Pre-Screening Interview Questions (With Examples)

Updated 22 May 2023

When you're applying for a job at certain companies, you might find there's a pre-screening interview process prior to the actual interview. This helps larger companies filter through a greater number of candidates and submit the most promising ones to the recruiter or HR department. Giving good answers to pre-screening interview questions makes it more likely that you can secure a formal interview for the job. In this article, we explain what these questions are, give you some examples and show you how to answer some of them.

Related: Phone Interview Tips to Get You to the Next Round

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What are pre-screening interview questions?

When dealing with a large number of candidates for a position, companies often use pre-screening interviews. They can use this process to select the most promising candidates, who then proceed to be interviewed formally. Pre-screening interviews can take place in different ways, although it's quite common to do them over the phone. A recruiter might chat with you informally for about 20 minutes over the phone to ascertain how promising you are as a candidate.

Although this process is often presented as an informal chat, treat it as seriously as you would an actual interview. A pre-screening interview is your opportunity to make a great first impression and the person chatting with you may be passing on their thoughts to your subsequent interviewer.

Examples of pre-screening questions

These sorts of questions can vary as much as those in a face-to-face interview. It's a good idea to be prepared and to dedicate as much time and effort to these as you would for a formal interview. The questions can be separated into different sections, which are:

General questions

At the beginning of a pre-screening interview, the interviewer typically asks some general questions to get to know you better. These questions can help get the conversation going and give them an idea of what sort of person you are, your background and your motivations. Some common general questions include:

  • How did you find out about this job opening?

  • Can you tell me about yourself?

  • Why are you interested in this job?

  • What are your salary expectations?

  • Are you interviewing with other companies?

  • What do you hope to gain from this new job?

  • What do you know about our company?

  • What interests you most about this position?

  • What would be your ideal work environment?

  • When would you be able to start a new position?

Related: 10 Common Telephone Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

Questions about your experience and background

After you've answered the interviewer's general questions, they may then proceed to ask you for some more detail about your background and experiences. This might include your education, qualifications and previous positions. This can help the recruiter to understand how relevant your background is to the role, what you're capable of in a professional setting and what your general preferences are. Consequently, they might ask the following:

  • What are your responsibilities in your current position?

  • What were your responsibilities at your last position?

  • Do you work well under pressure?

  • What are your greatest strengths?

  • What are your greatest weaknesses?

  • What motivates you?

  • What are your most useful skills?

  • What sort of management style do you prefer?

  • Can you provide us with samples of your work?

  • What sort of environment allows you to work at your best?

  • What are the areas where you have the greatest knowledge?

  • What are your proudest professional achievements?

  • Can you tell me about a time you had a disagreement at work? How did you handle the situation?

  • How would you describe your leadership style?

  • What is a typical day at work for you?

  • What is an ideal day at work for you?

  • How do you manage different deadlines and priorities?

Related: Interviewing Techniques and Tips To Make a Great Impression

In-depth questions

Once the interviewer has a good idea of your background and experiences, they may choose to ask you a few in-depth questions. These questions often require you to answer them in some detail and tend to be quite specific regarding certain skills or situations. Consequently, in-depth questions are also going to vary the most between different industries and roles. These allow the interviewer to understand your most relevant skills, abilities and experiences. For instance, they may ask:

  • What's the most significant change you've implemented?

  • Have you ever had to deal with an underperforming team member? How did you handle them?

  • How proficient are you with [software package]?

  • Have you ever failed to meet a deadline? Tell me what happened.

  • Have you ever had to implement new corporate processes? How did you approach the task?

  • What's the most important duty of a [position]?

  • Which programming languages are you familiar with?

  • Tell me about how you've used social media to implement a marketing strategy.

  • Have you ever had to manage the launch of a new product? How did it go?

  • Have you ever had to deal with a difficult client? How did you handle the situation?

Example answers to pre-screening questions

To help you prepare for a pre-screening interview, below are some questions from the lists above with examples of good answers:

Can you tell me about yourself?

This is arguably one of the most commonly asked questions, both in pre-screening and formal interviews. This is your opportunity to make a fantastic first impression by presenting your skills and background in the most favourable manner possible. Your answer ought to go beyond what's contained in your CV while still remaining brief. A good answer to this question impresses your interviewer and makes them curious about you, which leads to more questions. The answer must also be sufficiently unique to stand out from those of other candidates, while still being informative.

Example: 'I'm an experienced marketing professional who specialises in direct sales. I've got five years of experience in this role, and have managed my own projects in the last two. I'm particularly interested in sustainably sourced clothing and footwear, and have become quite adept at marketing it. I make extensive use of social media platforms and market research to understand the most popular trends, and I'm good at utilising this information for marketing purposes. I'd say I have a natural instinct for what's marketable and appealing to consumers, which I constantly develop to further my career.'

Related: Interview Question: "Tell Me About Yourself"

Why are you interested in this job?

Interviewers ask this question to determine two things about you. First, they want to determine your motivations. They want to know what drives and interests you, which can help them to understand your ambitions and work ethic. Second, they can ascertain how diligent you are. If you've researched the company prior to the pre-screening interview, this is almost certainly going to be obvious to the interviewer due to your answer. This shows that you're serious about getting the position and willing to put in extra effort to get things done.

Example: 'I've been aware of your company since I came across your social media pages a few years ago. I was very interested in the company's commitment to good causes like environmental responsibility, while still being innovative and profitable. I'd always believed that the two priorities were compatible, and it was an inspiration to see a company do this. I've kept an eye on your job advertisements ever since, and I was very excited to see a role I could potentially fill.'

Related: Values-Based Interview Questions and Sample Answers

How do you manage different deadlines and priorities?

Almost every company undergoes periods of increased working pressure caused by deadlines, increased demand or other such factors. The interviewer asks this question to determine whether you're capable of completing your work even when the pressure is increased. This is especially important if the role involves the development or implementation of time-sensitive projects or tasks. Your answer can show the interviewer that you have an organised mindset and a good system for managing competing tasks and priorities.

Example: 'Even when my workload is easily manageable, I maintain a queue of priorities. It takes me a few minutes to determine my list of tasks, but I find it saves a lot of time over the course of a working day. I like to write it down on something like a sticky note application on my desktop. This also allows me to rearrange the queue if anything changes. I develop this list every morning after I've gone through my emails and the previous day's sticky notes.

Generally, my first priority is to always respond to any correspondence. This is because it helps inform my queue of tasks. Unfinished tasks from the previous day come next, after which I attend to those responsibilities whose deadline is closest. When the pressure increases, I add a timeframe to every task, which helps me determine if I need to rethink my queue or request additional assistance.'

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