Buying Traffic

On June 9, 2014, in Analytics, Big Data, HRExaminer, Job Boards, John Sumser, by John Sumser

job board traffic generating sign hr examiner

Without traffic, employment advertising (regardless of the channel) is a meaningless exercise.

Traffic acquisition is the most overlooked aspect of the social recruiting, employment branding and mobile recruiting movements. On job boards, traffic and visibility are included in the price. Neither mobile nor social recruiting methods copy this business model. Traffic is always an extra. That’s democratic publishing’s most important rule…you have to purchase your audience.

The company employment page was the first place that recruiters learned about traffic development. The complexities of traffic generation are such that most companies ended up using job ads as a way to drive traffic to their pages. SEO or the flow from job ads became a part of the equation. In the earliest days, the company employment website was a way of filtering the traffic generated through these means.

Without traffic, employment advertising (regardless of the channel) is a meaningless exercise.

The top two or three thousand brands have little trouble attracting visitors to their employment offerings. They are able (if they are well managed) to use job boards and SEO to get the right balance of traffic. Big companies with big brands get big traffic.

It’s the other four or five million employers (and that’s domestic US only) who must spend their way into visibility. The really big players have a cost advantage that comes from the strength of their mainline brand. The little guys (pretty much everybody) have to find ways to reach out to the people they want to hire.

There’s no useful textbook, no quickly usable regional market guide and no guarantee that well executed branding will be seen by anyone at all. In our new world, where each employer is responsible for gathering visitors, the small guys have no clear path to success. If you want to use mobile or social recruiting methods, it will be much more expensive than job boards or even newspaper classified advertising.

The bifurcation in the market couldn’t be clearer. What works in large well known brands is not applicable in small companies with small brands. That’s because the small companies have to compete at the real cost of traffic acquisition while the big guys get a big discount. Some level of their traffic is essentially free.

(For another column: This is why Cost to Hire is such a nonsense variable. The actual cost to hire is completely dependent on the value of the company’s brand.)

For most companies, the new world of electronic recruitment is going to force some interesting discipline into the HR Department.

In the job board era, Candidate acquisition costs were artificially balanced by the fact that employment advertisements were centralized. Everybody paid about the same for a candidate. There was some relationship between recognizability of the company (brand) and the results stream but the job boards made a business out of leveling the playing field.

Today, there are possible approaches to the acquisition of candiate flow (traffic).

  • Find them in a database
    LinkedIn and most big job boards offer databases of potential employees that you can search. In this method, the job is to persuade someone who isn’t really looking for a job to come to work for you. It’s useful about 15% of the time. (Boolean search on the internet at large is included here). This is the most expensive way to recruit and the least likely to result inhigh levels of retention.
  • Find them through a job board. A significant part of the recruitment advertising spend goes here. 
    Old fashioned and a little clunky, the majority of active candidates spend some of their time looking at job boards
  • Use emerging channels that require you to develop the traffic
    Social Recruiting, Employment Branding and Mobile recruiting all fall under this category. It is not as expensive as hunting passive candidates but more expensive than a job board. The initialinvest ment can be high and it takes a while (and really good data) to excell in these areas. None of them are proven so there is a lot of evangelism.
  • Referrals
    This is the least expensive form of recruiting. Many contemporary social recruiting tools use a variant of referrals (exploiting employee networks) to reduce the cost of candidate acquisition. This can solve 15% to 25% of the recruiting load in most companies.
  • Outsourcing
    The technical elements of candidate acquisition include sourcing, job board advertising, database research, referrals and experiments in mobile and social. It’s hard to keep all thisexertise under one roof. That generally implies outsourcing. The more complicated recruiting gets, the better RPOs will do.

Whenever you consider a recruiting solution, ask the vendor to help you understand what candidate acquisition costs will be using the tool. If you have to use the tool, be sure to account for the value of your own time.

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