How we used a Pre-Interview questionnaire to reduce interviews by 75%

Published by Sunil Uttam on

Improving Hiring efficiency

Improving Hiring efficiency

At Mithi, since we are extremely selective of the people we bring into our team, we end up ingesting only 1-2% of the total number of applicants for any role. Thus, reducing waste in the hiring process is critical to help us stay productive.

While we follow different processes for Campus hiring and Lateral hiring, in this essay, I would be focussing on how we improved productivity for lateral hiring.

Our earlier process for lateral hiring:

Interested candidates would apply for employment with their resume, OR we would receive resumes from recruitment consultants, head hunters.

Step 1: Filter based on the resume

We would attempt to match the resume with the job requirement to look for a fit.

Unfortunately, this step didn’t filter much since most resumes are so similar, general and lackluster, that they don’t demonstrate the candidate’s true capability at all.

We would then end up giving most of the candidates the benefit of the doubt and move them to the next stage.

Only 5% of applicants would get rejected at this resume filter stage.

Step 2: Filter over a 30 min call

We would engage the selected applicants on a 30 min telephonic screening interview.

This short call helped us to gauge the candidate’s interests, expectations, and preferences.

This understanding of the candidate, in turn, helped us better determine if they were a “fit” for the job, our culture, and our company.

45% of applicants would get rejected in this first telephonic screening call. The rest of the applicants had to work on an assignment.

Step 3: Filter with an assignment

Applicants, who were found suitable during the call had to work on an assignment.

Typically, the task was a problem to solve, a presentation, a pitch, a mailer or some such task relevant to gauging capability fit for the job.

40% of applicants would get dismissed either because they didn’t submit their homework, or because their work was of poor quality.

Step 4: Filter with face to face interviews

Applicants whose assignments made the score went through multiple rounds of F2F before being selected or rejected.

10% of applicants reached the face to face interview rounds.

1-2% got selected.

I am sharing these numbers mainly to indicate the kind of effort that goes into screening talent for skills, job fit, and culture fit.

Also, these interviews are typically conducted by the senior people within the company, who take time out from their assigned responsibilities to do this.

Thus, since recruitment is a continuous ongoing process (for most companies, including Mithi), any waste in this process can reduce organization productivity by a significant factor.

The trigger for a change in the Hiring process

When we were looking for talent in sales and marketing, I was personally involved in stage 2.

I found myself spending 4-5 hours a week screening candidates who were not at all a fit for us. I found that most of them lacked primary language, expression, and communication skills and were not clear about why they want to work with us and not clear about their own goals.

I found this to be a big waste of my time.

My findings in the screening interview were mostly counter to the claims in the resumes (more about this in another blog)

Thus, I wanted to find a better and less wasteful way to filter candidates.

Some research and conversations with peers gave me this idea to introduce a low energy pre-interview stage, not linked to their resume, and reduce the number of wasteful first interview calls.

Hence we designed a simple online form, which has about 25 questions, most of which we ask during the first call.

Many of these questions are subjective and require some effort to fill in.

Screening answers on the form took a few minutes v/s having a scheduled 30 min conversation to achieve the same objective.

We replaced stage 1 in the process with this form and got some astounding results, as can be seen below.

Our new process for lateral hiring:

Interested candidates fill out the pre-interview form (takes about 10-15 mins), where they also attach their resume.

Recruitment agencies, consultants, and head hunters send the link of our online form to their contacts who are looking for employment.

Step 1: Filter by assessing the responses on the form

We review answers on the forms and schedule a call with the selected applicants.

80% of applicants get rejected either by the answers in their form or for not submitting the form

Step 2: Filter with a 30 min call

Over a 30 min telephonic screening interview, suitable applicants get an assignment to complete (typically a problem to solve, a presentation, a pitch, a mailer.)

10% of applicants get rejected during the first screening call. The rest of the applicants receive assignments to complete independently.

Step 3. Filter with an assignment

We review the submitted assignments call selected applicants for a F2F interview

7% of applicants get rejected either because they didn’t submit their assignments or because their task was of poor quality

Step 4: Filter with face to face interviews

The applicant goes through multiple rounds of F2F before being selected or rejected.

3% of applicants reached the face to face interview rounds

1-2% get selected.

