Mobile vs. desktop: is there a difference in candidate behaviour?

As mobile devices become increasingly sophisticated and internet on-the-go becomes faster, mobile traffic is growing year on year. Those accessing recruitment websites are certainly no exception. RecWebs data shows the increase in mobile traffic more than doubling from 2018 to 2019, from just 24% in 2018 to 43% in 2019. And we expect that number to continue to rise. However, although mobile traffic is steadily increasing, desktop users are still in the majority, accounting for 54% of all traffic. What is clear is that, not only do websites need to be optimised for both mobile and desktop, we also need to try to understand the difference in candidate behaviour when using different devices. With behavioural insight, we can improve the entire experience for candidates, ultimately netting greater conversions and, eventually, hires.

Browser differences

Different devices mean different browsers so it is vitally important to test your website across not just one but multiple browsers. RecWebs research revealed that Chrome facilitated the vast majority of visits to recruitment websites on desktops, whereas Safari is the dominant browser for mobile devices. Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge, Samsung Internet, and Android Webview were all also used. What you want to avoid are problems with elements not loading, a form submission error, or some other issue caused by incompatibility with a different web viewing software. The solution? Test, test, test!

Touch vs. click

Another way to look at mobile vs. desktop is in the way that we operate the different devices, i.e. touch vs. click. When we use a desktop we use a mouse to click on a button or a field, whereas to perform the same action on a mobile device we use a finger where the chance of mis-tapping is higher. The size of the click target is vital when it comes to mobile usage as make it too small and it is difficult to tap without first pinch-zooming – creating yet another step in the process, something you want to avoid. Mobile users also love a swipe as it’s a quick and easy way to navigate different options or a gallery. When optimising your website for mobile usage it’s essential to ensure it is easily navigable with large navigation buttons and that every tiny bit of that small screen space is utilised in the best possible way.

Always on vs power up

Mobile users have the ability to instantly access the net at any time – and frequently do. How many times have you quickly checked something on your phone during a lull in the day? Candidates will often use their phones to browse job listings, read content and reach out via a contact page but might wait until they’re home to apply for a job when they have more time and can access documents such as CV, portfolio, etc. Mobile users also expect a fast loading website that is quick and easy to navigate as they’re often browsing during small amounts of snatched time or while multitasking. 

However, RecWebs research indicates that the average content upload time for a recruitment website is over 5 seconds and only fully loaded after a massive 10 seconds. We would recommend that the loading times is reduced by at least 50%. A clunky mobile experience will lead to a high bounce rate as candidates give up and possibly return to their search results to find another recruitment agency’s website. Further RecWebs data shows that on average users stay on a recruitment website for a period of just over 2 minutes by reading content, visiting other pages or taking desired actions on the site – make those 2 minutes count!  

Different mindsets

Think about the different scenarios in which you use your mobile as opposed to when you power up your desktop. Often when you’re at your desktop you have specifically set aside time to perform a task. You are more focused and probably sitting at a desk. On a mobile device you could be outside, multitasking (eg walking, waiting for public transport or in a queue), facing a number of distractions and wanting information quickly. To keep a mobile user on your site you need to make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for on a smaller screen and include a call to action on every page.   


Whilst a Potential Park study found that 88% of jobseekers look for jobs on their phones and 1 in 3 are keen to apply using their device, the reality is that the mobile application experience tends to fall below the desktop experience. Glassdoor has found that those searching job listings via their mobile device complete 53% fewer applications and those that do complete an application take a massive 80% longer to do so. The longer it takes to complete an application, the less likely it is that candidates will return so poor mobile application processes could well be deterring talent. In order to increase the likelihood that candidates will apply and not just browse for jobs on your website, mobile quality must rival that of desktop.

And finally… become a candidate for an hour or 2

The best way to check what a candidate is experiencing on both desktop and mobile is to test it out for yourself. Browse your website using both devices, apply for a vacancy, search for contact details/content/company information and note any difficulties or frustrations. Even better if you can do it on different smartphones and tablets as they all present slightly differently. 

While the majority of candidates still access recruitment websites via a desktop, mobile is fast catching up. It is therefore essential that your website is fully optimised for mobiles, including testing it on different browsers. Take into consideration smaller screens, touch-based input, quick internal links, orientation (most mobile users hold their device in portrait mode), load speeds and navigation. Designing your website with both types of users in mind will help to provide a positive candidate experience across the board, increase user retention and, ultimately, maximise conversions.  

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