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Applicant Communication: Telephone Pre-Screen

Applicant Communication: Telephone Pre-screen

This week’s handy blog looks at giving you some top tips to master the telephone pre-screen. Pre-vetting applicants before the interview stage is a useful way to gather more information, explain the role further, confirm details and clear up any queries before the formal interview. You can also take this opportunity to whittle down the applicants to a more manageable size for the face-to-face interview.

So, where do you start?

When conducting the pre-screen interview, it is a good idea to create a script/a list of criteria to ask each applicant so you know you’re covering the information you need. We’ve listed some things you may want to go over with them below:

Useful questions to ask during the telephone pre-screen
    • What’s the best method of communication? Please, can you confirm your telephone number/email address?
    • Are you aware of where we are based? How would you transport yourself to work and back?
    • What sort of work are you looking for? Full time, part time, temporary, permanent, long term?
    • Are you prepared to work the hours we are offering? How do you feel about overtime/covering holidays/sickness
    • Do you have any unspent criminal convictions?
    • Ask them to talk you through their CV – a good way to find out how genuine they are being on their CV.

These questions can be your guide to think about the practicalities of that person working for you, i.e. can they get to you easily? Can they commit to the working hours etc? You should have already decided whether they meet your other criteria by their initial application, any further questions regarding their experience or suitability can be delved into deeper in the formal interview where they have time to prepare and research.

When you’re speaking to the applicant over the phone it is useful to have their CV in front of you so you can refer to their initial application and confirm the details on there. During this phase, it is also crucial to take notes as it is difficult to remember everything and you can note down why you did/didn’t invite them to interview. It’s a good reference for yourself and for providing good feedback to the applicants themselves.

Other useful considerations of the telephone pre-screen

In terms of underlying assessment, pre-screen interviews can also provide a good basis for determining other qualities you might be looking for in a prospective employee such as communication and interpersonal skills. Try to use a variety of closed and open ended questions to give the applicant a chance to provide more in depth answers or examples to your questions if necessary.

Don’t forget that whilst you are assessing their communication skills, yours need to be on top form as well, try not to mumble or speak too fast, and try not to sound too robotic when reading from the script. You want to be personable too, reflecting your company brand and culture at all times.

How to present yourself in the telephone pre-screen

The pre-screen isn’t just about the applicant, it’s the first line of communication the applicant has with your company so it needs to be represented well.

Applicants can be applying for a number of jobs at once so speaking with them over the phone before inviting them for an interview is a good way to distinguish yourself as a company and make your role more appealing. Ensure you are selling your company to the applicant as well as asking why they are suitable for the role. You should also take this opportunity to address why an applicant should choose your company over your competitors i.e. by listing benefits that go with the role and providing a summary of why your company is a great place to work.

Closing the call

To close the telephone pre-screen, ask the applicant if they have any questions they’d like to ask you before the formal interview (if applicable). If you don’t know the answer, just get back to them via telephone or email when you find out. Sign off the call by letting them know the next step in the process and when they can expect to hear something by.

Whilst this is a lot of information, remember to keep the pre-screen interviews brief. This conversation is to dig a little bit deeper into the practicalities of working for you and find out additional key information that you require to decide whether to take the applicant through the recruitment process. The formal interview will be in more depth and will help you make hiring decisions based on their work history, CV, skills, and behaviour etc.

Next week, we’ll be looking at arranging interviews to complete the communication series so keep an eye out for that. If you need any help with pre-screening those applicants, please get in touch on 0113 3227243 or emailing us at

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