I’ve been in the business long enough to remember a time when the entire recruitment advertising work week revolved around managing the dispatches of cab drivers to take overnight packages directly to the airport on Thursday evenings. If bribed, drivers would drive onto the tarmac and FedEx had a last minute sort process that would get prints sent off to regional newspapers around the country. This $20 special request was worth it because it bought additional time in the art department and was eligible for expense reporting.

In a way, I miss those days. It was a very different time – not better or worse – just different. Alas the wheels of change have moved rapidly forward. Enter programmatic advertising. Granted, those of you who lived through the transitional years with me are saying, “What happened to dial-up?” “electronic ad-transfer??” and the like. Those innovations were incremental changes along the way, yet the outcome is the same: digitally “managed” pay-for-performance advertising buying driven by algorithms.

In the midst of all that change and advancement, online advertising came to be the norm. There’s a funny story about me explaining to Bernie Hodes, Sr. that while managing ad copy we should simply cut-and-paste it into his, then underutilized, CareerMosaic job board to get clients interested in this advent.

Bernie growled, “If you think we’re in the business of giving things away for free, you’re in the wrong business.” Ideally, I was explaining we should initially offer the tool as a value-add until we could see the potential traction. But, I inadvertently undersold the potential revenue and the moment was lost. As was a cup of coffee that overturned while he was pounding the table to prove his point.

That story also offers insight into the current challenges with job boards – the pricing models. Along the way, annual contracts, per-post pricing, bulk rates, discounting for multi-client, and the like all turned buyers off.

Clients, agencies, and publishers want easy, straightforward billing. Am I paying per click (CPC) or per completed application (CPA)? Easy right? Not exactly. Why is bidding rule-based & favorable toward the highest bidder? What about dead-links post-click? All of these are the new challenges we face in an era when the process for candidates improved considerably from placing a stamp on a letter and mailing it in to apply for a job. The current programmatic space is still a bit confusing and certainly not free.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau says, “Accounting for more than 80% of digital ad spending (including display mobile, social and search), programmatic is the pre-dominant digital ad placement process.” Granted, the recruitment space is likely factored in here, but also is featured prominently in the 20% not using this advancement. Consumer advertising is traditionally a few years ahead of the recruitment & talent acquisition space so the wave is about to crash here.

Programmatic advertising for the job space involves bid/buy, placement, and optimization software for your ads all in a pay-for-performance model sometimes applied to one site, other times applied to many. Your jobs (or, those of your clients) compete against others to be shown higher and higher in relevant search results for candidates’ eyes, and eventually, clicks or applications. Important in this equation is what types of job boards the ads will end up appearing on, as well as how does the bid and distribution process work for each vendor. Spoiler alert – there are considerable differences and they usually revolve around the bidding and delivery of the candidate search results.

If you think about it, we have advanced a great deal from paper ads being sent to newspapers which were then delivered to homes, stores, and newsstands for candidates to purchase and search for applicable roles. Relevancy and freshness mean something entirely different now but are still equally vital to the process and the resulting candidate application.

Finding the correct partner for your programmatic needs is a fairly simple process. It involves determining your comfort and trust of the salesperson, customer service support, and the technology. Additionally, it is important to take into consideration potential audience reach and the estimate you receive for your typical campaigning.

A Few Words of Advice:

  • Don’t let the audience numbers be your only determining factor; volume does not always correlate with quality;
  • Get budget estimate/projections from several groups and spread your test spend across many vendor sources;
  • Determine a moderate length of test, and then reassess results post-conclusion;
  • Ask about the deep-dive technical details like ease of integration, presence of day-parting, what type of auction-based bidding they utilize. Their answers and explanation of these inquiries should prove insightful.

Like anything else, transparency is the key to programmatic client/vendor/partner relationships. In pursuing a SaaS solution, it is always especially important to compare like functions and benefits to determine which platform is a match with your organization’s needs. With the state of technological innovation so far away from newspaper ads and my deadline bribery of the past, programmatic is both your friend and ally in delivering a quality experience for candidates.

By Tim Hawk