The Impact of Mobile Recruiting on Click-to-apply Rates

iPadThe mobile explosion is changing the recruiting game. In 2010, only 10 percent of job seekers used their mobile phone to search and apply for jobs. By 2014, that figure had risen to 50 percent. With the seismic shift towards mobile-savvy job-seekers, recruiters face a stark choice. They must either strategize for radical change or compromise their ability to compete for talent. analyzed over 250,000 applications and took a data-driven look at the impact mobile has on recruiting costs and outcomes. The results were startling. For every 100 candidates who click through from a job advertisement to a recruitment portal on a desktop device, an average of eight will complete a job application. For mobile click-throughs, the completion figure is just 1.5 percent.

Let’s take a closer look.

Impact of Mobile Recruiting on CTA

Click-to-apply ratio measures the percentage of job seekers who click to view a job posting who actually go on to complete a job application. If 100 job seekers view a posting and 10 of those job seekers go on to apply, the click-to-apply ratio is 10 percent.

Appcast’s data, gained from a longitudinal study of every major applicant tracking system in 15 different industries, shows that mobile traffic converts at a significantly lower rate than desktop traffic.

mobile chart-1

The reason is simple: it is far harder to apply from a mobile device than it is from a desktop. This may be due to:

  • Platform issues, such as the inability to store a resume on a mobile device
  • Ill-considered apply processes, which becomes exaggerated when performed on a small screen.

In fact, our data shows that lengthy, complex, and time-consuming applications are the primary barrier to mobile applicants. On average, 10.6 percent of click-through candidates complete a job application that asks fewer than 25 questions. That figure drops by half (5.68 percent) when the application asks 50 questions or more.

mobile chart-2

But the most significant metric is the time it takes candidates to fill out an application. Application rates drop by a staggering 365 percent if an application takes more than 15 minutes to complete. 

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mobile chart-3

Why Mobile Completion Rates Matter

In a nutshell: cost. Under the popular cost-per-click pricing model, recruiters pay each time a job-seeker clicks through to the employer’s recruitment portal, regardless of what the job seeker does next. If the applicant abandons his application, the return on investment is zero.

In some sectors the mobile disconnect is especially costly. Technology, for example, sees 19 percent of its desktop candidates completing a job application, compared to just 1 percent of mobile candidates. Assuming a cost-per-click of $0.40, sourcing costs are $2.10 per desktop applicant ($0.40 cost per click/19 percent click to apply) compared to $40 ($0.40 cost per click/1 percent click to apply) for mobile candidates — an increase of 1,805 percent. Overall, organizations can carve 250 percent from their sourcing costs simply by reducing the time it takes to complete an application from 15 minutes to 5 minutes.

Key Takeaways

The business case for improving mobile recruitment is compelling. Data hints at a growing wave of mobile candidates who want quick, easy application processes. They are not finding them. The fact is, the small screen exacerbates problems inherent in the apply process. Drawn-out apply processes seriously deter mobile candidates, many of whom will abandon an application before they submit it.

Bluntly put, every question you eliminate from the application reduces applicant sourcing costs. In a low supply/high demand recruitment environment where the talent pool is mobile-centric, recruiters can double applications and slash recruitment costs by streamlining mobile apply processes across the board.

Chris Forman is the CEO and founder of Appcast Inc. He has previously served as CEO of StartWire (which he founded), CEO of AIRS, and Chief Development Officer of The Right Thing. Chris has worked in the recruiting industry for 20 years, developing smart recruiting tools that have helped hire millions of people around the globe. He is a nationally recognized expert in recruiting and talent management and has been quoted in publications such as The Wall Street JournalThe New York Times and Staffing Industry Review.


10 Comments on “The Impact of Mobile Recruiting on Click-to-apply Rates

  1. I share the passion around this issue with Chris but I really wish that people in our industry would stop referencing that 50 percent of candidates search and apply to jobs on-line. That may be true but it is also quite misleading.

    Those who aren’t well versed in statistics or lack critical thinking skills (we all know too many people in both of those buckets) are misled into thinking that half of job searches occur on mobile devices. That’s far from the truth. All that stat means is that half of job seekers at any point have run at least one job search using a tablet or smartphone. They may have run 1,000 searches on their desktop computers and one on their iPad but they’ll be lumped into that 50 percent bucket.

    The reality is that the mobile experience is horrible for virtually all searches for virtually all candidates. There’s a whole lot of blame to go around and a whole lot of opportunity to make improvements. I completely agree with the points Chris is making but this issue is so compelling and the facts surrounding the issue are so overwhelming that there’s just no need to quote a misleading stat. Those of us who understand the reality of that stat then become unnecessarily skeptical about the rest of the points made and that’s a real shame as this is a very, very important issue to all stakeholders in our industry.

