Inside Indeed’s Pay for Results With Raj Mukherjee

On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup speaks with Raj Mukherjee about Indeed’s habits regarding pay.

Indeed pioneered the concept of pay-per-click and search in the job board industry, and has since evolved to a pay-for-performance model where employers only pay when someone clicks on their job and expresses intent to apply.

This model took the company a decade to educate the industry on, and some still do not fully understand it. Nonetheless, it has been a successful business model for Indeed, which has over 300 million global visitors and over three million employers who use the platform to hire.

Listening Time: 28 minutes

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Raj Mukherjee
Technology Executive, Board Director Indeed

More than 20 years of experience bringing innovative products and technology to millions of users mostly in enterprise and SMB space by leading product teams globally. Experience in managing P&L, large organizations and transformative growth.

Led product management teams to drive all aspects of product management - from market opportunity analysis to product vision to product definition to product roadmap to driving product execution. Led product marketing team to drive GTM strategies for many products e.g., Office 365 and all of the GoDaddy Presence and Commerce suite of products.

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Inside Indeed’s Pay for Results With Raj Mukherjee

William Tincup: [00:00:00] This is William Tincup and you are listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Rajan from Indeed and our topic today is Inside Indeed’s Pay for Results. This is a huge change actually, with Indeed and and something in the industry is really excited about, and I’m excited to have Raj on, on the podcast to talk a little bit about it.

Raj, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself? And for those that don’t know indeed what [00:01:00] Indeed is,

Raj Mukherjee: Absolutely William. I hope all your listeners know Indeed and I’ll, but I’ll still introduce. I’m Raj Muji. I am the general manager of our employer business. Been with Indeed for now almost seven years and seen the company go through a lot of changes and a lot of growth over the last seven years.

Been very fortunate to have served at this company. Most importantly, served millions and millions of employers all across the world. Be successful in hiring and hundreds of millions of job seekers who come to Indeed looking for a job, getting a job through. Indeed. That’s really what our mission is.

We help people get jobs and we are the largest job search site with more than 300 million visitors who come to Indeed globally, and also more than 3 million employers who use Indeed to hire on a regular basis. And as a backdrop Indeed’s been. Around for more than 16 years. We started way back when I believe in the 2005, 2006 timeframe, right around that [00:02:00] timeframe when paper click slash this concept of search was just nascent.

And this is a, I’m just introducing this so that readers can understand the rest of our whole conversation, but really pay per click and this concept, that search could change the world was very much still in its infancy at that time. And. Pioneered that at that time, and that’s been the journey of the company.

William Tincup: And it’s interesting because it was also indeed was one of the first, if not the first, to aggregate jobs off of career sites and and other job boards and things like that, and bringing everything into one place. And the era, I think if we were to talk to let’s just say a year ago.

What would you have if you were to explain. Indeed’s business model to us. What would you how would you frame it up in, simple terms?

Raj Mukherjee: Absolutely. Actually taking, going back all the way for a minute because you talked about aggregation of jobs, right? Indeed’s, first description of internal call it priority was one, search all jobs.

[00:03:00] That’s what we talked about. That’s what we did. And so we, it came from a pain point that Ronnie Kahan was the founder of the company. He basically felt that you had to go to so many different places to look for jobs, and you needed a single place as a user to find all your jobs and be able to apply to those jobs.

And in the beginning again, we indexed all, we call it indexed, but really aggregated all these jobs into one place for job seekers to find it. Now that model that what, the way we monetized it was also very different in the, at that time, going back again. So many years. If you think about it, the common model was you will pay for a post.

So depending on, they will have some bells and whistles and they might charge you a bit more for whatever. But really you’re paying for a post. Yeah. So Ronnie introduced this concept saying that, Hey, we really need a pay for performance model where instead of you just paying a, paying for a post, you want to pay when somebody actually built your job, somebody [00:04:00] clicked on your job.

And they have an intent to apply to your job. That’s what we will monetize. Very different. Took us a while to educate the industry. If you think about it took us Oh yeah. A decade, right? So it’s, and even today, some people still don’t fully understand pbc. That’s okay.

