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How Talent Acquisition Should Think About Paid Media Spend

Here’s how talent acquisition should think about their paid media spend through a case study...

Phil Strazzulla
HR Tech Expert, Harvard MBA, Software Enthusiast
December 11, 2019
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Are you ready for some math?  It’s the end of the year, and you’re probably trying to figure out where to allocate budget to the various places you are attracting talent.  Maybe you’ve got a long list of job boards and publications, or maybe you’re just choosing between Indeed and Glassdoor.  Whatever the case may be, it can be complicated to figure out where to put budget.  

A few months ago, a friend of mine who is running TA at a fast growing company asked me for advice on allocating their employer branding/paid media/job board spend.  They’d just won a “Best Places to Work” award from a major publication.  This publication asked them if they wanted to spend money to promote their award across their network.

The publication suggested they spend a lot of money (not quite the $100k I use in the below math, but close to it).  But, they’d reach A LOT of people who are readers for this very prestigious publication.  If you have the budget, it may sound very tempting to do this, especially if you’ve got a ton of reqs to fill.  However, after running some numbers, it becomes clear that this probably isn’t a great decision.

Here’s the video that walks through this math:

To sum up the video, you are able to spend $100k to reach 60k people.  60k seems like a lot, but that’s $1.5/person.  On Glassdoor, LinkedIn, etc you can reach people for around $.03/person.  Also, the traffic on this publication is not full of job seekers, so the conversion rates of people throughout your funnel will be lower.

Let's break that down: say 1,000 people see your listing on LinkedIn. About 1% of them will click on it—and that's with your ad being targeted towards job seekers!  On this phantom publication that gave you the Best Place to Work award, the vast majority of traffic will not be job seekers.  So, your click rate will be much lower.

If you run the math out, this means your cost per applicant and cost per hire will be off the charts.  So, even though it would be great to get 60k impressions on Forbes, Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, and the like, it’s just not worth it when you have better alternatives.

This same math can be used for your 2020 planning.  Think about your CPM, click-through rates, cost per applicant, cost per interview and cost per hire by channel.  What does “good” look like?  When you are looking at a new channel, why do you think this will hit your benchmark for “good?”  By the way, a lot of this complexity can be handled by a good recruitment marketing platform.

Of course, there are other reasons to choose paid media channels than cost per applicant or hire.  Maybe it helps you get in front of a demographic that you need more of in the company, like female engineers.  Maybe being part of a given network signals something about your culture that will generally build your employer brand.

Regardless, I strongly believe that Talent Acquisition teams need to start thinking about their paid media spend just like their marketing team does.  Let me know what questions I can answer!

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Phil Strazzulla

Phil is the founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, a website dedicated to helping HR and Recruiting teams find and buy the right software through in-depth, expert advice. He has bought over $1 million worth of HR and Recruiting tools. Additionally, as of 2022, nearly 3 million HR professionals have relied on his advice to determine which business software they should buy.

Phil studied finance at New York University and started his career working in venture capital before getting his MBA from Harvard Business School. His in-depth understanding of the Saas landscape, especially HR Tech, stems from nearly a decade of researching and working with these tools as a computer programmer, user, and entrepreneur.

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