During the hiring process, finding qualified candidates who fit the company’s culture and will be good long-term team members is challenging when you have very little time to get to know them. Enter employee screening questions.

Targeted pre-screening questions during the interview process are crucial to identifying the most qualified candidates. This article will define pre-screening interview questions and provide examples divided into three key categories: eligibility, job performance, and personality.

By asking the right screening questions, you can effectively evaluate and screen candidates and find your next great employee. Read on for the top 21 interview questions to ask to help you hire the perfect candidate.

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What are pre-screening interview questions? 

Employee screening questions are specific questions asked early in the pre-screening interview process to determine if a candidate meets the basic qualifications for a position.

If you have a large applicant pool, they help filter out applicants who may not be a good fit based on skills, experience, availability, or other job requirements.

According to recent stats, asking potential candidates the right pre-screening interview questions can have a significant impact on helping them feel prepared for their new job.

How do new hires feel about onboarding?


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Effective pre-screening interview questions should be clear and direct so you can easily assess if a candidate meets the job description. Asking targeted employee screening questions allows you to zero in on the most promising applicants worth considering for the next stages of the hiring process.

Eligibility questions 

1. When are you able to start? 

Understanding a candidate’s start date availability is crucial. While not the first thing you’ll want to ask them, “When can you start?” is probably the most crucial question early in the pre-screening process. It will help you gauge if the candidate’s timeline aligns with any pressing hiring needs you may have.

For example, if you need to fill the role in 2-3 weeks but the candidate cannot start for two months, it may not be a good match.

Get clarity upfront on their start date availability to save time interviewing someone who cannot begin within your required timeframe. This will allow you to focus your efforts on applicants you can onboard quickly.

2. What are your salary expectations?

Like with start dates, you probably shouldn’t lead with a question about salary expectations. Getting to this question early in the hiring process is key. Interviews where both parties are misaligned on salary expectations are an ineffective use of everyone’s time.

You can ask candidates, “What are your salary expectations for this role?” to understand if their desired pay aligns with the preset salary range you have budgeted.

Getting clarity on salary expectations from the start ensures you only seriously consider applicants whose financial needs and expectations fit what your company can provide. It may seem a bit blunt, but most candidates will appreciate that you’re respecting their time.

3. Can you work physically or remotely? 

Asking candidates, “Can you work physically in our office location or remotely if required?” is an important question in today’s dynamic work environment.

Depending on the role requirements, this gives you insight into whether the applicant is open to on-site or remote work. With hybrid and remote options becoming more common, getting clarity on the candidate’s location preferences and flexibility is key.

Screen for alignment on work location upfront so you save time on candidates who cannot meet the physical or virtual demands of the job.

4. Are you open to occasional travel or relocation if the job requires it?

If the role you are hiring for may involve any travel or potential for relocation, asking candidates, “Are you open to occasional travel or relocation if required?” during the initial pre-screening interview can uncover deal-breakers.

Some applicants have family, health, or other obligations that prohibit extensive time away from home or the ability to relocate.

As a hiring manager, getting clarity upfront if travel or relocation could be possible for the candidate if the job necessitates it occasionally. Knowing this information early on can prevent disappointments down the line.

Job performance pre-screening interview questions

5. Are any certifications or additional training relevant to this role you possess or plan to pursue?

Asking, “Are there any certifications or additional training relevant to this role that you already possess or plan to pursue?” provides insight into a candidate’s experience, qualifications, and commitment to ongoing learning.

Look for candidates’ responses who proactively enhance their knowledge, skills, and experience through certifications, coursework, seminars, and other training opportunities that apply directly to the target position.

A potential employee with relevant credentials demonstrates the necessary qualifications to perform well.

Those interested in pursuing continued training show dedication to continually developing and educating themselves. This question allows you to assess if the applicant has the appropriate foundation and desire for growth to excel in the role.

6. Can you briefly describe your relevant work experience for this role?

Asking candidates, “Can you briefly describe your relevant work experience for this role?” provides quick insight into their background.

Have them summarize applicable positions, responsibilities, and accomplishments that have prepared them for the open job.

Look for roles, skills, and exposure directly tied to the position requirements. This gives you a high-level sense of how closely the candidate’s work history aligns with the target job.

Pay attention to experience gaps that raise concerns. Effective responses will showcase experience that has developed the candidate’s competencies and readiness. With this overview question, you can determine if the applicant’s background warrants moving them to the next interview round.