William Tincup: And I don’t, Raj I don’t know if they don’t understand it or the, we’ve been brainwashed for 30 years by the job board industry to, especially for hr.

Our recruiters are a bit different, but hr, it’s $300 a post. You get it for, you get it for 30 days. It’s it’s almost like cha what you’ve done is you’ve changed, like the definition of a sandwich. The people understood what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was, like a peanut butter jelly and a bread, like pretty simple.

And you introduced a, not just a new way of thinking about it, but just a better way of thinking about it. But it was so different from the way that they had p purchased before.

Raj Mukherjee: It, you are so direct. It is [00:05:00] a mental model shift, right? Like truly a mental model shift. And there is, there are again, big changes.

You are paying for an particular click. So how do you associate, how much do I pay, right? I used to pay, like for a lot of people, I used to pay a hundred dollars. I’m making it up a hundred dollars for a job post for 30 days. Fixed budget. I know how much I’m paying. I’m done with it. But I’m not necessarily sure what value I got for it.

If nobody viewed your job you still paid a hundred. That’s the,

William Tincup: I knew you put up a billboard in the middle of forest. Yes. No one saw your billboard. How much did it cost? Yeah,

Raj Mukherjee: pretty much. And we were gradually moving the industry towards a better future and it’s again, taken us a long time and it has become, In many ways, the DEIB facto way, people spend money now for job advertising.

And that’s great. That’s, I call it the forest evolution of indeed. The second evolution came from this very notion, and it actually, we made two very big [00:06:00] changes. One change was this concept of daily budget. If you think about it from a employer perspective, like small employers, They are coming in and they’re saying, I don’t understand ppc.

I don’t know how to, 20 cents, 30 cents, whatever you’re charging for this click. I have no idea. I need predictability. So we added this concept. Yeah, you will spend a dollar amount per day underneath, however we charge, doesn’t matter, right? We spend certain dollar amount and it gives them a real control.

They can say, I’ll spend for a day and then I’ll stop because I didn’t see the value I spent for seven days and I got the applies that I needed and I’ll stop. Yeah. Small businesses fully understand what that concept is. Yes.

William Tincup: Yes. I think social media has actually helped out, ironically, that the Facebooks and LinkedIns of the world, because they might do advertising there, and their models, I think have actually helped that, that I understand that, hey, I’ve got a, $50 budget per day or whatever the bid is.

They’ve got a budget. They understand, okay, [00:07:00] once the budget runs out, Okay. It runs out like it stops to running that ad, which is great

Raj Mukherjee: That is exactly right. And so that model resonated and we have again seen really positive business growth trajectory as well as customer satisfaction increase through that change that we made.

The other change we made, and this is the part that a lot of people get tripped up, majority of our customers are still free customers, right? They can post a job for free or indeed. Yes, we have this daily budget model where small employers can come in, or large employers can come in and they can use it, but really a lot of people are coming in and they’re posting a job for free and hiring for free as well.

And the part of the reason is we, as a company, we always go back to our foundation. We wanna help job seekers get hired, and so if the right answer is we need to get more employers on the platform for job seekers to get hired, and the reason is, hey, we wanna give things for free, that’s okay.

That is absolutely [00:08:00] fine. Now, that’s, so if you asked me before 2019 or 2020 or whatever timeframe you pick, right? The, I would say yes, our business model was for very large customers. They can run campaigns, they can use this concept of pbc. For very small customers who want to pay with a pay for an ad.

Advertise advertisement. Sorry, I got tripped up there. Yeah. Pay for an advertisement. They will pay for daily budget. That’s it. Those are the two payment models before. We introduced this new concept or this new evolution into pay for results that we’ll talk about.

William Tincup: So first, now the history lesson for everyone is actually really important because it sets us up for how different, pay for results is and why it also makes sense to both your history, your heritage, as well as what you’re trying to do with candidates and employers.

So let’s let’s break open the egg and talk a little bit about paper. Paper

Raj Mukherjee: results. Absolutely. And happy to break over the heck here. So circa October, 2022, we [00:09:00] announced very publicly that we are moving closer to the higher. But what does that mean? We fundamentally believe, and our customer data shows that as well.

