Technology has radically transformed talent acquisition strategies, enabling recruiters to source with greater speed, precision and cost-effectiveness. One of the key elements of modern talent sourcing is programmatic job advertising – a term ported over from the marketing realm – which automates the job ad buying process and offers HR teams data-driven decision-making and real-time adjustments. As the recruitment landscape becomes more performance-driven and transparent, programmatic job advertising is increasing in popularity and utility. 

How Programmatic Job Advertising Works

Prior to programmatic job advertising in the pay-to-post era, recruiters were required to manually post job sites to individual job boards – a time-consuming and inefficient process. Programmatic job advertising reduces the complexity of manually uploading job listings to career sites by leveraging a consolidated platform to manage your advertising spend. Your selected programmatic vendor will use AI, predictive analytics, job-seeker information, and other historical data so that your jobs are automatically distributed to the career sites containing your target audience. Performance is then monitored and adjusted in real-time, ensuring recruiting goals are achieved. 

In an ideal world, programmatic job advertising gets your open positions in front of the right candidate, at just the right time and in the most cost-effective way. And while programmatic job advertising offers employers one of the best returns on investment when it comes to job posting, it must still be managed closely, as overall performance depends on candidate quality and conversion. And it should be leveraged as part of a holistic recruiting strategy that also educates potential job seekers about your employer brand.

Whether you are already using programmatic job advertising as one of your talent acquisition strategies, or are thinking of getting started, here are four common mistakes and how to avoid them. 

  • Automatic does not mean autopilot. Although programmatic job advertising automates many of the once manual tasks associated with job advertising across many different sites, it still requires oversight, especially for employers with many open positions. Constant oversight is necessary to make sure the budget is being allocated across the various positions optimally so that certain job ads are not using up the budget faster than others. In addition, talent acquisition teams are always juggling constantly changing internal factors when it comes to which roles or categories take top priority. The only way to make sure the programmatic campaigns and budget are being allocated accordingly is manual intervention and adjustment. Constant campaign oversight is critical for employers to get the most ROI for their programmatic job ad spend. 
  • Bots are a costly problem for job postings, even in programmatic. Bots continue to plague the wider programmatic display advertising industry as a whole but due to the volume of ads, technology vendors have emerged to help advertisers identify and prevent fraudulent traffic from being counted as clicks and eating up ad spend. For job advertising, it is up to the job sites and programmatic job advertising platforms to audit campaigns regularly and filter out bot traffic. Employers should select a programmatic vendor that takes action against bot traffic, otherwise they will be throwing their ad spend to the wind.
  • Tracking conversion in applicant tracking systems (ATS). For many HR departments, data arrives too late, sometimes even after a role has been filled. In the pay-to-post era this was not as important, but in programmatic, conversion data is critical to optimizing campaigns. The goal is not to obtain as many clicks as possible, but rather to attract the right quantity and quality of completed applicants. Employers need to ensure that proper conversion tracking is set up in the process to monitor conversion flows properly. Companies like The Muse leverage direct apply technology and include conversion tracking. So even if the employer has difficulty accessing internal hiring data in a timely manner to drive campaign strategies, the programmatic vendor can optimize campaigns on their side to provide the most ROI for the employer. 
  • Programmatic strategies may surface jobs without employer brand context. In the pay-to-post era, employers usually posted jobs on a handful of sites, making it easier for them to also promote their employer brand at the same point of interaction with a candidate. In programmatic job advertising, that may not always be the case as job seekers may land on the job description from Google or a plethora of any type of job board. Hiring strategies that weave culture and values into the job descriptions, whether through storytelling narrative or embedded employee testimonial videos, will see a boost in applicant conversion and even applicant quality while adding that human touch to a mostly robotic process. 

Ultimately, programmatic job advertising is an incredibly powerful and cost-effective tool for HR leaders to source talent, yet it should be deployed as part of a wider recruitment marketing strategy that also takes into consideration your employer brand. Asking the right questions up front with your programmatic technology vendor will ensure you’re navigating common pitfalls and solving for potential issues before they arise. 

Chris Atkins

Chris Atkins is the Senior Vice President of B2B Marketing for The Muse and Fairygodboss, a leading job search and career development platform serving tens of millions of job seekers and hundreds of growing companies. Prior to joining The Muse in 2023, Atkins served as Chief Marketing Officer for PandoLogic, where he played a pivotal role in catapulting the HR tech company from an early-stage startup to a category leader in programmatic talent acquisition. Earlier in his career, Atkins held top positions in B2B marketing and SaaS product marketing at LearningExpress, SchoolNet and Earthlink. Chris holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Georgia State University.


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