5. Applicant Source Analysis

Where did hiring teams source job applicants for tech jobs?

Hiring teams employ a variety of tactics to attract job applicants to their open jobs. They often turn to whatever approaches result in hires, out of necessity. Yet the sources hiring teams use to build applicant pools impact which job applicants they end up hiring.

Applicant sourcing through tactics like Referral Programs, On-demand Sourcing, Third-party Sourcers, and Recruiter Sourcing (i.e., seeking out applicants on LinkedIn and other platforms) are effective at attracting applicants. Yet those tactics rely on actively seeking out applicants on ‘closed’ networks (e.g., Third-party Recruiter Networks or Referral Programs).

By limiting the size of the potential applicant pool, hiring teams end up limiting the size of their actual applicant pools. That, in turn, impacts their organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. A far more equitable approach to hiring is Organic Sourcing, whereby hiring teams publish inclusive advertisements on common job boards accessible to anyone with internet access.

For this report, we collected job listing data directly from over 10,000 companies for the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. Looking solely at U.S.-based technology jobs, we analyzed the data for trends. The data revealed Company Career Sites and LinkedIn as key applicant sources for tech jobs.

Key Takeaways: Significant decrease in median applicants per job, but organic sources were still key to job applicant volumes

→ The decrease in median job applicants in 2021 was startling. Typical jobs attracted less than 100 job applicants for the first time since 2019, reflecting a significant tightening of tech labor markets.

→ Mobile, Frontend Engineering, and Backend Engineering relied more on prospecting than other tech job types. However, organic job applicants represented nearly 80% of total applications, regardless of seniority.

→ Company Career Sites and LinkedIn took top honors. User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX), Product Management, Data, and Fullstack Engineering jobs received the most applications. Meanwhile, Infrastructure Engineering, Quality Assurance (QA), and Information Security (InfoSec) received the fewest. LinkedIn played a significant role in Data Engineering, Fullstack, and Product Management. Meanwhile, Indeed and ZipRecruiter were more prevalent in QA and Information Technology (IT) Support.

Total number of applicants

The total number of postings for tech jobs grew significantly in 2021, as we discussed in Section 1 of this report. However, the number of median applicants per job decreased between 2019 and 2021. In short, we saw more job openings and smaller applicant pools.

5.1 There was a significant decrease in the median applicants per job in 2021

The big picture of the data revealed that, on average, open tech jobs received a median of about 77 applications, down from about 120 in 2019.

39%

5.2 Organic Sources accounted for most tech job applicants

The majority of applications came from Organic Sources, with Company Career Sites and LinkedIn Job Posts accounting for the majority of the Organic Sources. Inorganic Sources, meanwhile, accounted for the remaining applications. Inorganic Sources include Prospecting Efforts, Agencies, Sourcing Platforms, Referrals, Internal Applications, and the like.

36%
Company Career Site
31%
LinkedIn Job Posts
19%
Other Organic Sources
8%
Prospecting
6%
Referrals, Events, Other

Numbers of applicants by seniority level

When we looked at seniority levels, we saw a predictable breakdown among Junior jobs (typically requiring fewer than four years of experience), Mid-level jobs (typically requiring between four and 10 years of experience), and Senior jobs (typically requiring 10+ years of experience).

5.3 Organic Sources accounted for most applications, regardless of the job's seniority

Junior roles attracted more applications than Mid-level and Senior jobs, as expected. Junior and Mid-level jobs attracted a larger number of applicants from Company Career Sites, while Junior jobs attracted a larger number of applicants from Indeed.

Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Indeed Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other
Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Indeed Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other

Numbers of applicants by job type

We also expected to see different job types attracting different sized applicant pools based on the specialization and uniqueness of the skillsets required. We did.

5.4 Data and Fullstack jobs attracted the most applicants

Two key trends stood out. Open jobs for four job types ─ UI/UX, Product Management, Data, and Fullstack ─ received the most applications. Meanwhile, three other job types ─ Infrastructure, QA, and InfoSec ─ received the fewest.

Sources by job type

When we looked at the intersection of source and job type, several trends emerged.

5.5 Jobs with large applicant pools relied mostly on their Company Career Site and LinkedIn Job Posts

Open jobs in Product Management, Data, and Fullstack areas attracted more applicants from Organic Sources, particularly Company Career Sites and LinkedIn, than other job types. They also attracted moderately more applicants from other Organic Sources such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter.

Open jobs for Data and Fullstack jobs, meanwhile, attracted slightly more applicants through Prospecting and Referrals than for other job types. (Although the total number of applicants from these sources paled when compared to Organic Sources.)

Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other
Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other

5.6 Jobs with smaller applicant pools relied more on Indeed Job Posts and Other Sources

Open jobs in QA, Tech Infrastructure, and InfoSec attracted fewer applicants from Organic Sources. They also attracted fewer applicants from Company Career Sites, which provided a smaller percentage of overall applicants. As an exception, QA jobs attracted more applicants from Indeed than all other job types.

Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Indeed Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other
Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Indeed Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other

5.7 Mobile, Frontend, and Backend jobs relied more on Prospecting

Unexpectedly, Mobile App, Backend, and Frontend jobs attracted a higher-than-average number of applications from Prospecting. Normally, we would expect to see Prospecting attract higher numbers for job types that require specialized skills sets, such as Hardware Engineering, not Mobile App or Frontend jobs. Yet the trend was there, perhaps the result of the growth of specific frameworks. We discuss this further in Section 2 of this report.

Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Indeed Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other
Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Indeed Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other

5.8 IT Support and QA jobs relied more on job boards like Indeed and ZipRecruiter

IT Support jobs, as with QA jobs, attracted a larger percentage of their applicant pools from Indeed (and ZipRecruiter, which we included in the ‘Other Organic Sources’ category).

Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Indeed Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other
Company Career Site
LinkedIn Job Posts
Indeed Job Posts
Other Organic Sources
Prospecting
Referrals, Events, Other

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