I’ll share much more about this in a minute. We fundamentally believe that customers should get more value when they spend on Indeed. Not necessarily. I actually fundamentally believe the whole industry should move in this direction, right? But definitely for Indeed we believe that, yeah.

It’s great that you came to, indeed, you got value by the fact that somebody looked at your job, you paid for that fine. But really what you wanna pay for is a started apply or an apply and why? What is the difference between a started apply and an apply? A lot of our jobs are not on Indeed, they’re outside, they’re in a company’s website or they’re in a company’s ATS.

We aggregate those jobs so when the apply happens, the apply doesn’t always happen on Indeed. The apply happens on that company’s website or the apply happens on that company’s ATS. [00:10:00] So the what we can track is the started apply that happens on Indeed. So we are this, and this is particularly true for very large companies.

So for those companies, we are saying we will move the business model from pay per click to paper started apply.

William Tincup: Like that seems like a simple switch.

Raj Mukherjee: It’s not. It’s anything. But and there, there are so many technical complexities and also business change management, right?

Challenges, so yes, so that’s one part that’s a big part of the change that we are making. The second part of the change are for jobs that are already on. Indeed. People have posted these jobs and we are giving people the option. Of instead of pay per click, this daily budget that I just talked about, which has been around for a decade, we are gonna give people this option of paying per apply.

And really paying for qualified apply or quality apply. You

William Tincup: say the employer, I understand the employer gets to put knockout questions or be able to qualify. That’s absolutely. In some [00:11:00] ways I might, may not be knockout questions, but then you get to qualify in some way.

Raj Mukherjee: A hundred percent.

And if you, you already hit the bullseye on that on the deal breakers and screener questions that we had. But let’s even take a step back, like the concept of quality in my mind, lives with an employer saying, this is what I mean by quality, right? And sometimes they can express it and sometimes they can’t.

William Tincup: I was about to say for those that can’t it’s like that, that, that old thing about our, I don’t know what it is until I see it. It’s, I think some people look at candidates in that way. I hate that and I know that recruiters struggle sometimes with hiring managers with this particular pain point.

It’s like they put a laundry list of things that they want, but at the end of the day, it’s really. Three things that they absolutely have to have. So I could see that being a bit, how do you get good at creating, the deal breakers. That’s, it’s like how you get good at prompts with chat g p T, right?

How do you get good at that? Some of it’s gonna [00:12:00] be practice and some of it’s gonna be the technology teaching you over time. These are some of the things that other customers, which I’m just assuming that y’all are going to do, but at one point you’re, we sitting on so much data that you can actually help people through what those deal breakers are.

If they don’t know, maybe not initially, but in time.

Raj Mukherjee: I think you have a career as a product leader somewhere.

William Tincup: No, it’s too hard, Raj. It’s way too difficult of a job.

Raj Mukherjee: I do have some battle show for that William, but that’s, I agree. It is not an easy job. So

William Tincup: the pay for apply and pay for results. So let’s just pay for apply. What have you, you obviously beed this with your customers, you, before you, try to do this out to everybody.

What was what’s, what was the initial response from

Raj Mukherjee: folks? Yeah, so initially, like at the very first[00:13:00] call it early days of paper apply, a lot of people looked at it and said, yeah, this is exactly how I should pay for it. And we also did a huge amount of research, internal research.

Quantitative and qualitative. And the data that came back, and I’ll share some latest research as well, but this is, again, a couple of years back, the data that came back. People really wanted to pay for apply or closer to the hire, like people wanted to pay for, hire, pay for, and an interview way more than paying for a click.

That makes sense. Like the job that they are coming for, if you think about the person’s job to be done, the job to be done here is I either want a set of qualified applications, then I can decide on my own how to interview them and hire from that list. So it’s really a qualified shortlist. That’s what I’m looking for.

