April 27, 2021

Improve Job Ad Performance: Why You Need to Look at Your Drop-Off Rates

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Alicia Little
April 27, 2021

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At Appcast, we’re always talking about apply rate this, apply rate that. Improve your apply rates! Shorten your job titles! Fix your mobile apply process! Shorten your apply process length and time!

And you think, so what, my apply rate is already 4% and that’s better than it’s been in the past 5 years! You’re telling me to make all of these, what seem to be, micro adjustments and my apply rate improves, what, by 2%?

So what?

Remember those “choose your own adventure” stories? Ok, humor me, I have a recruiting performance version.

Jim is the director of talent acquisition at Pack and Ship Inc., which as you may have guessed, is in the warehouse, logistics, and shipping business. At the beginning of the year, Pack and Ship (P&S) embarked on a mission to hire over 1200 new front-line workers to help them meet the demands of Covid-era consumerism and to prepare for an economic recovery-induced hiring surge. Jim has a budget $240,000 to advertise P&S’s jobs online.

It’s nearing the end of P&S’s first quarter and Jim’s new VP of talent acquisition, Janice, is looking to him to understand why they are significantly behind pace and pipelining of their hiring funnel.

Their conversation goes something like this.

Janice: Based on 2019’s funnel metrics, we should have at least 400 applicants for warehouse in our reach by now and yet we’re sitting at 180. Why aren’t we getting traction?

Jim: Well, I mean, the postings are performing! For just the 500 warehousing roles roles alone we have nearly 4000 clicks on those postings.

Janice: And you’re paying what for those clicks?

Jim: On average, about 84 cents per click. So all of those clicks only cost us $3360.

Janice: Fair. But Jim, I can’t hire clicks. What’s our current average apply rate?

Jim: We just passed an average of 4% – that’s the best it’s been in awhile.

Janice: So you mean to tell me for all the budget we’re investing in job advertising, we’re currently wasting 96% of it? And wasting 96% of people –who may very well be the people we so desperately need right now – who check out our job ads? We need to fix this. Now.

Before we get to your adventure options, let’s talk about Janice’s last comment. 96% waste? 

What Janice is referring to here is the application drop-off rate. Some may call it your abandonment rate and this isn’t unique to recruiting. The experts of e-commerce look at these conversion rates all the time. Really, what this is, is the inverse of your apply rate. Think about it, while you may convert 4% of people who click on your job into an applicant, the downside is, you’re losing 96% of them. 

Why does this matter? Because it’s a glaring measure of inefficiency in your application process and more broadly, your candidate experience. Not only are you potentially wasting good candidates, you also – if you pay per click – are wasting precious budget (particularly when you scale it across many roles). And frankly, I’ve never had a boss who likes wasting anything!

Back to the adventure. What do you do?

Choice #1: You convince Janice you just need to put a few more coins in the top of the funnel. Not only will you seek out two more job boards to post on but you’ll up bids so that even with 4% conversion, it’s all good. Buying more clicks should mean more applicants further down the  funnel, right?

Choice #2: You turn to the source of all wisdom, looking for an answer to this problem: Google. You search for “job posting,” “job ads,” “job advertising,” and somewhere down the rabbit hole you stumble on “programmatic job advertising,” and further down you come across a “job ad exchange”. It looks promising, so you dig into a few options and stumble upon Appcast. These people are practically preaching about apply rates and how to improve them so you dig in and learn more.

Choice #3: You decide you’re going to get serious about being data-driven in talent acquisition so that you can become a jedi of the recruiting funnel and the metrics that drive performance and efficiency in recruitment advertising. This way, you can not only impress Janice with the time you’ve invested in strategy and analytics but you can be more proactive in understanding where there are gaps and leaks in the funnel and your conversations with her about budget or changes needed are on a firm foundation of data.

*cue Jeopardy theme song*

While in the case of “choose your own adventure” stories, there never really was a “wrong answer,” I am going to make the gentle argument that in this case, there is.

How to Fix Your Drop-Off Rates

This is the part where I admit, both Choice #2 and Choice #3 (I never was a rule follower!) are the right path for this recruiting performance story. In all seriousness, how do you improve your drop-off rates?

Ultimately, you have to improve your apply (or application) process. I know this post is about drop-off rates and so here’s what I’ll say with respect to that: If you struggle to get buy-in and action internally for making the changes and improvements below, flip your apply rate (and remember, you’ll have different apply rates and drop-off rates for different jobs and hiring markets – this is why the data-driven part of Choice #3 is so important) on its head. Highlighting the drop-off provides an unavoidable perspective of the efficiency of your budget and your funnel. You’ll be hard pressed to encounter resistance when you tell any member of your team that your efforts are 96% wasted.

Ways to Improve Your Apply Process

  • Apply to your own jobs. Select a handful of your jobs (choose a variety of roles if you have them) and put yourself in the job seeker’s shoes. How long does it take? What parts are cumbersome? How many questions are there? Make sure you apply on both a desktop computer and a mobile device and note the differences (for better or worse).
  • Revisit your job titles. This seems like an outlier since it’s not actually part of your application process but it IS part of the candidate’s experience (and there are a number of things you can do to build better job titles!). For purposes of improving your apply rate, ensure your job title and what the job actually is are in alignment. If your job title is for a Customer Success Guru (think of how many ways you can interpret that) but your job description is for a front-line call center role, you will experience drop-off.
  • Shorten your job description. We’ve looked at this in previous editions of our annual Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report and this year, we looked specifically at how it impacts apply rates on a mobile device. The sweet spot is between 200 and 600 words but 200-300 words is absolutely best!

  • Remove unnecessary questions. If it’s not a pre-qualifying question, leave it till a later phase of the process or remove it altogether. If you can, winnow it down to just the basics and save the in-depth questions (or components of your hiring process like assessments, for instance) for later, it will be a much better experience. 
  • Shorten your apply process. This goes hand in hand with the previous point, of course, but do anything you possibly can to make the apply process as short and barrier-free as possible. If you can get it to less than 5 minutes, you’re looking at a 350% increase in apply rates, as opposed to a process that takes more than 15 minutes.

  • Prioritize improving your mobile application experience. Last year, for the first time ever, more people applied to jobs on a mobile device than they did on a desktop device. Job seekers are craving online-shopping-like experiences when it comes to finding a job. All of the aforementioned recommendations apply here but also ensure your apply process plays nicely with different browsers and devices and that there are no questions that require lengthy responses and a resume upload is not required. For more tips on creating a world-class mobile experience, check out our whitepaper.
  • Advertise jobs on the days applications are most likely. This will vary by device. On mobile, the highest volume of applications occur on the weekend. Across all devices, the most applies occur at the beginning of the standard seven-day work week. Post jobs accordingly (programmatic technology can help with this!).

So that covers Choice #2 in the adventure. What about Choice #3? I’ll be brief. Being data-driven can help you baseline, benchmark, and improve the aspects of your apply process, as noted in the previous bullet points. Data helps you understand where the problem areas are in your end-to-end candidate journey. Data enables you to advocate for the appropriate amount of budget to advertise your jobs. Data allows you to demonstrate improvement and provides evidence for strategic conversations. I’ll stop here. In short, you need the right data and you need to know what to do with it. I encourage you to dig into the resources in the “Data & Measurement” section of our Library – you will find everything you need to learn the language of data and embed it within every facet of your recruiting strategy. Be sure to start with our 2021 Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report!

And, of course, if you need help, we’re always happy to help you navigate your recruiting adventure!

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