Q3 2023 Recruitment Trends Report: The importance of time and job scheduling when posting job adverts
In our Q3 2023 Recruitment Trends Report we detail jobs and applications data that reveals the state of the UK’s labour market in the third quarter. At a time when the news is full of headlines lamenting the poor state of the economy, we’re seeing an uplift in jobs and applications.
We also dig into data related to best times to post jobs and the effect job scheduling has on application rates in our deep dive on time.
Following a lull in activity in Q2, activity stepped up in Q3, with rises in both jobs and applications. This is largely thanks to an incredibly productive September, with huge uplifts in both candidate and recruiter activity, proving that the trend for a busy September in the world of recruitment continues, even in uncertain economic times. Q3 figures are also proof that the market is performing better than expected, despite continued inflationary pressures and a raft of doom and gloom news reports.
Both jobs and applications are up on the previous quarter, with jobs up 7% compared to Q2 and applications up 9% on Q2.
The average application per job is 14, a drop from Q2.
IT & Internet dominate once again, posting the highest percentage of jobs and receiving the most applications. However, in both cases its percentage share dropped on the quarter.
Most jobs were posted on Mondays and Tuesdays, with 21% being posted on each of the two days at the start of the week – this marks a change to the day of the week that most jobs have been posted over the previous two quarters (Wednesday). As most applications are received on a Monday, this correlates nicely.
Recruitment and candidate activity really ramped up in September, as is the annual trend. It was the month that most jobs were posted in Q3 and far more applications were received in September than in any other month in Q3.
ONS Labour Market Overview
As a trusted source, the labour market statistics published by the Office for National Statistics are used to help inform a range of government policies and are heavily utilised by the recruitment industry as a barometer of the state of the job market.
Vacancies fell on the quarter for the 14th consecutive period, decreasing by 64,000 to 989,000. However, they remain above the pre-pandemic rate.
The employment rate decreased to 75.5%, mainly driven by full-time self-employed workers. The rate is up on the year but remains below pre-pandemic levels. The number of people in employment is also down on the quarter by 207,000. The unemployment rate increased to 4.3%, and the rise is largely attributed to people unemployed for up to 12 months.
The economic inactivity rate increased to 21.1%, driven by people aged 16 to 24 years. Those inactive because of long-term sickness increased to another record high. Meanwhile, those inactive because they were looking after family or home decreased to a record low.
Job posting and applications per month
September has been an incredibly active month in the recruitment industry – something that many agencies will have been prepared for as it is an annual occurrence. Only June was more active for jobs across the entirety of 2023 so far, and applications are up there with March in terms of strength of candidate activity across the year. After the summer, there’s a real ‘school’s back in session’ feeling to September, which spills into both candidate and recruiter activity.
A break over the summer can give candidates a chance to reassess their careers and consider a move, plus parents have more time to think about a job hunt once the children are back at school. Recruitment activity tends to be slower over the school holidays when consultants are off at various points so that ramps up when the majority of people are back at work. No-one really knew if this September would buck the trend, with a general slow-down of jobs, but it appears that the annual September boost has continued in 2023.
Industries with most jobs and applications
IT & Internet may have been knocked off the top spot for applications in Q2 but it has reclaimed its title in Q3, along with – yet again – the top spot for jobs posted. Manufacturing and Education also appear in both top fives, indicating demand for jobs and candidates are fairly well-balanced. However, Education received 7% of applications but posted 15% of all jobs so there is a considerable difference there.
Health & Nursing posted nearly the same percentage of jobs as IT & Internet but received a tiny percentage of overall applications, illustrating the struggle that the industry continues to have with skills shortages. Public Sector is facing the same challenges. Meanwhile, Engineering & Utilities are having to cope with the opposite problem, with high levels of applications but lower jobs.
Average application per job by industry
Banking received a huge average of 155 applications per job in Q3 – well over double the number they received in Q2.
Insurance netted just under that number but it equated to a seismic seven times rise from Q2.
Recruitment Sales received an average of 41 applications per job – a sluggish market in Q2 likely resulted in many recruitment businesses pausing hiring.
As the industry receiving the second highest levels of applications but without the numbers of jobs to support those applications, it is perhaps no surprise that Engineering & Utilities also received a relatively high number of average applications per job (39).
Just off the chart but worth noting is Retail & Wholesale’s relatively high number of applications. Wilko’s collapse has resulted in a total of nearly 11,000 redundancies (with more likely) and sent shockwaves through the high street, which has undoubtedly made retail businesses wary of hiring.
Health & Nursing received an average of just two applications per job, the lowest of any quarter this year bar Health & Nursing’s average of one in Q1.
