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Programmatic Advertising for Job Recruitment

Date Published: August 18, 2021 | Last Updated: September 15, 2023 | By Linda Pophal

Advertisers have been using programmatic advertising for some time now to sell products and services online, leveraging digital technology to get their messaging in front of those most likely to be interested. Now the HR world is jumping on board—using programmatic advertising to identify people applying for specific types of jobs and putting their own job openings in front of them.

But just what is programmatic advertising and how does it work?

How Programmatic Advertising Works

Steven Rothberg is Chief Visionary Officer and founder of College Recruiter. “Definitions vary, but I feel that programmatic advertising is best defined as advertising that starts, stops, and is priced based on pre-defined rules,” says Rothberg. “In the world of programmatic job postings, that means that job postings run on job boards from and until certain dates and at certain prices based on pre-defined rules.”

The process varies but, says Rothberg, “a typical implementation involves the employer’s jobs being scraped from their applicant tracking system by their programmatic, job ad distributor.” Advertisers agree ahead of time on a monthly budget cap for the overall program or for specific jobs. This can be done at a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-application (CPA) basis, says Rothberg.

Another cost option is also emerging, Rothberg says. “More and more often, we’re also seeing employers and these vendors agree on the desired effective costs per application (eCPA), which then allows the vendor to buy clicks at different prices from different job boards as candidate traffic from one job board might convert into applications at a far higher rate than traffic from another job board.”

When using programmatic advertising, Rothberg advises paying based on desired outcomes that are within the control of whatever vendor the employer is using rather than based on number of employees hired. “The job board has almost no control over who is hired, so they should neither be rewarded nor punished based on the number of hires,” Rothberg says. What the job board can impact, though, is the number of candidates who click through to the applicant tracking system (ATS). “Those are metrics that the advertiser should use to determine whether to run some or even all of their postings with that job board, over what period of time, and at what price,” he advises.

For HR professionals and recruiters programmatic advertising can be a very economical talent acquisition opportunity.

Opportunities and Best Practices for Talent Acquisition

Targeting the right job seekers will obviously be important when using programmatic advertising. To do this effectively it pays to invest in big data, says Nathan Hughes, Digital Marketing and SEO Manager at Diggity Marketing. “Since programmatic advertising is all about finding the right candidate automatically, you will need a large chunk of data—such as user profiles,” Hughes says. “This will ensure that your ad reaches only the right candidates. Increased efficiency of your programmatic advertising will also allow you to increase your advertising budget.”

Being strategic in how you use programmatic advertising, and for which roles is important to maximize the value of ad spend. It may not be the right tool to use with all job openings.

“When the programs are set up properly based on the hiring needs and budgets of the employers, those employers should be able to spend far more of their recruitment advertising budget on the roles that need and will respond to such help,” says Rothberg. “Instead of spending ad dollars on roles for which the employer is already generating a lot of well-qualified applications or one roles for which they will receive few to none even with aggressive marketing, those employers should see their ad dollars used more effectively and efficiently.”

Katherine Brown is founder and marketing director for Spyic. Getting in front of the right audience, Brown agrees, is foundational to effectiveness with programmatic advertising. “To acquire media more intelligently, use audience targeting to reach high-value viewers and reject non-performing audiences,” she says. “One of the most effective strategies to improve your programmatic media campaigns and guarantee that your media budget is spent as efficiently as possible is to use robust audience targeting.”

When using programmatic advertising, employers and recruiters need to take a different approach than what they might have typically taken—simply seeking to maximize the number of candidates who see the ads. And, in fact, that approach isn’t even advisable when using traditional job boards.

“Job boards with very high traffic trained employers to infer that if the job board had a lot of traffic, their job posting would generate a good response. That was often simply not true,” says Rothberg. “It doesn’t matter how many people go to a job board. What matters is how many of them see your posting, click to apply, apply, and then are deemed to be of high enough quality that they then go on to the next step, which is typically an interview.”

Brown recommends analyzing and setting frequency limitations so the same ad isn’t shown over and over again to the same audience. “Showing duplicate ads to the same users over and over may prevent users from converting because they become annoyed by your redundant ads,” Brown says. “When customers feel annoyed by your ads, this can damage brand perception and make users less likely to choose your brand than competitors that show them fresh, relevant ads every time.”

Most employers will not have the level of expertise required to run programmatic ad campaigns on their own. “Almost no employer has the metric-driven, highly skilled in math, decisive, and intuitive kind of employees to do this work,” says Rothberg. “At College Recruiter, we use a combination of in-house talent as well as specialized, advertising agency consultants. I recommend a similar approach to employers.”