How much do companies spend on recruiting? I found very few examples of a detailed recruiting budget template on the webosphere. So, I pinged my smart recruiting friends to help guide me. Below is what I found.

5 Recruiting Budget Template Approaches

Let’s start with a recruiting goal in mind. How about 500 hires a year? That’s as good a number as any for an enterprise company.

If your hiring volume is different, I link off to this Recruiting Budget Template spreadsheet, where you can input your own hiring volume and find some other goodies.

Ok, let’s start first with 5 recruiting budget templates to use.

1. Simple Recruiting Budget (# of Hires * Cost-per-Hire)

A good place to start your recruiting budget is to establish your hiring volume over a specific period. This can be as simple as 500 hires over the next 12 months.

The hiring # number multiplied by the average cost of hire can give you a rough estimate of how much you’ll spend on recruiting. You’re just using a simple formula:

{# of Hires * Cost-per-Hire}

An average cost-per-hire is easy to find. Resources like SHRM and Bersin peg the average cost-per-hire at around $4,000 to $4,500.

So, let’s use the midpoint of that range: $4,250. Then, you simply multiply your $4,250 assumed cost-per-hire by the hires you need in a year (500 in our example). See below:

Example of Simple Recruiting Budget

How many people do you need to hire this year? 500
Average cost per hire $4,250
Total Recruiting Spend $2,125,000

If your hiring mix is fairly even and you’re not using external recruiters, the simple {# of Hires * Cost-per-Hire} formula gives you a solid ballpark for what you might spend on recruiting.

But, to fine-tune your recruiting spend, it’s worth trying the next 2 approaches below:

2. Recruiting Budget by Source & Type (Internal Recruiter/Headhunter Blend)

Recruiting is rarely that simple (especially for mid-market or enterprise company (500+ employees).

There are 2 other key data points:

A) Job Type Distribution — You’ll want to break down how many roles you need by job type (this could be by seniority or by department). To keep it simple, I’m going to take a hypothetical enterprise company that has the following hiring needs for a 12-month period:

Type of Hire # of Hires
High-Volume/Entry-Level/Support Roles 150
Sales/Mid-Level Roles 250
Technology Roles 85
Leadership/C-Suite 15
Total 500

B) Cost-per-Hire Varies by Job Type — Your cost-per-hire will vary depending on the job type. A good rule of thumb is that:

  • Entry-level/High-Volume jobs are usually the lowest cost-per-hire — Depending on your industry, you may only need to spend $500 to $2,000 per entry job hire (let’s use $2,000 per). You’d need to talk to experts in your area to get this assumed cost-per-hire (if in doubt, just use the $4,250 per hire which will be conservative).
  • Mid-level jobs are average cost-per-hire (let’s use the $4,250 SHRM/Bersin average for this)
  • C-Suite & Leadership jobs are the highest cost-per-hire (these roles are so hard to fill that there are often outsourced to an executive search firm (headhunter) who charges you 15% to 30% first-year’s salary.

Check out the below sample budget for a new scenario in which you’re still trying to hire 500 people. You now add more details on the volume by types of jobs and their different cost-per-hire.

Recruiting Budget by Source & Type

# of Hires Source Avg. Cost-per-Hire Total Recruiting Spend
High-Volume/Support Roles 150 Internal Recruiters $2,000 $300,000
Sales/Mid-Level Roles 250 Internal Recruiters $4,250 $1,062,500
Technology Roles 85 Internal Recruiters $5,000 $425,000
Leadership/C-Suite 15 Headhunter $50,000 $750,000
Total 500 $5,075 $2,537,500

In this case, your total recruiting budget is noticeably higher ($2.5M versus the $2.1M calculated using the simple {# of Hires * Cost-per-Hire} formula). The big difference, of course, is the Leadership/C-Suite jobs — those tally up to $750K USD ($50K*15 hires).

Your cost-per-hire is 19% higher ($5,075 versus $4,250) than the simple formula from section 1.

3. Recruiting Budget Using an RPO

Another way to estimate recruiting spend is to consider outsourcing all recruiting to an RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) company.

The beauty of an RPO is that they recommend the recruiter resources, so you know what your costs are going to be. One top RPO is WilsonHCG. Their CEO John Wilson explains it this way:

“Recruiting is what we do…that’s our business. Whether it’s Workday, Cisco or Apple, recruiting is not their business.”

