No Interview? Maybe It Was the Prescreening Questions

templateHave you ever applied for a job online and wondered why you never received a follow-up interview? This may be a result of the prescreening process.

Prescreening questions (PQs) are a basic set of yes or no questions that some employers use during the prescreening process to determine if a jobseeker is the ideal candidate for a job. PQs are a way to establish basic information about a person, but this process can have negative effects for job seekers when employers rely on this online format too strictly.

A common use for PQs is to quickly eliminate jobseekers that are not legally eligible for a position. For example, if the job requires the potential employee to be a certain age, the PQ may read, “Are you 18 years of age or older?” If the applicant clicks “No,” their application could be considered a “knock-out,” which means the employer may never see this candidate’s application.

Although many employers do not use the knock-out feature, job seekers may not realize that this technique doubles as a ranking system for all applicants.

“Each yes or no question has either a positive or negative effect on each application’s score. The applications with the highest scores are the first applications that appear when employers are reviewing potential job candidates,” said J.D. Pace, Senior Software Engineer, AIM Careerlink.

Another use of PQs is to separate job candidates into smaller and smaller groups so the employer can narrow their search to a candidate that is closest to their predetermined preferences. For example, if an employer prefers the candidate to have a higher level of education, a PQ may read, “Do you have a master’s degree in a communications-related field?”

Maybe the candidate doesn’t have a master’s degree, but instead, 10 years of communications-related experience. How can they stand out when their application is ranked lower than others? While it may be tempting for these candidates to manipulate their PQ answers, Mimi Bosco, Director of Employee Engagement, AIM Careerlink advises jobseekers to always answer PQs honestly and to use a cover letter to highlight personal qualifications.

“I’m always looking for employees that communicate well. Whether that is visually, verbally or both, their message should be clear, expressive and responsive,” said Bosco.

So even if you don’t have a perfect PQ score, remember that you could still be the best-suited candidate for the job, you just need to communicate your strengths in a different way.


Looking for the best ways to stand out on paper? Click here to see our tips on constructing your best resume.

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