Candidate Drop-Off: The good, the bad and the ugly

The recruitment marketing funnel is like any other funnel, it’s wide at the top and continually narrows with each step of the apply process.  From reading the initial job ad to clicking to apply to finishing the job application, there are a number of key steps where a candidate has to either move forward with the process or lose interest and drop out.

It’s at these steps in the process that you have focus on when trying to improve the overall candidate experience and in turn improve your candidate drop-off rates.  This will help you get more candidate’s through the process and increase the opportunity that the right qualified candidate enters your ATS.


4 Steps where drop-off occurs

The steps below almost every apply process has.  It’s important to address these steps and look to improve them not only to make them an asset to your process but more importantly to make sure they are not an albatross or bottleneck that severely hinders your applicant rates.  For each step, you need to be able to measure key recruitment metrics that provide insight into the baseline you should expect as well as the progress you make when you make changes to the process.

Here are 4 steps the candidate will most certainly go through in your apply process today:

Recruitment Funnel

Awareness: This occurs when a candidate first comes across your job.  They typically view the Job Title you promote and decides that it is a position that they would like to get more information on.  This will also be affected by the recruitment sources you are using in your job distribution campaigns and you should definitely be aware of the sources that are getting you the most exposure.

This is measured by overall job ad views.

Interest: This occurs when a candidate clicks through and views the Job Ad.  The job ad messaging either compels them to click to apply or they lose interest and drop off.

This is measured by Apply Clicks.

Lead Generation: This is a step that some recruiting organizations may not have but probably should.  This is a simple opt-in form that is embedded directly in the apply process.  This enables a candidate to opt-in to an organization’s Talent Network or decide to move on with with apply process.  From our experience, very rarely do candidates drop-off at this step but around 60% opt-in while continuing the apply process.

This is measured by Contacts.

Conversion: This is where a candidate completes your application and becomes an applicant for the job in your ATS.  This is where a large number of the drop-off’s occur and can be improved by making your application process simpler (Mary Grace will go into deeper detail on this tomorrow.)

This is measured by overall Applicants.


Each step of this process needs to be measured and tied directly back to the recruitment source (job boards, social networks, Career Site, etc.)  In looking at the metrics holistically, you can begin to see trends form along the process and can identify the areas of need in your process.  It is at this point you can improve your process to increase the number of candidates that are making it to each stage of the process.

What candidates are dropping off?

A common misconception in the recruiting industry is that if a candidate didn’t show enough interest to apply and drops off the application then we don’t want them.  I understand many recruiting organizations are getting more applicants than they can screen but I think this is a little short-sided.  There a number of quality candidates that could be great fits for your organization that view your jobs and visit your Career Site that don’t necessarily apply and it’s important to make sure your process makes it easy for these candidates to apply when they are ready to do so (and that you capture them in your Talent Network).

However, not all candidates are qualified and when I look at the candidates that are dropping off your process, I like to think about them in 3 main categories: the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good: These candidates are unqualified for the position either because they don’t have the necessary experience (which is an issue I’ll address in another post) or thought the job was going to be something different.  In either case, these candidates dropping off is a good thing as you are starting your screening process early (and it’s screening out the right candidates).

One caveat. You do, however, want the candidates who don’t currently have enough experience to join your Talent Network so having that option in the apply process or in your job ad messaging is definitely important.  As you want them to think about your company when they either get enough experience or you have a more junior role that they fit for.

The Bad: These candidates are qualified but for some reason or another drop off on one of the steps.  Typically these are passive candidates that are seeing what’s out there and with these candidates you usually have one chance to impress during the process.  These are candidates you definitely want as part of your Talent Network and as applicants in your ATS.

They had enough interest to look at the job position and your employment opportunities and may have high interest but drop off for various reasons.  You want to make sure they drop off because they are just window shopping and not because there are too many barriers in your apply process.

The Ugly: These candidates want to apply, are qualified but can’t.  While this (hopefully) rarely happens, you need to make sure that your apply process continues to run smoothly.  If bugs, error pages or confusing steps in the process present themselves, you need to be able to identify them with recruitment metrics and fix the problem.  This should never happen in your process.


All three types are dropping off in the process for various reasons, however, in general, you need to cater your apply process to appeal to all candidates.  From working on creating more compelling messaging to enabling them to opt-in to your Talent Network to making your apply process short and simple, there are a number of things you can do to take barriers out of your apply process.

Making sure the right talent applies

So the question you may be asking is “how can I encourage good drop-off and eliminate the bad?”  And unfortunately I do not have a clear-cut answer to this.  Candidate drop-off is going to happen no matter what (and hopefully the good drop-off will happen when they read the qualifications for the position).  However, I encourage taking an all candidate approach when looking to improve your overall candidate experience and apply process. If you focus on less drop-off overall it should result in a larger pool of talent to choose from in your ATS and thus a greater opportunity to find qualified talent.


Tomorrow, Mary Grace Hennessy will share her thoughts on the apply process and what you can do to limit drop-off during this step.

Views: 565

Comment by Tim Spagnola on April 11, 2012 at 6:28am

Good stuff as always Chris. I enjoyed this post.

Comment by Chris Brablc on April 11, 2012 at 10:29am

Thanks, Tim!  Glad you liked it.  Always good to hear.


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