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The Screen Pass vs. The Screening Interview

The screen pass in football (the American version) and the screening interview in the job search process share a common word. How you view and understand this word, screen, will determine how well you execute both the football play and the job search process.

It’s late fall, and here in upstate New York, that means two things. First, there is snow on the ground, and I still don’t have all the leaves picked up. Second, there is football on the television every Saturday and Sunday. That also may be the reason why I don’t have the leaf raking completed yet! More importantly, it means that the screen pass is on full display in most games. You will find the screen pass in every football playbook. The offensive linemen let the defense move past them, and the quarterback tosses it over their heads to the running back, who has several offensive linemen as lead blockers. The operative phrase here is “let the defense move past them.” The screen in football is used as a vehicle to allow objects to pass through as opposed to keeping them out of the process.

Think of screening interviews in the job search process as a vehicle to both allow qualified objects to pass through while at the same time prevent less skilled objects from advancing through the screen. In this case, the object is you the job seeker. The primary goal for the screening interview is to narrow a large pool of applicants down to a manageable number (typically 10 or less) of viable candidates for a specific job posting.

Screening interviews are usually conducted by an internal recruiter from the HR department or an external recruiting agency outsourced by the target organization. The filters most commonly used to determine a match for the position include candidate skill set, prior experience, income requirements and fit with company culture.

Screening interviews are typically completed by phone, video or face to face if you are in the same geographic area as the target organization. There are also larger organizations that now utilize software applications to complete automated screening interviews by video or phone. It’s important to understand a few things about screening interviews to maximize your probability of success.

  • The screener’s objective is to place qualified applicants in front of the hiring manager. The screener's performance may be measured based on the number of qualified candidates identified. You should think of the screener’s job as one of finding the square peg that fits correctly through the square hole.

  • In a screening interview, it is critical for you to be sure that screener understands that you have the skills and experience that meet the minimum qualifications for the position.

  • In your preparation for the interview, you should include a detailed review of the job description and the job posting so that you can tailor your answers to mirror those position requirements.

  • Leveraging keywords and critical skills from your research and bringing them into answers to the interview questions is essential.

  • Don’t focus your answers on pain points for the position and the team. The job does not report to the screening interviewer, and he/she does not feel the pain of the open assignment.

  • If asked about salary requirements and geographic preferences, be sure that you have done your research and that your answers match the position specifications.

  • Be sure in your interview to demonstrate passion and interest for the organization and position. It is imperative to understand the company or organization culture and be able to show that not only will you fit well into that culture but can also contribute to the advancement of that culture.

  • Always close the interview with an elevator pitch that matches your skills to the position requirements and amplifies your interest in the position.

  • Use a standard follow-up procedure after the interview has concluded. For a first round screening interview, an email thank you note within 24 hours post interview is sufficient.

If you execute the screen pass well in the football game, you will advance the ball several yards down the field on the way to the end zone for a touchdown. If you follow these best practices in the screening interview, you will advance your candidacy down the hiring process field and into the next round of interviews. That’s one step closer to the end zone for a job offer. Remember, always play the game to win!

Dan Troup is the founder of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a certified career coach can assist you in your job search, please contact AdvantEdge Careers at


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