Prescreening Job Applicants



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In today’s job market with jobs relatively scarce and large numbers of available candidates, it is highly likely that employers will be inundated with applications that make efficient pre-screening even more critical. Employers have to sift through hundreds of resumes to find the ideal candidates for a job.

Typical methods of applicant pre-screening

Cover Letter Review: The applicant’s cover letter may include a well-crafted overview of their most relevant work experience for the job. The cover letter might summarize why the candidate is well qualified for the position, and should be free of errors and easy to read. Poorly constructed cover letters, or letters with typographical errors might be considered grounds to eliminate a potential candidate.

Resume Review: The applicant’s resume should reflect the skills and experience listed in the job posting and contain keywords that match the qualities you are seeking. Potential red flags include long gaps in employment, spelling errors, educational deficiencies and difficulty holding a job for a reasonable period of time. This method is not reliable by itself because anyone can look good on paper and write the resume to mirror the requirements of the job

Assessment tools: Some companies use assessment tools to evaluate a candidate’s potential fit with the company. These tools often measure specific personality traits along with the candidate’s approach to relevant scenarios, and allow employers to automatically eliminate those who don’t provide the desired responses.

Phone Interview: Employers may wish to interact briefly with potential candidates by phone in order to get a better idea of their ability and evaluate their communication skills. The phone screen may include a few key questions fairly asked of each potential candidate whose answers may be evaluated based on the quality of the answers, the candidate’s understanding and enthusiasm for the position and how the answers compare to other candidate’s responses.

Enhancing the Applicant Prescreening Process

The methods above take time and can delay the process and add additional expense to the company. Consider an automated step before you ever get to the prescreening methods mentioned above.

During the application process, online prescreening questions can be used to filter through unqualified job seekers, enabling employers to spend their time looking at a short list of the most qualified candidates. If executed properly, prescreening can save recruiters and hiring managers as much as 30% to 50% of their time.

Online prescreening can quickly, fairly and efficiently reduce a potentially large candidate pool to a more manageable number that can then be moved through a more rigorous assessment phase. A well-conducted pre-screening process should give an employer a solid list of applicants to interview more thoroughly, and some initial insight into those applicants, allowing the full interview to probe more deeply into each applicant’s most relevant skills and experience.

Examples of Online Prescreening Questions

The employer can develop a list of questions that include the “must have” experience for the job. They can be yes/no, multiple choice or text answers that can actually be scored.

Knockout Questions: The knockout question is a job requirement that the candidate MUST meet to be considered for the position.

If you have an open truck driver position, there may be a knockout question asking if the applicant has a valid driver’s license or any moving violations.


Have you had any moving violations in the past three years?


If an open Sales position requires 40% travel, you might add a knockout question asking the applicant what percentage they are willing to travel. Any answers under 40% could knockout the applicant from the pool.


Would you be able and willing to travel 40% of the time?

Scoring 2

Scoring Questions: A scoring question is any qualification that is not a MUST in order for the job seeker to be considered for the job. However, employers can assign a particular weight or value for different responses to these questions and will identify enough questions to separate “minimally qualified” job seekers from “ideal” job seekers.

If an open Healthcare Provider position requires a candidate to be available for a flexible work schedule, the applicant who appears most flexible may receive a higher score than those who are not.


Ideally, how many hours per week do you desire?

Scoring 3

If an open Teaching position might heavily weigh the applicant’s educational background, the levels of education achieved would be valued differently.


What is the highest level of education you have achieved?

Scoring 4

Benefits of Online Prescreening

  • Eliminates undesirable or unqualified applicants
  • Takes more of the guess work out of hiring and may reduce the time to hire
  • Allows the recruiter or hiring manager to spend their time focusing on the most qualified candidates
  • May reduce the cost of hiring by eliminating extra hours spent conducting phone and personal interviews
  • May reduce the cost of hiring by reducing the number of costly assessment tools or background checks administered
  • Allows the employer to communicate more quickly with applicants who didn’t meet minimum qualifications, reducing phone calls to check on their status
  • Reduces legal liability because all applicants for the same position are asked the same prescreening questions

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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