Not for Profit & Charities received an average of just four applications per job – double that of Health & Nursing but a very small number nevertheless. Both industries have struggled hugely with labour shortages, especially Health & Nursing – their difficulty in finding qualified candidates to fill the huge number of vacant roles is well documented.
Average application per job board
JobServe received an huge average of 96 applications per job in Q3 – far more than any other job board in any other quarter of 2023, whether generalist or niche.
Caterer received the next highest with an average of 41 applications per job and Secs in the City came in third with 40.
Just under Secs in the City was the first generalist job board to chart – TotalJobs with an average of 26 application per job.
CV-Library and Reed.co.uk received a third of TotalJobs’ average, at 9 each.
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Time. It’s arguably a recruiter’s greatest commodity. The faster you can get a job ad out or run a successful CV search, the more likely you will reach talented candidates before competitors do. The faster the hiring process, the less likely a candidate will drop out having been lured by another job. The faster your time to hire rate, the happier your clients will be and the faster you can move focus to your other roles.
Time is also crucial when it comes to when to post your jobs. You need to be getting your ads in front of candidates when they are actively searching and applying. Post at the wrong time and you could miss qualified candidates while your job ad falls down the search results page as the algorithms promote fresh content first. What does this mean in practical terms? You need to know when candidates are searching for jobs in order to know when to post yours. Plus, we have data that suggests that scheduling your job posts rather than posting them right away nets you more applications. And our time to apply data provides further proof that time really is of the essence.
Time to apply – Applications are received shortly after jobs are posted
Our data on time to apply is broken down into categories based on listing duration – weekly listing and monthly listings – but in both cases the majority of applications were sent soon after the job was posted.
For 7-day listings, 25% of applications were received within 24 hours of a job being posted and 23% were received within 48 hours. The numbers drop off with each passing day.
For listings of 30-42 days, the highest percentages were received within 48 hours, significantly dropping off as the month progresses.
Why does this happen and why does it matter? Applications are received soon after a job is posted largely because fresh jobs are posted constantly on job boards so the more time that passes after a job has been posted, the less likely it is that candidates will see it as the algorithms prioritise fresh content.
In order to ensure your job is newly posted when candidates are actively searching, it’s vital to post at the right time. As job boards prioritise newer jobs in organic searches, you need to post your jobs on the day that the majority of candidates apply. Post them after the greatest amount of candidate activity and it could be days before candidates visit the job board, by which point your job will be further down the search results. This could mean the difference between your job being posted on page 1 or page 21 when qualified candidates are looking.
Job scheduling and applications – Schedule your jobs for increased applications
Across all industries, the average number of applications per scheduled job is 27 in comparison to the 15 received for unscheduled jobs.
That’s an average of 12 more applications per job and a huge percentage increase of 80% if you schedule a job rather than post it straight out. When we get to a more granular, industry-specific level, these numbers vary but the majority experience a significant uplift in applications for scheduled jobs. For Travel, Leisure & Tourism the average number of applications jumps from 14 for unscheduled jobs to a massive 109 for scheduled jobs.
It can be incredibly tempting to get your jobs out as soon they’re written (that time pressure ticking away in your brain!) but what this points to is the huge advantage of posting jobs at the right time, not necessarily the fastest time. How do you know what the right time is? We have you covered there.
Best time to post: all industries – Peak candidate activity occurs at the beginning of the week
Day – Our data shows that the highest percentage of applications are received on Mondays and Tuesdays, with that percentage slowly dropping as the week wanes. This is a trend that we have observed for several years, dispelling the myth that candidates apply for jobs over the weekend. In fact, just 9% of applications are received on Saturdays and Sundays compared to 18% on Mondays and Tuesdays. What has changed are job posting time stats, which now match more closely to application stats. The majority of jobs are posted Monday to Thursday, which means that they are being posted at similar times to candidates searching.
Time – The majority of candidates are applying for jobs between 10am and 1pm and not after work hours. They could be job searching and applying in their lunch hour and, with so many working from home at least part of the week, they could be taking a break mid-morning to send in an application. What this indicates is that jobs should be scheduled to post early morning, at 8am or 9am, so that they are up just before the majority of candidates are applying. What our data shows is that most jobs are posted at 11am but posting at that time could miss a number of candidates who are active at 10am.
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Day – Monday and Tuesday are the two most popular days for applications, with Wednesday and Tuesday just behind. Applications drop off by Friday and Saturday sees the lowest percentage. Sunday receives slightly more applications, perhaps as candidates get the Sunday night dread of starting another week in a job they dislike. However, the majority of jobs are posted on a Wednesday, with Monday seeing the least amount of jobs posted over the working week so there is a disconnect here between when candidates are most active and when jobs are being posted.
