Attribution 101: How to Properly Attribute Success in Recruitment Marketing

Recruitment marketers have a lot on their plate when it comes to sourcing job applicants. Whether it’s managing job posts or optimizing the flow of a recruitment funnel, they often juggle multiple projects at any given time – all the while keeping the applicant journey in mind.

One of the most important underlying tasks for any recruitment marketer is to understand how and when a candidate converts into an applicant or a hire. Ultimately, this helps give a better understand how successful conversions or hires are being made.

Gaining this insight requires an overview of all potential sourcing points, including job boards, email, search, social media and display ads.

Recruitment marketers must ask themselves: Which channels are delivering the most applicants and hires? How can I identify and optimize them?

Attribution: The recruitment marketer’s secret weapon

A well-planned attribution strategy helps recruitment markers find the answers to these questions.

Attribution has long been an industry standard for marketing teams, helping them better understand their customers, optimize conversion funnels and ultimately increase Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI). Nowadays, these benefits are trickling into the hiring process as recruitment marketers increasingly utilize attribution tools. Instead of analyzing customer journeys, hiring teams are analyzing applicant journeys.

A reliable attribution tool helps recruitment marketers get an overview of how their channels work together, helping them to identify what’s working and what needs improvement. Through these tools, they can effectively promote the touchpoints that are converting the most applicants.

The first step toward implementing an attribution strategy is to outline company needs and create hiring targets. After that, a decision can be made on which type of attribution model will best serve these goals.

Single-Touch vs. Multi-Touch Attribution Models

Applicant conversion funnels vary greatly in both length and complexity, which means one attribution model may work exceptionally well for some but not others. By carefully defining conversion targets, recruitment marketers can better weight the benefits and drawbacks of each type.

Single-Touch Attribution

This category of attribution places the full weight of conversion success on one touchpoint in the funnel. Keeping this simple approach to attribution is beneficial for basic tracking, but it’s often too narrow in scope to drive decision-making in recruitment marketing.

First-Touch Attribution

This assigns full credit to the first touchpoint in the conversion funnel. Although this model is an excellent means for understanding how candidates come across a job posting or advertisement, it’s not ideal for truly understanding how your candidates are converting. All touch points beyond the first one, although important, are not considered as drivers to an application or hire.

First-Touch Attribution [own figure]
First-Touch Attribution [own figure]
Example: A candidate clicks a search/Google ad (A) that takes her to a company website (B). There, she finds a link to the company’s Twitter feed (C), where she then clicks on a job advertisement (D). Only the Google ad click gets the credit for the application.

Last-Touch Attribution

In this model, all credit for a conversion is assigned to the final touchpoint. Last-touch provides an immediate glimpse into the final converting decision of the applicant, but as with first-touch, it doesn’t paint the full picture. Although an easy metric to track, its value isn’t strategically important for many recruitment marketers due to the lack of emphasis placed on the top and middle of the conversion funnel.

Last-Touch Attribution [own figure]
Last-Touch Attribution [own figure]
Example: Same scenario as before, yet only the job ad (D) receives the full credit for the applicant.

Multi-Touch Attribution

Multiple touchpoints mean multiple sources of applicant data, which is why multi-touch is now seen as an industry standard approach to attribution. Multi-touch attribution may involve more complex setup and tracking, but it increases chances of pinpointing and amplifying conversion successes.

Linear Attribution

This model assigns equal value to all touch points in a conversion path. While it’s helpful to understand the importance of each step in the funnel, adopting a linear attribution approach can end up assigning too much value to the unimportant touchpoints and too little on the important ones.  

Linear Attribution [own figure]
Linear Attribution [own figure]
Example: An applicant makes stops at Google (A), LinkedIn (B), the company website (C), and clicks on a job ad (D) before applying for a job. Each of these touchpoints is credited with a linear increase from earliest to most recent.

Time-Decay Attribution

A simple, algorithm-based model, time-decay attribution gives the most value to the touchpoint closest to the conversion and decreasing value to the touchpoints leading away from it. This is currently a preferred model for many recruitment marketers who are looking for an all-around balanced way of attributing conversion.

Time-Decay Attribution [own figure]
Time-Decay Attribution [own figure]
Example: Most value is given to the final click before the application.

Positional Attribution

This model combines the emphasis of first and last-touch approaches, placing approximately 40% of weight on the bookend touchpoints and 20% on the middle touchpoints. Positional attribution brings a more holistic view of the funnel into the equation, but it can undervalue the important middle – especially in a lengthy funnel.

Positional Attribution [own figure]
Positional Attribution [own figure]
Example: First (A) and last click (D) are weighed the most. Clicks in the middle get a fraction of the attribution.

Custom Attribution Models

Depending on your business needs and marketing setup, you can choose to create a customizable attribution campaign. This involves assigning unique weights to each touchpoint that would ultimately help you achieve a desired conversion value.

Custom Attribution [own figure]
Custom Attribution [own figure]
Example: Custom attribution models help employers to credit sourcing channels based on algorithmic optimization. 

Bottomline: The right attribution type helps recruitment marketers pinpoint their successes to better achieve end hiring goals.

Every company is different, which means there is no one-size-fits-all for attribution in applicant sourcing. Recruitment marketers must understand their company’s hiring goals and decide which type of attribution will deliver the best results. Once the best fit model is in place, the sky’s the limit for optimizing conversions and increasing the quality of hires.  


Perengo is a programmatic recruitment platform.

High-growth businesses and Fortune 1000 companies use Perengo DSP to solve their recruitment challenges at scale. The platform provides tools for recruitment automation and business intelligence.

2 thoughts on “Attribution 101: How to Properly Attribute Success in Recruitment Marketing”

  1. Pingback: Attribution Windows 101: How Time Ranges Can Tell Different Stories

  2. Pingback: Tracking 101: Gaining Data Insight Across the Job Seeker Journey

Leave a Reply