Mobile Apply Rates Overtake Desktop for the First Time Ever According to Appcast

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Appcast unveils 2021 “Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report,” revealing new insight on candidate behavior across different industries, job functions and geographic locations

Appcast, a global leader in programmatic recruitment advertising technology and services, today unveiled the findings of its fifth annual “Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report.” The report examines 2020 job ad data – 125 million job ad clicks and 7 million applies – from nearly 1,300 U.S. employers, revealing how industry and job function, geography and market, job ad content and timing impact recruitment advertising outcomes. 

Mobile Takeover 

According to the report, mobile applies surpassed desktop applies for the first time in 2020; 60.7% of job applications were completed on mobile devices compared to 39.3% on desktop. When examining how apply rates compare on mobile and desktop devices, the report also reveals: 

  • Desktop apply rates decreased 6.7% in 2020 compared to 2019
  • In contrast, there was a 21.2% increase in mobile apply rates in comparison to last year 
  • Gig (86.3%) and transportation (75.9%) industries had the highest percentage of mobile applies; technology jobs demonstrated the lowest mobile apply rates (22%) 

The report suggests that industries hiring large numbers of workers for select job functions are partly responsible for the significant jump in mobile apply rates as candidates applying for many of those jobs use mobile devices for their job searches rather than desktops. 

Apply Rates Vary Across Industries

The Appcast report examined 24 different job functions – from gig, transportation, warehousing & logistics, food service and retail to healthcare, education, marketing & advertising, HR, security and technology – and analyzed how apply rates (AR) and cost per click (CPC) varied across each vertical. Apply rates are a type of a conversion metric that represents the percentage of people who apply to a job after clicking on it. Alternatively, the number of people who click but do not apply would be described as the drop-off rate. These are key performance indicators for job advertising because they can highlight opportunities for improvement and also have a direct relationship to the cost to acquire a candidate.

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The report found that the industries/functions with the highest average apply rates in 2020 were food service (10.60%), human resources & staffing (8.20%), administration (7.11%) and customer service (7.05%). Industries/functions with the lowest average apply rates in 2020 were insurance (2.15%), legal (3.39%), transportation (3.65%) and healthcare (4.13%). 

Additionally, the report found that healthcare and retail recruiters faced significant challenges due to demand for these roles far outpacing the people available or willing to apply to them, and a host of other factors outlined below. 

Across these industries, Appcast found: 

  • A 17% percent decrease in the year-over-year apply rate for healthcare jobs, while CPC increased by 11%
  • In retail, there was a 22% decrease in the year-over-year apply rate and a small decrease (3%) in CPC  

In healthcare, hiring organizations struggled to find candidates to fill frontline positions and were forced to pay a premium to meet their hiring goals, driving up CPC rates. Coupled with the spike in demand due to the pandemic, healthcare historically has had low unemployment, meaning that many people who would be qualified to fill healthcare roles already had jobs. With respect to retail, government financial support may have impacted individuals’ decisions to temporarily leave the workforce. Health and safety concerns for both healthcare and retail likely impacted job seeker behavior as well. 

Timing Is Everything

In general, job seekers tend to search and apply for jobs during the traditional workweek, regardless of employment status. Interestingly, this pattern has remained consistent, no matter the unemployment rate. 

This year, Appcast found: 

  • Most candidates apply for jobs at the beginning of the week, with Tuesdays (17.6%) being the highest day, followed by Monday (17.3%), Wednesday (16.9%) and Thursday (14.5%)
  • Mobile apply volume, by contrast, was highest on the weekend: Saturday (61.48%) and Sunday (61.99%) 
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Hiring professionals should ensure their job ads are posted early in the week and set their bids lower on days when ads are likely to achieve less visibility. Additionally, this data further proves that mobile applies are taking over desktop, and stresses the demand for optimized mobile application processes. 

Keep Job Titles Short and Sweet

The report also examined how job title length impacts recruitment. After analyzing 34.7 million job ads and 642,298 unique job titles, Appcast found: 

  • Job ads with titles between one and three words had the highest average volume of clicks per job (2.68) and highest apply rate at 6.22%

These findings indicate that job titles that contain fewer words perform best. To increase the volume of clicks and applies, recruitment organizations should consider this data to align their job titles with candidate behavior. 

“In today’s uncertain yet competitive labor market, a robust recruitment advertising strategy is critical to attracting qualified candidates,” said Heather Salerno, senior vice president of marketing at Appcast. “The trends identified in this year’s report underscore the cognitive dissonance that many recruiters have experienced in this COVID-19 era: despite many Americans finding themselves unemployed, many organizations could not find candidates to fill their open – and oftentimes, critical – roles. These external factors along with seemingly minor, internal factors – like job title length and timing – can make or break recruitment outcomes. We’re excited to share our findings with hiring organizations to support their recruitment efforts this year.” 


The 2021 “Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report” was developed by Appcast with a focus on how industry and job function, geography and market, job ad content and timing impact cost per application (CPA), apply rate (AR) and the average number of applications per job. Appcast analyzed jobs advertised between January 2020 and December 2020 from nearly 1,300 employers across 24 job functions, looking specifically at trends from 125 million clicks and 7 million applies to jobs. 

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