How to Narrow Down The Candidate Pool

By Ashley Paskill on May 5, 2022

Finding candidates to fill jobs can come with problems, such as getting too many candidates applying for a job, even if they are not qualified. This leads you to waste time weeding through applications to find those who actually qualify and would be a good fit. Luckily, there are ways to narrow your candidate pool, even before receiving applications for a position.

Think like a marketer

Before you even think about posting the job, thinking like a marketer can help you narrow your pool of candidates. Marketers are aware of a brand’s target audience and know how to get buyers in to purchase the good or service. Likewise, it is important that you know exactly what you are looking for in a candidate so you know how to target your job postings accordingly. For instance, if you are looking for someone with five or more years of experience, you likely would not post on a university job board geared toward more recent graduates. Knowing who you are looking for and where to find them will help limit the number of unqualified candidates that apply.

Look at the details

If you have too many applicants that all fit the job description, look at the details in their application. Look to see if their cover letter was written well and if it is tailored towards the job they are applying for with your company. Does their resume fit on two pages or less and contain all the relevant information you need to know? Honing in on the smaller details in each application can help you determine who you want to fill the position.

Passion is a plus

When you are looking at an application, you can tell who is truly passionate about a position and who is applying just for the money or another incentive. Passionate people have cover letters that show how excited they are about the position and the industry as a whole, and their resumes have experience of things they have accomplished in previous positions. Finding someone who is passionate often means this person will genuinely care about the position, which is crucial for your company.

Image: Gustavo Fring via

Trust your instinct

It is natural to have a gut reaction to one candidate over another. If you get the feeling that one would be a better fit than another, trust your gut feeling. Your unconscious can pick up details you did not notice without you knowing, so it is okay to trust your feelings. You know what kind of candidate you are looking for, so you will know instinctively if you have found someone who will be a good fit.

Write a clear job description

If you write a short job description that is unclear, it is likely that you will get multiple applicants who are interpreting the job differently. However, a clear job description that focuses on the tasks the employee will complete during employment will narrow down the candidates to those who feel qualified to do those tasks well. You may even decide to exclude things like a certain amount of years of experience.

Customize the application

As the recruiter, you know the job and exactly what you are looking for in an employee. Customize your application to include questions about the specific job. That way, the hiring software can show you the candidates who answered the questions in a way that would be beneficial as the person who will fulfill the job opening. You may also want to include open-ended questions to get a prospective employee’s deeper insight to their answers to the questions. Multiple choice questions are okay in some instances, but when dealing with specific questions about a situation that may arise, seeing a candidate’s thought process is useful for you.

Phone interview first

Having in-person interviews is tough for you and the candidate. They require travel and preparation that can take up huge chunks of time. Before you start in-person interviews, have phone screenings to help weed out candidates you do not feel you need to interview in person. You will be able to get a sense of their personality and passion over the phone, and if they seem like a perfect match, bring them in for an in-person interview. Otherwise, move on to the next candidate.

Salary requirements

You may have found an amazing candidate, but you are unable to hire them if they require a higher salary than you can offer. Either put the salary expectation in the job description or have it as a question on the application. If they see what salary you can offer in the job description and it is lower than they need, they may be hesitant to apply. Asking about it in the application allows you to know what they need and you can go from there.

Weeding through huge piles of applications can be time-consuming when trying to fill a position, but there are things you can do and look for when narrowing down the candidate pool.

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