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How to Do the HR Initial Screening Interview

by Kristin Swain, studioD

Instances abound in which a human resources department receives substantially more applications than there are interview slots for a position. An initial interview is designed to help quickly eliminate candidates and allow the hiring manager to move on to other, more qualified individuals. A typical HR initial screening lasts for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. This interview allows the HR department to quickly get a feel for the candidate, his experience and expectations without committing to a full interview.

Design Questions Carefully

Questions asked in an HR initial interview should be short and to the point while also reflecting the core requirements for the position. As the interviewer, you want to inspire answers of the same nature from candidates, allowing the interview to progress quickly. In-depth interview questions are not strictly necessary, but your questions should elicit responses from the candidate that reflect their experience and work ethic. Consider utilizing questions that are general in nature so that the same questions can be asked of several candidates. An example question is, "What experiences from your previous job qualify you for this position?"

Ask for an Example

Obtaining a practical example of a potential employee's work results or ethics shows real-world, verifiable knowledge and experience. How a candidate handles a situation at work gives HR a sense of the person and his work habits. How the candidate responds also shows how he takes initiative and respond to stressful situations. A sample of this type of question is "Give an example of how you've handled an irate customer or co-worker in a previous position."

Company Information

Before a candidate comes in for an initial HR interview he should have already done his homework and researched at least basic facts about the company that he has applied to. Researching the company demonstrates initiative on behalf of the candidate and relays his genuine interest in working for the company. It may also help the interviewer evaluate how the candidate retains facts. Test the candidate by asking about his knowledge of the company. An example of this type of question is, "Our company is very involved in the community. Are you familiar with the charities we support?"

Leave Time for Questions

When conducting an HR initial interview, make sure that you leave time for a short question-and-answer session with the candidate. Even with a short phone, or in-person, interview a candidate should be expected to have questions about the company or the position. It is polite to give him a couple of minutes to ask those questions before thanking the him for his time and moving on to the next candidate. When a candidate asks an inappropriate question, don't be afraid to limit your answers or simply reply that those questions will be addressed in a second interview.

About the Author

Residing in Los Angeles, Kristin Swain has been a professional writer since 2008. Her experience includes finance, travel, marketing and television. Swain holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Georgia State University.

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