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20 Myths about Programmatic Job Advertising

By Kyle Leigh, VP OF Programmatic Strategy

Programmatic job advertising continues to be an emerging trend among high-performing hiring organizations. And with good reason: a recent study by Aptitude Research found that 90% of companies that try programmatic don’t go back. In fact, our CEO estimates that 50% of companies in the US have moved to programmatic. In other words, hiring organizations find programmatic to be far more effective than their old “post and pray” methods.

Suffice to say: it works. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of doubt or skepticism about it. Every day I speak with talent acquisition and recruitment marketing leaders and I hear all kinds of questions, and more than that – myths. And no wonder! A few years ago, if you asked ten recruitment industry professionals to define “programmatic”, you’d get ten different answers.

Our CEO, Chris Forman, gives his definition of programmatic technology here.

Programmatic job advertising (often referred to as just “programmatic”) has gone from a front-of-curve trend to an imperative in today’s hiring climate. It’s time we bust the myths. Here goes:

MYTH #1: Programmatic job advertising delivers quantity over quality candidates

Programmatic can deliver both! Depending on your goals and objectives, the programmatic solution can be configured (through the setup of automated rules) to align to those. The other important note here is that a key cornerstone of programmatic job advertising is data. Data that will help to inform your campaigns over time where changes and improvements can be made. Some solutions (ahem, Appcast for one) can also ingest hire data from your ATS to optimize for quality too!

MYTH #2: Programmatic is great for the hardest to fill roles OR programmatic only works for lower level positions

Don’t get me wrong – programmatic can work for hard to fill roles but it really works best for roles where jobseekers are searching for jobs on job boards. It’s simple: if a role typically needs to be sourced/headhunted for, those candidates will likely not be on job boards.

MYTH #3: You lose insight and transparency into the performance of job ads

In fact, programmatic job advertising does the exact opposite. Here’s the thing: for too long we’ve been hyper-focused on where candidates are coming from because we’ve had to manage budgets and performance of job ads across various job boards. And that’s been difficult. With programmatic, you don’t have to worry about that because the software and the data are doing all of that performance management for you to ensure you reach a desired outcome on time and on budget. Sure, you can continue to get insight into where your candidates are coming from but isn’t the bottom line that you’re getting them? And you’re hiring them?

MYTH #4: You can pay whatever you want to post a job

At face value – yes, this is true. You can pay whatever you want to post a job but don’t expect the result you’re looking for. Especially given today’s hiring landscape, it is important that you compete effectively for talent. Competing effectively means understanding the market in which you’re recruiting and the competition for that talent and ensuring that you spend enough to get your jobs in front of the right jobseekers’ eyes. It won’t be a fixed bid either – the market shifts and changes and job ad spend should be dynamic so that it can expand and contract based on market conditions. And that is the beauty of programmatic – you’ll be able to understand how and when you need to make changes to ensure your budget is getting you the results you need, at any given time.

MYTH #5: You don’t have the extra budget to try it out

Key word here is “extra”. No extra is necessary. Programmatic is just a different application (pun intended) of the budget you are already allocating towards job boards. Trying it means that instead of the manual guesswork and legwork of spending that money with job boards, you shift it to a programmatic engine so that the algorithms and the data can automate and optimize all that work for you, with better results.

MYTH #6: You lose control of your budget

Programmatic gives you more effective control of your budget. What do I mean by that? The programmatic rules ensure your budget doesn’t go unchecked and provides guardrails for how, when, and for which jobs your budget is spent. As we say at Appcast, programmatic allows you to better “spread the peanut butter” to ensure the budget is allocated and paced appropriately to meet your hiring objectives.

MYTH #7: You lose control of where your jobs are posted

This may be an exception to the list – it is true in a sense but I’d say it more like this: You let go of the need to control where your jobs are posted. This is because the market and performance data that powers programmatic job advertising figures out the best places to get your jobs in front of the right candidates at the right time. You don’t NEED to control the where any longer because all of that is managed and optimized through the software.

MYTH #8: Programmatic is 100% powered by AI and machine learning

For starters, 100% is certainly not the case and secondarily, there are many flavors of AI and machine learning. Unfortunately, these terms have achieved “buzzword status” in the recruitment technology space and it’s difficult to “separate the wheat from the chaff”. If you are truly exploring new technology solutions, my best advice (which I learned from our Chief Product Officer) to you is to take a step back and ask: what is the problem or challenge you are trying to solve in the first place? AI and machine learning are useless if they are merely a check-box on your RFP. The true value is the automation, intelligence, and scalability that it can bring to your recruitment process, which begs the question: how does Appcast technology leverage AI and machine learning? You can read that in more detail here.

MYTH #9: It’s more expensive than traditional job postings

Related to my earlier point about “finding extra budget”, this is not the case but there is an important takeaway here. Traditional job postings leave no room for agility and are grossly inefficient because the way they are managed is not as dynamic as the labor market. Traditional job postings can’t “keep up”. Programmatic job advertising is only as expensive as the market dictates: related to the roles you’re hiring for and the geographic markets where they’re located. Simply put, programmatic isn’t any more expensive – it’s more that traditional postings haven’t been optimized performance or aligned to your hiring objectives.

