Recruitment metrics: How and why to track your candidate abandonment rate

Fixing job application abandonment | Sapia.ai recruitment software

In the candidate short market we’re in, it’s absolutely critical to keep talent engaged throughout the entire application process. You simply cannot afford to lose the talent that you’ve spent time and money attracting. This sounds obvious, of course, but abandonment is a key problem – and few companies know where, when, and why it is happening. 

Let’s start with the metric, and then talk about how we apply it to your wider talent acquisition journey.

Overall candidate abandonment rate = number of candidates still in the process at shortlist stage, minus the total number of candidates who landed on your careers page, divided by that total number again. Or:

C = \frac{x_2 - x_1}{x_1}

At the very minimum, this is the metric you need to start tracking, because it is a generalized diagnostic for the health of your recruitment process. If you know that you had 100 visitors to your careers (or job ad) page, but your shortlist has only 10 candidates in it, you’ve lost 90% of your possible talent pool at one stage or another. Simple math, yes, but in our experience, many recruiters and talent acquisition managers don’t look at what their starting pool of candidate interest was – and therefore, what their theoretical talent pool might have been – and look only at actual applicants.

This poses another, related question: How do I know what my abandonment rate is at each stage of the application process? 

Let’s say, like the example above, that you had 100 visitors to your careers (or job ad) page, and 20 of them completed the first-step application form on that page. You’ve lost 80% of your possible pool right there. Not great, but at least you know – now you can examine that page to uncover possible issues preventing conversion. Is the page too long? Does it have too much text? Is the ‘apply’ button clearly shown? Is the form too long, requiring too much information to fill out? Are your perks/EVP attributes clearly displayed?

Without examining stage progression in isolation, you might never know why people aren’t sticking around.

To reiterate: As well as an overall abandonment rate, you need to measure the drop out rates at each of the stages of your talent acquisition journey. The next section can help show you what to focus on.

Where, when and why do candidates drop out of the application process?

Conventional wisdom tells us that the longer your application and interview process goes on, the higher your dropout rate will be. But that’s a generalized issue – it tells you nothing about how to fix the problem, beyond simply making it shorter. You need specific, localized data to diagnose and fix your leakage spots.

Data from a 2022 Aptitude Research report on key interviewing trends found that candidates tend to drop out at the following stages, in the following proportions:

  • 22% of candidates drop out at the application stage
  • 24% at the screening stage
  • 25% at the interview stage
  • 18% at the assessment stage
  • 9% at the offer stage

Candidate application abandonment rate | Sapia Ai recruitment software

Good to know, right? If you audit your own journey, looking at these stages and using these numbers as benchmarks, you can quickly identify your weak areas. 

For example: You might be proud of your four-step culture-building interview process, in which candidates have a coffee meet-and-greet with the team they’re hoping to join. But if it’s cumbersome for the applicant and relies on several stakeholders to orchestrate, it may be dragging your process out unnecessarily, and doing more harm than good.

The most common job application abandonment stage: The interview

25% of candidates drop out here. Shouldn’t really be a surprise, should it? Job interviews are long, numerous, and in many cases, ineffective. According to Aptitude Research, 33% of companies aren’t confident in how they interview; 50% believe they’ve lost talent due to poor interviewing.

When asked about their top interviewing challenges, surveyed HR and TA leaders responded:

  • Our interview process is too long (52%)
  • We make candidates go through too many interviews (39%)
  • Out interview process is inconsistent (38%)
  • We don’t use objective data to drive decisions (32%)
  • We have bias in the interview process (21%)

Let’s focus on that second-last challenge: lack of objective data. Almost a third of companies are approaching their interview and application process with assumptions and gut feelings; and half of them believe their interview process is too long. 

Despite this, 68% of companies say they have not made any improvements surrounding candidate experience this year. How many, then, are looking seriously at their entire talent acquisition journey to see where it’s failing? 

This is why we’re focusing on candidate abandonment rate in this post: It is a simple metric to show the health of your application process, easier to measure than many of the other recruitment metrics for which you’re responsible (the ever-nebulous quality-of-hire being a prime example). As the saying goes, what gets measured, gets managed.

Start here today, and see what you learn.

(P.S. Sapia’s Ai Smart Chat Interviewer combines the first four stages of your process – application, screening, interviewing, and assessment – together, resulting in an application process that can secure top talent in as little as 24 hours.

Because it’s a chat-based interview with a smart little Ai, your team doesn’t need to do anything – everyone who applies gets an interview, immediately. That maximizes your talent pool right from the get-go.

What’s more, our candidate dropout rate is just 15%, on average. That means that 85% of your starting talent pool will stick around.

Why do our candidates stick around? More than 90% of them love the experience. See how we can help you here, today.)


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