Framing Your Pre-Interview Questions Can Help You Get the Answers You Want

Who doesn’t like a good template? You know, something you create once and duplicate again and again, even share with colleagues to make everyone’s job a little easier. In the business world, a solid template is one of the ultimate time savers. So why not create a pre-interview question template that your company can use with every hire? If the idea sounds too good to be true, it is…sort of.

There’s no one-size-fits-all pre-interview template

Like many things related to recruiting, there is no “one size fits all” method to pre-interviewing. And that includes the pre-interview questions you ask your top job candidates.

It’s safe to say that just about every company will have unique pre-interview questions to ask. But the same can also be said for every department within a company, and even every opening in a department.

Let’s say you’re a software company with niche products that support K-12 learning environments. You’re based on the West Coast, and 70% of your business comes from school districts in western states. The way you reach district purchasing agents has been pretty traditional: vendor relationships, educational and software tradeshows, and print ads in industry magazines.

But over time, the way you sell has changed.  Purchasing agents are doing more of their research online, and your website presence lags behind the competition. Your senior leaders have decided to bring new energy into your marketing department with three positions: a senior graphic designer with art director chops; a senior project manager who is a master tactician and tactful communicator; and a content specialist who will support your company’s new social media and digital messaging strategy.

Each of these new hires will apply skills, experience, and technical acumen that you’ve never had before. And they’ll be joining a department with its own dynamic within a larger organizational culture: monthly brown bag lunches, annual off-sites, and a quirky celebration ritual that involves streamers and confetti.

Would you use the same list of pre-interview questions that you’ve been using for years to hire sales representatives? Most likely not.  

But you can create a consistent framework that helps you construct your pre-interview questions.


The way job candidates answer your pre-interview questions can provide deeper insight about their skills, experience and motivation, helping you narrow down your list of top candidates before you schedule full interviews. Our recent Spotlight, “Setting Up Your Pre-Interview Strategy,” explores different steps to help you put your pre-interview strategy into place. Read it now.

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Using pre-interview questions to determine motivation and performance

As we mentioned in an earlier article, pre-interview questions aren’t supposed to replace a full interview. Ideally, they will speak to the requirements of the job opening, and help you see how your top job candidates will mix and match with your existing team.

Working from this starting point, many companies build questions around a framework that addresses two broad categories: motivation and performance. While not exactly a templated approach, having a consistent framework in mind can help you ask the kinds of questions that will lead to useful and insightful answers. And when it comes to saving time, you can use many of these questions across different job openings.

Motivation-related questions can help you gain a better sense of a candidate’s career ambitions, their view of their professional trajectory, and even their passion for your company.

They can help you understand everything from what motivates a job candidate on a daily basis, to what motivated them to apply for this job. After all, when a job seeker explains why they want to work for your company, it gives you a chance to see beyond their interest in the job title alone, and form a picture of how they may or may not connect with your brand.

For example:

  • What gets you excited about the work you do? Tell us why?
  • What gets you excited about being part of our team?
  • Where do you see your career growing in the next 3 – 5 years?
  • How do you imagine applying your professional skills to support our company’s mission over time?

Meanwhile, performance-related questions help you understand how each candidate’s skills and experience will impact your team. They also help you tease out some finer details about each candidate’s work.

While you reviewed resumes and portfolios, it’s possible—even likely—that you took notes and tracked specific highlights that jumped out at you from candidate to candidate. When it’s time to send pre-interview questions, you can return to your notes, and dig deeper into a candidate’s work history, skills, and the challenges they’ve faced professionally.

For example:

  • What skills and experiences help you stand out from others in your field?
  • How do you acknowledge and celebrate success and a job well done?
  • Can you describe a professional experience or two where you have been challenged?
  • How can you apply what you learned from previous challenges to new ones that may come up in the future?

As you review the answers you receive to pre-interview questions, you can begin asking yourself questions that help you narrow down your list of Yes candidates. For instance:

  • Which candidates have a connection or understanding of our consumer brand and our industry? How much does this matter?
  • What is their sense of our company culture?
  • Are they excited about supporting our products and services?
  • Do they seem to understand our place in the industry?

Keep in mind that, of all the questions you ask yourself, perhaps the most critical is this: as an employer, can you demonstrate a job-related necessity for asking each question?

Here’s why: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can examine your prescreening questions, the same as they can with interview questions. This is meant to help ensure that no discrimination takes place.

So, as you consider pre-interview questions, be certain that each one will help you gain useful information that’s related to a candidate’s qualifications, skills, and professional experience. If you determine that a question won’t help you meet this mark, then you may want to set it aside.


Asking the right pre-interview questions can help you narrow down your list of Yes candidates, which can lead to a more efficient and effective interview process. myStaffingPro is built with saving time in mind, so you speed up the time-to-hire. Contact a myStaffingPro representative to learn more about how our applicant tracking system can improve your process.

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