‘Post and Pray’ Has Had Its Day

Recruitment advertising evolves, adopts a marketing mindset

By Steve Bates December 18, 2015

In the beginning, there were newspaper ads. Then came the Internet and the big job boards. Today, recruitment advertising is following the core principles of marketing. With a vast array of employment advertising options, sophisticated metrics are guiding recruiters’ decisions about how to spend precious ad dollars. The search for talent is becoming more targeted, with messages that are more authentic and, at times, personal. And small employers—not just the big companies—are able to take advantage of the trends.

“ ‘Post and pray’ is not a successful strategy anymore,” said Michael Hennessy, founder and CEO of recruitment marketing firm SmashFly, based in Concord, Mass.

Print ads and job boards are not dead. But there are now many additional options for reaching and engaging candidates. Search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and social media are standard tools for driving candidates to employers’ careers websites. Online platforms that aggregate job postings have grown steadily, niche sites have sprung up for certain job families, specialty recruiters are flourishing and technology-enhanced employee referrals programs are netting many good candidates.

But new tools bring increased expectations. Recruiters must not just seek out job applicants—they must chase them down and seal the deal. Job candidates are consumers with choices who research a potential employer just like they research a major purchase. The time and cost expended per hire are rising.

Against these challenges, a report from Indeed, the world’s most visited jobs site, lays out four steps to make the most of your recruitment advertising budget:

  • Be responsible and accountable for tracking the effectiveness of your efforts.
  • Monitor sources of job candidates automatically through your applicant tracking system.
  • Review the data to determine which ad channels are performing best and worst.
  • Shift spending to sources that deliver the top results.

Today’s recruiters find little value in glossy ads that are based on “clients’ aspirational desires,” said Joe Shaker Jr., vice president of Oak Park, Ill.-based Shaker Recruitment Advertising & Communications. “Now we’re uncovering what it really means to work for an employer—the employer value proposition. It’s allowing us to go to market with an authentic message so companies can differentiate themselves from their competition and truly stand out.”

“We are borrowing the best practices of marketing,” said Hennessy. “We can track candidates’ area of interest and the pages they click on a website. We can automatically segment them into different pipelines” for personalized attention by recruiters.

Most Get a C Grade

A 2015 SmashFly report gave Fortune 500 organizations, on average, a C for their use of recruitment marketing tools; only 3 percent of those companies earned an A. The report said that employers need to improve their messaging to candidates on careers websites, upgrade mobile and social media recruiting practices, and build up talent networks that engage potential hires. It found that few employers are enhancing their job postings with images or videos.

It’s not easy for recruiters to become marketers, said Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer of Matawan, N.J-based recruitment software provider iCIMS. “Some are still struggling with it.”

Measurement—which is at the heart of marketing—is critical to successful recruiting. Barb Bidan, vice president of global talent acquisition at Indeed in Dallas, said that recruiters must analyze multiple metrics to gain understanding of how to best spend ad dollars. These measurements should include the factors of time, quality and efficiency, as well as the source through which each hire is located—all funneled into the employer’s applicant tracking system.

Targeted, Genuine Messages

Today’s recruitment ads must be targeted to the job opening and must be—or at least must appear to be—genuine.

“For the last five to 10 years we’ve been trying to drive volume” of job applicants, said Neil Costa, founder and CEO of Gloucester, Mass.-based recruitment marketing firm HireClix. “Now we’re trying to be more selective.”

“With the new media options that have emerged in recent times, we can now be very precise in our targeting,” said Shaker.

Having an attractive employer brand is essential. Communicating the brand is just as critical—and more challenging than ever. Even though most communications to potential hires are distributed electronically, “We still need customer stories and other things to make it real,” said Vitale. “The human element will continue to be paramount.”

“Every job seeker should get a personalized experience,” said Bidan. Candidates can be steered to employee testimonials about the company and invited to join talent communities related to their fields. Vitale said that many talented young people use Yelp, Glassdoor and similar websites to learn their peers’ impressions of potential employers—and sometimes details such as salaries paid for various jobs, if that information is not provided on an employer’s website.

The personalized experience helps maintain contact with passive candidates who might not be ready to take a job at a particular company. However, “Tracking passive candidates and developing relationships over time is a luxury that most companies don’t have,” said Kris Dunn, chief human resource officer and partner at recruitment process outsourcing and HR consulting firm Kinetix, headquartered in Atlanta.

There are holes in many employers’ strategies—particularly those whose ads and careers websites are not optimized for viewing and accepting applications through mobile devices. “Mobile advertising is probably the nearest term application that people are not leveraging,” said Costa. Optimization for mobile devices “is a huge pain point,” pointed out Vitale.

Using technology to identify the most effective way to spend advertising dollars for each job opening is the ultimate goal, said Bidan. “The pay-for-performance model is quickly becoming the best way to spend my recruiting budget.”

Steve Bates is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area and a former writer and editor for SHRM.

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