Sourcing Top Talent: Why Pre-Screening Is Essential

4 years ago


Let’s face it; knowing how to interview can be a challenge. Conducting an interview isn’t easy and it doesn’t always come naturally to many people. But why is this the case?

It’s because most interviewers are unarmed with the appropriate interview questions in the first instance and moreover, are unable to follow-up up on candidate responses. We’re subsequently left with that awkward void in conversation that happens when two strangers sit together for the first time.

An interview is often the first time an interviewer and interviewee speak. You’ve taken an hour out of your day to meet with someone who could potentially have none of the skills, attitudes or personality traits to fit into your business. Why?

When we’re sourcing and selecting candidates here at Cummins Mellor, we conduct pre-screening calls with all candidates before inviting them in for a face to face interview. As we all know, candidate CV’s can lack substance and in worse case scenarios, lacking in truth altogether! The best way to find out more about someone is to speak with them in the first instance – this will save you huge amounts of time in the long run.

This initial telephone call can tell you most of what you need to know about a candidate’s basic personality traits and skills – first impressions count and this is the candidate’s opportunity to show you what they’re made of. If you’re not getting positive vibes over the phone then you can save yourself the heartache of wasted hours in interview.


Here are some of my top tips on how to execute a successful pre-screening call…

1. Introduce yourself and your business… 

Before you start trying to ask them questions, you’ve got to take an opportunity to sell your business and your opportunity. Keep it brief, but ensure the candidate knows;

– Who you are
– Where you’re calling from
– Your role within your organisation
– A bit about the role you’re recruiting for – are they still interested?
– The benefits of working in your business and what this opportunity can offer them

This introduction should set the tone for the rest of the call; let the candidate know that you’re looking to find out a little more about them with a view to inviting them for interview. A strong candidate should pick up this gauntlet and aim to impress. Equally, your introduction should make the candidate hungry to want to come and work within your business so ensure you sell it!


2. Start off with some open questions…

– Tell me why you’ve applied for this role?
– What is it that’s interested you in working for our company?
– Why is it that you’re looking for a new opportunity?

Get them talking! Assess how are they are coming across over the phone, what is their telephone manner like? See what they know about your business – do they even recall applying for your role?


3. Walk through their career history…

Go through their most recent roles one by one to get an understanding of their skills and capabilities. Use this time to establish their core competencies, strengths and career ambitions. Keep your questions broad, try:

– Talk me through your role at (X Company)
– What were your core achievements in this role?
– What challenges did you face in this role?
– What was your reason for leaving / Why are you looking to leave?

Listen to the language they use here – they should be speaking positively – be wary of the ‘woe is me’ tales or candidates who give strings of stories of bad endings with companies. When answering these questions listen out for use of the word “we” – remember, always question what part the individual played. You want to know their skills, not that of the team they were in.


4. Move on to their future…

– What are you ideally looking for in a new role?
– What are your core career objectives for the next 5 years?
– What do I need to do as a new employer to attract you to my business?

Every business needs someone with ambition – they don’t need to be the next Alan Sugar but it’s important that they appear committed to their career.


5. Make a decision…

Act fast – if you like the sound of them then book them in for a face to face meeting as soon as possible. Good candidates get snapped up quickly so this swift reaction keeps momentum with the recruitment process and keeps their interest.

Make sure you find out at this point what other roles they have applied for – if you like them then you need to know what competition you’re up against to win their affections, you may also need to see them sharpish so as not to miss out on them.

If you do invite them for interview then send a personal follow up email that confirms it in writing and advises who they’ll be meeting with etc. This is another opportunity to show your commitment to hiring the right person for your business.

If you’re not keen, then offer feedback there and then. Candidates appreciate feedback; in fact, they crave it. Explain that you won’t be progressing them to the next stage and give them the reasons why. Receiving constructive feedback will play a key role in them progressing in their job search and receiving this from a business professional will be very enlightening for a candidate.

Not only that, but it creates a positive impression of your business for the candidate. You never know, there may be a role around the corner that they may be well suited for so you want to keep that door propped open.


When you’re next recruiting a new team member, don’t waste your time in hours of interviews with candidates needlessly. You can sample a larger number of candidates by telephone screening them first and only inviting the crème de la crème in for interview. Give it a go – I assure you it’ll make a difference!

helen signatureIf you would like further advice regarding recruiting talent for your business, get in touch!

01254 239363
[email protected]



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