How to Quickly Screen Prospective Employees

Written by: Andy Calloway
Published on: 30 May 2018



We're not all blessed with the psychological profiling skills of Derren Brown and as yet, I'm to be convinced of the effectiveness of throwing runes to screen a candidate well. However, there are a few things that you can look out for in any prospective employee that might send alarm bells ringing.

Gut feeling has a lot to do with this, but you should also be considerate and not let prejudices get in the way of you finding the ideal person for the job. So, with that in mind, here are a few things to consider.

Ask probing questions

Get your questions prepared and be ready to dig deep. There are a few things you should never ask, and you also shouldn't try to throw in ridiculous questions that have very little to do with reality. However, you can quickly find out if they've researched your company.

It's important that the prospect knows who they are going to work for, although I did hear one candidate tell an interview panel that it was unrealistic to know everything in every interview because he was going for so many!

Yes, letting on that every hour of the week is filled with interviews isn't the best way to bond with a panel.

Using this technique you can also see how well they work with teams. Now, this is important to find out because many CVs say something like this:

"Works well on his own and can use initiative, but is also a very keen team player who contributes well to a group."

So, that's all bases covered then.

But how well do they really get on in a team environment?

Are they constantly trying to be the alpha of the group, beating their chest, trying to show that they’re the best?

A good way to find out is to ask them how they led a group or helped it flourish. A good team player will discuss the others in the group as much as themselves. A bad one will be very selfish and speak only from his/her point of view and explain how they saved the day single handed.

Check timekeeping

Did they turn up late?

There are obvious reasons why someone could be late for an interview, but some of them are really not valid. For example, if there's been a severe storm and all the trains are delayed, you can let that pass. However, if it's just an ordinary day, and they give the excuse that traffic was bad, you have to ask questions.

Firstly, are they not willing to take responsibility?

If they'd researched the company well, then it would have meant at least one journey to the office to check traffic. Secondly, can they not plan for traffic anyway?

Good candidates turn up early. Excellent ones arrive near the destination well in advance of the meeting and go for a coffee somewhere, so they're ready to go right on time.


For this one, you need to employ the skills of your receptionist. Ask him or her to watch the candidates as they arrive and see how they behave. If they're constantly fidgeting, scratching their heads, picking their noses or scooping wax out their ears, maybe they're not for you.

Bad mouth former employers

Finally, how do they relate to past employers?

This is a particular bugbear for me, and I was once tempted to end an interview there and then when an interviewee went off on a tirade of abuse about a former employer.

Tact is a vital skill, and you need it in your employees. If they didn't get on with someone, they should be discrete and show loyalty, regardless of what happened.

Finding the right employee is challenging enough, so hopefully now you can at least weed out those that could cause problems if you eventually gave them jobs.