How to pass a screening interview

This type of interview is specifically designed to filter applicants. The reality of any job application is that there are only so many jobs to fill. More isn’t better, for employers or applicants.


Screening can take multiple interviews. Methods are variable, but all work on the principle of culling applicants.

Primary screening methods

Phone screening. This is a primary screening step, intended to reduce applicant numbers before formal interviews. A series of questions, basically normal interview questions, but sometimes job specific, are asked. Applicants are advised if they’ve passed this phase of testing.

Computer screening. Another primary source in some cases, but computer testing can occur later in the process. Testing can be multiple choice, IQ, or knowledge based. Obviously, there’s also scope for other interview questions. Computer interviews can be conducted via website, or on location.

Secondary screening:

After primary screening, applicants move on to actual interviews, sometimes several. Interview formats vary:

Video screening. This is a low cost, high return method of interview. It’s useful to save time and space for interviewers and interviewees outside the easy access range of getting to interviews.

Face to face interviews. These can takes several forms:

One on one interviews are sometimes conducted by a group of interviewers, one after the other. These are called serial interviews.

Sequential interviews are done in much the same way as serial interviews, one on one, but deal with a progressive approach to interview topics.

Note: both methods can involve a large number of interviews.

Panel interviews are the normal kind of interview.

Group interviews involve a group of applicants. This is a highly competitive, comparative-based interview. The employer looks for leadership, as well as content. The relationship with other candidates, and interview etiquette, are also factors in assessment.


Screening interviews are extremely important. However informal, you must prepare for the tests.

Failing means no job.

Phone interviews

These are slightly easier to handle than others. You can make yourself comfortable, and you can have resource materials handy.

  1. Listen to the questions. Ask if you don’t understand anything.
  2. Answer clearly. Your answer has to be understood.
  3. Don’t be too brief. Lack of information (particularly about any specific subjects in the question) can mean leaving something out. You don’t have to make a speech, but cover the question in full.
  4. Be alert. Phone interviews are interviews. Don’t ignore anything. If you missed a bit, it’ll be out of your answers, too.
  5. Interviewers are people, too. All interviews have a level of stress for both parties. Be polite, and considerate of the sensitivities of others. If the interviewer needs time, don’t make an issue of it.

Computer screening.

Computer screening can drive anyone up the wall. Tests can be stressful, and there are time frames for completion.

  1. It’s best to do some online tests as practice, so you don’t get taken by surprise by the environment or questions.
  2. Do your best. In some cases you aren’t expected to finish all questions, but to get a lot done, you can check for the ones you can answer immediately, and go back to the others. You can’t do this in all tests, but in quite a few you can move around through the screens.
  3. Keep track of times. Don’t get lost on one question. The computer clock is the clue. One question shouldn’t be allowed to wreck your test.
  4. Keep your cool. Stress out later, keep your mind on the job.
  5. A good guess on a multiple choice test is sometimes unavoidable, but be sure you know why that’s your answer. Multiple choice isn’t an exact science, but even a good guess means you have a weak point. Check it out. You’ve just been told what you don’t know about your new job.

Note: These tests are never a waste of time. You get experience in the testing process, and you can find out where you’re not doing well. Some people can do interviews for years, and never recognize the weak spots. If you find you have any problem with any part of the screening process, don’t let it become a tradition.

Deal with it, or it’ll sabotage every interview you do.


These are all basically normal interviews, but structured.

  1. Keep focused. Each interview has to be approached separately, and you need to be 100% on the ball, or as near as you can get.
  2. All the basics of interviews apply. Don’t get casual or let your standards slip, stay with interview etiquette at all times. “Be alert” applies throughout the process.
  3. Make sure you’re fully prepared for each interview. You get one shot at these screening interviews. Each one can be the last.
  4. Don’t get overawed by the process. Bring your confidence, your competence, and your real strengths to the interviews. This is a job, not a raffle, treat the interview like a job. Group interviews and panel interviews are intended to sort out the weak links, fast.

Assessing your own performance.

This you’ll probably do anyway, but you need to get some benefit out of the experience.

  1. Identify the good and bad points.
  2. Compare good and bad performances to each other. Obvious, isn’t it?
  3. Go to work on the bad points. Get advice, research online, ask the interviewers. Take the time, learn the processes, get it right.
  4. Don’t allow yourself to just blunder through an interview any old how. Check for problems.
  5. Ask yourself, honestly, what you think of your less impressive performances. Self criticism is a very powerful weapon, used properly.
  6. Don’t make excuses if you fail. Even if the interviewers were totally wrong, you didn’t get the message through. A good answer is very hard to argue against.

You’ll always be a good, credible applicant if you show your good points. You’ll be an incredibly good applicant if you don’t have any weak points, and a lot more competitive. Work on it. You’ll never regret it. After every interview you’ll at least know you did get it right.