In this episode of JobBoardGeek , Jeff Dickey-Chasins goes BOGO and interviews his co-host, Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter - also known as a guy who lives and breathes programmatic job advertising. Steven delves into pay per click, pay per application, what programmatic actually is - and why a job board might use it (or not). Don't miss this chance to learn more than perhaps you cared to know about the world of programmatic advertising - and find out why employers are using it even when they don't realize they are!
0:00:01.1 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hello folks, and welcome to JobBoardGeek, we're the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I'm Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the Job Board Doctor. And I'm here today with our co-host and the person that we're actually gonna be talking to for the rest of the podcast, Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. Hello, Steven, how are you doing?
0:00:24.0 Steven Rothberg: I am doing well, and it's such an honor to be a buy one, get one.
0:00:29.8 JD: That's right. It's BOGO day on the JobBoardGeek Podcast. What could be better?
0:00:36.5 SR: Another guest would be better.
0:00:38.3 JD: Yeah, well, this was the week where we didn't quite have the cache to bring someone else in, so we thought, well, let's just bring in Steven instead, 'cause he's already here. But anyway, we're gonna talk about programmatic, which I think is something that is near and dear to Steven's heart, it's certainly something that everyone is being touched by, even if you're not participating in it, but before we get into that, Steven, I just wanted to chat a little bit about something that has really been an outcome of the pandemic over the last year and a half, which is remote work. Of course, remote work has been around forever, the job board doctor here has been being remote for over a decade, as are a number of people in our audience as are you, and the remote work moved out to all sorts of different segments of people in the economy that have probably never done it because their employer wouldn't allow it, or because it just wasn't something they had thought about. It's like some of the other things that I've seen happen in the labor market over the last 15, 20 years, this is gonna be a change that I don't think is gonna go away, but it's gonna be a change that's unevenly distributed, I think we're already starting to see the rubber band pop back for on the employer side.
0:01:53.2 JD: I saw a survey the other day saying something like, only about 30% of employers planned to offer remote working as an ongoing option for their employees, even though it was a much higher percentage that we're taking advantage of it during the depth of the pandemic. And I suspect that what we're gonna see is if you're highly skilled, highly valued in demand, or if you're high up in the organization, remote work is gonna be an easy thing for them to offer, but if you're what they consider to be lower skilled or not so high up in the organization, maybe you don't get remote work as an option. What are your thoughts about this?
0:02:30.1 SR: Yeah, I hear what you're saying, and I would put it a little bit of a different way. I think we're saying the same thing, but in different ways. To me, it's not so much about the skill level, it's about the kind of work that you do, and I definitely do agree with you that the seniority is and will continue to come into play. It's one thing for the CEO or executive suite to say that they are going to work remotely or that they're gonna have a hybrid where they're, maybe come into the office every Thursday. It's another thing for the control freaks amongst them, to say the same thing applies throughout the organization. One of the struggles that a lot of employers, really the managers within those companies have had over this last couple of years, is the threat to their ability to control their workforce, it's very feudal in my mind, not feudal without hope, but feudal as in the feudal system where basically people were slaves.
0:03:32.2 JD: Medieval.
0:03:34.4 SR: Medieval. Yeah, and I can understand why a manager who is not good at managing by outcomes wants to have his or her employees under their thumb, because that's the only way that that manager knows how to get those people to be productive. Boy, I tell you, at College Recruiter, we have been fully remote since 1997, we were remote in an era where we had to pretend that we weren't for years. If a customer vendor were to find out that we were fully remote back in 1997, they would not have taken us seriously. So there are organizations like ours, and a lot of people within organizations that no longer have to pretend that they go to a "real office" people now understand that you can do real work and you can be a real vendor customer partner, even though your office is 12 feet from your bedroom.
0:04:33.1 JD: Yeah, you can be a real boy after all these years.
0:04:37.8 SR: We no longer have to be Pinocchio.
0:04:41.1 JD: Right. At least some of our audience, hopefully will get that reference. But yeah, it's interesting. We'll see how it plays out over the long term. I can promise you that Job Board Doctor LLC will continue to be and always has been remote. And so with that, I'm gonna move on to the real topic of this podcast, which is programmatic. And I think having you Steven, talk about this is really I think it's gonna be really useful for our listeners because you've gone the whole journey, I mean, you've kind of gone from essentially having a very... I wouldn't say a very traditional, but a traditional job board with a focus on duration-based postings to where you are today, which is a thing that's very, very much a pay for performance. So just to get us started, why don't you talk a little bit about some definitions, what do we mean when we talk about a pay-per click model, for example?
0:05:34.4 SR: Sure, sure. At a very high level, way too many people, including a lot of people in our industry who sort of know better, they'll talk about programmatic, they'll talk about pay-per click, they'll talk about performance-based as if it's all the same thing and it's not. So I think it's really good that you and I, before we really even get into any details, to sort of differentiating between the terms. Pay per-click, in my mind, there are two main definitions of it, one is the definition that at College Recruiter that we use. What we use is the, I think, the most widely accepted industry standard, so let me start with that one first.
0:06:18.9 SR: The click that the employer or other customer advertising agency, job distributor, job board that might send you the job, but the click that we're talking about there is when the candidate sees the posting on your site and then clicks, maybe they click an Apply button, they click on the job title, but they click to go over to the customer's site, to whatever URL the web page address that that customer has provided to you, so for example, if we have a hotel that advertises a job with us, the candidate sees the job on College Recruiter and they say, "Okay, this is a job that I'm interested in." They're inclined to apply, but they're not applying, they click our submit button or Apply button, and then they go over to the hotels career site, typically their applicant tracking system, that's the click.
