How to answer screening questions and create the right impression

Every organisation has a unique way of hiring. Even within companies, recruitment processes often vary due to differences in job roles or the level of the position in the organisation. Research shows that 98 percent of job seekers are eliminated at the initial resume screening. Only 2 percent of candidates make it to the interview. More and more often, recruiters rely on screening questions in this first step to filter out relevant candidates.

What are screening questions?

Evidence has shown that the most successful way of finding the best candidates in this early stage is to ask them a job- and company-specific questions. Employers may ask screening questions in addition to, or sometimes instead of, a cover letter. A thorough screening process early on provides the employer with a high-quality list of applicants to get to know better. As well as some key initial insight, using screening questions in the first stage lets the interviewer probe more deeply into the applicant’s most relevant skills and experiences.

A number of companies even use screening questions and their answers as replacement for initial phone interviews, sometimes also called “screenings”. Those are usually done by a recruiter to check and confirm experience, and determine an initial “fit”. These employers then cover this asynchronously with screening questions in the first step of the application.

In general, it can happen that employers request answers to screening questions either in writing or in the form of a short video, or a combination of both. While reviewing written answers, the focus lies on assessing the candidate’s written communication skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving ability amongst other skills. On the other hand, video answers give a company the ability to assess similar skills but also allow for additional insight into body language and personality.

Screening questions are designed to evaluate the skills and experiences that are required to be successful in the role. They are often questions very specific to the company and the role itself.

Pro tips for answering screening questions the right way

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A candidate must respond to these questions with relevant details similar to how one would answer questions during an actual interview. The goal is to keep your answers crisp, concise, and relevant. It’s important to not be generic statements and copy/pasting your standard answers to questions about yourself.

Treat it as a regular video interview – Make sure you eliminate all distractions, check your technology, look into the camera, and don’t forget to smile. If some of the questions are stated with conditions, for example, “answer in 100-150 words”, make sure to follow the instructions. If the employer asked you to send in a short video introducing yourself and why they should hire you, make sure you stick to 60-90 seconds maximum for your answer.

Take some time out to research the company. Visit the company website, browse through their social media accounts, tap into your connections, collect information via Google News. Incorporate your research in your responses to make them more compelling. It’s a great way to showcase things you find admirable about the company, its mission, or its culture. 

Be detail-oriented. Make sure your answers are without any spelling or grammatical errors. A second pair of eyes goes a long way, so have a friend or professional contact proof-read your written answers.

Potential screening questions asked by remote companies

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Serious remote career opportunities require specific capabilities. Companies often use screening questions to assess these skills. Generally, you will find a mix of questions varying from skill-based to company, industry, or experience related.  Sometimes recruiters also want to confirm basic information about yourself. You will be able to answers these with a simple Yes/No or in a few sentences. For example,

  • Do you have 3-5 years of experience in a particular field or industry?
  • Do you have remote work experience?
  • Are you available to work in a particular timezone?
  • Where did you find about us and the role?
  • What is your availability? When could you begin work if you were hired?
  • When are you available to start?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • In what city and country are you located?

Motivation-related screening questions help companies assess the candidate’s mindset and career aspirations

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  • What motivates you to work remotely?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • How does the role fit your long-term career goals?

Skill-related screening questions are directly related to the candidate’s potential success in the role.

Sometimes all the questions want to confirm is your experience with certain tools, like Photoshop or Illustrator for a design role. However, companies can often also assess soft skills by asking behavioural-based questions or digging deeper into your hard skills by asking situational-based ones. Examples are,

  • Describe a time when you used skill “x” to successfully complete a project.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to collaborate with a member of your team who was not responsive.
  • Tell me about a time you wish you’d handled communicating with a member of your team differently.

Candidates must be extremely attentive while filling out their answers. This is because recruiters and hiring managers consider all your responses both from the screening questionnaire and your interview responses to make a hiring decision. Your responses are an opportunity to highlight your unique value proposition for this particular company.  They also allow you to communicate your keen interest in the position by pointing to specific job requirements that mirror your expertise and background. Lastly, they provide a stellar opportunity to be your authentic self.

Companies on the acework platform often ask screening questions to help their selection process.

If you’re looking for a remote job, and are ready to shine in your application, register on our platform and start matching with opportunities here.

If you’re looking to hire remote-ready talent with the help of screening questions (yes, our platform supports written AND video answers), register your company and start hiring here.

At acework, we enable businesses to build their successful remote workforce. We support you with remote work advisory and remote talent for your open positions. Our advisory creates actionable strategies for companies based on their culture, processes, and business needs. Schedule a free strategy session to start building your high-performing distributed team.

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Remote Readiness helps all teams work better

Are you remote ready?

We developed a unique soft skills assessment to vet for remote readiness, and have screened hundreds of candidates based on it. We screen for intrinsic motivation, organisational skills and independence, among others.

Assess your remote readiness with this free, remote-ready checklist, that we created for individuals working or looking to work remotely. The checklist includes essentials such as:

  1. Reliable, high-speed internet connectivity
  2. Appropriate video conferencing hardware
  3. Experience with current productivity tools… and 13 other expert tips to help you assess your remote readiness.

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