Or in some cases I just want to pay for the hire. I want you to do the work. And tell me when you are ready to send me the final interview list candidate. And I will decide. So there [00:14:00] was a huge hunger for this type of a product experience. And we know it’s not easy like this is, if it was easy, somebody else would’ve done it years back.

Yeah, a hundred percent yes. So it’s not easy. We fully get it. We fully get the pills of having to iterate and learn from the experiences that we put out there. But the story is, this is what the industry needs to deliver for people to be much happier than they are today, and for both sides, for both the job seekers and employers.

And so let me give you the context now. So if I’m a job seeker, and I’ll share with you very briefly I’ve had some recent experience as a job seeker impersonating my daughter, who is a 16 year old. She is looking for an internship and I just I’m playing her role and I’m looking for certain jobs and.

Trying to find out like, what does the world of job seeking look like? Because frankly, I have not searched for a job in the last few years. I know.

William Tincup: Oh,

Raj Mukherjee: no. And Yeah, so go on. Sorry.

William Tincup: And it’s different because the attention span of the job seeker, the candidate is different. [00:15:00] What they care about the content-wise is different.

And so there’s just a whole lot of things that are different from when you when you did look for a job. But, one of the things I wanted to back up and make sure people understand is. Pay for results. At the end of the day it’s like when you look at your funnel, whether or not you’re a hiring manager or sourcer a recruiter, et cetera, you’re looking at your funnel and you’re looking at conversion rates.

At the end of the day, you’re looking at time. Yeah. And time is, that’s wasted either going back and forth trying to figure out this and that. What does the hiring manager truly want versus this, that, and other. It’s, you can get there faster. By pay for results because you can just cut out time in the process.

That was really inefficient before and is just a better model because the candidates that come through will be less. I think that’s something that’s really important for us to talk about. That volume, the concept of volume numbers was is really a problem for both parties. It was both a candidate [00:16:00] problem as well as a recruiter problem.

We did a spray and pray, right? Both candidates. So I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna just blame recruiters. Candace did the same thing. Let’s go apply to a thousand jobs a day. And same thing with recruiters. Let’s go and let’s see if we can get 10,000 people to apply to this job, both of which are failed.

And the thing is what I love about this is it gets qualified people so it, it filters out some of that, that, not some, but it filters out the noise and it brings in what qualified. And if you want to talk to these qualified folks, great. Now you have a stack of, it’s gonna be much less, but you’re gonna have a stack of people that you’ve already pre-qualified.

Raj Mukherjee: You literally nailed it. Like seriously William. That is the vision. That is what we are trying to do. And obviously, yes, we haven’t gotten every piece of it right now but we are moving in that direction. And so if I had synthesized the product experience for a minute, When I come in as a [00:17:00] small business, I think this might be helpful for viewers to also understand and visualize, so I’m a small business.

I come in, let’s say I’m trying to hire a marketing manager job in Austin, Texas. So I come in and I go through the job posting funnel and in the job posting funnel, what will happen is, to your point on us having millions and hundreds of millions of data points that allow us to predict what type of.

Deal breakers are important for marketing manager role. Like we can ask the question on, are you looking for an entry level? These are the skill sets, like these are the assessments that you need to add to your job. All of that we pre recommend in the job posting flow. And once the employer or the hiring manager, whoever is posting the job, they have decided that these are the things they’re going to allow for this particular job.

Meaning they’re gonna say, I am going to require three years of experience in seo, searching and optimization. I’m gonna require at least one year of experience in performance marketing, SCM searching in [00:18:00] marketing. Whatever they have decided are the prerequisites that they’re not going to be flexible on.

And hopefully that’s few, not too many, once they’ve agreed on that. And other one could be, we know some people are interested in having people work out of an office for a few days in a week at least. So the person might say, I want, hi, this is a hybrid role. You need to come to the office two days a week, and you need to be in Austin, Texas for you to be able to do that.

So whatever those things are, to lay that out as part of that process of defining quality and minimum requirements. And we are those. We are not gonna deliver candidates that don’t meet that requirement. That’s step one. Step two, once they’ve posted the job, they’ve decided that they want to pay for apply.

