Pre-screening can seem like a small blip on the map to hiring an employee. Applications come in, you review them, choose who you want to screen, have a quick call with each applicant, and then decide if they should be invited in for a more in-depth, formal interview. Reviewing applications can take a long time. Interviews are lengthy and intensive. That screening conversation in the middle: how important is it, really?
As it turns out, candidate screening has more benefits than what might initially come to mind. Sure, it can make the interview process more efficient, but pre-screening is another opportunity to improve candidate experience and your employer branding strategy. The key is understanding how a pre-screen interview affects the candidate experience, and it may not be what you think.
Standardizing Pre-Screening Questions
For The Balance, Susan M. Heathfield has shared some of her recommended phone interview questions. These are some great preliminary questions that can help standardize the information you get from your screening interviews, similar to how we’ve previously recommended standardizing interview and reference-checking questions. This can help with making more informed decisions about who to invite in for an interview, and it can also provide some context for what your interview candidates might talk about once you meet face-to-face. Similar to other areas of standardization in the interview process, this is a great opportunity to level the playing field for all applicants, offering a better, fairer candidate experience. But this isn’t the only place where the experience can be improved.
In an article for Inc, Elizabeth Dukes notes something that I think can be easy to forget: “During a job search, no news is not good news.” Recruiters, hiring managers, and all the other stakeholders in the hiring process are busy. You’re swamped with reviewing applications, screening candidates, scheduling interviews, preparing for those interviews, and so much more – and sometimes, you’re doing it all for multiple open positions. But Dukes reminds us that job applicants are busy too:
The candidate thinks, "I spent hours answering questions online and in person about the minutiae of every job I've ever had, and you can't even send me a 'Thanks, but no thanks' email?"
This is another chance to leverage communication to improve the candidate experience. Keep your job applicants informed. Set expectations as part of the screening conversation, and make sure you follow through. I know, I know – it can be awkward to send that “thanks, but not thanks” email. But is avoiding that communication really worth jeopardizing your candidate experience? At a time when, according to Lisa Quast at Forbes, 60% of candidates report having a bad candidate experience, wouldn’t it be better to contribute to the other 40%?
How effective is your company's candidate experience? Take the McQuaig Candidate Experience Grader to find out!
Providing Better Options
So you’ve got the questions nailed down, and you’re communicating well with your candidates.
Wait – hold on.
You’ve improved the frequency and consistency of your communications to each candidate, but are you sure you’re communicating with them in the right way? In an article for Workopolis, Sonya Matheson recommends looking into video interviewing for the pre-screening process. This is a great example of improving the candidate experience in a way that benefits both the candidate and your company. Matheson notes that the flexibility of video interviewing – allowing candidates to participate at a time that works for them – can be a real help to those who have applied to your job. Plus, if the questions are pre-recorded or pre-written, hiring managers and recruiters can save time by automatically emailing candidates, instead of spending time on the phone – or worse, spending days playing phone tag until you finally get connected.
Making the transition to video-based pre-screening interviews can indicate to your candidates that you care about their time and their busy schedules. While some candidates might be excited to speak with you instantly, others may prefer to wait until they’re home from work, at a time when you’re not at the office. This sort of flexibility is an effective way to gain some additional respect from your job applicants, and a great way to improve candidate experience.
The pre-screening process is an important step in finding the right candidates to bring in for an interview, but it’s also an opportunity to deliver on candidate experience. By standardizing the questions you ask, letting candidates know the status of their application before and after this step, and considering additional opportunities to make the process more flexible for your applicants, your organization can offer up a more positive candidate experience for everyone who gets to the pre-screening stage.