A Recruiter’s Guide to Candidate Prescreening

HireHive Team
HireHive Team

What is candidate prescreening?

For employers, this is generally viewed as the entire pre-hire process from reviewing resumes to interviewing candidates. For recruiters, however, there may be more involved. Recruiters often prescreen candidates before submitting them to open positions. They may also provide added-value prescreening such as background checks or drug screens, based on the requirements of their client companies. 

Recruiters Guide To Prescreening

As a recruiter, what do you need to know about the pre-screening process to be a full hiring partner for your clients? Let’s take a closer look. 

1. Resume Reviews

Prescreening always begins by reviewing resumes. The number of resumes received will depend on a variety of factors, including the job posting reach and the specific skills required. The first task is to review all resumes at a high level just to determine if they match the basic requirements before moving them into a “Yes” or “No” pile. 

This part of the process, though just the tip of the iceberg, can also be the most time-consuming. The average job posting will receive about 250 resumes, but around 70% of those are unqualified. And only 2% will get a final interview. It takes recruiters about 6 seconds to read a resume for the first impression. Skimming resumes this way gives you a chance to make the initial determination about skills matches before moving them to the next stage. 

Technology, including artificial intelligence programs, can help you digitally scanning resumes and alerting you to the top matches so you don’t have to spend the time at the front end of the process. 

2. Prescreening Interviews

Once you’ve narrowed down to a handful of applicants, it’s time to reach out directly. This isn’t the formal, final interview but a fact-finding connection to help you continue to narrow down the field of candidates. Many recruiters refer to this step as the “phone screen.” 

Here you want to see how the candidates talk about themselves and understand their familiarity with the work and to see if they are a good match for moving forward. You will also get a sense of their commitment to the process based on how they interact with you on the phone. Are they taking it seriously as they would a face-to-face interview or are they allowing themselves to be distracted while talking? 

3. What pre screening interview questions should you be asking?

During this critical phase of the process, you need to know what pre-screening interview questions to ask all candidates to determine if they should move on to the next steps. The questions you ask here will be different than the more specific ones for the final interviews when you’re determining which of your top candidates will receive the offer. 

At this step, you’re simply trying to determine if the candidates are qualified enough to move on to a more complex screening process. Some questions you can ask include: 

  • What are your strongest skills? 
  • In what areas would you like to improve your skills? 
  • Are there additional skills not currently on your resume? 
  • How would you describe your professional strengths? 
  • What is your biggest weakness and how do you work to improve? 
  • How does your background apply to this job? 
  • What are your long-term career goals? 
  • What would you like to be doing a year, three years, or five years from now? 
  • How would you like to continue your professional development? 
  • What kind of manager do you like to work with? 
  • What is your preferred management style? 
  • What frustrations do you typically have with management? 
  • What would you consider your best leadership skills? 
  • How do you interact with others on the job? 
  • When do you get frustrated with the job? 
  • Describe your daily workflow. 
  • Tell me about a day-in-the-life of your job. 
  • Is there anything you wish you had done differently in a previous position? 
  • Tell me about your greatest accomplishment on the job. 
  • What do you enjoy doing on the job? 
  • What part of your most recent job do you dislike? 
  • Why did you quit or why do you want to leave your current position? 
  • Where else have you applied? 
  • Do you have any current job offers? 
  • What is the lowest starting salary you would realistically consider? 
  • If you move on to the next stages of the application, when can you start the job? 
  • Are you able to provide a sample of your work? 
  • Can you provide professional references? 

4. Skills Assessments

After the phone screen but before formal interviews, some of your applicants will move on to a skills evaluation. You want to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the skills they profess to have are up to the level you need to fill the open position. There are multiple skills evaluations available online to help you make this determination. 

Before choosing a skills evaluation program, make sure they are administered by a qualified and verified testing company so candidates are tested fairly and accurately. 

5. Reference Checks

While reference checks happen traditionally after the final interview, which appears on the surface to be past the prescreening process, it’s still an important step we should mention. Once you’ve selected the candidate to make an offer, you need to complete the reference checks. Since you will be connecting with their list of references, you want to save this process and only contact the references of the candidate you want to hire. 

Ask the candidate to provide references for you to contact. They should have done their homework ahead of time and talked with their references to let them know they would be hearing from you. References are much more than just a formality, though they’re often conducted to just go through the motions. It’s helpful to understand what questions to ask and how to evaluate the information. 

6. Background Checks

In many cases, you will also need to perform a background check on your final candidate. The laws in most countries are clear that this cannot be used as a reason to disqualify a candidate, so it should be conducted as the last piece of the puzzle before hiring. 

The specific kind of background checks you run, if any, will be dependent on the type of job and your local or national laws. 


For recruiters and hiring managers, the prescreening process is just as important as hiring and onboarding. Without it, there is a high risk of a bad hire, which can be a costly mistake both in time and money. 

To give yourself the best advantage, it’s helpful to work with a system that can keep the entire process organized and consistent. To learn more about HireHive and how we can help you today, contact us today. 

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