MYTH #10: It will solve my ATS woes

Now, come on… you knew this one wasn’t true! And while there is no such thing as ATS utopia, programmatic can potentially give you insight into things you may wish to change in your ATS, particularly with respect to your apply process. Programmatic job ad technology can give you deep insight into your conversion rates and conversely, your candidate drop-off rates. Being equipped with data is a powerful tool for advocating for and implementing change. If you can demonstrate that the friction in your apply process is contributing to poor performance and wasted budget, then data is your ticket to improvement!

MYTH #11: It will overwhelm my recruiters even more

Programmatic, by definition, is the buying and placement of ads done by software and data, rather than people. Rather than people. Programmatic job advertising is meant to automate and scale all of those manual, tedious tasks that your recruiters take on when posting jobs. Not to mention, the programmatic rules allow you to “right size” your applicant flow so that recruiters are getting the applicants they need to make a hire and can better manage the human side of candidate touch points.

MYTH #12: The data is overwhelming

A great programmatic partner should allow you to see the data in a way that is simple, meaningful, and actionable. And not only that, they’ll provide the service and expertise to help you interpret it as needed. The idea behind programmatic is that it should simplify – not complicate – your recruiting process and that includes having data insights, to help you improve and make informed decisions, at your fingertips.

MYTH #13: All programmatic solutions are the same

Programmatic solutions at their core are the same. All solutions are meant to automate and optimize the posting and performance of your job ads. However, peel the programmatic onion back a layer or two and you’ll find more significant differences such as the ease and flexibility of campaign setup or the user-friendliness of the reporting dashboards or perhaps some finer, more nuanced features like geo-targeting or title expansions. Programmatic solutions are best outlined on a spectrum as there are many capabilities and features that may or may not be part of a given platform. If you’ve tried a programmatic solution and it didn’t work out, don’t paint them all in broad strokes. Chances are your programmatic partner was not keenly attuned to your needs and objectives or the features of the solution weren’t aligned to your unique recruiting situation.

MYTH #14: Programmatic only works for lower level positions.

Programmatic works on any position where there is an audience of jobseekers on job boards.

MYTH #15: I get better results when I partner with my vendors directly.

One of the pillars of programmatic is the usage of rules to turn jobs on and off depending upon how many applications are in the ATS. Rules help optimize costs across all vendors – not just one. And most vendors do not have these rules to begin with because they do not track application counts in real-time. In short, programmatic rules help deliver more filled talent pipelines.

MYTH #16: I’ll lose my added vendor benefits if I move to programmatic.

If you find material value in added benefits, Appcast can allocate funds to individual vendors to help ensure that spend threshold requirements are met.

MYTH #17: The best candidates aren’t on job boards.

Consider this: the average jobseeker uses up to 16 sources during their job search. Further: for over a decade now, over 70% of job searches begin on Google (both stats from our friends at CareerBuilder). What happens when a jobseeker enters a search query in Google? They get search results and those results are – you guessed it – from job boards. So while your purple squirrel of a candidate might not always be there, you can be sure that a significant proportion of perfectly good candidates are there. In order to get your jobs in front of both the right candidates, and enough of them, you need to be posting jobs on job boards. Programmatic job advertising makes that a much more simple, effective, and pleasant process and outcome.

MYTH #18: Programmatic spends my budget too quickly.

Programmatic rules are the gatekeepers that help to keep your budget in check and pacing appropriately across the month or at the pace necessary to achieve your hiring objectives. If it has been your experience that your budget is spent too quickly, then your programmatic partner may not have properly set up your campaigns or perhaps didn’t keep an eye on them. Furthermore, it could be that your bids were set too high. This is one vector of programmatic that sets certain vendors apart from others. During the exploration and evaluation process of different programmatic vendors, it’s vital to explore the deeper details of how the solution and the team behind it will ensure that this does not occur.

MYTH #19: I’ll have to work with an agency.

You certainly can work with an agency. Agencies are adept and talented at many facets of recruitment marketing. However, given that your job ad budget is likely one of the most significant budget lines you have to be accountable for in talent acquisition, why not work with a specialist versus a generalist? In addition to that, a pure-programmatic partner is structured in a way that ensures more of your budget goes toward that actual job ads, rather than software or commission fees.

MYTH #20: I’ll have to manage it myself.

Again, you most definitely can manage it yourself but it’s pretty unlikely that you have someone on your team already who has the skill-set to manage your programmatic job ads. You could hire someone or you could have someone develop the skill-set but it does take time to achieve expert status. Ideally, your programmatic partner would take the burden off your shoulders, while bringing you along on the journey. In other words, you can learn and understand more about the data and strategies for optimizing your job ads, while safely in the good hands of your vendor (ahem, I happen to know one!).

Moving beyond the myths

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I hope I’ve helped to quell any of the doubt or uncertainties that you may have experienced in trying to better understand programmatic. With a clear vision of your hiring goals and a solid programmatic partner, it can be game-changing for your recruitment efforts.

If you’d like to get further into the weeds of programmatic job advertising, check out our Programmatic Recruiting 101 whitepaper or if you’d like to learn more about Appcast’s flavor of programmatic job advertising, check out this overview. And, of course, if you’d like to chat about it, we’d love to hear from you.