Time – Application times are similar to the general all-industry data, though with a slight majority at 12pm. Job posting times are fairly specific, with the majority of jobs being posted over three time periods. Just over 34% of jobs are posted at 11am, followed by nearly 29% at 12pm and 11.2% at 10am. This tallies well with applications, meaning that the majority of jobs are posted just before or at the same time that many candidates are looking.
Health & Nursing
Day – Health & Nursing bucks the general trend by receiving a relatively high percentage of applications on a Sunday. 14% of all applications are received on Sundays, higher than Saturday and Friday, level with Thursday and only just under Wednesday. This could be because of the shift pattern nature of many Health & Nursing jobs but indicates that more jobs should perhaps be posted on a Sunday – currently only 0.5% are. The vast majority of jobs are posted on Mondays, which, jointly with Tuesdays, are when the majority of applications are received. However, those searching and applying on a Sunday will find it harder to find jobs that are posted nearly a week prior.
Time – The highest percentage of applications are received at 12pm but candidates are fairly consistently active throughout the day from around 9am and into the evening until 9pm. In fact, application activity continues right into the night. Again, this is likely due to the shift nature of many roles in the industry. The majority of jobs are posted from 9am to 11am, which tallies well with when the bulk of the application activity begins.
Day – Most applications are received on Mondays and Tuesdays and they gradually drop off as the week progresses. However, Saturday and Sunday still see activity, receiving 10% of the total each. This is helped by the fact that more jobs are posted on Fridays than Mondays – going against the all-industry trend – however, as Mondays are the joint busiest days for applications, there is a strong case for scheduling more jobs for Mondays. As it stands, the fewest jobs in the working week are posted on Mondays, with Fridays just over. Wednesdays and then Thursdays top the week for jobs posted, which doesn’t tally with application activity.
Time – The majority of applications are received around lunchtime but activity is fairly consistent across the day, from 9am up until around 9pm. Job posting times are rather sporadic, with the majority in the afternoon and peaking at 4pm. Just 6.9% of jobs are posted at midday, part of the peak time period for applications.
Day – The majority of applications are received on a Monday and Tuesday, slowly decreasing as the week wanes. However, only 17% of jobs are posted on a Monday – the smallest amount of any weekday (barring the weekend). On Tuesdays job posting ramps up to 23.1%, the highest all week, which tallies with the high applications on that day but misses the Monday applications rush. A relatively high 18% of jobs are posted on a Friday but only 10% of applications are received on each day of the weekend.
Time – Applicationsfollow the general trend of peaking mid-late morning and over lunchtime but with a steady stream over the afternoon and early evening. However, the majority of jobs are posted at 2pm, with lower percentages in the peak application time of between 11am and 1pm.
Secretarial, PAs & Admin
Day – Monday is the most active day for applications but Tuesday to Thursday have similar percentages. From Friday and into the weekend they drop off considerably. The job posting data doesn’t quite match up, with Monday one of the least active days of the week for jobs. The majority of jobs are posted on Wednesdays, followed by Thursdays. In order to catch more candidates while they’re actively searching for jobs, more job posting on Mondays would be advisable.
Time – 10am to 3pm is the most active time period for candidates but applications continue into the evening. As the majority of jobs are posted at 10am this aligns nicely. The active posting period begins at 8am and see-saws until 4pm, after which it drops off considerably.
Public Sector & Services
Day – Bucking the general trend, Monday is not the most active day for applications. In fact, receiving 16% of all applications, it is only the third most active day of the week, behind Tuesday (the most active at 20%) and Wednesday (18%). Post-Wednesday, the figures drop as we head towards the end of the week and the weekend. Most jobs were posted on a Wednesday, fairly late in the week to catch candidates searching at the beginning of the week, and the second busiest day for jobs is Friday – the weekday with the fewest applications and right before the weekend with a sharp drop in applications.
Time – The majority of applications are received not around lunchtime like many other industries but at 3pm. The second highest percentage of jobs are also posted at that time, but a relatively low percentage are posted at midday, which is within a busy time period for candidates.
Day – Like many industries, the majority of applications for Engineering jobs are received at the beginning of the week, on Mondays and Tuesdays, declining through the week. However, Monday is the least active weekday for job posting. Just 15.9% of jobs are posted on a Monday compared to 22.7% on a Tuesday, 22.1% on a Wednesday, 19.5% on a Thursday and 17.4% on a Friday – the latter just before the weekend which receives far fewer applications.
Time – 10am-1pm is the most active time for candidates but applications keep coming in similar numbers up until early evening. In comparison, fewer jobs are posted in the time period between 11am and 1pm than at any time within the 8am to 4pm bracket.
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