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Lessons from the Recruitment Funnel: What HR Departments Need to Know


Guest Blog by Marc Cenedella with Ladders.

Recruiting is marketing – you’re marketing your company, your jobs, your employee experience to an audience you hope responds to your message. When it comes to online recruiting, it’s useful to learn some things from our online marketing colleagues.

Online marketers spend a lot of time improving their marketing funnel. That is, if 100 people visit your page, and 50 click on a button, and 20 hit ‘next’, and then 10 hit ‘apply’ or ‘buy’, that process of going from a large number to a smaller number looks like a funnel.

When it comes to online experiences, you generally want as many people as possible to reach the end of your funnel, as long as they are qualified for the purchase, or the job. Roadblocks, glitches, or hurdles that get in the way of users completing their journey through your funnel should be avoided. These are called drop-offs and they represent users that you wish had completed the process, but didn’t.

The problem for corporate recruiting departments is that the average time to apply for a job online has grown over the past two decades, and now stands at 18 minutes on average. That length of time discourages some qualified applicants from applying and leads to a lot of drop-offs.

Streamline your job application as much as possible to increase conversion.

And, yes, for certain, you’d like to have candidates who are committed to working for you, and are willing to put up with an 18-minute process, but you also need to ask yourself if the trade-off is worth it?

All of these will cause your recruitment funnel to have higher drop-offs:

  • Longer forms
  • Time-intensive questions
  • Detailed questions
  • Unique, idiosyncratic or quirky questions
  • Re-typing already existing information from a resume or ID

Further, even valuable information asked in valid questions increases the number of drop-offs. The typical rate might be 10% of people dropping off for each additional question you ask, with the range being from 2% to 35% or more. In certain cases, this is worth it. For example, having the user’s updated resume is extremely valuable – a recent Ladders survey found that for candidate screening, 93% of recruiters preferred resumes to LinkedIn profiles. So even if the request for the user’s resume leads to increased drop-offs, you might find it justifiable because it makes the rest of your process easier.

The bigger concern is when questions that do not improve your decision-making process sneak into your job application funnel. While you may think it’s a good idea to weed out applicants with an 18-minute application, what if you’re just weeding out the applicants with lots of options and only getting the candidates who aren’t very attractive to other employers?

Instead, it’s important to justify each step in your recruitment funnel.

  • Candidate intent – do they truly want to apply for our job, or are they just going through the motions? You should balance between being thorough and being off-putting.
  • Candidate commitment – are they willing to jump through hoops to work here? Are we being mindful about showing respect for their time, the competitive nature of the current recruiting environment, and the candidate’s alternatives?
  • Information – do we have sufficient, minimum information to make a decision to proceed to the next stage of the process? Assuming it’s a phone or Zoom screen – “Do we have enough information to ask intelligent and predictive questions on the screen to determine if we want this candidate to do a full interview?”
  • Qualifications – does this candidate meet our minimum requirements? Are there any showstoppers that would cause the decision-makers to not proceed with this candidate at all?
  • Access – does the candidate have access to a computer, and advice on succeeding in the process such as free interviewing skills courses, or free resume writing services?

You need to make sure that the trade-off between fewer applicants and more information is justified at each stage of your funnel. If an answer or a response will definitely help you interview the candidate or determine whether you should proceed, then you should absolutely include it. But in those cases where a piece of information is a “nice to have” and not a “must-have,” or you’re simply including it because the hiring manager mentioned it in passing, take a moment to stop and reflect. Are you really serving everyone’s interests by making your application funnel longer, with more drop-offs?

Improve your Recruitment Funnel

Understanding your funnel, and how much you value each additional piece of information compared to the drop-off in total respondents, can help make your job application process more effective in achieving your 2021 recruiting goals. Good luck!


Marc Cenedella is Founder of Leet Resumes, free professional resume writing at, and Ladders, the home for $100K+ Careers.

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