A good RPO company will outline your recruiter needs by the job type/volume For example, if you feed your hiring needs to an RPO like WilsonHCG, they might work up a proposal like the following (again, using the 500 hires per year example):

Recruiting Budget Using an RPO

# of Hires RPO Hires this Many Recruiters Cost per Recruiter Total RPO Recruiting Spend
High-Volume/Support Roles 85 1 $120,000 $120,000
Sales/Mid-Level Roles 225 3 $144,000 $432,000
Technology Roles 175 4 $162,000 $648,000
Leadership/C-Suite 15 2.5 $200,000 $500,000
Total 500 $1,700,000
Cost-per-Hire $3,400

You’ll notice that the total recruiting spend ($1.7 million) and cost-per-hire ($3,400) are the lowest of the 3 recruiting budget approaches.

Some estimates are that the cost-per-hire using an RPO can be 5% to 10% of the first-year salary (source: Hirevelocity Cost Per Hire). So another way to estimate your recruiting budget (using an RPO) is to multiple your average salary of the hires needed by 7.5%.

Next, let’s look at a couple of sample recruiting budgets from friends of mine kind enough to share what they know:

4. A Sample Recruiting Budget for Start-Ups

Category Item Description  Estimated Cost Notes 
Job Advertising Job board posting ( LinkedIn, AngelList)  $800 Monthly subscription
Social media ads (FB, IG)  $300 Targeted Campaigns
Recruiting Events University Career Fairs $300 Booth set up
Local startup events $500 Sponsorship fees 
Software ATS $300 Annual Subscription 
HR Software  $500 One-time purchase
Background Checks Background Check Services $115 Per Candidate 
Recruiter Fees Recruitment Agency Fees $1500 Per Hire 
Employee Referral Referral Bonuses $1000 Per Successful Referral
Miscellaneous  Office Supplies $100 Printing, Stationery
Total  $5,415

Startups often have limited financial resources. Hence, they need to be strategic in their spending and must focus on using cost-effective recruiting techniques. 

Startups usually target rapid growth, requiring scalable recruiting methodologies to fill open positions as quickly as the company grows. Since they are still new in the industry, they must put tremendous effort into building and promoting their employer brand to attract top talent in a highly competitive market. They need to attract candidates who are creative and can be successful in a dynamic and agile environment. 

5. A Sample Recruiting Budget for a Non-Profit Organization

Category Item Description  Estimated Cost Notes 
Job Advertising Job board posting ( LinkedIn, Idealist)  $2000 Monthly subscription
Social media ads (FB, IG)  $1000 Targeted Campaigns
Recruiting Events Nonprofit job fairs  $1000 Booth set up
Community events $500 Sponsorship fees 
Software ATS $2500 Annual Subscription 
Volunteer Management Software  $1500 One-time purchase
Background Checks Background Check Services $115 Per Candidate 
Recruiter Fees Recruitment Agency Fees $3000 Per Hire 
Employee Referral Referral Bonuses $1000 Per Successful Referral
Training Onboarding Materials $500 Training Materials
Training Sessions $1000 External Trainers
Miscellaneous  Office Supplies $100 Printing, Stationery
Total  $14,215

A nonprofit organization has a limited budget compared to their for-profit counterparts. They depend on donations, grants, and funding from other sources, so they need to manage their resources carefully. Their budgets include volunteer management tools and platforms. 

Recruiting efforts are directed towards finding and managing volunteers, not paid staff. Hence, nonprofits need to attract applicants passionate about their mission and values. They desire candidates with a strong sense of social responsibility and community engagement.

Common hiring practices include community outreach and engagement to attract talent. Collaborating with community organizations, schools, and local events is more cost-effective than posting job ads or paying staffing agencies.

A Sample Recruiting Budget for a 500-Person Enterprise (hiring 100 per year)

My good friend Philip Ziman, an Adjunct Professor from the University of California, Santa Cruz, gives us the below sample recruiting budget for a 500-employee enterprise.  In this scenario, the Recruiting Manager reports to the VP of HR. It assumes hiring 100 people per year because the company requires a 5% headcount growth rate but has a 15% turnover rate. All #s are $USD.

