How does programmatic job ad buying benefit talent acquisition and other HR leaders?

Posted May 08, 2018 by


Over the past couple of years, those of us who make our living in the job board world have grown from being aware of the existence of programmatic ad buying, to understanding the opportunities and threats it poses. We grew to either be terrified by it or embrace it, or some combination of the two. At College Recruiter, we made the decision early on to embrace programmatic job ad buying because we saw that the opportunity it presented to our employer customers (and therefore us) far outweighed the threat that it posed.

Since 1991, when I founded the organization that became College Recruiter, I’ve often been accused of chasing after every shiny new thing. That’s not fair. I do chase after shiny new things, but not always. And sometimes they chase after me. Also, the accusation can be interpreted as a negative character trait. That’s also not fair because seeing opportunities and risks where others don’t can be valuable. That’s true whether you’re a caveman hunting for food or a talent acquisition or other human resources leader hunting for more efficient and effective ways of attracting the talent that your organization needs–not just to survive but also to thrive.

Case in point: programmatic job ad buying. This was the shiny new thing that proved to be worthy of attention.

So, just what the heck is programmatic job ad buying?

In a nutshell, it is just fancy terminology for allowing a computer to decide when and where your job posting ads will run. Rather than you deciding that you should advertise position A on job board X, position B on job board Y, and position C on job board Z, you instead allocate budget to your positions and let a computer decide when and where to run those ads based upon certain pre-determined rules.

For example, the computer understands which job boards are generating the largest number of qualified candidate traffic to your ATS for the lowest cost. Because the computer decides when and where to run your ads (based upon your rules), you no longer need to participate in a beauty contest with dozens of job board sales people trying to convince you that their candidates are the best or that their costs are the lowest.

Instead, the computer makes the job board media partners put your money where their mouth is. If they can deliver the candidate flow that you need more effectively and efficiently than their competitors, they win your business. If they can’t, they don’t. Simple. Black-and-white. Or is it?

Programmatic ad buying is just fancy terminology for allowing a computer to decide when and where your job posting ads will run.

Complexities of programmatic ad buying

Those of us who have embraced programmatic job ad buying have become aware that “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Many questions have arisen, for example, how do you create the rules? Should they be based upon the lowest cost per click to your ATS or will that just generate a lot of unqualified candidate flow? What if the most efficient job board partners aren’t able to generate enough quantity for you to hire the people you need? Should you eliminate them or bundle more of them together so that, collectively, they generate the flow you need? Are you being asked to pay for latent clicks, which are those delivered after you’ve removed the ad from your site? If so, for how many hours or days? Are you being asked to pay for duplicate clicks, which could be the same candidate clicking through multiple times or could just be a number of candidates at the same college campus on the same wifi network and so your system sees them as having the same IP address and therefore the same candidate until and unless they apply?

Is programmatic job ad buying the future? College Recruiter says it isn't just the future but also the present.#TAtechAds Click To Tweet

This entire shiny new thing may sound overwhelming, and it can be to some. But it can also be freeing as you no longer need to make decisions based upon warm fuzzies. Instead, you get to make decisions using actual, real, data.

Searching for the right candidates with programmatic ad buyingProgrammatic ad buying isn’t actually new–it’s only new to job ad buying.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the company that popularized programmatic ad buying almost two decades ago: Google. Several years after launching in 1998 they had virtually no revenue. After all, how can anyone make revenue from providing a free search engine with no banner ads? Google quickly figured out that it could place text ads above and beside their search results, and generate a nickel here and a quarter there every time someone clicked on the ad. And then they realized that they could generate a lot more nickels and quarters if those ads were relevant to the search results based upon the user’s behavior.

Here’s a scenario. Let’s say you were willing to pay $1.00 per click and I was willing to pay only $0.10 per click. You might think your ad would therefore appear more in people’s search results. But if my ad appears instead of yours, it’s because my ad was clicked on and yours wasn’t. That was programmatic ad buying at work. The computer – Google, that is — chose to show my ad to certain users at certain times based upon the response rate and revenue generated by those ads. And that entire process is now coming rapidly to the world of recruitment marketing.

Get up to speed at TA Tech Leadership Summit on Programmatic Ad Buying

Last June, College Recruiter sent three employees to a conference organized by our industry’s trade association, The Association of Talent Acquisition Solutions (TAtech), on programmatic job ad buying. The attendance was superb, the venue even better, and the content even better. Quite simply, I was blown away by the value that the event delivered in just one day.

A key reason why last year’s event was so great was the number and make-up of the attendees. There were 148 in total, about half of which self-identified as VP/HR, VP/TA or senior recruiter. So the conversations were balanced: they weren’t all of interest primarily to talent acquisition professionals nor were they all of interest primarily to job boarders. Whether the attendee was marketing their own organization’s jobs or marketing the jobs of their employer customers, the presentations, panel discussions, networking conversations, and even a live recording of the Chad and Cheese podcast (“HR’s most dangerous podcast”) were all of interest both to TA professionals and job boarders. Some attendees knew almost nothing about programmatic but knew they needed to. Others were at an intermediate level, such as those who knew some but were not yet using it. And others were like me, pretty advanced in that we were buying most of our job ad traffic programmatically.

TAtech Leadership Summit on Programmatic Ad BuyingIn a month on June 6th, the folks at TAtech are bringing the Leadership Summit on Programmatic Job Ad Buying back to the University of Minnesota campus here in Minneapolis. Right now, it appears that attendance will be up with a 1:1 ratio of talent acquisition to job boarders again spawning incredible conversations and opportunities for learning. College Recruiter is sending four members of our management team: our CEO, Vice President of Product Development, Vice President of Operations, and moi. If your job — or those of your colleagues — involves marketing job opportunities, then this is an event that can’t be missed. Register today at The organizers at TAtech did a great job last year and I anticipate that they’ll do an even better job this year.

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