Advice for Employers and Recruiters

Do recruitment advertising agencies understand programmatic job advertising?

Steven Rothberg AvatarSteven Rothberg
March 29, 2023

The short answer is, some do. And some, frustrating to me, don’t.

Yesterday, I posted a blog article to College Recruiter that detailed the differences between programmatic job advertising systems versus more traditional, job distribution systems. In a nutshell, the decisions as to what job boards and other media companies the job posting ads are to run on and for what period of time are made by the software when programmatic systems are used whereas a recruiter or some other poor soul is making those decisions when legacy, job distribution systems are used.

But let me share a dirty, dark, little secret with you: the differences between the two are often reduced by the people using them. What do I mean by that? I thought you’d never ask.

The company that I founded, College Recruiter, was the first niche job board to successfully migrate from selling job posting ads on a traditional, duration- to a programmatic, performance-basis. Until 2016, almost all of our customers posted ads for say $75 for 30 days or on all-you-can-eat (unlimited) packages costing up to $12,500 per year. But, within days of each other, one of the largest gig economy employers in the world and one of the largest insurance companies in the world both came to us with pretty much the same question: could we deliver four times as many candidates to them if they paid us four times as much money. As an entrepreneur, you always want to find a way to help your customers give you more money and so I said yes and was confident that we’d figure it out later. We did.

What those customers purchased grew into our flagship product, JobsThatScale. It is a programmatic, performance-based, job posting product. None of the customers using that product manually post jobs to our site. Instead, they send us feeds of just the jobs they want us to run, feeds of all of their jobs and then we filter to run only the jobs for which they need help, or they give us permission to scrape their sites each night so that we can copy and run the jobs for which they need help.

Note that I’ve been careful to refer to “customers”. I didn’t refer to “employers”. Why? Because many of our customers aren’t employers. Many are recruitment (employment) advertising agencies, programmatic job ad distribution companies, and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) organizations. These three kinds of organizations send to us jobs on behalf of their clients, which are typically the direct employers. That extra step may seem to some as being wasteful, but it is anything but. The intermediaries often add tremendous value as they’re likely to have tremendous expertise in how to market job opportunities. But sometimes they don’t. And that brings me to the crux of this article.

Some of the intermediaries and some of the direct employers who send job posting ads to College Recruiter and other job boards are using programmatic job advertising systems that is more than capable of deciding on its own where a job should run and for what period of time, and yet humans are overriding that capability. Humans are choosing that jobs for Employer A should go to Job Board B and that jobs for Employer C should go to Job Board D. Sometimes, they’re doing that based on the results those employers have recently seen for those same jobs with that same job board, but more often they’re using the same methodology they did 10 or even 20 years ago: they think that a particular job will perform well on a few particular job boards and so they run that job just on those sites and nowhere else.

If a human is using programmatic job ad software to distribute jobs but it is the human and not the software that chooses where the jobs run, is the software still programmatic? Well, I guess the answer would be yes using the same logic that if you drive a Ferrari on a side street at 30 miles per hour it is still a Ferrari. But the answer would be no if what you’re really asking is whether you’re making full use of the car. If you’re dumbing down the car so that it operates like a 1986 Honda Accord, then you might feel good in that Ferrari, but you’re failing to make the best use of the vehicle.

Employers, advertising agencies, programmatic job ad distributors, and RPOs are failing to make the best use of the software when they choose in advance to which job boards they’re sending a job or even all of the jobs from a particular employer. To get the best use of the software, you need to let the software make those decisions based on the rules that you provide to it. If your metric of success for a campaign is the lowest effective cost-per-click (for every $1,000 you spend, how many clicks do you get?) then allow the software to send the job to all of the job boards it can and allow the software to automatically reduce the spend with those job boards delivering the highest eCPCs and shifting that spend to those job boards delivering the lowest eCPCs. The same applies if your metric of success is to minimize the effective cost per application (eCPA), effective cost per quality application (eCPQA), or even effective cost per hire (eCPH).

If your humans need to override the software in order to achieve those metrics of success, then one of two things are probably true:

  • Your software isn’t very good.
  • Your people aren’t very good as they don’t trust the good software to do its job.

In my experience, the people tend to better than the software, but the organizations selling and using the software don’t want to admit that as it undermines their argument to their customer that the software is awesome.

We have a number of intermediary customers who send to us jobs that they think will perform well on our site but won’t send other jobs to us, not even to test. One of the advertising agencies, for example, has only programmatically sent gig employer jobs to us as we delivered some pretty great results for those…in 2016. Another will only send internship jobs to us, even though our target audience are candidates with 0-3 years of experience. Why? Because we have “college” in our name.

Other intermediaries, fortunately, are getting a better handle on their software. They’ll send to us a wide variety of jobs and allow the software to determine which jobs perform well on our site and which don’t. Over a surprisingly short period of time, we’ll see far more of the kinds of jobs for which we perform well and far fewer of those for which we don’t. What we’re paid per click or application goes up for the jobs for which we perform well so that we can deliver more of that yummy candidate traffic, and the CPC or CPA we’re paid for jobs for which we don’t perform well goes into the toilet, as it should, so we send little to no traffic to those jobs.

So, a request: if you’re using or considering using programmatic job ad software, use it. Drive the Ferrari.

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