What Is Prescreening For Employment?

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What to do when you’re called for a prescreen interview

Have you every been caught off guard when contacted by someone representing a company, asking to speak with you about a job?

Did you know what to do or say?

As an HR Recruiter, one of the core functions of my job is conducting interviews with potential candidates.

Before conducting a full fledge interview however, Human Resources recruiters usually “test” the water first, and try to gain a better sense of what kind of candidate you are.

Why Are Prescreens conducted

The purpose of a prescreen is to avoid wasting the company’s time, the recruiter’s time, and most importantly your time – as the candidate.

The goal of a prescreen is to avoid physically bringing someone in for a full panel interview (an interview with more than one person), who may not be a good fit for the job.

Prescreens are also a great way to tell what the candidate is all about, and learn more about their skills.

It’s also a great tool that us recruiters use to tell how serious someone is about the job.

These short interviews, usually conducted via telephone, lend a lot of objectivity to the hiring process.

We’re not face to face with the candidate, and only making a choice to move them forward in the process based solely on the skills laid out in the resume, and based on the responses to the prescreen questions.

A prescreen is a get to know you session. It’s an ice breaker and usually the first human contact between you and the company once you’ve applied online to a position.

How well you do on a prescreen interview can make or break your chances of being moved on to the next stage in the interview process.

What Recruiters are looking for in a prescreen



One lesser known fact is that when a recruiter is prescreening you, they often times either have your resume up on a screen in front of them, or they may have it printed.

We are looking for consistency in what you say on your prescreen and what is written on your resume.

Likewise, you should have  a copy of your resume laid out in front of you, or you should know (with certainty) all the dates of your previous employers/educational history, and all facets of your resume – like the palm of your hand.

2.Your Tone

A recruiter is looking to hear your level of enthusiasm in the job.They want to know that you’re passionate about what you do and the job you’re applying to.

We listen to whether you are verbally articulate and able to communicate clearly.

We also want to feel your excitement about the job.

Avoid talking in colloquial terms, using ebonics, or speaking like you’re talking to a friend when contacted by an HR Recruiter for a prescreen.

Speak clearly, use proper verbiage, and try not to jumble words or speak too fast.

3. How well you know your job

In prescreen interviews, we listen closely to see how well you know your work.

Do you know the technical skills required to do your job, or the tools that need to be used?

We love candidates who speak passionately about creative and innovative ways to do their job, and who speak about things they have learned on the job which allow them to do their work better.

4.Whether you know what you are applying for

This is such a big one, and something that totally gets missed by candidates during prescreen interviews.

It’s important to know the exact job you are applying to, down to the job title and position number. 

Know the hours of the position, the location, alternate shifts, travel requirements and certifications needed. Know-the-job.

So many times I’ve been mid interview, and candidates have stopped me to ask “what job is this for again?”.

For some employers, this is a sign of disinterest.

Be fully up to date on the job you have applied to and ensure that you are fully qualified for it.

5.Your motivation

Know why you are applying to the position.

If you’re running away from a “situation” at your current employer or truly looking to move up in your career, a recruiter will be able to tell based on your responses to the prescreen questions.

How to react to a call for a prescreen interview

Schedule A Time

If you’re contacted via telephone for a prescreen interview, the recruiter will more than likely introduce themselves by name, tell you what company they’re calling from and the job they are contacting you about.

They may ask to conduct an interview with you at that moment, or ask whether there is a more appropriate time.

You should do one of two things:

Either ask the recruiter whether you can put them on hold; take a few seconds and get yourself organized with respect to having a copy of you resume, and clearly recalling all the details about that company and the job.


If you don’t feel prepared, nicely explain to the recruiter that you’re not available at the moment, but would like to request an alternate time for the interview.

Never leave the call open ended.

Ask for a specific date and time when you can mutually agree to do the prescreen, and ask clearly whether you should be calling the recruiter, or whether the recruiter will be calling you.

If you will be calling, ask for the recruiter’s direct number.

Be punctual when it’s time to call, and should you receive their voice mail, leave one message only.

Avoid stalking the recruiter and leaving multiple voice messages, or making repetitive calls. Caller Id exists. It’s a real thing people!

Understand The Process

A prescreen is meant to be a short questionnaire.

Limit your responses in terms of time. Try not to go on and on or talk in excess.

Answer the questions you are asked only. Try not to give extra information or answer questions not asked.

Listen carefully and don’t be afraid to ask that a question be repeated if you don’t  fully understand what is being asked.

Remember Housekeeping Rules

There are a set of unspoken housekeeping rules that you should follow in respect to your prescreen.

While on your interview, avoid any type of background noise or distracting noises that can interfere your responses and give a false sense of who you are. A prescreen interview might not be the right time to be yelling at your kids.

Always thank the recruiter for their time, and limit the number of questions you ask at the end.

Do not ask about pay, but do ask about next steps if they’re not explained to you.

Be Specific 

For instance, if the question asks:

“Tell me about a time you were helped a co-worker”.

A response like “I do it every day at my job” is not considered to be a specific answer.

“Specifics involve a time, place, and sometimes a person and the story – that answers the question”

A more appropriate answer would be:

“Last week Thursday, I saw my colleague Maureen with a stack of files on her desk, and I asked her if I could process some of them for her, she said ok, and I did”.

Specific time/place – Last Thursday

Specific person – My co-worker Maureen

Specific story – How I helped a co-worker by processing files for her

Remember this is only a prescreen interview and your brevity, attention to the questions asked, clarity in terms of your tone/diction and your job knowledge are what will carry you to the next stage of the process.

Did you find this article helpful? What are your thoughts on the tips explained here?

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  1. July 5, 2018 / 11:26 pm

    Great tips! It helps to keep a copy of your resume nearby for reference when you are job hunting so you can be looking at the same thing the recruiter is.

  2. Gen
    July 6, 2018 / 3:06 am

    Wow, this is such a helpful post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. July 6, 2018 / 4:20 pm

    Thanks so much for this creative post. You never know when you’re going to need these tips to get a new job. The last thing you want to do is be unprepared for an interview.

    • Thiswaymommy
      July 12, 2018 / 12:20 am

      Exactly Lynn! A recruiter could contact you at any time.

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