Character Strengths from Teach Cheat

(Source: Teach Cheat – Canva)

7. What would you say are your top three strengths relating to this job?

A hiring manager should ask this question to reveal what abilities and attributes the candidate believes make them a good fit.  Listen for strengths that align directly with the top skills and qualities you seek in your ideal hire for this role.

The best applicants can speak directly to their capabilities that match the position’s requirements.

For example, creativity, organization, and teamwork may be preferable strengths for a design job. This allows you to evaluate if the candidate possesses strengths integral to success in the open position. Their self-assessment should correlate to the needs of the job.

8. Have you worked in a similar industry or role before? If so, can you provide examples of your accomplishments?

This screening question gives you critical insight into the candidate’s applicable experience. Listen closely to determine if they have held comparable positions, worked in a related industry, or performed highly relevant functions in previous jobs.

If they have direct experience, probe for specific achievements and successes:

  • What types of projects did they lead or participate in? What were the outcomes?
  • How did they drive impact in measurable ways like increasing sales, reducing costs, improving efficiency, etc? Quantifiable results are key.
  • What programs, campaigns, or initiatives did they build, manage, or contribute to? What was the end goal and their role?
  • Did they receive any awards, promotions, or recognition for their contributions?

Relevant examples will allow you to assess if the applicant’s background and experience make them a viable candidate for the open position. Past accomplishments in employees’ previous positions demonstrate transferable skills and proven performance trends you can expect in the future.

9. How do you stay current with industry trends and best practices?

“How do you stay current with industry trends and best practices?” is a good one because it provides insight into how proactive and growth-oriented a candidate is.

Do they proactively participate in webinars, conferences, seminars, and workshops to connect with peers and leaders? Attending events and training opportunities relevant to their field shows commitment to continuing development.

Additionally, look for candidates who describe having strong peer networks, mentors, or industry connections they leverage to learn.

Things like informational interviews, joining associations, and networking groups demonstrate resourcefulness. Note if they speak to following key influencers and thought leaders online through social media, podcasts, and other platforms. These connections may also prove beneficial for your business, too.

Listen for a candidate who will take the initiative to actively enrich their knowledge by regularly reading industry publications, books, and blogs to absorb the latest thinking. 

"Strong collaboration requires a foundation of communication and openness, but you can create comfort with sharing by introducing low-strakes opportunities. HR leaders can do this for company-wide efforts and to build a larger company culture."

Geoff Whiting
Content Strategy Manager

10. Describe a time when you had to work as part of a team to accomplish a goal. What was your role, and how did you contribute?

Asking candidates to “describe a time when you had to work as part of a team to accomplish a goal and what your role and contributions were” provides valuable insight into their collaboration abilities or whether they prefer working independently.

Listen for examples that paint a picture of actively participating and making substantive contributions rather than just going along for the ride. The ideal response will showcase unique perspectives, skills, or efforts that drove progress and shared success for their team.

When conducting screening interviews, look for examples where the applicant took the initiative in areas of strength to:

  • Spearhead key parts of projects
  • Coordinate constructively across departments
  • Solve problems creatively
  • Build strong team chemistry and keep momentum

Substantive examples will demonstrate supporting colleagues through mentoring, troubleshooting, encouragement, and leadership rather than individual achievements.

Take note if the candidate needs help to provide examples of working cooperatively to meet shared objectives. The best hire will showcase experience, leveraging their skills and leadership to participate meaningfully, elevate those around them, and accomplish collective goals.

11. What tools, software, or equipment are you proficient in that are relevant to this job?

This question allows you to assess the candidate’s technical capabilities deeply. Listen for expertise and fluency in the specific programs, applications, systems, machinery, or technologies vital for effectively performing the day-to-day responsibilities of the role.

The ideal response will showcase advanced, hands-on skill sets in the most critical and job-specific platforms rather than just general tools like Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite.

Follow up with probing questions if needed to determine true proficiency. For example, you might ask: 

  • How extensively have you used Program X in a business setting? 
  • Can you describe specific projects or use cases? 
  • How would you rate your skill level with Software Y on a beginner-to-advanced scale? 
  • Are there any equipment troubleshooting experiences you can share?

Take note if the candidate needs deeper knowledge or real fluency with the primary tools needed to excel. Having the right technical expertise is critical, so listen to applicants who demonstrate applied skills instead of just familiarity.

