Amber Rudd has refused to guarantee that the Tory commitment to reduce net migration to the "tens of thousands" will feature in the party's election manifesto.
The Home Secretary said she wanted to "continue to bring immigration down" and wanted to "nudge" firms into making more of an effort to recruit British workers.
But she stopped short of saying the controversial net migration target - which has never been met by the Conservatives since it was introduced - would be repeated.
Prime Minister Theresa May, Ms Rudd's predecessor at the Home Office, has insisted she wants to see "sustainable" net migration, which she has defined as "in the tens of thousands".
Ms Rudd said the election manifesto would not be "identical" to the 2015 document, which included the target.
"My personal view is we need to continue to bring immigration down. I want to make sure that we do it in a way that supports businesses, you know we're ending freedom of movement when we leave the European Union," she told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics.
Asked if she agreed with Cabinet colleague Karen Bradley, who said immigration policy was "not about putting numbers on it", Ms Rudd said: "It's too early to say. I appreciate you want to push me on this but we are going to have to wait until the manifesto comes out."
The Home Secretary said she had an "open mind" about proposals for so-called "barista visas" which would allow young European Union citizens to come to work for a limited period in sectors such as the hospitality industry.
But she insisted firms such as sandwich chain Pret a Manger must do more to recruit British staff.
She said: "I did hear that Pret a Manger had come out and said it's absolutely essential for us to have European workers because if we don't we're going to have to make more of an effort to recruit in the UK.
"Well, good. I'd quite like them to make more of an effort to recruit in the UK. So we will be trying to push them as well to do more in the UK. Them and all business so that we make sure we look after people who are otherwise unemployed in the UK better".
Ms Rudd also played down the potential impact of excluding students from net migration figures, as some around the Cabinet table are believed to favour.
"It's a complete red herring to talk about taking students out of those numbers and it making a big impact," she said.
Ukip's immigration spokesman John Bickley said the Tories were "completely at sea" on the issue.
"They are lost. They know that last year's referendum result was driven in a large part by our country's desire to take back control of immigration, but there is no will in the Tory Party to deliver this," he said.
"Either they maintain their policy created by Theresa May of tens of thousands, a promise they have failed to deliver in seven years, or they drop it and admit that they have no intention to deliver what the country demands.
"The Tories are so in hock to their big business multinational corporate chums that they would rather see wages for working people in this country driven down by mass migration rather than acting to control immigration in the best interests of this nation.
"It is only Ukip who are serious about delivering concrete measures to control immigration".
Ukip will set out its immigration policy on Monday.