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Your Applicant Drop-Off Rate and How to Improve It

One of the important HR metrics to evaluate, especially when you’re working to hire at a high volume, is applicant drop off rate. This is the proportion of candidates who begin your application process online, but do not complete it. This metric helps recruiters understand exactly what they need to change during the application process to create a better candidate experience and bring more prospective hires into their 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.

To calculate: Application drop off ratio = # number of applications started: # of applications finished

In retail and ecommerce marketing, this is known as “abandoned cart rate.” The typical shopping cart abandonment rate for online retailers varies between 60% and 80%, with an average of 71.4%. It is claimed that the best optimized checkout process has an abandonment rate of 20%. 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 that you know where you are now, make changes to your application process one at a time so you can measure the success of the change and 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?

There are many reasons why an applicant might begin an application on your career website, but not complete it. We’ll take a look at some of the possible reasons and benchmarking data here.

You’re 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 is 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.

You’re asking for duplicate information.

If your ATS can pull candidate information from uploaded resumes or LinkedIn pages, but the candidate then has to manually enter this information again, this is where a lot of abandonment occurs. It’s frustrating for job seekers. The same goes for asking candidates to create one account to log on to a careers site and a second account to apply through your ATS. These double logins are so common that it’s a topic discussed at length in job seeker groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. Work with your HRIS vendor to ensure that uploaded resume or LinkedIn data makes it from application to your system without manual entry and with just one account creation, and you’ll eliminate two significant pain points for candidates.

You’re not asking screening questions.

Even a short list of three simple questions pulled from “must have” skills on your job description can help candidates move through (or out of) your hiring process before they begin your application.

Related: Learn about how we reduce client wasted time and spend through qualifying questions

Your application process is not mobile optimized.

In 2020, a study performed by Appcast showed that 60.7% of job applications were completed on a mobile device compared to 39.3% on desktop. This means that 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.

Your application process doesn’t have a “save and return” feature.

You’ve been a job seeker, so you mat know that people are likely to apply for a job while on a break from their 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 that their application is waiting on them to complete it.

You’re not telling applicants what to expect.

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 they complete it in 15, you get completed applications.

You haven’t tested the user experience.

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? What seems like a small thing to you could be a much larger frustration to a potential candidate.

You want to hire wisely and swiftly. Candidate screening during the application is key to being able to do so, and we have traditionally built our application process with the intention of improving our quality of hire. We tend to think that applicants abandon the application process because they’re not excited about working for our company or are generally disinterested, and the really good candidates will stick with it no matter how long it takes. However, if you’re asking for too much information or requiring applicants to fill out the same information they uploaded in a resume, applicants might just be dropping off because they’re frustrated or annoyed, leaving them with a negative perception of your employer brand.