They will get these applies and they have 72 hours within that timeframe. They can decide if this apply, met their criteria or not. I love

William Tincup: that. Let’s full stop for just a second. I love that because it’s like milk, there’s an expiration. They [00:19:00] just, it also, it’s it helps candidates because hey, you’re either gonna hear, in 72 hours or you’re not like it’s gonna be one or the other.

Which I think is beautiful for the candidate experience, for them to understand, hey, you’re gonna get a response, or you’re not gonna get a response one way or another. Or technically you’ll get a response one way or another. It’ll be either positive or negative. You move forward in the process or you don’t.

But what I love about this is what we learn in sales. Is that leads or are they’re like milk. They’re they have an expiration date, a lead to someone that’s showing a kind of interest. There’s that moment of interest or moment of attention, and after that moment’s gone, they’re onto something else.

And so I love that. I love that the time I, there’s a constriction right there. You could, you, you didn’t have to put that in there. They could have just been in there and then they could have just gotten to it when they got to it. But I like the fact that you’ve say force is not the right way.

You’ve incentivized them to move

Raj Mukherjee: quickly. [00:20:00] A hundred percent. And that was the intent. And again, we are not gonna make everyone happy with a 72 hour time window. We understand that. But it is something that majority of our clients are actually pretty happy with. Yeah.

William Tincup: It’s better for the candidates. Back to your heritage, back to the origin story, it’s, this is better for candidates so that they don’t just sit on qualified can.

Again, we’re dealing with qualified candidates. We’re not just dealing with people that applied to the job and applied to 6,000 other jobs that day. These are qualified folks. They’ve shown interest. They’ve applied to your job. You’ve got 72 hours that that’s I think, Long enough. So if it’s on a Thursday or Friday, you know they’ve got enough time to respond.

And if it’s a, all ‘EM hires are important on some level, but if it’s an important hire, you’re gonna be looking at that and seeing that expiration date and understanding, I need to move on this. These are qualified candidates. These aren’t just people that applied to a job

Raj Mukherjee: 200%. And. What’s [00:21:00] really interesting, this is the part that is really interesting.

We have seen over time a lot of job seekers also seek with not just responses hired much faster. Much faster than they were ever before. And you’ve mentioned something, I’ll come back to the job seeker comment in a second, but you mentioned something around the, call it the cognitive overload or the actual workload that somebody has as part of the job hiring process. I’ll share a stat to hire a candidate. On average, you need 35% fewer applications with our PPA product than with our daily budget product. That’s a pretty darn significant 35% less application. Yeah. And this goes to your fewer, you’ll get, you will get fewer applications Sure.

That you have. And you will make your hire

William Tincup: faster. That’s right. And fewer is a good thing. That’s actually a good thing because it’s qualified. And again, I think that’s the important [00:22:00] thing to impress the folks and impress upon the listeners. It’s like you’re dealing with qualified folks not applicants, not people that apply to your job, which could be anybody or even bots.

This, these are actual people and they’re actually qualified. I think one of the things that. That I find fascinating and I, I don’t know if it’s now or just, as you’ll sit on data, it’s how much should a qualified candidate cost? And I think that’s gonna be something a practitioner’s gonna be really fascinated to learn.

Is this $500? Is this, $3,000? What is it? I’m not sure they know that yet. But this is gonna be one of the things that indeed, again, leads the industry with is you’re gonna be telling them with data you know this for any other reason. You’re gonna be sitting on a wonderful data to say, okay with this series of deal breakers.

And in this position and with these requirements, et cetera, this is what you should expect. This is what it should be, range. And [00:23:00] it’ll give them an idea, which I think will really help them understand what is the cost of a qualified candidate.

Raj Mukherjee: Fully agree. And again, it needs always been about auction underneath, like we.

So if you think about it from an auction perspective, we are really a supply demand balancing engine, right? That’s what we are doing, and the pricing is dependent on that supply demand. It, of course, also depends on the things that you just talked about, because that feeds into the supplier demand, right?

So let’s take one very con two concrete quick examples. One is, let’s say you’re looking to hire we talked about a marketing manager and in Austin, Texas, with zero years of experience, you’ll get a lot of supply. Because there are a lot of people perhaps who actually need that.

