By Michael Matalone

Wasting time interviewing unqualified candidates is highly frustrating and costly since time is money! To avoid this situation, I created a simple process and tool to help you ensure that the candidates you spend time interviewing are worthy of your valuable time. As one HR Director shared with me, “Every time I would hire bank tellers, I would have to go that branch and spend 2 days interviewing about 15 candidates only to find out that about 12 of them didn’t have the basic qualifications to do the job. Now using the XP3 Pre-screening Questionnaire, I only have to spend a half day interviewing 3 people who can all do the job, so now I just have to decide who the best one is.”

The XP3 Screening Questionnaire (SQ) will help you:

  • Determine if the applicant possess the required knowledge and skills to be successful in the role.
  • Identify signs of intelligence based on how articulate their responses are to each question asked and if they can follow the simple instructions in the invitation email to complete the SQ and then in the instructions on how to complete it.
  • Identifying early signs of critical behaviors including having a sense of urgency based on how quickly they complete the SQ (Most top candidates turn it around in 24 hours.), and willingness to put in a little effort to be considered for the job.

Creating the Screening Questionnaire

The Screening Questionnaire is not intended to replace the interview! Therefore, the questions you want to include should only be directed at identifying if the applicant possesses the required knowledge and skills to be successful in the role as well as a few other questions that will help you to determine if they are worth spending your valuable time with in an interview. Here are some guidelines to help you create a SQ:

General Guidelines for Question Development:

  • The SQ should contain about 6-8 questions and never more than 10.
  • The questions should be open-ended vs. questions that elicit yes or no answers.
  • Create questions that ask how they have accomplished/achieved results required to be successful in the role.

 The following are example questions to help get you started.

 Example Screening Questions for Managers:

  1. Please describe how you will you assess the existing staff strengths and weakness: what methods, resources will you use and how long will this take you to complete?
  2. Talent Acquisition: Please describe how you find/source applicants, pre-screen, interview and decide who the best person for the role is.
  3. Please describe how you train/develop your people (methods, resources, etc.), and how do you know if you’re being effective?
  4. Please describe how you manage your staff, including what methods, resources, type and frequency of meetings you hold, as well as your overall philosophy on managing people.

Example Questions for all roles:

  1. Please describe your expertise with: (list the specific tools, software, etc. by name) and rate yourself with each as follows: novice, intermediate, expert.
  2. Please describe how you solved a specific problem (name the type of problem you want them to solve), including what your objective was, your method, what resources you used, and what the end result was.
  3. Why are you interested in this role, and why should we select you?
  4. What are your salary requirements (please don’t say “negotiable,” as we will negotiate but need to know if you are in our desired range.)?

 Emailing the Pre-Screening Questionnaire: This email is designed to motivate the candidates to want to explore your opportunity. It accomplishes this by first building their confidence and letting them know that your company only seeks top talent and is taking steps to weed out those that are not qualified to do the job – top talent want to work with other “A” players!

SQ Email:

Dear ______

We are in receipt of your resume and it appears that you may be an ideal fit for what we are seeking.

As you can hopefully appreciate, we are only seeking “A” players and to that end, we have a fairly extensive hiring process to ensure we are truly identifying the best of the best. To that end, we would appreciate you completing a couple of questionnaires.

The first one is called an Applicant Screening Questionnaire (SQ) and is attached to this email. Please read the instructions carefully and then email back to me when you have completed it.

Once we review the results of all the SQ we receive, we will determine who and notify those candidates of the next steps in our hiring process. We appreciate your time and consideration and hope to meet you at an in-person interview soon.

Please confirm your interest, receipt of this email and when we can expect to receive the completed questionnaires back from you.

Thank you for your time and consideration


Over the last 7 years that we have been sending and tracking the results of these Screening Questionnaires, we have found that top talent will return the SQ within 24 hours or respond in that time as the instructions asked them to do and inform us of when they will complete it.  Therefore, it is important that you track their responses. Top Talent do what they say they will do! On the other side, the applicants that don’t complete the SQ is typically due to the fact that they simply can’t answer the questions and self-select out of the process which is the intent.

The SQ also becomes the basis for your first round interview questions.  To learn more about this, please download my e-book: The Talent Gap: How to Get the Right People in The Right Roles.

To learn more about this, download my e-book The Talent Gap: How to Get the Right Person in the Right Roles and sign up for a demo of the XP3 Talent System.