Online Recruitment Advertising: Measuring ROI

Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of online recruitment advertising should be a major priority for any staffing professional tasked with lowering cost per hire and identifying high-quality candidates. The situation becomes critical when considering: Most companies don’t know there is a problem with their process, and it’s those companies that spend billions of dollars per year on online recruitment advertising.

It’s a matter of dollars and cents – where are candidates and hires coming from?  What job sites, search engines, social networking sites and other sources provide the best ROI?  Without accurate candidate source data, you can’t conduct that analysis.This challenge can easily be conquered by asking specific questions and putting simple tracking measures in place. One advantage of online recruitment advertising is that it’s 100 percent measurable. Job sites and search engine marketing (SEM) are two growing sources of hire, so it’s imperative that companies know where those hires come from.

There are four steps in optimizing recruitment advertising budgets: Assign, Automate, Analyze, Adjust.

Companies that don’t have someone responsible for measuring ROI of recruitment advertising often don’t know what their investments are delivering in terms of candidates and hires. Fortunately, there is a shift toward adding this responsibility within recruiting teams. Assigning responsibility for recruiting operations and ongoing analysis of recruitment advertising performance can reveal budget-saving opportunities. Some argue the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) or Human Resource Information System (HRIS) administrator can handle this job. Candidate source tracking must be a priority, and leaving it to recruiters and ATS administrators risks it being forgotten.

You must be able to rely on the candidate source data your company analyzes when making decisions about what recruitment advertising to undertake and where to focus your budget.  Most ATSs and career sites ask job seekers how they found out about a job when applying.However, research shows the majority of applicant data provided this way is incorrect because the sources are omitted, too numerous or expired, or applicants simply choose the wrong one.This manual reporting results in inaccurate data in companies’ ATSs, which leads to ill-informed decisions about which sites and sources are performing best.

The best way to acquire accurate candidate source data is without the job seeker choosing from menus. Many of the popular ATSs support automated candidate source tracking but sometimes employers have no idea it’s possible. By researching an ATS’s tracking capabilities and providing the job sites you use with the proper information, automated candidate source tracking is well within your reach.

Once you have automated, reliable candidate source data in your ATS, it’s important to analyze it regularly. Often, a company’s perception of what sites are performing best shifts considerably when real data illustrates what’s working and what isn’t. So what are the metrics? The most common metrics for measuring recruitment advertising are cost per applicant (CPA) and cost per hire (CPH). While some secondary factors are excluded from these calculations, such as time and effort, they provide a good overview of how a source is performing.In your ATS, look for reports called “applicants by source” and “hires by source” to review this data. Most systems won’t know your outside media costs, so it’s important to have those available to combine with the raw applicant and hire volume.


This final step will help maximize recruitment advertising ROI by adjusting your strategy and budget based on the candidate source data you have collected. Unfortunately, many companies identify a source that is outperforming others, but are unable to make the budgetary shift to take advantage of that disparity. This often happens because of brand awareness or loyalty to a site. It’s important to communicate disappointment with the performance of a particular site. Discuss your CPA and CPH goals—that will help the job site determine ways to optimize your recruitment campaigns. Also, try new sites and approaches and compare them with your historical data. Options like search engine marketing (SEM), which is pay-per-click advertising, can provide a lower CPA and CPH than traditional sources. SEM also is a low-risk, no-obligations option easy to test.

Once you have made adjustments to your budget, it’s important to continue analyzing the results. Recruitment strategies change every day. Trust your recruitment advertising strategy, measure everything and make adjustments if one of your media options is not performing well.Every company with an online job posting should know what it’s getting for its investment.The technical aspects of candidate source tracking are often easy to implement, but companies need the initiative to pursue automated tracking and conduct ongoing analysis to understand how sites are performing. They also need to adjust strategies and budgets to maximize recruitment advertising investments.

In many cases, it may require not taking no for an answer, either from an ATS or a job site, and that’s OK. Not knowing the return on your advertising is not OK.

Jason Whitman

Jason Whitman
Jason Whitman is vice president, client services, at href=''>

Jason Whitman

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