Programmatic recruitment marketing may not roll off the tongue easily, but it’s the newest tool in a recruiter's box set to combine the powers of HR and marketing at their finest.
At its best, programmatic recruitment helps companies of all sizes target their recruitment spend to places where they’ll likely get the most bang for their hiring dollar — and it has taken off as of late, according to Lia Mancini, director of programmatic at Shaker Recruitment Marketing. Just as targeted online advertising uses algorithms to find the right buyers for the right products, programmatic is data-driven and results-priced for recruitment.
What is it and how does it work?
Programmatic recruiting uses technology to determine the best place to post job ads, using algorithms to steer advertising to the right candidates at the right time. In the past, an employer placed an ad hoping that someone qualified would apply. The ad ran for a specific duration and was reposted if it didn’t affect a hire. The cost was the same whether an employer received 100 applicants or none.
Similar to how ATS screens candidates based on an employer's requirements — years’ experience, degree, etc. — programmatic screens for those same data points, then searches for sites that have similar postings. But it goes beyond that, screening for the sites that have the most clicks or successes for those postings and posting the company's ads to those locations automatically.
With programmatic, the ad is then posted in the most fruitful locations across the internet. The cost is based on a pay-per-click system. If no one clicks on the ad, it costs an employer nothing. If hundreds do, the employer pays for each click. Costs can vary, depending on the set parameters, but they can be fluid, as well. The harder the position is to fill, or the more urgently a company wants to start interviewing, the higher the cost can be, depending on how much an employer bids to place the ad.
Competition in placement
If everyone is driving their ads to the same demographic, how do you score the most applicants? The amount you bid changes your post in the rankings, putting your ad higher in search results than others. The more you bid on your posting, the higher it will appear in searches, and the more candidates are likely to click on your ad and respond.
Assume you’re looking to make two hires: one clerical position and one in IT with a budget of $600. The IT position is more pressing and probably more difficult to fill.
"You want to make sure $400.00 doesn’t go to the clerical opening and $200.00 to the IT spot," Mancini told HR Dive. Programmatic shifts the spend to assure you’re allocating funds to the right spot, depending on how difficult it is to fill the opening, or how quickly you need results. At Shaker, "we develop a bidding strategy, managing a client’s budget on multiple media, and adding more media if needed. We want to bid aggressively at the right cost per click."
"The key thing to point out is that programmatic job advertising is much more than just 'automating' job distribution," Chris Atkins, chief marketing officer at Pandologic, told HR Dive in an email. It’s not about just posting once and reaching hundreds of sites; it's about delivering the best performance possible based on the ad spend, at the job level and across all of an employer’s job ads.
"It requires vast amounts of data and sophisticated AI technology that enables algorithms to think like humans," he said, "and make real-time decisions from which sites to target to how much to bid for a job view and much more."
Pandologic’s algorithm parses the full job ad description and cross-references it to a job taxonomy of more than 30,000 titles, synonyms and skills, to accurately classify the job. "Many job titles may appear the same at the surface based on a title," said Atkins, "but may require completely different skill sets based on the industry or seniority specific to that company which directly impacts which candidates you want to target." From there, sites are selected based on historical performance for that type of job.
Chris Forman, founder and CEO of Appcast, estimated that programmatic currently represents about 25% of recruitment advertising. "Software and data manage pay for performance advertising," he told HR Dive. "Programmatic gives you more reach to the demographic you want." It can be preset to determine when you’re getting too many clicks; the software will unsponsor the job, closing it down. Or, if you’re not getting enough clicks, you can tell it to bid more.
Employers are paying nearly $1.00 per click for truck drivers, based on a survey conducted by Appcast, compared to tech positions, which cost about $.62 per click. But geography and market conditions, including unemployment rates, can all change the variables to raise or lower the cost.
Sound complicated? It is, and without machine learning it would be impossible. AI checks constantly to see what ads are getting the most clicks and ranks them to determine where to post, but people are definitely a part of the equation. "The goal of programmatic is not to replace humans,” Atkins said, “but help them do their jobs much better."
Recruiters don’t have to be tech geniuses to use programmatic. "Some products are really simple, you give the ads to a marketer and they manage it for you. You tell them your budget, how many applicants you want and they develop the strategy based on your parameters," Forman said. Other companies work with a platform to manage their specifications independently.
Monitoring the process
Programmatic is more than just entering data and waiting for results. Shaker monitors campaigns on almost an hourly basis.
"Some media will refresh hourly, some on a 4 or 8 hour cadence," Mancini said, but their teams are dedicated to building applicant flow. They’re constantly monitoring to make sure feeds are driving clicks for the client. If not, they’ll change the bid rate. Once a posting has enough applicants, it can be preset to close down, stopping additional clicks and costs.
In addition to monitoring feeds in real time, they also forecast. Like an actuarial, Mancini said, "we monitor where we see things doing well or poorly, looking at data across all media."
Why it works — and when it's unnecessary
For many businesses, the upside of programmatic is an elimination of bias in recruitment; the platform is looking for skills matches only and no other parameters are considered. Other positives include not having to manage multiple job vendors, consolidating input from a variety of sources and not wasting money on sites that don’t give results.
But programmatic isn’t for every opening in a company. If an employer is just looking at small volume hires for one or two openings, good talent can likely be found with other methods. For volume hires, tough-to-fill positions, or critical-to-fill openings, the targeted nature of programmatic may lead the way to a more cost-efficient process.