The 5 Biggest Recruitment Challenges Recruiters Face


In today’s global environment, the recruitment process is a dynamic, complex and critical component of HR’s alignment with an overall corporate strategic plan.

Most HR professionals and business leaders will attest that having the right person in the right role is an invaluable asset in any organization. While we may all agree that attracting and retaining qualified candidates is critical, even the most established organizations may struggle throughout the recruitment process.

And that struggle is real. Here are five common challenges, along with solutions to help you, in creating a recruitment plan to prepare for the future.

1. Attracting the Right Candidates

For decades, organizations struggled to attract qualified candidates. Coined in 1997 by McKinsey & Company, the phrase “war for talent” refers to the competition of attracting and retaining talented employees.

Twenty-years later, a survey by Glassdoor revealed that the war for talent seems to be getting worse with 76 per cent of hiring managers reporting that attracting quality candidates is their biggest recruitment challenge. And while you may think that a large pool of candidates is required to find the perfect match, attracting qualified candidates is not always about the number of candidates that apply.

In fact, attracting the right candidate is often a result of a smaller pool of skilled talent.

The Solution: Start with Qualifications

Recruiters should look to their list of qualifications. Don’t create a laundry list of qualifications that are too high for the role. Keep them realistic by identifying your “must haves” to successfully carry out the role, followed by your “nice to haves.”

Then, request that applicants indicate their ability to meet those must haves in their cover letter or CV.

Clearly indicating the must haves is a quick way to screen out those who aren’t a good match early on. Not all candidates will fit the role, but you may identify a few individuals through the review process that have potential for future postings.

2. Asking the Right Questions

The goal of an interview should be to identify the candidate whose skillset best matches the position and whose personal values align with the organization’s values.

While this may seem obvious, qualified candidates are too often screened out because they are not offered questions that showcase their expertise and values.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 74 per cent of employers admit they’ve hired the wrong person. The survey also found that the cost to employers is nearly $15,000 dollars for every hiring error.

Therefore, much is to be gained by understanding the right questions to ask during the recruitment process and how they can influence a hiring decision.

The Solution: Tailor Your Questions to Your Culture

Questions should be tailored to align with key responsibilities of the role, along with your organization’s culture and goals.

The best way to predict performance is to inquire about the past, so look to uncover capabilities (not just experience) by asking behaviour-based questions.

For example, ask the candidate about a specific time they helped lead a team through change. Another method to uncover fit for the role is to provide specific scenarios that candidates may face on the job and ask them to describe what they would do in each situation.

Behind each question should be a specific purpose that ties back to job responsibilities, core competencies, values or fit.

3. Unconscious Bias

Our own unconscious biases are a critical obstacle to overcome to ensure a fair and equitable recruitment process.

This is no easy feat considering they are unconscious, meaning they are likely blind spots for us.

According to publications by Cornell University, we absorb about 11 million pieces of information at one time, but we can only process 40.

As a result of trying to process a vast amount of information, our brains create mental shortcuts, which include split decisions about people you meet, pass on the street and, yes, interview. Important decisions, such as “Who is competent? Who is trustworthy? Who do I like?” In the absence of having a plan to actively counteract those biases, recruitment decisions can, and likely will, be biased. Those biases have been shown to most hinder those who have been historically marginalized in workplaces and society.

The Solution: Unconscious Bias Training is Key

There are several solutions to counteract the complex issue of unconscious bias in hiring. One is to ensure a diverse hiring panel where all members are empowered to openly share their thoughts during interview debriefs.

Another way to minimize bias is to ask the exact same questions to each candidate.

Finally, everyone involved in the hiring process should undergo unconscious bias training as educating oneself increases the likelihood that you will begin to identify and interrupt those biases.

4. Candidate Ghosting

In the world of dating, the term “ghosting” is a common phenomenon.

Take for example a time when you were in a relationship and suddenly, without any explanation, the other person cuts off communication. If this was to happen to you, you’d likely be left feeling confused, hurt and disrespected.

In recent years, employers have encountered ghosting by candidates who disappear during the hiring process. Candidates are “no showing” their interviews and are not responding once they receive job offers.

The Solution: Get Real, as in, Real Time

Job seekers today operate in real time; therefore, communicating timelines during the hiring process is essential to reduce the likelihood that candidates will go elsewhere.

Try to streamline the process and eliminate any unnecessary steps to shorten the timeline from the application deadline to the final job offer stage.

It is not unheard of for hiring managers to go into the interview with an offer letter, and if the candidate does well, to present the offer at the end. That may not be suitable for all organizations, however, it is clear that the lengthier the process, the greater likelihood of ghosting.

It’s best to assign a specific point-person (i.e. hiring manager, recruiter) to regularly check-in with applicants throughout the process to keep them connected.

5. The Pandemic Problem

Undoubtedly, the impacts of COVID-19 have been immense. Many organizations are forced to freeze hiring, undergo mass layoffs or, even worse, shut their doors for good. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, many organizations continue to ramp up recruitment to accommodate increased demands for their products or services.

While we could create an exhaustive list of challenges for recruiters resulting from the pandemic, we’ll focus on two.

Solution A: A Virtual World

For most organizations, virtual interviews are quickly becoming the new normal. A primary challenge of virtual interviews is the technological piece, and recruiters will need to quickly familiarize themselves with online platforms.

And while technology is continually improving, recruiters should have a plan in place should technology fail or interruptions in connectivity arise. We’ve probably all been in meetings recently where someone’s camera doesn’t work, background noise creates distractions, and we endure awkward long silences of people speaking while muted.

Virtual interviews become even more challenging when there is a hiring panel in place.

To have a more seamless process, prior to your first interview, we recommend doing a run through with panel members to identify how introductions will be done, who will ask which questions, and who will close the interview and answer candidate questions.

Solution B: Passive Candidates

According to LinkedIn Talent Solutions, 70 per cent of the workforce is made up of passive talent who aren’t actively job searching, while the remaining 30 per cent are active seekers.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the pandemic, candidates will likely value security over uncertainty and there may be challenges recruiting passive candidates.

Recruiters and hiring managers should take this time to refocus efforts on company branding and outreach on social media in order to stay top of mind. Showcase your organization as a place that people want to be, a place where they can grow and thrive.

In the words of Matthew Jeffrey from SAP, “Recruitment IS marketing. If you’re a recruiter nowadays and you don’t see yourself as a marketer, you’re in the wrong profession.” Don’t do it alone — enlist your employees to take to social media to get the word out about your company and job openings.


The competition to hire the best and the brightest is here to stay. Organizations now broadly realize that their competitive advantage or “secret sauce” comes from their people. Rising up to address recruitment challenges will help ensure your organization is able to attract qualified and talented people at a time when you need them most.



Robin Turnill has 20 years of leadership and consulting experience in the public and private sector. She is the founder of Pivot HR Services, a firm that provides strategic HR services to many local clients. Mia McCannel specializes in recruitment & selection, policy development, and corporate training development.

For the latest HR and business articles, check out our main page

Reader Feedback

We want to hear from you!

Do you have a story idea you’d like to see covered by PeopleTalk?

Or maybe you’ve got a question we could ask our members in our People & Perspectives section?

Or maybe you just want to tell us how much you liked the article.

The door is always open.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4 / 5. Vote count: 2

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


Enter your email address to receive updates each Wednesday.

Privacy guaranteed. We'll never share your info.