How to Run Really Good Prescreen Phone Interviews

If you just need the template, you can download it here (no email required)


The pre-screen interview is one of the most important elements in your recruitment process. 

A good pre-screen call achieves two main objectives:

  1. Assess. It gathers essential data to assess if a candidate is worth considering for a job vacancy

  2. Impress. It creates a great first impression with the candidate and gets them bought into the opportunity (especially important with passive candidates)

We’ve had to run hundreds of these calls and as a result I’ve developed a process that I find has a natural flow and covers all the essentials. 

Here’s our 10 step guide that covers the essentials of a really good prescreen call. 

Step 1: Check for availability

Make sure your candidate is available for the call. If they’re not, reschedule. Rushed conversations often result in brief answers which don’t lead to meaningful conversations.

Step 2: Set an agenda to keep the conversation focused

Share an agenda upfront so that both you and the candidate know how the conversation will progress. Here’s what we usually say to set the agenda;

"I’d love to start by learning more about your current situation."

"Then, we can discuss what sort of career opportunities you'd be most interested in exploring."

"Finally, I can share more details about the job and we can have a frank conversation about whether it’ll be a fit for you." 

A good pre-screen interview should help you assess the candidate but should also help the candidate assess the opportunity.

Once you’ve set the agenda;

Step 3: Clarify the candidate’s current job situation

Confirm current employment status, current job title, and work responsibilities.

Step 4: Check for your must-haves and nice-to-haves

Ask questions that will help you assess if the candidate’s experience matches up to your must-haves and nice-to-have job criteria. If you haven’t got this list or a version of this list, learn how to do it here.

Step 5: Find out the candidate’s career interests

Enquire about what sort of job opportunities the candidate would be interested in exploring. Asking them, "What are the top three things you look for in a new opportunity" is a great way to focus this part of the conversation.

Step 6: Share details of the job opportunity

Here’s where you pitch them the job. Use the information you’ve gathered about their career interests to customize your job pitch.

Step 7: Discuss if it’s the right opportunity for the candidate to explore

Be frank and honest about whether they are suitable for the role. Also clarify whether they'd be interested to explore further and if they have any concerns.

Step 8: Agree on next steps

If both you and the candidate agree that the job opportunity is a possible fit, advice the candidate on what the next steps of the process would look like.

Step 9: Before you end the interview

Enquire on the candidate’s notice period and salary expectations.

Step 10: Finally, document all this information after your call. Here’s a free template to help you with documentation.

PS: We find that a good pre-screen interview usually lasts between 30 to 45 mins. If it’s shorter you’re probably not getting into enough detail.

Navin Muruga