But now certainly you added a new thing. You basically said, no, I need that, but I need five years of experience. Certainly your supplies became less. That’s right. And so yes, your price will go up. It’s just a very basic thing that we keep talking about, like it’s really, ultimately we [00:24:00] are a proxy for the labor market, and so we are going to respond to what’s going on in the broader labor market as well.


William Tincup: educating as you are going to do, you’re gonna be educating ’em both in application and also outside the application of Hey, not only is it better to pay for qualified applicants, here’s what those costs, so here’s what you should budget for. Okay, like here’s, it’s not a it’s a, it’s at some form.

It’s not mystery or voodoo. This is actually math and I think that what I like about that is, is again, you’re taking something that was a bit like voodoo. Job posting and hope. And hope. Hope that people would then go to it, see it, apply to it, have interest, all that other stuff. And you’ve made it into more math base.

Like people are gonna be interested, they’re gonna go through a process, then you’re gonna be qualified. Recruiters have a certain amount of time with it to action it or not. And then there’s a cost and they’ll [00:25:00] understand, which is again, educating recruiters and hiring managers. And so they need to know, but also I think.

I said hiring managers, but they really need to know how much things cost because they have, because they’re not, they’re doing other jobs, right? They, you’re technically a hiring manager, right? You have another job that you have to do, and on an occasion you have to hire. So they have no idea how much qualified candidates cost.

So I think in time, I think you’re just gonna be performing a wonderful service for everyone. Both Indeed and your customers of Indeed, but also for the larger world that you’re gonna be educating people as to what cost


Raj Mukherjee: Yes. And this education will take time. Yep. Absolutely. It’ll take time. Which leads me to one of the things that I get this question all the time. Are you taking away options? We are not for both existing and new customers. They will have the option. Of paying for the old way, the daily budget. Yeah. Yeah. And the new way. Yeah. Of paying. [00:26:00] So we are gonna give that option.

And I believe over time people will choose for themselves. They’ll see the value and they will decide that, Hey, this one is working better for me or not.

William Tincup: And they might do an AB test. They, they could, you could foresee that they test it in a way that says, okay, which model works better for us?

Great. But I love the fact that you’re not taking the options away from ’em because I. This is a lot of change to consume, this, right? So it’s a lot of things for recruiters and and hiring managers to consume at once. But having the safety blanket or safety net of being able to say, Hey, listen, if you don’t wanna change, don’t change.

There’s a different model, but it might not be the model that you want to for this position that you want to use or for your hires. That’s fine. Like you’re not forcing. It’s funny cuz I talked to oh, this is probably a couple years ago, I talked to Steve Miranda, who’s at Oracle. And and I asked him, I said, why do, why does Oracle, why do y’all have so many different versions of PeopleSoft or [00:27:00] whatever? And he says, we as a company, we don’t force people to change. We just don’t that’s, it’s in our dna. We don’t, that’s not the business model. We don’t force another company to change now.

And I like that. I think you’ve got a page there that I think is really interesting. Over time. It’s gonna be interesting to see how many people move to the new model and how successful the new model is for them. And getting some of those, customer testimonials. But Roger, you know this cuz we’ve talked before.

I love this model. Because I just think it’s better. I just think it’s good for everybody. I think it’s good for candidates, like everybody gets served here, hiring managers, recruiters, source, everybody wins. There’s not a loser in this thing

Raj Mukherjee: at all. I fundamentally believe yes when the someone gets the shortlist of qualified candidates that are interested in their job and they are able to take action in a relatively short timeframe.

It’s great for job seekers. It’s great for employers, and it’s great for indeed. [00:28:00]

William Tincup: Drops. Mike walks off stage, ladies and gentlemen. Raj, thank you so much for coming on this show and breaking everything down. It’s been a pleasure.

Raj Mukherjee: Thank you, William. Really appreciate you having me.

William Tincup: Absolutely, and thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast.

Until next time.

The RecruitingDaily Podcast

William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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