Smart Bidding: How Programmatic CPC Modeling Can Increase Recruitment Success

Recruitment marketers know how important it is to keep their various channels running smoothly at all times. This isn’t always easy, however, as effective recruitment strategies involve constant monitoring, tracking and optimization.

While broader marketing decisions (e.g. growth estimations, channel selection) can typically be made at quarterly or annual intervals, intra-channel optimization should be completed on a weekly and daily basis for best results. Oftentimes, decision-making across multiple channels – such as audience selection, for example – may have a larger effect on one channel than another.

A fine-tuned performance modeling plan can help facilitate both detailed and holistic views of hiring campaigns, allowing recruitment marketers to ensure all their channels are producing at the same level of efficiency. Using the right budgets and pricing model as a guide, marketers can more easily maintain desired results for specific channels.

One of the best ways to manage performance of channels is through Cost-per-Click (CPC) adjustments.

CPC for channel optimization: the benefits and risks

The price paid for each click on an ad, otherwise known as CPC, is now the most commonly used performance-pricing model on job boards.

CPC drastically affects the way the ads are displayed, and ultimately, it affects the level of results that can be achieved. Instead of enduring the standard “post and pray” situation often encountered with early-day job boards (when a posted ad drops further down the list over time, resulting in decreasing views), recruitment marketers can use CPC-based structures to automatically show ads in relevant search queries. The result is that more quality candidates see the ad, regardless of how long it has been active on the job board.

Other benefits of CPC include fewer wasted resources and the facilitation of more accurate channel tracking. If an ad’s keywords aren’t attracting clicks, or if the ad language isn’t converting clicks to applicants, then it’s no financial loss to the advertiser. The ad can be modified with the end goal in mind.

It’s important to understand that while CPC is beneficial, the model is not without its own challenges. Among those is click fraud – in which the publisher abuses click rates in order to raise fees. This is a threat that requires appropriate security parameters to be put in place. Another challenge is when ‘bad traffic’ results in high click rates but low-quality, non-converting candidates. Recruitment marketers should be aware of these pitfalls and take steps to counteract them. The potential payoff makes the extra effort worth it.

Understanding bid-based CPC, auctions and pricing

Not all CPC measurements are created equally. Flat-rate CPC pricing – in which the advertiser and the publisher agree on a fixed rate per ad click – has generally been abandoned now in favor of bid-based CPC pricing: when the advertiser sets a maximum cost per click.

Even bid-based CPC varies according to different types of auctions. Google for example, uses a second-price auction in which the winning bidder pays the second highest bid, plus $0.01 more. Most job boards, on the other hand, use first-price auction – then the winning bidder pays the exact price they bid.

Recruitment marketers must have knowledge about the market value of impressions on these job boards, otherwise they risk overpaying. They also need to be aware of the hard price floor mechanism in place on many job boards, which automatically discards any bids that are below a fixed minimum amount.

Smart bidding: How to create and optimize a bidding strategy

With all this in mind, it’s clear that recruitment marketers should have a plan to successfully navigate the bid-based CPC landscape. This is where the following bidding strategy can help.

Understand the channel setup and plan desired results

As with any campaign, the most successful results come from a targeted plan that takes into account budget, value and growth projections.

One particular metric of use here is incremental users; in recruitment, this means the candidates acquired specifically from a campaign minus those acquired organically. Recruitment marketers can utilize this number to model and budget bid campaigns. When a business knows amount of money it takes to achieve a certain level of growth in incremental users, then it can effectively plan CPC bid strategies in specific channels. Advanced ways of plotting these trajectories include switchback experimentation, synthetic control experiments and media mix modeling.

Track performance using attribution and analytics

Data analytics are key to tracking intra-channel results. This process can be automated using DSPs and other programmatic recruitment tools at various stages of the funnel.

Monitoring all touch points in the recruitment funnel keeps recruitment marketers in-the-know about specific channel performance, which then helps to inform budget decisions related to CPC bids.

Smart Bidding: How Programmatic CPC Modeling Can Increase Recruitment Success
Smart Bidding: How Programmatic CPC Modeling Can Increase Recruitment Success

Adjust and optimize accordingly

The above target for a bidding ‘sweet spot’ helps recruitment marketers maintain results within a single channel. If candidate volume and quality sinks below the ideal threshold, bids can be increased accordingly. The same goes for if the volume and quality of candidates are high; in this scenario, experimenting with the lowest possible incremental cost can keep the campaign on its most efficient possible track.

Tying CPC together with eCPH

After close analysis of a specific channel using CPC, recruitment marketers should always zoom out and fit those numbers into a larger picture. All CPC campaigns – whether it’s cost, volume of applicants, etc. – function appropriately only when connected to a more holistic measurement, such as effective Cost-per-Hire (eCPH). Avoid marketing tunnel vision by creating links between individual campaigns and broader company hiring goals.

Ultimately, integrated CPC modeling takes time to set up – but the potential payoff is significant. By setting aside proper resources, budgeting time and taking advantage of programmatic DSPs, recruitment marketers can get ahead – and stay ahead – in the competitive hiring landscape.


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.

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