How We Conduct Effective Pre-Screening Interviews (+17 Questions)

Written by
Ed Driver
Last updated:
Created on:
June 28, 2024

How We Conduct Effective Pre-Screening Interviews (+17 Questions)

You need an efficient process for figuring out which candidates don’t meet the baseline requirements for a position. Why? Because many candidates simply won’t.

Only around 20% of applicants make it through to the interview stage for any given job. There are all kinds of potential reasons for this, but the most common is that they don’t meet the baseline requirements that they need to do the job you’re hiring for.

That’s where pre-screening interviews come in. These interviews help you quickly determine if they are qualified and potentially a good fit for the role, potentially saving you tons of time and effort in the long run.

Want to learn how to conduct effective pre-screening interviews? This Willo guide explains everything you need to know.

What Is a Pre-Screening Interview?

A pre-screening interview is the earliest stage of the overall hiring process. 

Its sole goal is narrowing a large list of candidates and removing any clear bad-fit candidates based on non-negotiable job requirements that are easy to define and measure (for instance, language skills or knowing how to use a certain code base). It’s not an especially common interview stage, but it can be a very useful tool for narrowing down a large list of candidates—possibly during a high-volume hiring cycle.

It’s basically a way to get to know applicants well enough to determine whether they meet the baseline requirements for the position. 

These are things like:

  • Legality: Are they legally allowed to work for you? (e.g., a U.S. work visa)
  • Language skills: Do they speak the languages necessary for the job?
  • Technical skills: Do they have the specific technical skills you need? (e.g., Python knowledge)
  • Availability: Are they available to work the hours required for the job?
  • Basic qualifications: Do they have the necessary certifications or licenses? (e.g., CPA certification)

If a person meets these basic requirements, they’ll typically move on to the next stage of interviews. If not, you can quickly move on to candidates that do meet your requirements.

How to Conduct Pre-Screening Interviews

1. Select a pre-screening interview format

The first decision you’d have to make when setting up a pre-screen interview is the right format.

Our recommendation? Async video interviews. This format is great for pre-screening interviews because it’s a win-win for recruiters and candidates:

  • Recruiters are able to save time by watching and reviewing pre-recorded videos on demand rather than scheduling and conducting live interviews. Plus, they can watch back recordings as many times as they’d like for additional context.
  • Candidates get the convenience of recording the interview at a time that works best for them without the pressure and nerves of a live interview. This is great for candidates in different time zones or with school or work commitments during normal business hours.

That said, there are definitely other ways to conduct pre-screening interviews, including:

  • Phone calls
  • Video calls
  • Questionnaires with text-based responses or multiple-choice questions (for gathering basic information)
  • Document uploads (e.g., work portfolios)

2. Choose an async pre-screening interview tool

The next step is choosing a tool to conduct your pre-screening interviews. This will largely depend on the format you want to use since most interview tools will only support one.

If you’re interested in video, text-based responses, multiple-choice questions, or document uploads, Willo is a great choice. We make it simple to set up interviews, verify candidate identities, and review the recordings at your convenience. Plus, our collaboration tools make it easy to gather input from stakeholders.

But don’t take our word for it. 

InHealth saved over 1000 hours of recruiters' time by speeding up their screening process with Willo’s async tools. We also helped Tunstall screen over 700 candidates within a month, streamlining their hiring process and cutting costs.

3. Come up with pre-screening interview questions 

Next, it’s time to come up with questions. 

A simple way to do this is by asking, “What information will help us clearly determine if someone will not be able to perform well in this role?” For example, being able to legally work in the country where the job is located is often a must-have for most positions. If you sponsor visas, though, don’t ask about legal work status at this stage; stick to the true must-haves only.

We recommend shaping your questions around the following: 

  • Viability: Things that bar a candidate from performing the job according to the basic qualifications.
  • Skills: The essential skills and experiences that a candidate needs in order to be successful in the role. Bias can creep in here if you aren’t careful. To avoid this, make sure you only ask about must-have skills here—not desirables.

Here are 17 pre-screening interview questions to get you started:


  1. Are you legally authorized to work in [country] without any restrictions?
  2. Do you currently require or will you require visa sponsorship to work in [country]?
  3. Do you possess a valid and non-expired [specific certification] required for this role?
  4. Are you willing to undergo a background check as part of the hiring process?
  5. Do you have any obligations or non-compete agreements that may prevent you from working with us?
  6. Are you able to start work on [specific date] or within [specific timeframe]?
  7. Do you have any current or past legal issues that might affect your employment with our company?


