Talent Acquisition Workplace

Job Application Response Rates: the Candidate Experience

Earlier this year, my partner and I relocated from Queensland to the nation’s capital for family reasons and a job – I was left to look for employment (mainly in general administration, records management and finance/accounts related roles: I have some experience in all these roles). Eventually, I took on any job going, from casual cleaning to non-ongoing temp roles in public and private sectors here in Canberra. However, it is not my career trajectory that I want to talk about but the job search process more generally and the response rates from prospective employers more specifically.

I kept some record of my efforts in responding to job advertisements online. The main employment search engines used were and and, of course, I trawled through other sites as well such as and Australian JobSearch. The following is a small sample of my job search efforts and response rates from prospective employers, and I’ve got to say, from the outset, it’s fairly dismal. I realise that prospective employers are busy minding their own business but I also must say that job seekers are people too – applying for roles is not an easy thing!


Of more than 92 job applications submitted online over a 2 month period (through job search sites such as Seek, the employer’s own website or by email) there was an 82 percent no response rate. This does not include other job search methods such as a series of ‘cold call’ emails to employers of interest and phone calls made.

Of the 92 applications over a 2 month period (which averages about 11-12 per week), I received notifications that I was ‘unfortunately unsuccessful’ for or that the job ‘has been withdrawn’ on 16.  A further analysis of these figures was conducted and the breakdown was as follows – of the 16 responses:

  • Five were received in the same day as the application was made.
  • Five were received within a week of the application submission.
  • Five more notifications were received between a week and a month after the application was made.
  • One response was received after a month.

(Of course, these results do not mention the automated confirmations I received when applications were made using the Seek or MyCareer sites or prospective employers’ own sites)

Some of the job advertisements did state that ‘because of the number of applications expected, only the successful applicants will be contacted.‘ I did not necessarily take note of this disclaimer in my analysis of response rates.

Maybe it was a higher number than I thought, but I would expect it to be less than half the ads which would contain this disclaimer. Also, most of these applications went to recruitment agencies first – I have been told that some of these agencies use computer programs to run job applications through which might explain why I got a few responses in the same day? You would think that if your job was dealing with job applicants that part of your role would be to respond to them? I realise that they are not your direct paying clients, however they are a stakeholder in the process and should be treated as such.


Responses are like feedback for the applicant – if we don’t get some form of response then we’re left hanging/wondering. Some recruiters would say to follow up if you’re really keen. However, some recruiters/prospective employers get annoyed by applicants calling to check progress. Some small firms do not have the manpower to handle this possible influx of calls so I would say to prospective employers/recruiters out there, wouldn’t it be easier to automate your responses and give the applicants some form of ‘closure’?

For firms/businesses and government departments that advertise for applicants with good communication skills, surely good communication is a two-way street?  Surely, giving the applicant an update, even if an automated response is better than leaving someone hanging. I don’t mind the ‘unfortunately you were unsuccessful’ letters/emails – of course I would rather the response be positive but at least it’s something.

Job applications are not an easy thing to do and lack of response to one who put in the effort might be considered not caring.  Do you really want your business seen as ‘non caring’ even if it is only to a job seeker??

Author: Guy Gray is author of

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