    1. Good to see someone else sharing a similar viewpoint. The 50% figure has always appeared quite dubious to me, and I feel it’s often a case of vendors and suppliers being selective about the data they use to prove the particular point they want to make (and often further their own cause).

      The problem with this is that it creates false expectation within the market, I talk to recruiters and job board owners who feel they’re falling behind all the time.

      It’s great to point out that the application conversion rate is so much lower for mobile – we’ve seen that across our entire client base, but we don’t necessarily link that to poor UX for mobile job seekers. In our extensive user research, we’ve found that mobile job seeking is part of a cross-device experience.

      Candidates use mobile to search, but they’re more likely to apply via desktop. We can’t just blame technology for this. Think about it – changing career is a huge decision and action in someone’s life. Putting together an application, perfecting your covering letter, updating your CV…users want to be able to do this on a desktop where they can give time, care and consideration to the process.

      The key for recruiters and job board owners, is to give job seekers tools and functionalities that make the journey between mobile and desktop seamless. Shortlisting, favouriting, jobs by email etc. Make it as easy as possible for them to pick up where they left off.

  2. TalentObjects by Lumesse, built on the Salesforce1 platform, solves this issue. Candidates can search job posting and easily apply through their mobile device. Applying takes less than a minute, while capturing important EEO data for the company.

  3. Interesting article and information. Though, as a Recruiter, I actually do not want to make the application process too easy to complete. Ours is concise & simple, taking only 5-10 minutes to complete, so it’s not a big discouraging burden to the applicant. For many of our job openings, I intentionally add several valuable screening questions to have candidates self-select to narrow down the list of people that are qualified, seriously interested, and honest. I don’t want to see a pile of irrelevant applications from people just looking for another job to pay their bills.

    We don’t use cost-per-click job postings, and they are generally not very popular in recruiting, so to say that a massive amount of bare bones applications will save on sourcing costs is ridiculous. If anything, having to sort through a bunch of unqualified applicants to hire someone that was just looking for any old job to pay their bills, to then leave soon-after when they find the career opportunity that they were actually looking for, that would make the sourcing costs sky-rocket. Sometimes, recruiters blur the lines between marketing and recruiting too much. There’s a valuable psychological aspect that is often forgotten about when someone is self-qualifying themself for a position and filling out an application.

  4. Thank you for the article with the data.
    I wonder that people who stop the search on mobile resume on desktop on desktop, as of course not all people resume.

  5. A good article though brave. There are a lot of people promoting mobile – it seems also heresy to question it (so well done). We supply recruitment and ATS type systems and perhaps our experience might be of interest. We have long promoted that clients should use dedicated mobile webpages/apps to capture applications and ensure that these suit the use of mobile users. This I think is perhaps what a big part of the problem is what is showing up in Chris’s numbers. There is no point in presenting a mobile user with a long application form. We have this debate with clients all the time. If you do you will get huge drop-off rates – and frankly this should not be a surprise (as these reports suggest). Another factor that might also come into play – is; we are also encourage our clients when deploying “mobile-pages” to make uploading the CV optional. In our experience not many people hold a ready-to-go CV on their phone. Indeed most iphone users wont have equipped their phones for file uploads (the iphone safari browser wont upload files – at least not without other apps).

    Our recommendation is that clients make it easy for mobile users to apply with fairly minimal information but, set up automated facilities so that the applicant then gets sent a one time web-link where they can complete more extensive questions (or amend their answers) and upload their CV if they need to. This allows clients to capture interest on a mobile but for the candidate to be able to add more info later. We find it works well – certainly a lot better than the numbers in Chris’ report. Not all candidates of course fully update their information but a significant number do.
    I mention the above, as I agree with many of the comments that applying on a mobile can be a horrible experience and even with the best of systems a desktop provides a better platform for doing this. Mobile has its limitations and filling in forms is one of them.

    I do also however agree with Brent’s comments that we should not seek to simply make mobile too easy and omit screening info completely. Sensible use of screening questions helps sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’. We have certainly found getting candidates to complete these post-application has given us better results from mobile.

    p.s v few of our clients seem to use cost per click postings, but those that do are happy with the results. I think more HR depts should look at it. Perhaps its seen as more of a marketing thing and perhaps a bit different…

  6. An interesting article which describes a study on the impact of mobile recruiting on click to apply rates. Mobile applications are necessary. On Employers side, They can double their applications by reducing the time required to use and if we come to the candidate’s side, This difficulty is associated with the fact that it is more difficult to apply to a job on a small touchscreen.

  7. Just wondering how could “Application rates drop by a staggering 365 percent if an application takes more than 15 minutes to complete” when if application rates were to fall by 100% they would be at zero, meaning everyone would give up?

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