Data-Driven Control: The Rise of Programmatic Buying in Recruitment

Kyle Power

Sr. Director of Interactive Marketing, CHG Healthcare Services

Kyle has been key in introducing a testing culture at CHG to increase the efficiency of its marketing spend and channel allocations. Kyle really appreciated a quote from Michael Eisner of Disney early in his career stating that “Failure is essential for any company to succeed” as it falls in line with Kyle’s approach of “fail fast, succeed faster.” 

What is “programmatic media buying” in the recruitment industry?

There is a lot of buzz in the recruitment marketing industry about programmatic media buying and how it can help find talent. It may lead to cheaper, higher volume, or more qualified traffic depending on the goals, but it also has some limitations. There are several reasons to consider or use a programmatic approach, but there are also gaps in how it can be applied to the current recruitment marketing industry when compared to programmatic advertising in the advertising industry in general.


What it isn’t

Let’s start with what it isn’t to clear some things up. It is not the silver bullet or the Holy Grail. What we “call true programmatic buying” is in fact not true programmatic buying due to three factors:

  • The lack of real-time feedback before the action happens
  • The inability to bid based on consumer data like a resume or search history
  • The inability to move budget in real-time based on media partner supply and demand

Traditional programmatic media buying allows advertisers to bid in close to “real time” to optimize the campaign as it progresses and drives stronger performance. While this may not be important to some recruitment marketers, others could benefit greatly if the recruitment industry could progress to a near real-time bidding model based on data points that allow profiles to be built and modeled.

Allowing advertisers to bid and spend differently based on consumer data could be one of the largest advancements in the recruitment industry. Imagine being able to adjust a bid based on data that indicates that one person has a resume showing 10 years as a CPA, while another has only six months experience. The search query would be the same, “CPA”, but the advertiser could increase or decrease their bid based on a value assessment of the work history information. Other data points that are not available to recruitment marketers include bidding based on search history/volume, location radius targets, and candidate personas or “look-a-likes”.

Another gap in the recruitment marketing industry is the capability to move money rapidly between media partners. Imagine a controlled budget campaign working with five partners. It can be a little challenging to move budget allocations between partners in real time based on supply and demand. Sometimes it’s not necessary because each partner is relatively consistent. Other times it can cause issues because a partner sees a large surge of qualified traffic (imagine an email campaign promoting your job) and budget is restricted or capped, thus reducing the opportunity for qualified talent to see job advertisements.


What it is

Although there are some limitations, there are many benefits in using a programmatic media approach for your recruitment efforts, such as:

  • Rules-based bidding for increased performance
  • Diversity of media partners
  • Standardized reporting

Rules-based bidding was an early advanced strategy in pay-per-click advertising due to the amount of data that a search campaign can create. Being able to create rules to bid up or down based on job performance provides the marketer more control in terms of how their budgets are spent on specific jobs. It can bid up hard to fill jobs or jobs that generate a larger applicant pool, or stop spending from being allocated to positions that reach a certain number of candidates or don’t generate a response (a.k.a. “budget burners”). It also allows an aggregated view of the job performance across multiple partners to make decisions that can help maximize performance on smaller volume partners.

Diversity of media partners is similar to buying a mutual fund. It allows you to be in the market but reduces the risk of harm from a single poor performer. Instead of having everything allocated to a partner or two, it allows a broader range of partners to help bring down the effective cost per candidate. As in investing, there are various risk/allocation models advertisers can use to determine how much money they want with the “blue chips” and then how much with “small-cap” partners. It creates a more opportunistic approach to acquiring traffic from media partners and winning bids by reducing the cost of acquisition to hit the target.

Standardized reporting allows the advertiser to see a holistic view of job performance independent of source, which makes reporting easier. Instead of having to compile reporting from each vendor and make decisions or calculate spend, it rolls up to a consolidated view for the marketer. Performance trends can be spotted and acted upon more quickly as a result.


How it helps

At the end of the day, a programmatic or rules-based approach to recruitment marketing allows marketers to diversify their recruitment spend where appropriate and hopefully deliver better results. It enables you to spend more effectively on the jobs that convert better or deliver more value to your business while reducing or eliminating spending on jobs that don’t need sponsored support. It ultimately empowers the marketer with more data to make better decisions about their recruitment media spend.