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Pre Interview Questionnaire normal?
October 7, 2008 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Is a pre-interview questionnaire normal? Never seen such a thing before.

I just received a pre-interview questionnaire (not sure what else to call it) from a prospective employer I applied at last week. It was sent via email, and the questions were things like "why do you think you'll be a good fit for the company?" Basic things I answered (attempted to answer?) in the cover letter. It's been a while since I looked for a job, is this now standard? Or is someone being lazy? Should I answer it? (There is no urgency to my job hunt) FWIW, I'd expect to answer questions like these in an interview, or possibly even a phone call.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Work & Money (10 answers total)
 
Answer it, and answer every question with YES or whatever else they are hoping to hear. They are fairly common, especially at larger companies, where they are used to whittle down the field to a manageable amount. Basically, if you don't look perfect on paper, it will come back to bite you. Some middle manager who has never met you will see that you answered NO to question #37 and use that as his basis for dumping you from the candidate pool.
posted by BirdD0g at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2008


I've seen them a few times. I suspect it's because no one reads cover letters, and/or wants a standardized form for asking the basic questions.

I would assume that if you don't answer it, they would never follow up with you either.

Some companies have a very specific process for applying, and failing to exactly follow the directions given means the candidate is rejected outright, under the theory that if you can't follow directions when applying for the job, how likely are you to follow directions after hired.
posted by nomisxid at 2:42 PM on October 7, 2008


This isn't surprising. I had to fill out something like this that turned out to be fairly comprehensive, including a number of technical questions (I was applying for an internship as a software engineer). It was set up like a survey on the company's web site.

They probably do use your answers; in my case, they didn't ask me any technical questions during the two follow-up phone interviews.
posted by scission at 2:56 PM on October 7, 2008


This is a company that has a stringent hiring process and wants to weed out as many people as possible before you enter it. Or they are used to having lots of applications for positions.

It's not that you answered stuff in your cover letter; they want to have everyone's answers in a crosstab, essentially, for easier whittling and circular filing. It can be a way to screen you for technical capability not easily gleaned from your use of buzzwords and technologies, but this one sounds more general than that.
posted by dhartung at 3:18 PM on October 7, 2008


It's their company, it's their hoops, you choose whether to jump through them or not. Whether it's normal or not has no bearing on whether you should fill it out or not. As long as it's not asking something illegal (i.e. do you plan on getting married/pregnant/are you gay?) and the questions are ones you are otherwise comfortable with answering and don't send up red flags about the nature of the company for you, then why not? I've seen much stupider filters, and stopped my own applications dead because of them. This is basic stuff.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:30 PM on October 7, 2008


I had to do this at some pharma company I applied at before getting my current gig. It was a tipoff as to how the rest of the process was going to be, so keep that in mind. (Then they called me in for a 3 hour phone interview. And then wanted me to do some computerized test. It was just a giant mess.)
posted by sperose at 3:33 PM on October 7, 2008


I am a technology manager at a large brokerage firm and I probably see 100's of resumes per year. I cannot, however, recall when I last saw a cover letter. I don't know if HR gets rid of them or if they are not as common as they once were, but I know they don't make it to me.

Also, in the tech field people put every acronym and technology from the last 20 years on their resume hoping to get in the door only for me to hate them two seconds into the interview when I figure out they don't really know what they claim they do and are completly wasting my time. This is, unfortunately, very common in this field. We use pre interview questionnaires or tests all the time so the HR person can weed out the really horrible ones.
posted by monkeydluffy at 4:09 PM on October 7, 2008


Is this now standard?
Not standard (in any industry I know of) but not unheard of, as others have said.

When I'm looking to hire someone I usually give explicit instructions of what I want to see from them. (Not crazy scavenger hunt OCD stuff, just specific information I want and don't want.) If they don't follow the instructions then I toss 'em. Either they can't follow instructions or they don't want the job very badly. Either way I don't want to hire them. I'm still never at a loss of people to choose from.

Should I answer it?
Only if you want the job in any way. (See above.)
posted by Ookseer at 8:19 PM on October 7, 2008


It's almost certainly what nomisxid said: an attempt to get standardized responses.

And then the interviewers have standard or "fair" starting points of an interview. If they're pre-armed with standard answers like that, your interviewers can say "You say here you'd be a good fit because of your fantastic hygiene. Can you expand on that?"
posted by rokusan at 9:20 PM on October 7, 2008


i second rokusan's particular take. and of course, definitely fill it out, if you want the job.
posted by Soulbee at 5:47 AM on October 8, 2008


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