Candidates: why preliminary interviews are a good thing

Preliminary interviews – sometimes known as screening interviews or culture-fit interviews – are an increasingly common part of the engineering and IT recruitment processes for companies of all sizes.

For many candidates though, they just feel like an additional hoop to jump through. And certainly, they can be.

But there are some ways that preliminary interviews actually benefit candidates too. For this (and to be sure you blast past yours to the main interview stage), you need to understand the purpose of screening interviews and how they work:

What is a preliminary interview?

Preliminary interviews are essentially a screening process. From an employer’s point of view, they’re a way of double-checking your suitability for the role.

For candidates, they are the first hurdle to get past. If you don’t perform well at your prelim, you are unlikely to get called back for the real deal.

Why are preliminary interviews good for candidates?

1) Culture fit goes both ways

Preliminary interviews are increasingly also a way of checking if you’re a good fit for a company culture.

You might think this is a bit of a nebulous target. But it’s definitely something that’s to your advantage as a candidate too.

For example, imagine showing up to your first day of work in your new software engineer job and finding that everyone in your new workplace has huge philosophical differences.

You like the red team. They like the blue team. You like to start late and work late. They insist you start early.

The phenomenon of people leaving jobs they’ve only just been recruited for because of differences of opinions with co-workers is on the rise. Having an idea of the culture of a new company before you join it can be a big advantage.

2) A way to get ahead

One way to think of preliminary interviews is as if this is a race – and this is the qualifying round.

In many sports, if you qualify well, you have an advantage going into the main event. The same is true in the engineering and IT recruitment process.

Impress at the preliminary or culture-fit interview and you are instantly ahead of the competition. You really want to make a good first impression here.

If you do, you could find any second and subsequent rounds of interviews much easier.

How to succeed in a preliminary interview

1) Treat it seriously

Lots of candidates take preliminary interviews with a pinch of salt. It’s not a real interview, so why prep?

You can make a big impression (hopefully a good one) at a prelim interview even before you open your mouth.

2) Research the company

This is just as important as it is at the main interview stage. Any engineering or IT job you’re applying for needs to be researched if you get to the interview stage.

3) Practice your answers to common questions

Common interview questions for the preliminary round include queries about:

-Your qualifications and experience

-Your background (and why this makes you a good choice)

-Your professional goals and ambitions

-How you will add value to the company

-Why you want to work there (it’s a classic that’s still in use)

This means all of the usual interview best practice should be followed. Don’t just claim things – use examples from your past experience and so on.

4) Try to stand out

It should go without saying that this means standing out for a good reason!

If you can show how you’re unique compared with other candidates, you’re often onto a winner – and at least you’ll be memorable.

Increasingly, engineering and IT companies recruiting for everything from data science to civil engineer jobs want someone who can bring something a little different to the table.

If you can show that you can offer this, it’s a great way to get ahead.

5) Be your best professional self

Don’t fall into the trap of not treating a first interview seriously. Be professional. Dress professionally. Act professionally and politely from the start.

Treat culture-fit and first-round interviews seriously

Preliminary interviews are a great way for candidates to stand out and to get a sneak peek behind the culture curtain of their potential new employer too. Treat yours seriously and you could soon be in your new dream IT or engineering job.

Want to get access to exclusive vacancies you won’t find anywhere else?

Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering and IT recruitment agency.

Chat with us today about your career goals. We’ll get to work using our market-leading AI recruitment technology to find you some good options.