95% to 20%

While this process hasn’t increased our selection rates, we have however gone from making calls to 95% of the candidates TO making calls to only 20% of the candidates with additional saving in the other downstream processes.

Upstream interventions are typically more effective in reducing waste in the flows below.

Why does a pre-interview form work?

The reason why the approach with a pre-interview questionnaire form worked for us is that most candidates have a lazy approach to recruitment.

Candidates “spray and pray” with impersonal resumes, which don’t tell the entire story clearly and don’t connect with the published job description.

Due to the poor quality of resumes, the companies have to work doubly hard just to figure out the candidate’s fit for the profile. And vice versa, each unproductive interview is a waste of the candidate’s time.

For the candidate:

The pre-interview questionnaire form is a way to

1. Slow down, research and think carefully about why (s)he wants to work with the particular company,
2. Confirm if their skill sets match those required from the job and
3. Articulate these well in the answers.

For the company:

I have found that this pre-interview questionnaire helps:

1. Reduce the amount of time that managers and recruiters spend in interviews:
2. Reduce the number of interviews
3. Give us insight into the most valued activities by the candidates. The fact that the candidate filled out the form is a first milestone in demonstrating interest to work with us and the willingness to make the effort.
4. Allow the candidate to provide relevant and additional information specific for the job (since most resumes are not specific to a particular situation)
5. Quickly understand the candidate’s communication, expression and articulation skills (the essential ability of the next generation worker)

Mithi’s pre-interview questionnaire to improve hiring efficiency:

Here is a cheat list of questions that are part of Mithi’s pre-interview questionnaire. Feel free to use them.

Executive Summary:

Full Name: [Text]

Age: [Numeric]

Current address: [Text with no minimal requirement]

Email id: [Text]

If you are not from Pune, are you willing to relocate: [Y/N]

Job title you are applying for: [ Dropdown select of all positions from our careers page ] <Have an Others option as well> <link to the careers page for Job descriptions>

Are you interested in Internship, full-time employment, part-time, or either? [ Dropdown list ]

What is your current monthly salary (CTC)? [ Enter amount ]

What is the minimum starting monthly salary that you will accept for this position? [ Enter amount ]

(It’s essential that we know at the beginning of the process whether our salary target for this position meets your minimal expectations. This information will avoid wasting a great deal of a candidate’s and hiring manager’s time. Please be candid, because we do not make counteroffers)

Upload your resume: [File upload]

Accessing your fit to Mithi:

Why did you apply for this position? [ Text – min of 50 words]

Why would you like to work with our company? [ Text – min of 50 words]

How does this position fit in with your long-term goals? [Text – min of 50 words]

What, according to you, are Mithi’s strengths in the market? [Text – min of 50 words]

Can you tell me the key trends are in our industry? [Text – min of 50 words]

Tell us about your greatest professional achievement? [Text – min of 50 words]

What was the biggest obstacle you have overcome? [Text – min of 50 words]

Imagine yourself in three years. What do you hope will be different from you then compared to now? [Text – Min of 50 words]

Tell me about a time you took any initiative? [Text – Min of 50 words]

What motivates you to work? [Text- min of 75 words]

Can you provide us with a sample of your best work? [Text – with no min requirement]
(You can give links and let us know if you can share these with us during an interview)

Why shouldn’t we hire you? [Text – with no min requirement]
(read the question carefully)


Would you be willing to bring your device to work (BYOD)? [Y/N]

What decision criteria will you use to decide whether you will accept your next job offer? [Text – with no min requirement]

(It’s essential that we know your job acceptance criteria so that we can provide you with relevant information in each of those areas. List them in descending order of importance. Typical job acceptance criteria areas include pay, benefits, schedule, development opportunities, promotional opportunities, job responsibilities, resources, management style)

Would you be willing to undergo a background check? [Y/N]

#entrepreunership #humanresource #recruitment #productivity #founderadvice

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

This post is in line with my anti advice policy, which is to share insights and learning from my life with my friends, associates and let them decide if and how to leverage this in their lives. I don’t have a fixed schedule to write, but I will attempt to write regularly. Surely it won’t be more often than once a week. I invite you to subscribe to my blog, connect with me and share your insights as well, so we can learn and grow together. 

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