What do you do as an in-house recruiter when posting your job posting online isn’t drawing the right response, and you’re overwhelmed by the volume? Even with your screening questions and clear must-haves, you still end up with a large pool of applicants. Who has the time to filter through each one carefully, let alone create a response that acknowledges the applicant? You’re time-strapped and resource-constrained and yet, the business needs to keep going.  

As an in-house corporate recruiter or the hiring manager tasked with managing the process in addition to your regular job, hiring is time-consuming. It always seems to be done in a panic, reactive to somebody’s departure or an increase in business, with little time given to anticipating and defining talent needs. Nobody wants extra human resources on their P/L statement, dragging down the margin; shouldn’t those human resources just magically appear when you need them? 

We convince ourselves that it’s easy to hire the right people – post that vacant position and in no time we’ll have it filled. That sometimes works, but relying on the posting immediately has you fishing in uncertainty. You think you are going to where the fish are, but you don’t know for sure, and either way you can’t make them take the bait.  

What can you do when you’re drowning in job descriptions and applicants and the “magic” solution promised by job boards and ATS’s is not working, and you still need to hire somebody. Regardless if you are hiring in an “employee market” or an “employer market”, the right talent seems to be elusive.  

There is an optimal way to hire, and some organizations have nailed it, but many of us must get the hiring done in an organization that hasn’t quite figured it all out. If that is your situation and you need to deliver, focus on what you can control: 

Remember Your Demographics

The more generic the skill set the more people that can do the job. The more unique the combination of skills, experience and personal characteristics and traits become, the fewer potential candidates. There is no one-stop solution that meets all levels and functional complexity in combination with industry/sector knowledge and experience, though many organizations use the same hammer to solve the problem: post and pray.  Try to encourage your organization to select the recruitment tactic best suited to the role.  

Prioritize Requirements 

While it is tempting to ask for the moon, it is not possible to get it. Loading up job descriptions with every possible requirement is a recipe for failure, yet we keep doing it. If possible, partner with the hiring manager, try to co-create the job description to at least, prioritize the must-haves.  Or if you are hiring, force yourself to define what it takes to be successful in the role.  Scrutinize your screening questions if posting, and make sure they are relevant and meaningful. 

Park Your Assumptions 

When reviewing applicants, don’t assume you know what candidates want. Keep your mind open. Get curious. Have conversations with a few unlikely suspects.   You might learn something.  Watch your own bias when screening. While we all want to fill the role as quickly as possible, we can miss some diamonds if we rely too much on our assumptions.  


Approach your applicants with respect. Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions to find out what they bring to the table. Remember, this is about making the match. Nobody wants to end up in a job that doesn’t suit them.   

Move Off-script 

Deliberately have conversations with potential candidates that don’t appear to bring all the requirements. Some people just aren’t great at writing resumes. Be a little forgiving. You might discover they are qualified once you know the story. 

Tighten Your Interview Process 

When you must work through a lot of people to get to the right one pick a few “must haves” and structure a few questions that will get you to the answer quickly.   

Gather Information and Facts 

While not ignoring your instincts, make sure you get the information and facts that matter for your organization. Create a template that allows you to compare the candidates relative to the key selection criteria.  

It is easy to panic and overreact when handling many roles with a high volume of applicants. Take a deep breath, focus, and start mining your pool with intent, particularly for the entry and middle level. For the more senior roles, with a unique combination of skills, experience and personal characteristics and traits, a retained search firm can significantly enhance the process.