When asked, most recruiters tend to believe that the majority of candidates start their job search by searching for jobs on a job board and then apply to those jobs.
In reality, candidates have a more interesting journey. Data suggests that nearly 60% of applications for candidates start not at a job board but in a person’s email. Job alerts. Job sites and other sourcing tools match people’s work experience with open positions and email opportunities to them. But those job alerts aren’t necessarily coming from the companies you are paying for job postings.
A Candidate’s Journey
Every day, millions of people in the US get multiple job alerts in their email. And then one day, a job actually catches their eye. They aren’t actively looking but they are intrigued. They click on the link (often on their mobile device) and read about the job. After this, many people go to the company’s website and read about the company. Then they visit Glassdoor before going back to the application itself. If your application site isn’t mobile-friendly and they began their journey on their mobile device, they may navigate to your website on a desktop. Your ATS or CRM will most likely attribute the source of those candidates to “career site”. In fact, most systems might return this designation, as the candidate has gone to Glassdoor, and maybe LinkedIn to see if they know anyone at your company. This can falsely make your internal teams believe that your consumer branding efforts are bringing in those candidates, when, in actuality, it’s a source tracking gap in the recruitment process.
Some solutions have introduced an application source attribution window. This allows for a candidate to be source attributed to the job site, even if they traverse the internet between the original click and their application. This window might be 24 hours or a full month. Whatever the time frame, the point is that the information does not get transmitted to the ATS; it’s a set of data that lives with your candidate providers.
It’s an important set of data for a few reasons:
- Anyone who charges on a per-application, quality application or hires basis must use their own data to ensure proper payment.
- Because candidates, generally speaking, don’t start their journey at a job site, job boards need to know where these candidates originated, and if they turned out to be valuable.
- Those companies providing candidates need to understand which of their techniques are working, yielding candidates, and which aren’t, regardless if the ATS is properly giving that source attribution.
Main Techniques Job Boards Use to Attract Job Seekers
In order for many job boards to get enough candidates to support the number of jobs they have at any given time, they rely on a four-part strategy to get candidates:
- Organic traffic. This means a candidate thinks, “‘oh. I’d like to look for a job,” and types the job board’s URL into their web browser or opens the app on their phone. Once on the site, they enter a search, and jobs that match their parameters are shown to them.
- SEO traffic from search engines. This means the candidate typed into the search engine (on a web browser or on their phone) what they are looking for and your job made it into the search results from that job board, or if Google, into Google for Jobs. When the candidate clicks on the search results, it takes them to either your job or a shortlist of jobs that include your job.
- Job alerts. Daily, and sometimes more often, job boards and other sources of candidates send out email, text or push notifications of jobs that match candidates’ interests. Candidates click on those jobs.
- SEM/resyndication/paid social. Job boards use your job to get new candidates to sign up for their job alerts. Job boards pay other providers for this access, sometimes through Ad Words or other advertising vehicles or by providing jobs (including yours) to other job boards who advertise your job to their candidates through various job alerts. The goal is typically for the job board you work with to get new candidates to sign up with them, and sometimes, after the candidates sign up, they go on to apply to your job.
What this means is that the job board you are paying takes credit for candidates that they may have acquired from another job board or source. For some job sites, this is the majority of their candidate traffic. For job ad exchanges, 100% of their candidate traffic is coming from other paid sources such as job boards, social and paid marketing.
How Do You Record Source Attribution in Job Ad Exchanges?
A unique quality of the recruitment market is how candidate sources are given “credit” for providing candidates. Historically, recruiting uses a single attribution method to assign sources to candidates. Because a lead might interact with a brand a number of times before becoming a lead, marketing has adopted a multi-source attribution method, where many different sources in the prospect journey are given weighted attribution. But, in recruiting, ATSs don’t support this functionality. So, one source, typically the first or the last source to bring the candidate into your ATS, is given full attribution. Some sources attribute to the first time you interacted with that candidate, which could have been years ago.
This is an argument for fancy marketing techniques, such as blackouts and test measurements. But for now, let’s instead argue that the best next step is to understand the origins of candidates for job sites so you can best leverage this information to your advantage.
Job ad exchanges run into similar attribution challenges. From the ATS side, it’s a single attribution which goes to the job ad exchange. When it comes to sharing which job boards or other sources perform, displaying hundreds or even thousands of sources in a single user interface is challenging. And given the challenges of where the source of candidates are attributed, your best starting spot is to understand where your jobs are getting candidate traction. Understand where people are seeing your jobs, so you can understand where your candidate pools really live.
Then, start to look at the candidate origination mix by month or even weekly and watch how it shifts and changes. Are there patterns that are easy to spot or are you, like many, finding that it’s near impossible to determine when a candidate’s interest will be piqued by the right job at the right time?