Fixed Costs

  • Recruiting Manager (fully loaded) – $200K
  • Scheduling Assistant  (fully loaded) – $80K
  • ATS Software (annual subscription/maintenance) – $50K
  • LinkedIn core subscription – $75K
  • Glassdoor subscription – $10K
  • Recruiting web page maintenance – $5K
  • University relations contributions – $10K

Variable Costs

  • Contract recruiter per position – $5K
  • Linkedin advertisements – $2KAgency fees per hire – $40K
  • Specialized advertisement per position – $2K
  • Candidate travel/expense per interview – $1K
  • Employee referral per hire – $1K

Indirect/Soft Costs

  • Management/Employee time per interview & onsite hosting – $.5k
  • Replacement lost productivity and training per position $100k

A Sample Recruiting Budget of a 600-Person Tech Company (hiring 80 people per year)

Another friend of mine (anonymous) gave me this example of how much a fast-growing tech company spends on recruiting. They hire about 80 people per year:

Recruiting Spend % of Total
Recruiting Headcount $1,400,000 70.0%
Recruiting tools $331,000 16.6%
Referral bonus $130,000 6.5%
Other Software (ATS) $68,000 3.4%
Employer branding $37,000 1.9%
Localization (moving costs) $34,000 1.7%
Total $2,000,000 100%

Need more recruiting budget line items? Here are some other thoughts:

Recruiting Budget Line Items

Elaine Davidson, CEO of Beacon Lane Consulting, a global (but boutique) talent consulting firm, has clients with budgets ranging from $1 million to over $10 million USD.

Elaine says the exact list of recruiting budget items depends on what the employer’s focus is at the moment  (e.g., implementing a new ATS, adding on a sourcing tool, Candidate experience tool, etc.).

She finds the following are the main items her clients spend on recruiting:

  • Fully Loaded Personnel Costs
  • ATS Annual Licenses
  • LinkedIn Licenses
  • Online Presence: Employer Brand, Social Media, Glassdoor, etc.
  • AI Scheduling
  • Digital Interviewing
  • Digital Job Analyzer/Text Analyer
  • Career SiteBuilder
  • Executive Search
  • Other Job Boards
  • Background Check Vendor

Brad Cook, the Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Intuitive, tends to break recruiting budget down into these 8 categories:

  • People costs (FTE and contingent)
  • Recruiting Tools (must have)
  • Recruiting Tools (nice to have)
  • Travel
  • Search fees (if used)
  • College
  • Employee Referral Programs
  • Programmatic Media Buying

Tim Sackett, President of HRU Technical Resources, breaks recruiting costs (beyond personnel) into these 4 groups with examples for each:

  • Recruiting Tools (Sourcing – Loxo, texting – Canvas, etc.)
  • Recruitment Marketing (Indeed, LinkedIn, Zip, career site, email, SMS marketing, etc.)
  • Recruiting Expenses (background checks, assessments, etc.)
  • Recruiting Travel (recruitment events, interview travel expenses, etc.)

A Longer List of Recruiting Budget Programs

Need a longer list of recruiting budget ideas?

SHRM’s 2017 Customized Talent Acquisition Benchmarking Report offers this up:


Diversity Recruiting: A New Budget Line Item

More and more employers are adding “Diversity Recruiting” to their recruiting budget.

Fintech startup Petal (97 employees) told BuiltIn:

“With our Series C [funding], we knew we’d be doubling the Petal team size within 12 months and viewed it as an opportunity to continue diversifying our employee base. So the people team made a detailed DEI strategy, which included a six-month budget of $50,000, and a 12-month plan of up to $70,000 more. Budgets included paid services like partnerships with DEI-focused recruiting agencies, sponsorships for organizations and conferences that support Black and Brown tech communities, workshops led by DEI and leadership experts and employer branding that targeted underrepresented groups.

But interestingly, we found that our biggest impact to date has come from internal efforts. We appointed our first diversity officer. There’s now a bonus of up to $3,000 when employees refer an underrepresented candidate to an open job at Petal.”

Recruiting Budget Bonus Tips

Here are some extra stats/tips that might be helpful to calculate how much you’ll spend on recruiting:

Set Hiring Goals

Discuss your hiring goals with the hiring manager to ensure recruitment activities are well-coordinated and timed to meet business needs.

Clearly outline your timelines, including the number of hires, types of roles, and hiring timelines. And make your goals SMART, for example: 

“Hire 10 software engineers within the next three months to support the new product development.”

