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Interview Tips: Pre-screening Interviews

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Interview Tips: Pre-screening Interviews

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In a recent pre-screening, I had a candidate who got frustrated when I asked some standard questions. After sending your CV in for a job application, it’s normal for recruiters to call or e-mail for a pre-screening before first-round interviews.

We ask pre-screening questions to narrow down the list of people applying for a job, determine who meets the minimum requirements, and clarify everyone’s expectations. Knowing what you could get asked will help you make a good impression and improve your chance of getting an interview.

Here are some of the standard questions:

1. Reason for being in the market

We ask this to determine what you’re looking for and whether you’re a good fit for the job. It’s better not to complain to us about what a b*tch your boss is or how crooked your company is. It comes across as unprofessional. You could come across as someone who complains and can’t cope.

People look for jobs for many reasons. Some look for higher incomes, some for better work environments, and others for growth. Be clear of what your reasons are and be professional when relaying them. 

2. Location and Travel

We like to determine whether commuting to work is an issue. For some, distance is an issue and influences whether they’re still interested in the job.

If you’re in a different city, we want to know if you’re willing to relocate and to establish upfront who will bear the cost of your relocation. If the budget allows and we can’t find someone locally, companies can consider paying relocation costs. 

Some roles require extensive travel and companies prefer to be upfront about that because it is a determining factor, especially for those with families.

3. Interest in the role/company

Here we want to see your understanding of the job and the company, and whether your understanding is aligned to ours. It’s also an opportunity to correct any misperceptions.

Please don’t guess what the company does if you don’t know. I once had a candidate who kept talking about how well my company was doing in the engineering industry, which is all very flattering, except that we work in healthcare. Rather, be honest and say you’re unsure and would like to know more.

4. Qualifications and Experience

Here we double check that you have the qualifications required. Some people get creative in how they phrase their qualifications and so it’s not always clear what their qualifications are.

We also check the number of years of experience as well as specific experiences that the job requires, such as working in a specific industry or on a specific system.

5. Availability/Notice Period

This is important depending on how quickly we need to fill the role. There’s a difference between 30 days and one calendar months’ notice period. A calendar month means that you need to give notice either on the 1st or last day of the month and then work that full month in.

6. Work Permit

This applies to foreigners and is critical because it’s illegal to employ people who don’t have permits and companies could get into big trouble for this. We could provide a conditional offer, subject to the candidate receiving their permit. However, this is risky because we don’t know at what point the permit will come through. Rather be upfront and maybe the company will be willing to wait for you.

7. Salary Expectations

And now for the infamous topic that makes people squirm. You’re probably thinking: “Why do you ask about my expected salary, why can’t you just pay me at the top end of the market”. 

We ask salary questions for several reasons. Firstly, we need to determine whether we can meet your expectations. Companies often work with tight budgets, so if we can’t do so, it’s better to let you know early. Jobs usually go through a rigorous grading process and are benchmarked against industry standards. By the time they are advertised, they come with a fair market-related offering. Having said that, many dynamics are at play when determining a salary package. Someone with 10 years of experience would obviously be paid higher than someone with half of that experience.

We also ask about your current benefits to see if we can offer you a competitive overall package to make it worth your move. 

In Closing

The pre-screening process is like a pre-interview. After your CV, it is another chance to make a good impression! Treat it with attention and care. It could be your ticket into a successful first-round interview.

For some tips on how to write a great CV see:



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Loobna is an HR professional working for an international Tech and Healthcare firm. She runs loobna.com, providing CV Services, Interview Coaching and Media Talks. Loobna has a passion for uplifting people. She runs a book club at an orphanage, guest lectured at the University of Cape Town and appeared on radio. All views reflected by Loobna are her own and neither reflect nor are influenced by the views of affiliated companies.

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