Once you have a stack of applications for a job opening, it's best to develop a list of preliminary, prescreening questions to ask promising applicants at the earliest possible stage in your hiring process.

You can gather this information on your employment application or by phone to determine whether applicants meet your minimum hiring requirements. This reduces your legal exposure and eliminates any time that would have been wasted in interviews with unsuitable candidates.

People who need a job will tell you they'll work any days, hours or times you want. However, if you hire them and the hours aren't to their liking, they'll soon be showing up late or not at all.

Head this aggravation off at the pass by asking these questions before the applicant knows what days/hours/shifts you need to fill:

1. What days/hours/shifts do you prefer not to work?

2. What days/hours/shifts can you work?

3. What days/hours/shifts can't you work or don't want to work?

Then ask the following question to determine whether they will be happy working for what you can pay or if they will always be looking for a better paying job.

4. What is your minimum salary/wage expectation?

To find out if they can start the job when needed and be there on time each day, ask:

5. If hired, when are you available to start?

6. Do you have reliable transportation?

7. At your last job (or school), what was the latest you ever arrived past your scheduled start time?

Finally, past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior. Ask:

8. What's the hardest job you've ever had, and how long were you employed there?

9. Have you ever been fired or asked to resign from a job? If yes, please explain.

10. When was the last time you took a drug test? What were the results?

Even if some of these questions are on your application form, you may want to ask them by phone as well as a check and balance.

Just make sure you ask them before you tell applicants any specifics of the job. Otherwise, you're likely to hear what you've just told them you want to hear instead of accurate and honest information.

Thank all applicants for applying and tell those who don't meet your minimum requirements that you don't have an open position that's a good fit for them at present. Ask the applicants who pass this prescreen to come in for the next step in your employee selection process.