Pre-screening interview questions: the first step to hiring
October 4, 2023
min read

Pre-screening interview questions: the first step to hiring

Eli McGarvie
Eli McGarvie

The key to expediting your tech recruitment process and saving time is to conduct pre-screening interviews, often known as preliminary interviews or interview screenings.

Hiring managers who utilise pre-employment assessments report 36% more satisfaction with their final decision than those who don’t. Pre-hire assessments cut down on hiring time and lower the costs of hiring.

Companies that use pre-hire screenings report a 39% lower turnover rate. Moreover, organisations that use pre-hire assessments are 24% more likely to have employees who exceed performance goals.

What is a pre-screening interview?

A pre-screening interview is an initial chat (usually a quick call or online talk) to see if candidates have the basic chops for a tech role. It's the step before the deep-dive technical interviews.

This step helps avoid bad hires and sets the stage for building strong tech teams. In this piece, we'll dive into crucial pre-screening questions tailored for tech talent to pinpoint skills, fit, and potential.

Managers using pre-employment tests are 36% happier with their hires.

Firms with pre-hire screenings see a 39% drop in staff turnover.

Companies using pre-hire tests have 24% more employees meeting performance goals.

9 must-ask pre-screening interview questions for tech talent

We’re cutting the chase. Here are the top ten pre-screening interview questions that will help you unearth the gems among the immense applicant squad.

Remember, this is the first step, not the formal interview, so efficiency is critical. Aim to strike a balance and focus on a thoughtful selection of 3 to 5 questions that provide valuable insights into a candidate’s technical proficiency, problem-solving abilities, and cultural fit, guiding you towards the most promising candidates swiftly and effectively. These questions should be relevant, specific, and straightforward. And they should not take more than 15 minutes to answer.

  1. Tech expertise: “Can you briefly describe your experience with [a specific technology or programming language], and how you have applied it in previous projects?”
  2. Problem-solving skills: “Tell us about a challenging technical problem you encountered in your past work. How did you approach it, and what was the outcome?”
  3. Collaboration and communication: “Describe a project where you had to work closely with a team. How did you contribute, and how did you handle any disagreements or conflicts?”
  4. Adaptability and learning: “The tech industry is constantly changing and evolving. How do you stay on top of the latest trends, and how do you decide what to learn and apply?”
  5. Fondness for tech: “What excites you the most about being a tech professional, and how do you stay motivated to explore new challenges?”
  6. Interest in product development: “Our company is building [product or service] that [solves a problem or meets a need]. What do you like about our product and how would you improve it if you join our team?”
  7. Project ownership: “Have you ever initiated a project or introduced a process improvement in your previous role? Tell us about it and the impact it had.”
  8. Technical creativity: “In your opinion, what is the most innovative tech solution you’ve come up with so far? How did it enhance the project’s success?”
  9. Balancing priorities: “Tech projects often have tight deadlines and competing priorities. How do you manage your time effectively to ensure timely deliverables?”

Pre-screening interviews’ benefits for tech recruiters

Now that we’ve shared them with you, these are some benefits of conducting pre-screening interviews.

  • You’re treating devs better with these: Devs would rather live through very few interview stages. A pre-screening interview is short and to the point. If they’re going to have to bear the burden of jumping into Zoom calls with HR recruiters, they’ll be better off with very short, very well-prepared ones. Moreover, a well-prepared interview setup demonstrates commitment, which devs appreciate.
  • Time-saver: Quickly identify top candidates, reducing effort.
  • Opportunity to set a positive environment: They provide an opportunity to establish initial rapport with applicants and set a positive tone for the subsequent interview stages. If you don’t want your candidates to ghost you, this might be the method.
  • Thorough evaluation: Pre-screening interviews provide an opportunity to assess candidates’ soft skills, such as communication and ease to express themselves, before proceeding to technical assessments.
  • Reduced hiring biases: Pre-screening interviews can help minimise hiring biases and promote diversity. How do you minimise biases? By making sure the counterpart — the dev — feels welcomed rather than walled off.
  • Streamlined hiring process: It helps narrow down the candidate pool.

Preparing practical pre-screening interview questions

We’ve given you the best questions, but we’re also giving you the recipe to write new ones, or, moreover, to rephrase if you get sudden “I don’t understand your question” responses. 

Remember: The effectiveness of a pre-screening interview hinges on the questions posed. The right questions can provide critical insights into a tech candidate. Let's discuss how to frame these questions accurately for the screening process.

  • Purpose-driven questions: Each question should target specific criteria, like technical skills, cultural fit, or problem-solving. Stay focused on the tech role's core needs. You can always ask for their preferred tech stack, without giving hints, to get an honest answer.
  • Skip biased questions: Focus on job-related qualifications and experiences. Keep questions neutral and avoid those that could discriminate based on where they’re based. This seemed superfluous some years ago, but online users increasingly report being asked very localised questions for international, remote, work-from-home roles.
  • Please remember soft skills: Beyond coding, a dev's ability to communicate and work in teams matters. Ask about their teamwork experiences and how they explain tech stuff to non-tech people. You can always try to get from them how they get along with former managers.
Source: Smartbear

Assessing culture fit in pre-screening?

It's easy to fall into the trap of discussing company values during interviews, but let's be candid: most candidates are aware that these values can sometimes be more about branding than day-to-day reality. While it might be customary for HR to share these values as a loyalty-building tool, it might not always be the most effective gauge for the match between a company and a candidate.

During these interviews, it's more practical to focus on how a candidate's personality and behaviour align with the company's actual culture. For a relaxed, young-at-heart company, you'd want candidates who fit that mould. Conversely, for a hard-driven, profit-focused team, you'd seek out similarly motivated individuals. The goal? Match candidates to the authentic company culture, not just its stated ideals.

Source the best talent in Europe

Even with a well-designed pre-screening process, finding top tech talent requires market knowledge, a solid strategy and spending a lot of time and resources on screening candidates, scheduling interviews, and evaluating skills. But what if you could skip all that and get access to pre-screened talent who are ready to start a job immediately?

That’s what we can offer you. WeAreDevelopers is the leading platform for connecting European companies with top developers. We have a large pool of candidates who have already been screened for technical abilities and availability and who are ready to start immediately. You can browse their profiles, contact them directly, and hire them faster than ever.

We can help you save time, cut down the hiring process, and improve your tech team. Book a call with our team or browse our memberships today to learn more.


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