Writing pre screening questions

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Pre-screening is only as good as the questions. Hiring managers must determine what attributes drive job success so that pre-screening questions can be created to aid in determining if applicants should move forward in the selection process. Know that a fair bit of upfront work and analysis is required to ensure the questions being asked are the right ones. Pre-screening is only part of the selection process. The purpose of pre-screening is to make high-level decisions about applicants' general qualifications early in the selection process. While pre-screening questions aid in narrowing down the number of applicants, alone they are not suited for determining which applicants are the best fit for a particular job. Nor will they guarantee that the right applicants are applying in the first place. The selection process must include appropriate sourcing, writing effective job postings, interviewing, assessments (as appropriate), and reference checks. Keep in mind that while you are evaluating applicants, they are evaluating us through the application process. Typos, poor grammar, unclear questions, and multiple hoops in the application process turn quality applicants away.

DAS CHRO - Recruiter Guide to Writing Pre-Screening Questions

Is it worth Asking?

Pre-screening questions are used to help recruiters narrow down the pool. They are particularly beneficial for large applicant pools. However if you have a hard-to-fill position where you only receive 10 or less applications, you may choose not to include any pre-screening questions since the number of applications is manageable. For hard-to-fill position, you will want to review all applicants with an eye to potentially move forward. So how do you know when to ask pre-screening questions? First, consider the applicant pool. If you anticipate a large pool 50 or more applicants, then questions will be helpful in prescreening. Also consider if there are specific licenses or technical knowledge that without, prevents the applicant from moving forward. Those questions can be created fairly quickly to help identify who does and doesn't have the qualifications. Finally when soft skills are the deal breaker and they often are, adding a couple of questions on the essential soft skills can help you determine which applications you'll focus your time on screening. Ask yourself, will the question help you do your job; identifying quality applicants to move forward? If yes, use pre-screening questions.

DAS CHRO - Recruiter Guide to Writing Pre-Screening Questions

General Guidelines

Write the question in terms of observable and verifiable behaviors Focus on specific experiences, attributes, or tasks Avoid questions that may be answered the same way by the majority of candidates Write clearly and succinctly. Use language that any applicant can understand Use multiple choice, select all that apply, or Yes/No questions

o Do not ask essay questions for initial application o Yes/No questions are best suited for licenses, certifications or specific degrees

rather than asking about experience or behaviors Develop responses that meaningfully distinguish among applicants Keep questions focused on a single attribute Avoid asking questions that limit applicants from the private sector if the posting is open

to all applicants Avoid questions that are vague, subjective, or use evaluative wording Avoid abbreviations/acronyms Pick a strong action verb

o Writes vs. Develops (Writes is more descriptive than develops) o Assembles vs Prepares ( Assembles is more descriptive than prepares) Proofread Focus on quality over quantity o Keep to 5-7 questions


Writing Questions Formula

Here is a formula for guidance in writing pre-screening questions.

Perform What? (Action


To Whom or What? (Direct


To Produce What? Or Why? How? (Qualifying Statement)

Start with an action verb describing what is being performed. Then follow with a direct object to describe the verb and finally have a qualifying statement that provides purpose and context.


Action Verb Sort

Proofread and edit

Direct Object incoming mail

letters, memos, and email

Turn it into a question by starting with phrases like:

Qualifying Statement

into functional groups for distribution

to address format, grammatical, or spelling errors

"Indicate the extent to which you have..." "Please select from the following which best represents your experience in...."


Avoid Pitfalls

Unnecessary words


More concise:

Relay various types of written information and communications, both in e-mail and memo format, to individuals at all levels of the organization and on multi and varied topics. Write correspondence (e.g., e-mails, memos) on varied topics for distribution to individuals at all organizational levels.


DoubleBarreled: Two Statements:

Assemble quarterly performance data from internal office sources into a spreadsheet and prepare a written report. Assemble performance data (e.g., quarterly, monthly) from internal office sources into a spreadsheet. Write a report summarizing trends in performance data for internal decisions making.

Vague, subjective, or evaluative wording

Vague: Behavioral:

Perform all required quality control procedures on time and attendance reports in an effective and through manner. Verify the accuracy of data or information in a report following established procedures.


Abbreviated: Prepare RFP to secure new contracts. Written out: Prepare Request for Proposal to secure new contracts

Limiting - State Specific

State specific: Open to all applicants:

Advise management on Oregon Accounting Manual processes and procedures. Advise management on financial and accounting process and procedures.


Write Response Options

Goal: Help applicants be as accurate as possible when selecting a response option Ensure that response options are focused on clearly stated, observable and verifiable

behaviors Use specific and unmistakable language Maintain consistent ranges if asking about length of experience. For example:

o 1 year or less o 1 year o 2 years o 3 years o More than 3 years Rather than ask proficiency ranges, ask if the applicant can perform specific tasks/functions Include response options for both qualified and unqualified applicants Always include an "out" for the applicant, Example: "I have never used..." Limit the number of questions asking about length of experience. Length of experience does not necessarily equate to competency and expertise.


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