Determine which roles are most critical to prevent overspending on less critical positions.

Take Advantage of Cost-Effective Recruiting Channels

Post your job openings on free job boards, social media, and online professional networks. Implement employee referral program, which are relatively cheaper but result in better quality of hire

Optimize Job Advertising

Use targeted job ads on LinkedIn and Facebook to reach certain demographics. You can target candidates via job titles, locations, past job searches, career history, and if they’ve previously seen your job ad. 

According to Appcast’s Recruitment Marketing Benchmark Report,  the median cost per click dropped in 2023 at $0.85, compared to $1.07 in 2022, while the number of people who apply after clicking the job ad grew by 22.5%.  Additionally, the median cost-per-application declined to $19.40 in 2023, down 29.6% when compared to 2022 

So, if you’re considering investing in target job advertising, now is the best time. For best results, continuously monitor the performance of your job ad and adjust them accordingly. 

Track and Analyze Recruitment Spending

Regularly track hiring expenses against your budget: job ads, agency fees, background checks, and referral bonuses.  For accuracy, use software tools to keep detailed records. 

Evaluate your ROI for each recruitment channel and method. Compare your cost-per-hire against the industry average to identify areas for improvement. Focus on those channels that yield the most number of qualified candidates.  

Monitor your time to fill recruiting metrics. Reducing time-to-hire can lower costs associated with prolonged vacancies and lost productivity.

Negotiate with Vendors

Negotiate contracts and fees with staffing agencies, job boards, and background-checking services to get the best deals. 

To save money, consider purchasing bulk packages for job postings or background checks. If you’ll be hiring all year round, consider annual memberships in ATS and other HR software to reduce subscription fees. 

Prepare for Seasonal or Short-Term Hiring

Increase your budget during peak hiring seasons or when you anticipate higher turnover. Distribute recruitment expenses evenly throughout the year to avoid unnecessary spending or budget spikes.

Use temp staffing agencies for short-term needs or when managing recruitment surges. Consider hiring contractors or freelancers for project-based work to save on long-term employment costs. 

Have Flexibility

Implement a process for budget adjustments to accommodate unexpected hiring situations like market conditions, industry changes, or sudden changes in your staffing level. 

Set aside 5-10% of your recruiting budget for a contingency fund. It will cover unexpected expenses like urgent hires or spikes in job advertising costs. Adjust this percentage based on your company size and industry. 

Consider Internal Mobility

Invest in training and development programs to make your current employees  ‘promotable’ and advance to higher levels. Promotion reduces external hiring costs and improves employee retention. 

Launch internships and mentoring programs to build a talent pool of future employees. These programs can be cost-effective ways to evaluate potential hires. 

Continuously Improve

Reviewing your recruiting budget regularly (quarterly or annually) helps identify and address inefficiencies, allowing you to optimize your resources and save money. 

Collect feedback from your candidates and hiring managers to see what can be improved in your recruiting process. Check your analytics dashboard to see which channels or strategies are most effective. Analyze your competitors’ recruitment practices to identify techniques you can adopt. Stay informed with the latest recruiting trends and best practices to adapt your recruitment strategies accordingly.

Recruiting Budget Worksheet Template 

With the help of some recruiting experts and a recruiting budget template from Glassdoor, we have created a sample recruiting budget worksheet you can download.


(Editor’s note — We are grateful that many of the top employers in the world (including 12 Fortune 1,000 companies) have added Ongig’s Text Analyzer to their recruiting budgets. Thank you! Check out if you’d like to learn why. 


    1. Philip Ziman University of California, Santa Cruz
    2. Tim Sackett HRU Technical Resources
    3. How to Create a Recruiting Budget (Template Included!) (by Glassdoor)
    4. Downloadable Budget Template Form (by Glassdoor)
    5. Recruiting costs FAQ: Budget and cost per hire (by Nikoletta Bika)
    6. Lisa Youngdahl (HR Extraordinaire)
    7. Talent Acquisition VP Brad Cook
    8. SHRM’s 2017 Customized Talent Acquisition Benchmarking Report
    9. John Wilson, CEO of WilsonHCG
    10. SHRM’s Cost Per Hire American National Standard
    11. Bersin by Deloitte: U.S. Spending on Recruitment Rises, Driven by Increased Competition for Critical Talent (by PR Newswire)

by in Recruiting Strategies