Are You Tracking Your Applicant Drop-Off Rate on Your Career Site?

Senior Director of Marketing

Applicant drop-off rate is an underused HR metric, but recruiting teams must be able to measure it and improve it in order to create a stellar candidate experience. There are many reasons why an applicant might begin an application on your career website, but not complete it.

Here, we’ll explain why this metric is so important and offer some tips that can be easily implemented to optimize your online application process and improve your drop-off rate.

What is the Applicant Drop-Off Rate?

The applicant drop-off rate refers to the percentage of candidates who initiate the application process on your career site but do not complete it. This metric allows you to identify bottlenecks and areas of improvement in your application process. It also helps recruiters understand what may need to change during the application process to create a better candidate experience and bring more prospective hires into the talent funnel. This can be expressed as a ratio, such as 80 applications started and 10 finished, so a drop-off ratio of 8:1.

In retail and e-commerce marketing, this is known as the “abandoned cart rate.” The typical shopping cart abandonment rate for online retailers varies between 60% and 80%, averaging 71.4%. Recruitment marketing works differently, but the same principles can be applied to your application drop-off ratio. Benchmark this metric using your own data so you know where you are now. Then, make changes to your application process one at a time so you can measure the success of the change. This will help you understand the impact it has on your drop-off ratio, rinse and repeat.

Just as website and performance improvements help online marketers optimize their checkout process, we can apply some of the same principles to recruitment and your application process.

Why Are Applicants ‘Abandoning Cart’ in Your Apply Process?

In the competitive landscape of talent acquisition, optimizing your recruitment process is vital to attract and retain top-quality candidates. Understanding where and why candidates abandon the application process can provide invaluable insights and help you enhance the candidate experience.

There are many reasons why an applicant might begin an application on your career website and not complete it—understanding these pain points helps you identify specific areas for improvement.

Here are just a few that are easy to fix with a quick audit.

1. Are you asking too many questions? Even though collecting as much information as possible is helpful from a recruiting standpoint, it can also deter applicants from finishing the application because it's too long. This applies to both desktop and mobile. Shortening the application can help increase the number of applications being completed and coming into your system. Work with your hiring managers to find out the bare minimum they need to ask for screening and cut the screening questions as much as possible. Simplify forms, reduce the number of clicks required, and ensure clear instructions are provided at each stage.

2. Do you have a clunky mobile interface? A cumbersome or non-responsive mobile interface can lead to a higher drop-off rate among mobile users. In 2020, a study by Appcast showed that 60.7% of job applications were completed on a mobile device compared to 39.3% on a desktop. This means the majority of job applicants are on a mobile device and if the process is not designed for ease of use and mobile responsiveness, they’ll abandon the application.

3. Do you have a “save and return” feature? You’ve been a job seeker and you know that we’re more likely to apply for a job while we’re on a break from our current job. If a candidate can’t hit “save” so they can return and pick up where they left off, they might not try again. Capture the minimum amount of information (email address or mobile number), and you can email or text applicants to remind them their application is waiting to be completed.

4. Do you have progress indicators? Incorporate progress indicators to help candidates understand how far they are in the application process and how much time it may take to complete. If a job seeker has a spare 15 minutes and they find your job listing on their phone, hit apply, and begin filling out the application, they don’t know if it’s going to take five or 25 minutes. On the same page as your “apply now” button, include approximately how long the process will take. Round up. If a candidate expects the process to take 30 minutes and completes it in 15, you get completed applications.


How to Test Your Own Candidate User Experience

Implement A/B testing to experiment with different elements of your career site and application process. Test variations of forms, page layouts, call-to-action buttons, and other critical elements. Test your own application process as if you were a candidate. Have others outside of your department do the same.

Is it clunky, slow, or confusing? Are the next steps clear? Is it intuitive? Does the pre-fill from social sites or resumes work perfectly? Does it allow you to back up and edit a previous entry? Is it accessible to people with disabilities? What seems like a small thing to you could be a much larger frustration to a potential candidate.

Tracking your applicant drop-off rate is an ongoing process. Continuously monitor your metrics and benchmark your performance against industry standards to gain a broader perspective. This allows you to identify trends, set targets, and improve your career site conversion rates regularly.

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