Top Questions to Ask IT Candidates in a Preliminary Phone Screen


Phone screening

First impressions matter—especially when it comes to hiring. The reality is, you’ll probably only have a few opportunities to talk to your potential hire, so you need to make the most of them.

One way to do this is to screen out bad candidates as early on in the process as possible. Not only does this keep you from wasting valuable time, but it also allows you to focus more on the people that would actually be a good fit for the position.

Screening resumes is undoubtedly an important step in this process (we go into more detail on that in this blog post), but perhaps just as important is the preliminary phone screen.

This will likely be your first live interaction with the applicant, so it’ll be your first chance to pick up on their personality, attitude, mannerisms, conversational skills, and more. You’ll also be able to talk freely about things that couldn’t be expressed on their resume (like goals and motivations).

Before you make the call, you’ll want to make sure you have a list of questions ready to go. And as is the case with all interviewing, you should definitely put some thought into those questions. We’re here to help, with the top questions that should be included in your next preliminary phone screen.

“What attracted you to this position?”

There is a lot that goes into answering this question, so it’s a good one to help you cover a lot of ground more efficiently. When the applicant is answering, listen for reasons that are specific to your company and motivated by personal values and/or passion. You want an employee that is going to enjoy their job, but is also going to enjoy working for you.


“Why are you leaving your current job?”

The answer to this question could give you important insight into the candidate as a professional. Red flags would include leaving because of disagreements with management (“My boss doesn’t get me”), inability to work as part of a team (“No one else works as hard as I do”), or boredom (“I just really need a change”). You want your employees to show ownership and loyalty.


“How would you describe your work habits and style?”

Pay attention to what the candidate focuses on while answering this question. Is she highlighting the social aspects of the job, or the more technical aspects? Does she mention needing to keep to herself, or does she thrive in a collaborative environment? This is a great opportunity to see if this applicant will fit in with the culture of your company.


“What sorts of challenges do you face in your current position, and how do you handle them?”

Chances are, you want to hire a problem solver—not someone who complains or gives up when the going gets tough. If they answer this question in a way that’s too broad for your liking, ask for a specific example.


“Do you have any questions for me?”

Ultimately, the employee and the company should have a mutually beneficial relationship, so it makes sense that an applicant would also have some questions or concerns about your company and/or the open position. Listen for thoughtful questions that focus on more than just compensation and vacation policies.


Ultimately, this initial call could help you decide if a candidate is worth pursuing. Do your best to take advantage of this opportunity, and it will pay off in the end.

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