How Many Applicants Do You Really Need to Make One Hire?

No, you’re not imagining things: You’ve likely been receiving fewer applicants for your job postings lately. Our recent Recruiting Metrics Report found that while the number of new jobs posted using CareerPlug increased by 49% in 2021, the number of applicants did not. In fact, the number of candidates applying to jobs actually decreased by 30%.

Translation: 2021 saw fewer job seekers applying for more roles. 

jobs posted vs. applicants

But what effect does reduced applicant volume have on hiring success?

It turns out: not as much as you might think. Let’s look at what the data says about the impact reduced applicants has further down the recruiting funnel.

Recruiting Funnel Metrics

The question “how many applicants does it take to make one hire?” is a tricky question to answer without considering the entire recruiting funnel: 

Job posting view > Application > Interview > Hire

After all, your goal in recruiting should not be to collect the most applicants. Your goal is to convert those applicants into interviews and then convert those interviews into hires.

Because of this, we measure several key conversion rates throughout the recruiting funnel:

recruitment funnel conversion rates

How many job views convert to applicants?

Our data shows that job postings received more views per job in 2021 than in 2020 – it’s just that the number of applicants per job was cut nearly in half. 

job views vs. applications

This tells us that job seekers are seeing your postings. They’re just faced with more options than ever, and they’re only applying to the opportunities that appeal to them the most. 

How many applicants convert to interviews?

So now we know that job view-to-applicant rates have suffered – but have the next steps of the recruiting funnel suffered as much? The answer is, surprisingly, no. 

In 2020, the average applicant-to-interview conversion rate was 15%, but in 2021, the average rose to 20%. This means that, with fewer applicants applying to jobs, employers are sending interview invitations to a larger portion of the candidates that do apply. And a 5% adjustment isn’t nearly as drastic as you might have guessed considering the steep drop in applicant rates overall. 

Of course, some industries convert applicants to interviews at higher rates and some convert at lower rates, as seen in the chart below. But on average, each industry saw minimal change compared to the previous year.

applicant-to-interview conversion by industry

How many interviews convert to hires?

Similarly, the interview-to-hire conversion rate saw a small rise from the 2020 average of 9% to 11%. This means that on average, 11% of candidates interviewed became hires. Again, a 2% adjustment is very small when compared to the decreased applicant volume at the top of the funnel.

The exact numbers also vary slightly by industry:

interview-to-hire conversion by industry

What does all this recruiting funnel data mean?

Believe it or not, this data actually points to good news for employers! The small businesses who partner with CareerPlug have been worried that having fewer applicants has hurt their ability to make hires, but our data shows that while 2021 saw a dramatic decrease in applicant flow, those decreases were not felt nearly as dramatically further downstream in the hiring funnel. 

The average applicant-to-interview and interview-to-hire figures saw only modest changes. This suggests that employers don’t necessarily need more applicants at the top of their funnels to make their hires – they just need to convert applicants to interviews and interviews to hires at slightly higher rates in order to hire as effectively as they have in the past.

Applicant to hire ratio benchmark

Now that we’ve traveled through the recruiting funnel and taken a closer look at what all the data means, let’s take a look at how many applicants it takes to make one hire in each industry:

applicant-to-hire conversion by industry

Remember that these are benchmark figures averaged from 14,000 small businesses using CareerPlug. If you find that your applicant-to-hire rate is much lower, but you’re still able to make the right hires, that’s great! In fact, that’s evidence your hiring process is working efficiently. 

But if you find your applicant-to-hire rate is much lower and you’re struggling to fill your open roles, we have some advice on how to improve your hiring outcomes.

How to improve your applicant conversion rates in 2022

1. Market your employer brand.

Candidates have a lot of options right now and they’ll pursue jobs that offer clear evidence that they’re a great place to work. Market your employer brand with an attractive careers page full of employee testimonials. Manage your business’ reputation on employer review sites by asking your existing employees to write reviews and responding to negative reviews with empathy and authenticity. 

2. Make it easy to apply. 

Don’t make it too difficult for candidates to enter your hiring funnel right off the bat. Make it easy to apply from any device because most applicants are searching for jobs on their mobile phones and tablets. An applicant tracking system like CareerPlug allows candidates to apply to your jobs quickly and easily from any device.

You’ll also want to make sure your application isn’t too long. If your application requires people to upload a resume and also re-type that same information into a long application, you’ve already lost some potential candidates.  

3. Write enticing job descriptions.

This is another step you can take to strengthen your job view-to-applicant conversion rate. Write enticing job descriptions so that candidates are compelled to apply to your open roles. Practice pay transparency by offering competitive pay and benefits and advertising it in the job posting. Candidates will concentrate on opportunities that are upfront about the pay because they don’t want to waste their time trying to guess what an employer might pay.

For more on writing compelling job postings, check out this video from our Senior Director of HR, Natalie Morgan:

4. Communicate with candidates faster.

Just because someone submitted an application doesn’t mean you’ve got them for good. A recent CareerPlug study found that 84% of job seekers said that the employer’s responsiveness after initially applying influenced their decision to accept an offer. You know how most job seekers are on their mobile devices? Well, consider text recruiting to reach them faster and keep them engaged throughout the entire hiring process.


There’s no exact science that says how many applicants are necessary to make one hire. That’s because what matters more is how well you convert applicants throughout your entire hiring process. At the end of the day, if you can run a hiring process that results in the right person for the role, it won’t matter how many applicants it took to get there. 

CareerPlug Makes It Easy to Run a Great Hiring Process

Attract applicants and create an exceptional candidate experience from start to finish with CareerPlug’s applicant tracking system.


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Originally from small town in central Texas, Ashley Johnson graduated from Texas State University in 2013 with a degree in Business Administration. She was hired by CareerPlug as a Talent Specialist in 2014, and moved up to ultimately lead the Recruitment Services team. From there, she pivoted to Implementation, and is now the Implementation Manager.

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Native to Texas, Jenny graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 and joined CareerPlug in 2017. She retired her first career path as a Registered Dietitian after 10 years, and has found her true belonging in business operations.

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