Doing your homework on a candidate before the interview stage is vitally important.
From assessing their behaviours to getting an overall picture of them as a person, it can be the difference between finding a long-term employee and one who leaves after only a few months.
While we all associate questions with interviews, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t ask a few before you even get to that stage.
With some positions being so competitive, it can often be a stressful affair trying to segregate the contenders from the pretenders.
By doing this, you’ll start to understand who is better matched for the job and will save you valuable time wasted interviewing the wrong people.
There are a number of ways you can ask pre-interview questions.
For instance, if you’re using a recruitment agency, you can get them to ask these questions in their initial chats with the candidates before they even submit a CV to you.
At least you’ll know the candidates put forward are a perfect fit for your business before you make your judgment.
Alternatively, you can add the questions to the application process on the best job board sites.
Just bear in mind, you may see a drop in applicants if you adopt this method, as many either don’t have the time to answer or get put off by it. On the flip side, you’ll be able to recognise who really wants this position and who doesn’t.
To help give you some inspiration, here are seven key questions you should seriously consider asking.
1. Do you have a car?
While some may ask whether a candidate has a license, not everyone will have a car. This is especially true if your business is located in a city centre, as many professionals prefer to use public transport.
Naturally, this question won’t be applicable to every business. But for those who need to attend events, travel around the local area to finalise sales or get to a remote work location, owning a car is an absolute must.
If you’re in a position to offer a company car, you can revert back to the simple question: ‘do you have a license?’
2. Was there a particular reason why you had a gap in employment?
When you look at a candidate’s CV, you’ll regularly find gaps in employment. Either this is down to an unfortunate typo on their part, or there’s a genuine reason why they had some time off.
Although this might not be a deal breaker question, it is an opportunity to test the honesty of a candidate before you get to the interview stage.
For example, if they were released by a company or made redundant, check to see if they tell the truth.
If they hesitate in answering when you bring it up again in the interview or if you can see there isn’t a reference from that particular job, there might be something fishy about that particular gap in employment.
However, if the candidate is open, honest or provides a just answer like paternity leave or a gap year, you have no reason to doubt them.
3. What relevant experience do you have to fulfil this job?
Trying to decipher a CV is sometimes like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Sure, the candidate might have ticked all the boxes on paper, but have they actually got any experience in your particular niche?
Put it this way, a copywriter who has written many forms of digital and printed collateral may not have specifically done so for the recruitment, photography or health industries.
Therefore, if there is a candidate who has, you may lean towards interviewing that one.
Recruiter pro tip
According to SocialTalent, the minimum number of applications a recruiter or business will receive for a job in the UK is 54.
Combine this with the fact they need to call, email and text these candidates, it’s no wonder why the recruitment process often takes a whole.
To help reduce timings, check out our previous post: ‘5 Shortcuts to Finding a Brilliant CV in 30 Seconds’. (You can thank us later.)
4. What kind of work environment do you thrive in?
A slightly different question to ask prior to the interview stage, but nonetheless, very useful.
By asking this, you can understand whether a candidate will culturally fit into your business. If you’re looking for an outgoing salesperson, the chances are that a quiet introvert probably won’t enjoy the loud, high-pressured atmosphere in the office.
However, if you manage a quiet and focused team, you might like someone like this.
Get your employees to write down a few bullet points on how they describe the work environment. You can then collate these and see if the potential candidate uses any of these keywords in their answer.
5. Do you have any holidays coming up?
Discarding an applicant before an interview for simply having a holiday coming up might be a little rash. But if the particular vacancy is on a contract, temp or immediate start basis, sadly this does matter.
On the other hand, establishing holidays with a candidate before an interview can allow your business to map out a strategy going forward.
So if the new employee is going away two weeks after starting, launching a new product which they are needed to support on wouldn’t be the best idea.
You can then discuss notice periods and starting dates during the face to face interview process.
6. If we invited you to an interview, would you need any assistance attending?
This final question doesn’t affect the outcome of whether a candidate is offered an interview or not, but is very important.
If a person has a disability or requires assistance in some way, you should always look to make alterations and plan ahead.
If you don’t, the candidate might instantly be put off by your business and decline any job offer you make in the future.
Whether you decide to ask a candidate to fill out the pre-interview questions as a part of their application online or simply speak to them in person, you should definitely consider adding this to your recruitment process.
It’ll save you time interviewing unnecessary applicants and give you a better understanding of who the person is and what they can offer your business.
During the actual interview, you can then tailor the questions, get to know the candidate and create a relaxed atmosphere.
For more tips on how to do this, check out our previous blog: ‘8 Interview Questions to Lighten the Mood’.
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