You might not have ever heard about a pre-screen call before. That's okay! In short, it's an effective way to ensure that before you begin the candidate interview process, the person is ready and willing to consider potential employment.
A few of the biggest reasons why it can take so long to find a candidate with high enough quality to offer employment happens to be related to that professionals personal life. For example, are they currently employed and truly wanting to make a change? Are they willing to relocate (if relocation is required)? What are some of their salary expectations and what kind of budget are we working with to hire for that role?
Questions like these, if asked too late in the interview process can leave us asking ourselves why we didn't ask these earlier. A more senior candidate might have too high of salary expectations or we could find out a more junior candidate doesn't have enough experience. And if we waited until after the phone interview or the on-site interview, we would have spent considerable amounts of time with that candidate when we could have known earlier that it wasn't the right fit.
What's the answer to this problem? Pre-screen calls.
What Is A Pre-Screen Call
Put simply, a pre-screen call is an informal interview that happens over the phone. It should be between the hiring managers, HR representatives or the team leader who is hiring for the position. In these calls, informal questions should be asked so that your team lead and the candidate can get onto the same page.
Questions like these are going to be very helpful:
- I see you're currently employed, are you looking to make a change?
- Did you have a salary range that you are looking to stay within?
- Are you passionate about this company?
The phone call should be between 15-30 minutes. And very informal, meaning a simple conversation should unfold. Any question that seems pertinent to the candidates background can be asked. It's important that you tell the candidate that you are having a pre-screen call with them and that it is an informal conversation, so that they become more comfortable and honest with you during the call.
Why Is A Pre-Screen Call Beneficial
Informal questions like the ones above help ensure that this candidate is going to take the interview seriously and that both your expectations are in alignment. By doing this, you can ensure that if there's an imbalance of expectations, you can cut the cord quickly and save your team considerable amounts of time.
Most companies will have 4-5 team members interview with candidates now. Meaning, if you send a candidate through the interview process, you're spending anywhere from 6 hours to 7 hours reviewing a potential hire. That's a lot of time for the company to spend hiring when you are performing 10 interviews or more.
By utilizing these pre-screen calls you can make sure each candidate that goes into the interview process is a promising prospect. And that the time that your team will be spending with them is worth it.
Are There Any Downsides To The Pre-Screen Call
The biggest downside is that someone on the HR team is spending 15-30 minutes in advance of interviews. Though, like mentioned above, spending 30 minutes to find out a candidate isn't a great fit versus spending 5 hours with them is a massive benefit for the companies utilization of time.
Pre-screen calls should be handled by someone on the HR team in most circumstances. The only time when that should be different is if the position is an operational role or a special role like strategy. When hiring positions like that, you may want to have someone from the leadership team help perform the pre-screen call when you find a candidate worthwhile.
Recording Your Pre-Screen Call In An ATS
Most HR teams deploy applicant-tracking systems or some type of hiring tool that helps them move candidates from the early stages of the interviews all the way through the employment offer. How do you handle pre-screen calls in terms of tracking when most ATS (Applicant-Tracking Systems) don't provide that option? The answer is that you perform the pre-screen call and then either move the candidate into the next phase (like a phone interview) or move them back into the candidate pool. However you mark that in your ATS should be applied. Ideally, you aren't having pre-screen calls with more than 15-20 candidates. Making tracking and reporting feasible to manage.
Deploying Pre-Screen Calls Within The HR Team
Educating your HR team about pre-screen calls is easy. They'll understand what they are almost immediately. You may have to educate the team on questions that they shouldn't ask in the pre-screen call, like questions that could be leading to the future interviews or questions that specific team members may want to cover. Ideally, the conversation is about the candidate's willingness and expectation alignment with the job requirements and what it offers. Anything other than that shouldn't be asked.
You should be able to deploy pre-screen calls within a few weeks of knowing this technique. You may even find a way to track pre-screen calls in your ATS using tags or another status type. But in general, you'll find that by utilizing pre-screen calls your team will be spending more time with candidates that have already been vetted for the position, increasing your chances by more than 40% that the candidate will be one that receives an offer letter.
Good luck with your pre-screen calls and happy hiring!
Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world's most valuable technology teams. He writes more articles like this one over at Algrim.co.