Your Browser Is Out of Date :(

Some sections of this website won’t display properly in your browser.
For the best experience, please update to one of the newer options below.



500 Applications, Zero Qualified Candidates… What Do You Do?

Have you ever posted a job listing online and gotten absolutely no qualified candidates?

It happened to Allan Ripp, the head of a PR firm, and he wrote about it in a recent New York Times op-ed. He posted an ad in search of a PR account director on LinkedIn and, and received 500 applications — none of them qualified for the role.

Their “experience and skill sets ranged from vaguely on-point to off-the-charts irrelevant,” Ripp wrote. “Auto collections manager? Home health aide? Visual merchandiser? Count them all in.”

Why does this happen? There are two major reasons.

Problem #1: It’s too easy to apply

Job hunting has never been easier, in theory. But it’s so easy, non-qualified candidates easily find their way into your inbox. Unqualified job seekers can shoot off a resume “while scrolling through one’s phone in between texting and watching TV,” Ripp said.

As Ripp described, “restless applicants shoot off their résumés like one of those T-shirt cannons at a football stadium, firing without aiming.” He imagined them “swiping on Tinder with the same abandon as they responded to my posting.”

This is the nature of the beast when you’re putting your job listing in front of millions of people instead of the right people.


Anyone can apply to any job. So, you have to make your job description crystal clear to attract good, qualified candidates and discourage unqualified ones.

Eliminate jargon and say what you mean. Be specific. If you’ll only consider a candidate with industry experience, say so. Keep it short, as applicants may not read the entire job description before deciding to apply.

(Check out these free resources to help you improve your job descriptions.)

Also, don’t limit your job search to online. It might be the easiest way for applicants to get to you, but it’s just one tool in your recruiting toolbox.

Get referrals and recommendations from employees you know and trust. Attend conferences, job fairs, and networking events. Stay connected to your industry’s professional organizations and alumni networks.

And look to your job on sites like Mediabistro — ones that are focused on qualified candidates who have the experience, skills and drive you’re looking for, rather than job listing aggregator sites.

Problem #2: Job listing aggregation sites focus on quantity, not quality

Ripp posted his job description on LinkedIn and Indeed, among other places. These job aggregation sites appeal to employers because they offer a high volume of job candidates, but they don’t necessarily offer high-quality, qualified candidates.

Many people commented on Ripp’s op-ed to say this.

Rebecca commented: “I’m sorry but posting to generic job boards seems like a waste of time if you’re looking for an experienced PR Account Director.”

Joe commented: “If you don’t want so many unqualified applicants, then take the time to develop a more targeted recruiting process. Posting on Indeed and hoping to find the perfect candidate is really just lazy.”

Karen commented: “If I were a PR manager looking to hire, I would post my ad on appropriate sites — trade-specific, not generic. You reap what you sow, and Ripp didn’t bother to sow in the right places.”

These commenters were spot-on. Going the generic route is a bad idea. You need to target your job search to reach a specific audience.


Always put quality over quantity in your recruiting efforts.

Stop wasting time and money posting on generic job listing aggregation websites. Take stock of how much you’ve paid in the past, and how many people you’ve actually hired from those sites. While you may have had mountains of applications, and even a few promising interviews, a truly amazing candidate is rare.

Instead, post your listing on an industry or job function-specific job board that caters to a niche audience of qualified, engaged job-seekers.

If you are looking for talented professionals in any of the following job functions, that site is Mediabistro. You’ll reach over a million registered users — but remember, it’s not just the quantity that matters. It’s the quality.

Mediabistro’s core job functions:

  • Writing & Editing
  • Marketing & Communications
  • Production
  • Creative & Design
  • Strategy & Operations
  • Sales & Business Development

Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get our best career advice and job search tips.