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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is the candidate conversion rate?

The candidate conversion rate is a percentage of how many potential applicants have submitted an application after viewing a company’s job advertisement—and have thus been converted into actual applicants, candidates, or later employees.

Conversion rate definition

The conversion rate actually comes from online marketing and expresses how many of the visitors to a website (or an online shop) carry out a certain transaction (e.g., downloading or purchasing something). With this transaction, they are converted from interested parties into customers or buyers.

However, the conversion rate has also found its way into human resource management. Here, too, it is ultimately about selling something in a targeted way: A vacancy in a company to qualified talents.

In this context, the candidate conversion rate indicates how high the number of applications is in relation to the total number of potential applicants (job seekers) who have looked at a job advertisement on a job board or career site.

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Further conversion rates in the recruitment process

Conversion rates are enormously versatile. In fact, they can be tracked throughout the hiring process to determine how many candidates complete a particular step, such as:

or even the entire path through the hiring pipeline without dropping out or receiving a rejection.

The so-called job conversion rate can also be used to measure the success of an individual recruiter in filling different positions.

In this article, however, we will focus more on the candidate conversion rate and its use as a recruiting KPI.

Why should the candidate conversion rate be monitored?

The candidate conversion rate provides important insights into the quality and attractiveness of the job advertisement. Furthermore, it also allows conclusions to be drawn about the user-friendliness of the application process and the quality of the candidate journey—right from the start of the search process.

If the candidate conversion rate is poor, it’s possible to intervene quickly and make improvements.

In addition to other metrics, it can even be determined more precisely where exactly the sticking point was at which potential candidates abandoned the process.

What causes poor conversion rates?

If no or only very few applications are submitted (i.e., hardly any or no conversions), this could be an indication of the following possible causes:

  • Application process not accessible (enough)

    Probably the most serious reason why applications are not submitted is that the submission process for application documents (CV, cover letter, etc.) is far too time-consuming or not user-friendly enough.

    For example, if it’s not possible to apply via smartphone or tablet, this may well discourage great candidates as it gives your company an outdated and backward impression.

  • Poor/no career site

    The majority of potential applicants want to learn more about a company before they apply. They want to know about the company culture, the working environment and the employer branding.

    An excellent career page is, therefore, an important prerequisite for a sufficient candidate conversion rate.

  • Wrong channels

    To achieve good conversions, job advertisements must also be played out on channels that are appropriate for the target group (job boards, social media).

    If you are looking for marketing specialists but publish the job ad on a platform for IT specialists, you will naturally receive a rather poor response—if any at all.

  • Job titles misleading

    Even though some roles require true rock stars, it is not helpful to name the job ad as such, as active candidates do not search for such job titles—and so these jobs aren’t found.

    Job ads with clear job titles have a much better chance of generating the sought-after applications.

  • Missing key facts (salary, location, etc.)

    In addition to a meaningful job title, the candidate conversion rate often suffers from the lack of key information, such as the location of the company, the intended salary, or the employee benefits. Without this information, candidates might look elsewhere for a better offer.

  • Vague job description

    Active candidates are looking for a job that matches their interests and skills. They need to know exactly what role they will play in the company and what their daily work will be like.

    This is exactly what the job description is for, so it should be as descriptive as possible to encourage applicants to apply.

  • Too many tasks/responsibilities

    Last but not least, an endless list of tasks and responsibilities can make the candidate lose interest in applying.

    If the list is too big, they might question the work-life balance quickly arises, which is likely to be neglected if the list of tasks is too long.

All of the above can have a negative impact on a company’s talent acquisition, growth, and competitiveness in the long run—and therefore on employer image.

Fortunately, however, there are a few simple actions companies can take to increase candidate conversion rates and counteract this (more on this at the end of this article).

How can you calculate the candidate conversion rate?

The formula for calculating the candidate conversion rate is quite simple. Just divide the number of applications received by the total number of views (impressions) of a job advertisement and multiply by 100: 

Candidate conversion rate = number of applications / number of views x 100

And there you have it, the conversion rate percentage!

If a company has carried out talent sourcing instead, it is not the number of views but the number of contacts that is taken as a basis and put in relation to the number of applications received.

Calculation example 

Would you like to see an example? Say a company has published its job advertisement online and 1,000 potential applicants have seen it. As a result, 50 applications were submitted.

Candidate conversion rate = 50 / 1,000 x 100 = 5%

In this example, the candidate conversion rate is 5%. In the end, however, the decisive factor for the success of a recruitment process is not so much the percentage as the actual number of applicants.

If enough applications are received, a good candidate conversion rate could be as low as 2%.

How can the necessary metrics be tracked?

Wondering how to track the number of views? For the career site, this can be done with the help of Google Analytics. It can be a bit more difficult with job boards. However, many job platforms already offer their own analytics functions that let you calculate the candidate conversion rate.

If the job was published on several job boards at the same time (multiposting) in addition to the career page, the views and applications per platform can, of course, also be added up and an overall conversion rate calculated.

Alternatively, these separate values can also be used to calculate the effectiveness of individual channels (channel effectiveness), which then enables companies to focus on the best-performing job boards.

How can the candidate conversion rate be improved?

What can companies do if not enough (or any) applications are submitted? Here are some possibilities: 

  • Simplify the application process

    The first step to a higher candidate conversion rate is to simplify the application process to reduce the number of dropouts.

    The fewer clicks it takes to submit an application, the better. And, of course, mobile-friendliness (mobile recruiting) should not be neglected to increase the candidate conversion rate.

  • Optimise the career page

    The career page is one of the most important contact points for generating applications. That’s why it’s a good idea to design it in such a way that it attracts potential employees and brings them closer to the company.

    In our blog article on this topic, we show how companies can bring their career page to life and convey their employer branding.

  • Optimise job advertisements

    To increase the candidate conversion rate, job advertisements should also be revised. It is essential that these are aligned with the interests of the searchers, but should also be worded engagingly and speak to the candidate.

    We explain how to do this in our guide to writing job ads and offer useful job description templates for many in-demand professions.

  • Adapt channels

    Another step to getting more applications is to adapt the channels on which job ads are published.

    What the “right” channels are depends on the target audience, but by choosing the appropriate platforms, such as niche job boards, companies can significantly increase their reach and visibility and convert even more potential applicants into candidates.

  • Use ATS like JOIN

    An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can do more than just simplify the management of applications.

    With JOIN, for example, companies receive a mobile-optimised career page, a simple application process, multi-posting, suggestions for suitable job platforms (also for niche job boards) and many other useful tools free of charge.

    In short: All you need to receive more (qualified) applications.

    Try JOIN now for free and attract better talent faster.

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