In the middle of 2020, we were honored to be included as one of the Top 20 Recruitment Marketing Agencies in the United States by ONGIG. We made the list just one year after founding Change State, sharing the spotlight with many organizations that we’d worked with in our previous lives negotiating apply clicks for job board contracts.
One of the articles included in ONGIG’s list was a great read from Dr. John Sullivan on How To Assess A Recruitment Ad Agency. What amazed us is that while this article was written in 2001, Dr. John starts his article with a point that still rings true today:
Since the war for talent began several years ago, corporate recruitment managers have been begging for help from “recruiting support” firms. Unfortunately, one of the key players in our industry, recruitment advertising agencies (RAA’s), have often failed to meet this new challenge. If you are currently considering selecting (or changing) a recruitment advertising agency, it’s important that you raise your standards and your expectations…
For 2021, we thought we’d provide an updated list of what we believe clients should consider when evaluating a new recruitment marketing agency partnership. We use the word partnership a lot with our clients. And to be clear, we feel quite strongly that a recruitment marketing agency relationship *should* be a partnership between an organization and its agency—which sometimes can feel different from the legacy ‘spend money to make money’ ad agency model of yesterday.
Transparency in Job Board Advertising Data and Reporting
This may be an unpopular opinion, but we believe your recruitment marketing agency should be able to tell you where your job board advertising dollars are being spent. The growth of programmatic recruitment marketing and job aggregators has created a very active market of job seeker traffic. However, not all job seeker traffic is created equal. Clients should be willing to test new job board publishers in the ongoing effort to drive qualified candidates. But if your recruitment marketing agency isn’t willing to tell you where they’re sending your jobs, and cannot explain your traffic beyond the click – that should be a red flag.
The smartest recruitment marketing agencies recognize that new job boards are popping up each month, and being able to find new applicant pools is key to attracting talent. So when you’re vetting a new recruitment marketing agency, make sure they can answer how they choose and measure their publisher (i.e., job board) mix.
Measurement is key, and not all agencies are adept at comparing performance across publishers. A large part of the challenge is the fact that recruitment advertising metrics aren’t standardized across publishers: some job boards present data as cost per click (CPC) or cost per application (CPA), while other duration- or “slot”- based boards may decide to show application data based on when a job was posted instead of when an application was received. Oh, and does ‘application’ mean a completed application in your ATS? Depends on the vendor and your advertising setup.
Meanwhile, social media channels and geofencing partners often use different metrics still, measuring themselves in terms of impressions, views and leads, which are technically neither a click nor a completed application. The best recruitment marketing agencies understand these nuances and can help you make informed, “apples to apples” comparisons to ensure you’re allocating (and reallocating) budget to the best-performing sources.
Deep Knowledge of Recruitment Process Optimization and HR Technology
While managing job board advertising may be one of the first reasons you would consider hiring a recruitment marketing agency, forward-thinking organizations recognize that job postings are only one piece of a holistic recruitment marketing strategy. The effectiveness of your recruitment marketing efforts is also tied directly to your HR technology and recruitment processes. Sending high quality traffic (i.e., job seekers) through an inefficient job application process without proper tracking in place can make it nearly impossible to connect the dots between your advertising spend and return on investment.
A good recruitment marketing agency partner should be able to help you evaluate and implement new talent acquisition tools and technologies and know how to use them. This means mapping out your company’s pre-hire recruitment systems and processes and offering actionable recommendations for where and how you can improve inefficiencies. It also means having close relationships with HR tech vendors that can quickly solve problems when they arise… that means serving as a true advocate for your business by pushing vendors to accelerate resolution timelines when you simply can’t wait for your account manager to “check with engineering.”
Sophisticated Knowledge of Employer Branding
Employer branding has been (and remains) a hot topic in the industry, yet not all agencies are created equal in terms of their understanding of branding and its effect on your recruitment marketing strategy. As the crystallization of the “why” behind a job seeker’s decision to work for you, your employer brand value proposition (or “EVP”) is the very foundation upon which an effective recruitment marketing strategy is built.
Without a clear understanding of your EVP, you may be spending your recruitment marketing dollars amplifying messages that fail to resonate with target talent. At best, this is a waste of limited budget. At worst, it’s a recipe for attracting talent that is likely to be unfulfilled by what you actually offer, which can have bigger downstream ramifications in terms of attrition and turnover.
When selecting an agency, ask for their perspective on employer branding. Hint: it should involve insights (data) collected from actual employees, not merely guesswork, corporate “lore”, or aspirational images of the kind of company you wish to be.
Too often agencies skip to creative and messaging without taking time to root them in employee insights. If an agency’s response to the question “How do you think about employer branding?” is a list of recommended “enhanced” profiles to buy from job boards, or skips straight to expensive creative without a discussion of strategy, you’ll likely be better off continuing your search.
Understand Your Agency’s Vision for the Future of Recruitment
“Future Proofing” your recruitment marketing strategy has been a popular rallying cry for agencies and HR tech vendors alike over the years. Yet many vendors use the Future of Work as a key piece of their messaging without actually explaining where they see recruitment going in the next five to ten years. When evaluating a recruitment marketing agency, it’s fair to ask: What is your vision of the future of work?
In our experience, the most forward-thinking agencies won’t make you ask, as they’ll regularly share opinions and perspectives from their leadership on blogs, social media profiles, and podcasts. And pay close attention to what they say: If an agency’s leadership is still waxing poetic about programmatic as the best thing to hit talent acquisition since sliced bread, it might be a sign to move along.
Don’t get us wrong—we love programmatic, and it can be an important part of your recruiting strategy, but the concept of paying for leads on a per-click basis is not new… in fact, it’s been going on in consumer marketing for well over a decade. We routinely find the smartest leaders in the talent acquisition space are paying close attention to what’s happening outside of the HR “bubble” and the leadership of the agency you select should be, too.
Ask To Meet Your Dedicated Account Team
Lastly, but potentially most importantly: ask who you will be working with at your agency and how long they have been with the organization. Many recruitment marketing agencies experience high turnover at the account representative and client support level, and the service and attention to detail you receive can suffer accordingly.
If you’re evaluating a new recruitment marketing agency, ask to speak with clients who have been onboarded in the last twelve months. Ask why they’ve lost clients in the past. And find an agency willing to put their own skin in the game and start your partnership without a long-term commitment.
While written in 2001, we’ll paraphrase some of Dr. John’s closing comments today:
Don’t just pick a recruitment marketing agency because they are big or well known. Expect your recruitment marketing agency to be experts in HR technology, recruitment software and data-driven decision making. And make sure your agency is always teaching you something new.