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Have Job Application Conversion Rates Dropped Since COVID?

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One of the more stunning consequences of the global pandemic has been the continued challenged for staffing agencies and recruiters to find talent. When unemployment numbers went from a record-low percentage to a record-high percentage in a matter of weeks, the common assumption was that job applications wouldn’t be hard to come by any longer.

That hasn’t been the case!

When we dig deeper on why candidate applications didn’t increase, it’s easy to think about safety issues, childcare concerns and the federal unemployment bonus.

But more than just hearing anecdotal stories, we wanted to dig deeper into our data and see if that was actually true.

So we did. Here’s what we found from two of our clients where we manage recruitment spend.

Decrease in Job Applications Since COVID

This case study analyzes a staffing agency in Georgia. The jobs focus around warehouse, industrial, manufacturing, etc.

We looked at data from three different time periods: May-July 2019, December 2019 – February 2020 and May-July 2020. The May and July data sets are the exact same time periods, just different periods of the year. The timeframe that spans the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 is the last set of data that we have before the pandemic.

Here’s what we saw that stood out:


The conversion rate for May – July 2020 decreased significantly, more than 50 percent lower than it was during the same time period in 2019. On top of that, the cost per application increased by 106 percent.

For this company, there is one area where the decreased in applications really stood out – in jobs with a salary of $12/hour or less:


While the data was already tending downward in December 2019 – February 2020, it really became apparent in the past three months.

Let’s jump to our next example, where a similar trend appears but there’s also an inflection point.

What Salary Level Maintains Consistent Applicant Flow?

Our second example looks at warehouse jobs in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.

For their data, we looked at application rates in different salary levels: $12-$14/hour, $15-$16/hour and $17/hour.


The conversion rates decreased by 45 percent and cost per application increased by 62 percent for the $12-$14/hour jobs. For the $15-$16/hour jobs, conversion rates were 27 percent lower and cost per application was 20 percent higher. However, this didn’t happen at the $17/hour jobs. Those conversion rates actually improved by 25 percent and the cost per application decreased by 33 percent.

That dataset shows since the pandemic started and all of those factors came into play (safety, childcare, federal unemployment), the salary level where candidates continued to apply was at $17/hour for this client.

What Can We Learn?

This data shows there was a significant challenge in hiring candidates since the pandemic started. Conversion rates decreased and the cost per application increased significantly. It’s impossible to know what the exact reason was, but it’s something for staffing agencies and recruiters to analyze deeper.

Look at your data to see if you can get analytics down to the job level. Have your conversion rates decreased? Has the cost per application increased? Anecdotal evidence is great but data is even better.

If you can’t get down to that job level data, find a partner that can help you. This research is one of the values that the recruitment marketing team at Haley Marketing provides for its clients.

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