21.09.20

Candidate Pre-Screening Questionnaires: Do you love them - Do you hate them?

How to respond honestly but keep the ‘doors open’ for a real conversation!

It would seem some recruiters are adopting Candidate Pre-Screening Questionnaires to their recruitment selection process. And they seem to be more common-place. Why? What are some of the pro’s and con’s?

They are perhaps an administrative, convenient tool for recruiters who wish to adopt a rather ‘hands off’ or behind the scenes and linear approach to sourcing further information regarding a short or long-listed candidate pool. Time and efficiency seem the driver. But what of the quality? 

This rather impersonal approach can feel very black and white and regimented to candidates and not allow for nuanced discussion and deeper understanding of candidates and their motivations, capabilities and experience. Hence, assumptions may be made by recruiters, using this approach, which results in an ideal candidate being eliminated by the process when a voice to voice conversation would have resulted in much richer information communicated, and in the context of a bigger picture!

Personally, I am not a fan of these, particularly from the candidate perspective. The job seekers who I work with, particularly senior managers and executives, often find the questions quite intrusive, particularly at a stage in the process when candidates may want to be a bit strategic in how they convey information about themselves and their careers! Being strategic in communication is NOT a desire to be dishonest about anything, but to be savvy about the time and place of information conveyed, and at a time when the candidate knows more about the employer / client and what they may be looking for.

However, if as a job seeker, you find yourself faced with completing a Candidate Pre-Screening Questionnaire – here are some tips:

  • Be honest – if you are not able to talk in absolutes talk in a range or scope / scale eg “my direct reports have varied from between 5 to 10 depending on project responsibilities”. Re questions on salary expectations – it is fair to mention a band or salary range rather than a hard figure. If asked your salary expectation you may also want to comment or suggest ‘this figure / range negotiable’
  • Keep responses as concrete and concise as possible. Don’t try to explain a complex matter in detail. You can include dot points or a list of skills, capabilities, attributes eg about your leadership or communication style. You could also suggest you can elaborate in a personal conversation. 
  • Align information – with your application (CV and cover letter and LinkedIn profile). Check for continuity and accuracy.
  • Keep in mind information that will bring ‘peace of mind’ to, or resonate well with, the recruiter / client eg in terms of career goals, professional development interests. Don’t ask for too much. Think of their company or client needs first, not yours. 
  • Be modest / humble – but also present accurate data / metrics to support any achievements or statements of the value you can bring to an organisation or have added in the past.
  • Connect with the context of the role opportunity – try to align with that and the values, goals or mission of the organisation.

Michelle Bentley – General Manager - Hender Careers 

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