  1. Are you proficient in [specific tool or software]?
  2. Do you have experience working with [specific programming language]?
  3. Have you managed projects using [specific project management methodology]?
  4. Are you skilled in using [specific hardware or equipment]?
  5. Do you have a certification in [specific skill or area]?
  6. Have you ever led a team of [number] or more?
  7. Have you worked in [specific industry] before?
  8. Have you worked as a [specific job title] or similar before?
  9. Are you capable of troubleshooting issues in [specific system or technology]?
  10. Do you have experience in [specific task required for the job]?

4. Setup your interview with Willo

Once you’ve decided on your questions, either distribute them to interviewers (if you're going with live interviews) or set up your async interview.

With Willo, the interview setup process is simple.

Start by writing the question (or using our question generator to get inspiration). Then, choose the type of response you want—video, audio, text, file, checkbox, or multiple choice. You can also set retakes, thinking time, and answer duration to structure the process.

Need to verify identity and right to work? No problem—Willo makes it easy to include identity verification steps in your interview process.

5. Evaluate responses transparently and shortlist the candidates 

The final step in this process is reviewing and evaluating the responses from your candidates. 

Your goal here is to determine which candidates should proceed to the next stage of interviews and which should be passed over. To make this as systematic and fair as possible, we recommend creating an interview scorecard that you can turn to when reviewing interviews.

Here’s how it works. First, list the requirements you’re testing for in the interview. 

For example:

  • Communication
  • Enthusiasm 
  • Proven experience 
  • Willingness to learn 
  • Thoughtful ideas

Then, choose a scale to rate each requirement, such as a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. As you review each candidate’s responses, have each recruiter or interviewer assign a score for each requirement. Then, you can easily compare and contrast each candidate’s overall scores.

With Willo, you can do this directly in our async screening tool. As you review video recordings, each stakeholder is able to grade candidates on the same scale for each job-specific requirement:

  • Strong No
  • No 
  • Maybe 
  • Yes
  • Strong yes 

Once you've reviewed and scored all responses, analyze the scorecard. You can compare candidates’ scores side by side to easily see who is the strongest fit for the role. You can also compare candidates as a group to get a better understanding of the overall pool of applicants.

6. Clearly communicate the outcome to candidates

Last but not least—inform your candidates about any decisions you make. You can communicate this information via email, chat, or phone call. Be sure to be clear and empathetic, and let the candidate know about any feedback or next steps.

Here are some tips for communicating outcomes to candidates:

Shortlisted candidates

  • Prioritize timely communication: Don't leave shortlisted candidates hanging. Try to reach out within a week of your decision so that they don’t start wondering if they’ve been ghosted.
  • Use human-written templates: There’s nothing wrong with using templates to communicate with candidates, but make sure your templates are written in your brand’s voice. Briefly mention the next steps in the interview process (e.g. in-person interview or technical assessment).

Unsuccessful candidates

  • Acknowledge all applications: Sending a rejection email shows courtesy and professionalism.
  • Provide a clear reason (if you’re able to): Offering feedback to unsuccessful candidates isn’t always the right move. But, if you’re prompted for a reason, be constructive. Unsuccessful candidates may still have a place at your company in the future (and you don’t want to encourage negative reviews).
  • Offer alternatives, if available: If the reason for rejection is fixable (e.g. a skill not being at the level you need), you could potentially note this and offer them the chance to reapply in the future, if that makes sense for the candidate and if a role is available.
  • Offer encouragement: A polite closing line expressing encouragement for their job search can leave a positive impression (e.g., "We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors"). 

Conduct Pre-Screening Interviews With Willo

Pre-screening interviews are a smart strategy for boosting recruiting efficiency and improving the quality of your hires. They’re the widest part of your recruitment funnel, and they save you time and effort by evaluating candidates before they advance to the next stage of the hiring process.

Looking for a tool that supports efficient, effective pre-screening interviews?

With Willo, you can easily collect and analyze async video interviews with potential candidates, allowing you to assess their skills and personality before investing time in a face-to-face interview. Plus, review tools like Scorecards and Showcase make it easy to compare and share candidate profiles with your team.

Get started with a free trial and see what Willo can do.

Ed Driver
Customer Concierge Executive
LinkedIn profile

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