UTM Parameters: How to Track Clicks of Job Applicants

UTM Parameters: How to Track Clicks of Job Applicants [own figure]

The father of management thinking, Peter Drucker, once wrote:

“What gets measured, gets managed.”

In our current data-driven world, Drucker’s words ring out louder and clearer than ever before. Data tracking and analytics are paramount for achieving desired results in all aspects of business. It’s the practical application of data that allows us to get ahead of competitors and remain nimble in rapidly evolving times.

HR professionals, in particular, can utilize data to review and optimize their hiring processes. From analyzing conversion rates along the application funnel to identifying the strengths and weaknesses in candidate sourcing channels, data helps to illuminate a clear path to recruitment success.

UTM parameters: the value is in the click

Let’s zero in on one of the most important applications of data in HR: the beginning of the recruitment funnel – also known as candidate sourcing. The lifecycle of a job applicant can be traced back to the first click they make that leads them to an ad. Tracking and analyzing these clicks reveal which candidate sources achieve desired results, and why.

Whether it’s a link on Twitter, or sponsored post on a job board, clicks provide recruiters with a sense of direction for further marketing initiatives. Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters in a website URL are a standard way to track clicks across a campaign, as they use five distinct tags to identify a campaign that refers traffic to a specific website. Considered an industry standard for digital marketing, UTM parameters are especially useful for HR professionals looking to increase the effectiveness of recruitment campaigns.

Applying UTM parameters to candidate sourcing

Essentially, UTM parameters allow recruitment marketers to get a better sense of their ad campaigns across all platforms, track candidate click behavior across each touchpoint and optimize the applicant funnel accordingly.

Each of the following UTM parameters identifies a key piece of information for a recruitment marketer, and can be set up and tracked in the way that best fits the organization’s overall recruitment strategy:

  • Source – Which site the traffic comes from (a high-traffic source is probably one that marketers should continue investing in)
  • Medium – Where an ad is displayed or what type of link it is;
  • Campaign – The broader strategic initiative across various pages, of which each ad is a small part (e.g. a seasonal promotion)
  • Term – Which search term or keyword leads to the ad traffic
  • Content – What type of content makes up the ad that is clicked (this is where a/b testing can make an impact)

UTM Parameters: How to Track Clicks of Job Applicants [own figure]
UTM Parameters: How to Track Clicks of Job Applicants [own figure]
When recruitment marketers are looking to determine the source of candidates with the highest Employee Lifetime Value (ELTV), for example, they might turn to UTM click data for answers. They can also use this data to shape future campaign parameters, including job title, location, Cost-per-Click (CPC) bid and more.

Best practices for setting up effective UTM parameters

Recruitment marketers can begin closely utilizing UTM parameters with a two-step process.

  1. Determining what to track. What purpose will click tracking serve, and what challenge will it solve in an organization? It’s wise to keep the answer to this simple and direct (i.e. to be more effective or efficient with marketing).
  2. Conducting an audit of existing tags. Building from any tags already in place, the next step involves creating or modifying tags that will help achieve the end goal.

The most important thing to remember when designing UTM parameters is to tag as often as possible. The idea is to maintain the broadest possible overview of campaign activity.

20/80: Insights that recruiters can derive from UTM parameters

UTM tags are an excellent source of data that recruiters can harness through variation testing. Examples of these possibilities include:

  • Job Titles – Setting up specific ‘term’ tags to identify how different job titles perform
  • Job Descriptions – Setting up similar tags to identify how main body copy performs
  • CTA buttons – Testing various call-to-action buttons that drive conversion
  • Sources & sub-sources – Alternating between sources in a standard ad format from a job board (utm_source=jb1) or a special ad format on the job board (utm_source=jb1_email). If buying from an ad network, then the sub-sources are identified (utm_source=jb1&utm_subsource=af2)
  • Keywords – Selecting specific search terms to display in a UTM tag (utm_keyword=driver) if the ad appears in search results

It is important to set up the UTM tags with your traffic provider/publisher and test it before starting a campaign.

Bottomline: Click tracking is essential for competitive recruitment campaigns. UTM parameters help recruitment marketers do it well.

While it may take time up front, creating a click tracking plan offers big payoffs in campaign optimization, resource allocation and ultimately, talent sourcing. Drawing from tried-and-true marketing techniques to measure applicant behavior results in more informed decision-making on HR teams, and subsequently improved campaign metrics across the board.


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

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