9 Tips for Screening Job Candidates Fast to Find Top Talent

The hiring process is tough. You want to hire the very best candidates, but the job market is so tight right now that the best candidates are gone in just a few days.

Want to sort through candidates quickly and find the best ones faster? Phone interviews, if done right, can help you figure out who the best possibilities are in less time so that you’re focusing your energy on the right candidates and moving them through the process more quickly.

Here are some tips you can easily add to your hiring process that Betterteam co-founder Adam Seabrook learned from years recruiting for companies like Google, Bigcommerce, Coca-Cola and others.

5 Phone Interview Questions that Make Screening a Snap

These five questions are my favorites. You’ll notice there are no goofy questions about what kind of animal the candidate would be, nor are there any trick questions or time fillers. These are meant to help quickly determine if this person is a possibility and worth pursuing further.

What is your current and expected salary?

It might seem a bit bold to come right out of the gate with this question, but it’s my favorite one to start with. It accomplishes several things at once.

If their current salary is above what you can offer, it’s not a good fit. People don’t like to take a step down salary wise, and when they do, they don’t often last long.

If their expected salary is well beyond what you can afford, it’s probably not worth pursuing either. If people think they’re worth much more than you’re paying, they’ll be on the lookout for a new job the day they start.

Their previous salary will also give you an idea of their caliber. You’d expect more accomplishments, abilities and responsibilities from an engineer who made $100,000 per year at their last job versus one who made $75,000.

What are some typical mistakes people in this position make?

Someone who really knows the job should know what the common mistakes are. Also, they should have this kind of awareness so that they know when they are making mistakes.

Most successful project they’ve brought from beginning to end.

Taking a project from beginning to end, whether it’s developing software, putting on an event or changing the way a sales team operates, takes a lot of determination and problem solving abilities. Knowing about their most successful projects will tell you a lot about candidates.

Why have they decided to leave their current job?

Good to know for a couple reasons. We’ll get more into red flags below, but one of the biggest is someone who talks a lot of trash about their previous or current team. Beyond that, it will let you know if they’re a good fit with your company. For instance, if the position you’re trying to fill requires long hours, and they’re leaving their current job because the hours are too long, it’s probably not going to work out.

What is the best work in your field?

There are a couple ways to word this, depending on the position. For a Web designer, it might be asking them what their favorite sites are, for a retail sales manager, the best- run stores, etc. The idea is to understand what they aspire to, what they consider success in their field, and to know that they are keeping up with industry trends.

4 Red Flags to Watch For

During the course of a job interview, there are a few things you’ll want watch out for. Here are four that usually scare me off of a candidate.

Can’t keep the facts straight.

During the course of the interview, ask them for specific numbers regarding their accomplishments. Write them down, and then ask about them again toward the end of the interview. If the numbers vary significantly, it’s likely they’re being embellished. Definitely something to watch out for.

They’re money focused.

If they spend a lot of time talking about salary, it’s usually worrisome. Sure, we all need to get paid, and that’s a big part of why we take jobs. But you want someone who’s motivated by the work and the team as well, not just money.

They haven’t settled on their role.

If I get hints that the applicant isn’t sure about taking this type of role – for example, they’re not sure if they want to be a designer or a project manager – I’ll pass. When they’re not dedicated to a particular role, they don’t tend to stick around.

They’re not energetic.

I like to see a bit of a spark when people are talking about their work. If they’re motivated and care about what they’re doing, it should come across in the interview.

Finally, here’s a little general advice for improving your phone interviews.

  • Schedule your interviews for just 15 minutes, but leave yourself an hour gap. If the candidate is a dud, you’re on to another task after just 15. If they seem like a possibility, you’ve got an hour to dig deeper.
  • Avoid the temptation to do all the talking. The interview is about them, not you. Be a good listener and learn about them.
  • Finally, I recommend hitting all candidates with the same series of questions. This will make it easier to compare each of them, and also create a fairer process for candidates.

Just following these simple tips should save you a lot of time on your hiring process, help you get to the best candidates more quickly, and hire better overall. If you’re looking for some more tips on interviews, check these out.

Happy hiring!

Paul Peters is content marketer and job ad writer with Betterteam. Before Betterteam he spent 6 years building an education startup, where he was was involved with many aspects of the business, including hiring. He lives in Whitefish, Montana.