SmartRecruiters Blog
Two women saving money on job advertising

How to Save Money with Job Advertising

Today, less than 10% of job advertising is managed programmatically, while well over 80% of brand advertising is managed through programmatic means. Brands’ shift to programmatic advertising over the last decade has been for one simple reason: it saves money. If programmatic advertising help advertisers reach more of the right eyeballs for less, why have employers been so slow to adopt it?

Part of the problem relates to the fact that most recruiting teams are not high-spending brands that can outsource digital ad placements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to ad agencies. They are often small teams managing a few dozen open roles. To top it off, automation is harder with the multitude of variables in job ads, and job advertising platforms themselves have been slower to enable the technology that makes programmatic advertising possible.

The tight post-pandemic talent marketplace has left employers with a need to reach not just more candidates but the right candidates: ones that have not seen your listing before, have not been inundated with ads from competitors, and are qualified to fill your open positions. Aptitude Research estimates that 40% of job advertising spend is wasted, but which 40%?

Curious to learn more about how top employers manage job advertising today, I sat down with Jim Milton, SVP of Strategy at SmartRecruiters. Before his new role as head of strategy, Jim was the General Manager for SmartJobs, our programmatic job advertising managed service. 

Jim Milton SmartRecruiters

Programmatic Job Advertising in North America vs. Europe

Jim started by describing the lay of the land across North America and Europe. “Universally, our customers are saying that cost per applicant (CPA) has risen dramatically,” he said. “It’s gotten so expensive to fish in the same pond as every other employer that companies need to save money, so they’re more open to trying out programmatic.” And the possibilities for programmatic have expanded, with more job boards making their inventory available. “European job boards, in particular, have been slower to open up their job board inventory to programmatic technologies, but our global customers are watching their counterparts in North America do programmatic. Now employers are starting to demand it from job boards globally.” 

He described how job boards in Europe are more varied and niche compared to North America, where employers tend to rely on a handful of leading job boards. Many of SmartRecruiters’ European customers use SmartDistribute, which helps them manage their job board contracts all in one place. 

The Barriers to Efficient Job Advertising Spending

No matter where your business operates, the manual management of job advertising typically results in wasted spending. Jim put it this way: “The problem with pay-per-click advertising is that it is often out of sync with actual pipeline needs. For example, you may have an open req with ten candidates in the interview stage and an offer extended, and if you’re not micromanaging your PPC campaigns, you might let the meter run and pay for unneeded clicks/traffic.”

The other problem companies have is not distributing spending across multiple job boards. “People get deeply entrenched in their ideas about the best places to spend,” he said. A programmatic solution offers an objective view into which job boards are actually working and adjusts spending automatically. “Only a data-driven approach can guarantee that you’re selecting the right boards for your jobs,” Jim said.

The solution of using a recruitment advertising agency to manage programmatic does not always deliver on the promise of cost savings. In addition to the typical agency fee of 20% of ad spend, the agency relationship adds another layer of communication regarding changes in hiring. It also adds another level of complexity regarding data management.

Cost Per Qualified Applicant: The Key to True Job Board ROI

With the SmartJobs managed service, companies have three benefits:

  • Technology that automatically optimizes their job campaigns
  • Humans operating the technology who have access to data on the entire talent pipeline
  • Already existing data management agreements. 

“At SmartRecruiters, we have all the data from the top of the funnel – the number of people clicking on the job, applying, and making it to the interview stage and all the way to the hire,” Jim said. “This is unique. Job boards can’t give customers data from the middle and bottom of the funnel. Our reporting includes accurate data on cost per interview, cost per offer, and cost per hire. It’s not data that has to be joined together after the fact. It’s a continuous funnel with no gaps that allows for a true ROI measurement.”

Getting beyond cost per applicant to cost per qualified applicant is an exciting way to drive value in the recruitment pipeline. “Customers have different definitions of what qualified means,” Jim said. “For some, it’s passing the resume review stage, while for others, it’s making it to the third interview. Our perspective is that every company has its own definition, and we can show it in the reporting.” 

With this rich data at their fingertips, a recruitment team can step back and compare their results before programmatic. They can also compare their job board spending to outbound sourcing, other recruitment marketing, and events. “Instead of this false indicator like cost per applicant or cost per click, you get a real ROI because the data is in one place.”

Sometimes a Programmatic Boost is All You Need

SmartRecruiters recently launched Boost, a lightweight approach to programmatic job advertising. TA teams can purchase bursts of programmatic traffic ad-hoc by entering credit card information. Boost is a great fit for high-priority roles or roles that aren’t getting enough qualified applicants. It’s also a great way to try out programmatic advertising without having to provide a centralized job ad budget to SmartRecruiters.

When I asked Jim what was most exciting in the job ad space today, he shared these phenomenal results from a SmartRecruiters client who used Boost:  

  • Boosted jobs saw candidate volume rise by over 200%, and boosted candidates were 150% more likely to make it to the interview, offer, or hire stage.

The Future of Job Advertising

Recently, Indeed shifted its business model from pay-per-click to pay-per-applicant. Jim expects that in the future, this will improve their ability to deliver relevant applicants, and the business model will evolve yet again to paying per matching candidate. “It will take time to evolve, but many players are already working on this,” he said.

On another front, Jim thinks the distinction between sourcing and job advertising is likely to blur. He said, “Imagine a system that takes a req and automatically farms it out to either a programmatic advertising network, or to qualified sourcers, or both, depending on the importance of the role and the budget behind it to use for talent attraction. I’d love to see the paradigm of a true sourcing engine emerge where the details of where and how to market a job are handled conditionally and automatically, as much possible.”

Until then, you can get started on programmatic job advertising with SmartJobs and Boost in North America and the UK. If you just want to save money and time by managing your job boards more efficiently, try SmartDistribute. And if you’re looking to save money in multiple ways across your talent acquisition function, download our ebook Guide to Evaluating the Business Value of a Talent Acquisition Platform

Business Value Talent Acquisition Platform


Lee Ann Prescott