Technical job skills and knowledge areas that you excel at: Note: Please start the list with the skill or knowledge area that is your strongest. C. What people, team, and leadership skills are your strongest? It’s important that we know which people, team and leadership skills you are most proficient at, in order to ensure that this job fits your skill profile. Referring to the job skills and knowledge areas listed in the job description for this job (if it is not available, just list the skills that you utilize in your current job) rank the people and leadership skills that you excel at (in descending order). People, team and leadership skills that you excel at: Note: Please start the list with the people, team or leadership skill that is your strongest. D. Do you have any supplemental skills, knowledge areas or experiences that we should know about? We like to provide candidates with an opportunity to highlight any skills, knowledge areas, or experiences that, although they are not directly utilized in your current job, may provide value in our organization. Examples might include language skills, knowledge of equipment, sales or leadership skills, etc. Please list any below. E. Can you provide us with a sample of your best work? In many jobs, it is possible to demonstrate your expertise and capabilities by providing samples of your actual work. Can you describe or name your best work that could be demonstrated, read, or reviewed by others? Examples of work might include reports, presentations, plans, metrics, software you’ve written, descriptions of processes or products, pictures of things that you have designed, sales scripts, websites we can visit, etc. Description of work:

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________ Would you be willing to bring this demonstrable work to the interview? Yes ___

No ____

I have no work that can be easily demonstrated _____ F. What interview question would best allow you to demonstrate your qualifications for this position? Our firm uses a standard list of behavioral interview questions during our interviews. However, on occasion, we find that some individuals (particularly innovative, creative, or diverse individuals) leave our interviews wishing we had asked them a specific question. Every manager has his or her own preferences, but if time permits, is there a particular interview question that you would like us to ask? If you have one, list the question and also explain what skill, knowledge or capability that question would reveal:

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________ G. What are your key strengths? Please list in descending order your job-related strengths (even if these strengths have been listed in other questions): H. What are your most obvious weaknesses? Please list the job-related weaknesses that your supervisors and coworkers have pointed out to you in performance appraisals, team debriefings etc. (even if these weaknesses have been listed in other questions). List what others have said is your biggest weakness first: Category 2. Motivation and “frustrators” A. What are the key motivators that excite you to perform at your very best? It’s important that a job and organization be able to provide the right motivators to new hires so that they can excel. Help us understand what motivates you by listing your key motivators in descending order below. Typical motivators might include pay, benefits, recognition, schedule flexibility, new challenges, learning opportunities, promotional opportunities etc.

Key motivators Criteria weight (points)

Note: Please weight the importance of each criteria. The total should equal 100 points. B. What makes a job fun? We try, whenever possible, to provide a stimulating environment for our employees. Please help us understand what excites you by listing anything that in your experience makes a job fun for you: C. What are the changeable aspects of a job, manager, or organization that normally frustrate you the most? What were the changeable aspects of your last two jobs that you liked the least? Provide us with this information so that we can be sure that this opportunity does not contain many of those “frustrators.” If you’re hired, we will do our best to try to avoid similar issues in your new job. Please list your frustrators in descending order of importance. Note: Please start the list with the factor that frustrates you the most. D. Why specifically did you quit your last job? Please provide us with this information so that we can be sure that this opportunity does not contain any of those factors. If you’re hired, we can try to avoid similar issues. Note: Please start the list with the primary reason that you left. E. Describe the “perfect manager.” Describe the behaviors of a manager that would facilitate your very best work. (Version 1) One of the criteria that can be used to assess your “fit” with our organization is whether we can provide you with the types of management styles that cause you to flourish. Please list the specific management behaviors or actions that you consider the most desirable. Typical management behaviors can include frequency of communication, frequency of praise, the amount and areas of flexibility provided to the employee, the types of decisions where employee input would be sought, the appropriate rewards and recognition, etc. E. What management approaches are most effective in maximizing your performance? (Version 2) One of the key criteria that can be used to assess your “fit” with our organization is whether we can provide you with the type of management supervision that allows you to flourish. Assign points to the most desirable management behaviors and no points to the ones that are less important. Make sure your total points equal 100.

  1. Desired management behaviors Criteria weight (points)
  2. Close supervision and control
  3. Loose supervision and control
  4. Regularly scheduled contact and communication
  5. Only occasional contact and communication
  6. Verbal recognition
  7. Monetary reward and recognition
  8. Mostly individual projects
  9. Mostly team projects
  10. Opportunities to lead
  11. Flexibility to follow others
  12. Provided with varied tasks
  13. Allowed to focus on the same tasks each day
  14. The volume of output being the most important
  15. The quality of the output being the most important

Note: Please assign points to only the most important behaviors. The total should equal 100 points. F. Where would you expect to be in two years? If you were to get this job and you were to perform up to your own highest expectations, what job title, rank, or other level would you expect to be at… After completing your first year?

______________________________________________ After completing your second year?

_____________________________________________ Category 3. Recruiting-related questions A. What decision criteria will you use to decide whether you will accept your next job offer? It’s important that we know your job acceptance criteria so that we can provide you with relevant information in each of those areas. List them in descending order of importance. Typical job acceptance criteria areas include pay, benefits, schedule, development opportunities, promotional opportunities, job responsibilities, resources, management style, etc.

Job acceptance criteria Criteria weight (points)

Note: Please assign points to each of your job acceptance criterion. The total should equal 100 points. B. What other firm’s have you applied to recently? Please list the other firms you’ve applied to recently in descending order of your interest: C. Is there anyone (by title) that you would like to talk to during your visit for an interview? Candidates can make better informed decisions about whether this position is the right fit for them if they have an opportunity to talk to key individuals. If time permits, is there anyone (by title or name) whom you would like to talk to if you are selected to visit? D. Would you be willing to participate in a telephone interview? To save travel costs and inconvenience on the part of candidates, we sometimes conduct interviews over the telephone. Would you be amenable to an initial telephone interview? Yes ____

No ____ E. What is the minimum starting yearly salary that you will accept for this position? In order to avoid wasting a great deal of a candidate’s and hiring manager’s time, it’s important that we know at the beginning of the process whether our salary target for this position meets your minimal expectations. Please be candid, because we do not make counteroffers. My minimum yearly starting salary is: $___________ Category 4. Notifications and useful information Before coming in for an interview, there are several things that we would like you to be aware of:

  • You must take and pass a drug test before you can be hired.
  • Business casual dress is appropriate for interviews at our firm.
  • Because we are a government contractor, no hire can start a position until after the completion of the appropriate security clearances.
  • If you should be selected for an interview, you can help facilitate the scheduling by providing us with the best days and times that you might be available for a interview: _________________________
  • Are there any accommodations that we can make to assist you (as a result of any disabilities you might have)? ______________________________
  • For jobs requiring certification or licensing, please bring your original license with you if you are invited for an interview.

I certify that the information provided here is accurate. Signed ______________________________ Date ___________

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

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