Qualified candidates per hire: By location and business function

Nikoletta Bika | |

How many qualified candidates do you need exactly in order to make an informed hiring decision? Each company may have a different number in mind, but most probably want to be in sync with the industry average: in other words, you’d want to attract at least as many talented professionals as your competitors do – if not more.

During a conversation we had with Hung Lee, curator of the popular newsletter Recruiting Brainfood, we decided to create benchmarks for the metric ‘qualified candidates per hire’ by location and job category – and we did, with data from millions of candidates processed in Workable’s system over the years. These benchmarks will show how your hiring process measures up against that of other companies – if your own average is way off the mark, then your talent attraction strategies will need some work.

The more candidates we process, the better insights we’ll have. We strive to update our benchmarks periodically so they can remain relevant over time.

The definition of ‘qualified candidates per hire’

To build our benchmarks, we defined ‘qualified candidates’ as those who passed an initial screening process such as resume screening, phone screen or initial interview based on the hiring pipeline of each company. In turn, the metric ‘qualified candidates per hire’ refers to the average number of candidates who were found to be qualified in the hiring processes of companies in each location and job category.

With this metric, you need to strike a balance. On one hand, a number that’s significantly lower than average signals that you might not be attracting enough talent into your hiring pipeline to confidently predict a successful hire. On the other hand, a number much higher than average, while a testament to your employer brand, might unnecessarily prolong your hiring process. A longer hiring process means you risk losing the best candidates who may find jobs at your competitors while you’re still evaluating other qualified candidates.

So achieving a balance when it comes to this metric is essential; detailed job descriptions and targeted job advertising are two possible solutions. However, if you find yourself with a hiring process brimming with talented people, you can still keep them engaged: streamline your hiring and evaluate candidates fast using a system like Workable.

US & Canada

In the United States and Canada, we see a large number of qualified candidates per hiring process in the ‘Administrative / HR’ job category. Conversely, ‘Customer Service’ is the category with the fewest qualified candidates per hire.

Sector Qualified candidates
Administrative / HR 27
Analyst / Consulting 25
Customer Service 19
Engineering 24
Finance / Accounting 22
Information Technology / Design 24
Marketing/ Advertising / Creative 24
Sales/ Business Development 20

UK & Ireland

Similarly to the U.S. and Canada, ‘Administrative / HR’ and ‘Customer Service’ are at the two ends of this metric’s spectrum. ‘Sales / Business Development’ come close to the lower end with 20 qualified candidates per hire on average, while the ‘Marketing / Advertising / Creative’ category has the highest number of qualified candidates per hire of all categories, 25.

Sector Qualified candidates
Administrative / HR 24
Analyst / Consulting 24
Customer Service 16
Engineering 22
Finance / Accounting 22
Information Technology / Design 22
Marketing/ Advertising / Creative 25
Sales/ Business Development 20

Rest of Europe

‘Administrative / HR’ roles hold the first place in the rest of Europe too, with 27 qualified candidates on average. ‘Customer Service’ is still the lowest with 18 candidates per hire with ‘Sales/ Business Development’ close by.

Sector Qualified candidates
Administrative / HR 27
Analyst / Consulting 25
Customer Service 18
Engineering 22
Finance / Accounting 22
Information Technology / Design 22
Marketing/ Advertising / Creative 25
Sales/ Business Development 20

Australia / Oceania

In Australia, the tables are turned with ‘Customer Service’ being the job role with the most qualified candidates per hire along with ‘Finance / Accounting.’ ‘Administrative / HR’ is at the lower end, while we observe the lowest average in ‘Sales / Business Development.’

Sector Qualified candidates
Administrative / HR 24
Analyst / Consulting 25
Customer Service 27
Engineering 26
Finance / Accounting 27
Information Technology / Design 23
Marketing/ Advertising / Creative 25
Sales/ Business Development 21

Asia

In Asia, ‘Information Technology / Design’ tops the list with ‘Administrative / HR’ following closely behind. ‘Analyst / Consulting’ is the job role with the lowest average of qualified candidates per hire.

Sector Qualified candidates
Administrative / HR 29
Analyst / Consulting 21
Customer Service 23
Engineering 27
Finance / Accounting 23
Information Technology / Design 30
Marketing/ Advertising / Creative 27
Sales/ Business Development 23

Rest of World

In areas like Latin America and Africa, the category ‘Finance / Accounting’ has the highest average of qualified candidates, 34. There’s also a wide distance between that average and the lowest end of the spectrum: ‘Analyst / Consulting’ and ‘Customer Service’ have only 17 qualified candidates on average.

Sector Qualified candidates
Administrative / HR 28
Analyst / Consulting 17
Customer Service 17
Engineering 21
Finance / Accounting 34
Information Technology / Design 25
Marketing / Advertising / Creative 25
Sales / Business Development 27

Seven Key Takeaways

  1. With few exceptions, you’ll usually need more than 20 qualified candidates to make an informed hiring decision, regardless of location or job category.
  2. For roles in ‘Marketing / Advertising / Creative,’ the average number fluctuates the least across locations – you want approximately 25 qualified candidates in your pipeline to be confident of hire, wherever in the world you’re hiring.
  3. ‘Customer Service’ is a job category that has relatively low averages of qualified applicants in most locations. So, as long as your average is close to the category average in your location, you probably don’t need to be concerned about getting fewer qualified candidates than in other categories.
  4. In most parts of the world, companies hiring for Administrative or HR roles should have a good number of qualified candidates to choose from; this job category is consistently rich with talent. If you struggle with finding candidates for these roles, consider working on your job descriptions and sourcing or job advertising techniques.
  5. ‘Finance / Accounting’ is a job category with relatively low averages of qualified candidates in most locations – yet, we see a huge spike in Rest of World where we observe 34 qualified candidates per hire for these roles. So if you’re hiring for these roles in Latin America or Africa, make sure to streamline your process to avoid a long time to hire.
  6. The averages of job categories ‘Analyst / Consulting’ and ‘Sales / Business Development’ are fairly consistent across locations – except Rest of World. In these areas, ‘Analyst / Consulting’ roles present one of the lowest averages of qualified candidates, while ‘Sales / Business Development’ shows its highest average among all locations.
  7. ‘Engineering’ and ‘Information Technology / Design’ * show their highest averages in Asia, with Australia and Rest of World not far behind. So, unless you’re hiring in these regions, you can make an informed decision with 23 qualified candidates on average.

* NOTE: Each job role published via Workable’s system is classified by each individual user using a drop-down menu. This means it’s to their discretion to choose the job category they think best suits the role at hand. While this choice is straightforward for most categories, some roles in the ‘Engineering’ and ‘Information Technology’ may overlap since those categories are very similar. For example, a Software Engineer, a UX Engineer or Android Developer may show up under ‘Engineering’ at some companies and under ‘Information Technology’ at others. In fact, our data shows that roles like Android Developer, Front End Developer and Java Developer show up equally in both categories.

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Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta Bika is a senior writer at Workable and holds an MSc in HR. She writes about all things HR and recruiting, with a particular interest in bias, data, technology and the future of work. She hates meaningless jargon and dreams about space travel. She tweets @Nikoletta_Bika.

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