12. Can you provide examples of your problem-solving skills in a work-related context?

Asking candidates to provide examples of problem-solving skills reveals critical thinking and analysis abilities that are often essential job skills. Listen for examples beyond just stating a positive outcome and describing the step-by-step approach taken.

An ideal response will showcase gathering relevant data to clearly define the problem, thinking creatively about potential solutions, evaluating alternatives, identifying root causes through asking “whys,” and consulting with others when needed to find workable solutions.

Specific, process-focused examples should outline how the applicant leveraged analysis, innovation, and resourcefulness to successfully overcome professional obstacles and resolve issues.

Take note if the candidate seems unable to give detailed examples. The best hires will be able to recount scenarios that exemplify strategic, methodical, and creative problem-solving thinking that leads to optimal solutions and continuous improvement.

This provides key insights into their critical thinking capacity needed for effectively overcoming inevitable challenges on the job.

13. How do you manage your time and prioritize tasks to meet deadlines?

Asking time management and task prioritization questions demonstrates how organized and efficient a candidate is in their work execution.

Listen for responses that indicate effective time management, calendar usage, to-do list priorities, and focus on completing high-impact activities first. Well-managed candidates will describe productivity systems, tools, or frameworks they use to stay on track with both short and long-term goals.

Note any answers that suggest last-minute work, procrastination, or emphasis on non-essential tasks. For many jobs, being managed and punctual are essential. Look for candidates who showcase diligence and strategies for ensuring timely, high-quality work submission regardless of job demands or deadlines.

Questions about their general personality 

14. What motivated you to apply for this position?

This screening question provides critical insight into the candidate’s interest and enthusiasm for the specific role versus just needing any job.

An ideal answer will showcase knowledge of your company’s mission, values, products, and the unique opportunities and challenges of the position. Listen for motivations driven by:

  • Passion for the field
  • Desire to develop new skills
  • Completing new challenges
  • Potential for career advancement
  • Qualifications and interests related to the field

The response should express genuine, intrinsic excitement for the core job duties rather than just pursuing a bigger paycheck.

Follow up if the initial response seems vague or superficial. Probing deeper may reveal motivations tied to passion projects, childhood dreams, desire for change, or pursuit of meaning.

Take note if answers need more specific understanding or thoughtfulness. The best candidates will showcase an energetic spirit and intent beyond needing employment. This helps determine fit based on real motivations versus just surface-level qualifications.

If you’re struggling to find someone passionate about the role or field of work, fear not. Sociologists have found that passion for the job doesn’t necessarily equate to better work. 

15. Why are you looking to make a career change/leave your current job?

If candidates are changing roles or industries, asking them about their motivations for a career change can provide important context. Listen for reasonable motivations like:

  • Seeking new challenges
  • Lack of growth opportunities in their current role
  • Corporate layoffs requiring a fresh start
  • Family relocation
  • Pursuing long-held passions

Beware of red flags like frequent job changes, firing, or interpersonal conflicts prompting exit. The candidate should focus their response on positive factors pulling them toward new opportunities rather than bashing past employers.

Changing roles is common, but assess if their rationale and circumstances merit the risks of hiring. With career changers, listen for transferable skills and sincere interest in the field.

If needed, follow up with probing questions to determine whether motivations come from a constructive mindset vs. a concerning mindset. The ideal candidate will showcase strategic, growth-oriented reasons for change that align with their own goals and the potential of your opportunity.

16. How do you handle conflicts or disagreements with coworkers or supervisors?

This screening question reveals the candidate’s communication and emotional intelligence when navigating tense situations.

Ideal responses will demonstrate remaining professional first and foremost. Listen for examples of proactively listening to understand others’ perspectives, finding potential compromise, and focusing on shared goals versus personal egos.

The candidate should showcase self-awareness around hot buttons to avoid and constructive conflict resolution approaches taken such as:

  • Addressing issues 1:1 privately
  • Focusing on the facts
  • Taking time to cool off if needed

Beware of signs of passive aggressiveness, avoidance, defensiveness, or hostility. The best responses will highlight the ability to have calm, mature conversations and employ de-escalation tactics to maintain team cohesion.

Managing conflict in a healthy manner is imperative, so examples of professionalism, empathy, and rising above differences are key. This screening question provides insights into whether the applicant could help maintain strong interpersonal dynamics even in times of disagreement or tension.

17. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This screening question provides a window into the candidate’s professional goals and growth mindset.

Listen for ambition balanced with realism versus far-fetched pipe dreams. Well-developed responses will detail desired skills gained, knowledge built, and progression achieved over time at your organization.

The best answers showcase commitment to customers, career development, and the work itself, rather than just chasing titles or money.

Follow up if the initial response seems vague. Quality candidates will showcase retention potential by sharing an exciting yet grounded vision for their role evolving and continuing contributions in partnership with company goals.

Take note of any unrealistic expectations or short-timer mentalities. While the future is always uncertain, the ideal applicant will exude passion for making a long-term impact and advancing their abilities through opportunities like:

  • Training programs
  • Lateral moves
  • Mentoring
  • Leadership development 

18. What are you most proud of in your career so far?

This question provides unique insight into what drives the applicant beyond skills and qualifications. Listen closely for achievements and accomplishments like:

  • Mentoring others
  • Building customer relationships
  • Creating a lasting program legacy
  • Overcoming major obstacles

Quality examples will go beyond individual awards. High-quality candidates will look to showcase pride in leadership capabilities, business impact, talents unleashed in themselves and others, and collective team accomplishments.

Follow up with probing questions if the initial answer is surface-level. The best responses will show pride in contributions that stretched their abilities, nurtured talent around them, and delivered shared value.

Note any answers focused solely on status symbols like pay raises or job titles without substantiating meaning. Well-rounded candidates will share rich examples that provide a window into their values, priorities, and definition of professional success in terms of transformation created versus just personal gain.

19. What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

Understanding a candidate’s interests and pursuits outside of work provides insights into them as a well-rounded person. Listen closely as they share examples of hobbies, passions, or volunteer work that occupies their free time. Ideal responses showcase diverse interests like sports, arts, community service, and continuing education.

Look for activities that demonstrate intellectual curiosity to keep growing and developing. Simple pleasures like family time or outdoor activities also reveal grounded priorities.

Well-developed responses depict the applicant’s values, relationships, and ability to balance professional demands.

Take note if the candidate seems one-dimensional or needs help identifying meaningful interests besides work. Vibrant examples of passions pursued in service, creativity, learning, or adventure depict a well-rounded person. This could also mean they’re more likely to think innovatively, empathize cross-functionally, and thrive in a corporate culture. 

While professional qualifications come first, consider the power of diverse pursuits and balance in predicting standout employees.

Questions to assess personality and culture fit

20. What questions do you have for me about the role?

Ending pre-screening interviews by opening yourself up to questions, too. This provides a window into the candidate’s engagement.

Quality applicants will have prepared thoughtful questions about:

  • Company culture
  • Training programs
  • Growth paths
  • Challenges to address
  • Day-to-day responsibilities

Relevant pre-screening interview questions depict interest and enthusiasm for details that further their understanding.

Beware of candidates with no questions or questions focused solely on pay or perks. The best hires will showcase preparation and the desire to determine true fit.

They will thoughtfully inquire about aspects of the job that sparked their passion to better envision themselves in the role. Their pre-screening questions demonstrate genuine excitement.

21. Is there anything else I should know as we consider you for this role?

Concluding with a general question like “Is there anything else I should know as we consider you for this role?” allows candidates to share relevant information not yet addressed.

Many will reiterate their strongest qualifications and reinforce their cultural fit. Some may disclose personal situations that provide helpful context, such as an upcoming move that aligns with relocation needs.

Others might offer you direct feedback on how the role could be more appealing. Keep an open mind, as valuable insights can surface. Just be wary of oversharing or negativity. This final opportunity humanizes the applicant. And you may discover a meaningful detail that sets a leading candidate apart.

Wrapping up 

Many employers use various types of employee monitoring software to assess their work performance while they’re employed. But, hiring the right people from the get-go will save some time and effort.

Asking strategic pre-screening interview questions is crucial for identifying top talent for open roles. This lets you assess critical factors like qualifications, experience, motivations, work styles, and team fit early on.

Utilizing a mix of eligibility, performance, and culture-related pre-screening questions will uncover which promising candidates merit your time investment for further interview rounds.

Reference this guide of 21 examples when compiling your next set of role-specific screening interview questions. Before you even create your next job posting, be mindful of how thoughtful and thorough early screening ultimately enables you to hire remarkable employees perfectly suited to excel in your organization.

Category: Management