0:07:08.1 SR: They have not applied, they just percentage-wise, probably won't apply, 90, 95% of clicks to employer websites do not turn into applications. We can differentiate that, the click from a cost per application model, and that is the candidate not only clicks, but they also apply, a lot of times those applications happen on the employer's website for the job board owners out there, you better be sure that the employer has good people that you can trust and that they have good systems that you can trust both, because otherwise their systems might be really good and track those applications, but if the people are sleaze balls, they're going to under-report to you the number of applications that you've generated and that's theft.
0:07:58.0 SR: At the same time, sometimes we've had good people, but the systems are crap, the candidates have to self-identify their source, for example. In any case, if the candidate applies on the job board or if the candidate applies on the employer's site, that would be a cost per application model.
0:08:15.0 JD: So I'm kind of curious, the minute you said sleaze balls, a number of people I've worked with in the past came to mind, and I was just sort of thinking, how common is this in the industry. Let's just limit it purely to pay per click, how common is it for a job board to be stuck in a situation where maybe some of the interactions are fraudulent or even just iffy?
0:08:40.6 SR: For us, it's so uncommon. I can't think of the last time it happened.
0:08:46.0 JD: Oh, that's good.
0:08:48.0 SR: Yeah, that said, if you're trusting an employer to do things like look through their web logs or sort of manually be running some kind of a report, that would be very concerning to me. If you're dealing with one of the largest aggregators, you're likely safe, because they are almost all in it for the long term, and they know that if they under-report clicks or applications to you, you're gonna make less money, you're gonna be less likely to continue to work with them, and so they're really losing money within months. It really is a very, very short side of things. So it's almost unheard of. If there's a reporting issue with a large aggregator, it's almost always accidental or a technical problem. I would not trust the vast majority of direct employers that are using just like off-the shelf technology, like their applicant tracking system to pull a report and say how many applications you're gonna get, because those systems just weren't built for that, that the people aren't gonna be properly trained, the process they follow is probably way out of the norm for what they're usually doing, and just trying to hire people.
0:10:07.8 SR: The technology isn't good. The biggest red flag to me when we're looking at a potential employer that wants to pay us on a performance basis, inevitably they come to us, they'll say, "We'll pay you per application or more commonly per hire." And it's thanks, but no, thanks. And because their systems are rarely fully automated, it's very rare where an employer will just be able to kick out a report that shows you exactly how many people applied where the candidate does not have to self-identify. We have a blog article on our site about the problems with self-identification, where the candidate has to get a drop down on the ATS and say how they heard about you, and it was a study done a decade ago or something like that. It's something like 83% of candidates do not accurately identify themselves, so if it's at all manual, just run away.
0:11:00.9 JD: That makes total sense. So talk to me about programmatic and what is programmatic and how does programmatic fit into this world of CPA, CPC, etcetera, etcetera.
0:11:11.5 SR: Yeah, So programmatic is often used in conjunction together with performance-based pricing, with cost per click, cost per application, maybe cost per hire, but they're different. You can have programmatic without performance-based advertising, you can have performance-based advertising without programmatic, so example, you're an employer and you have five job slots on LinkedIn, you could use programmatic technology to look at the jobs on your career site, on your ATS to determine which jobs should go to LinkedIn and for what period of time. Send a job to LinkedIn for up to 10 days or 50 applications, whichever comes first, and then automatically take down that job and send the next job. That would be programmatic without being performance-based. Programmatic at the end of the day just means that a human has sat down and written rules that a computer can understand and has the computer making those rules. So rather than a recruiter or a talent acquisition coordinator or somebody on a daily basis, maybe even hourly, deciding what jobs to run and where, and for how long, they've input those rules in advance into software, so the software is making those decisions day by day, hour by hour, that's programmatic.
0:12:33.4 JD: An example of how you might be able to access programmatic and set up your own rules in terms of... If you're running your job board and you want to take advantage of this, you might work with a company like Appcast that has essentially has built software that allows you to set up these rules and do the distribution and do the reporting.
0:12:53.5 SR: Yeah. Some of the ones that we work with Appcast, which has different sizes of their business, but part of it is Appcast, they also have a product called Clickcast, which we use to send some of the jobs that are posted to our site to what we call publishers, which are sites that run "our jobs," they're not really our jobs, they're employers jobs, but we send them out and then we do a revenue share with those other job boards on that, Joveo, PandoLogic, JobAdX, those are all very commonly used programmatic platforms, and the vast majority of job boards that are working with them are going to pay what are called publishers, the sites that are generating the candidate traffic, they're gonna pay them on usually a pay-per-click basis. Increasingly, it's cost per application, like an increasing minority of the activity is cost per application.
0:13:46.7 JD: Okay, that's interesting. And I will say, I've been doing surveys of job board trends for over a decade now, and probably 2014 or so, I started asking questions about, are you going to offer, as a job board, are you gonna offer pay-per-click options to your employers, and then a few years ago, I started asking, "Are you going to offer programmatic advertising options to your employers and do you use programmatic to enhance response to jobs on your site?" The adoption rate, at least among the respondents, has gone up over the years, it's not a dramatic increase. When I go to industry shows a number of years ago, people will be predicting, "Oh, 2020," 100% of the market will be programmatic. At least that's not what I've seen in terms of job board self-reporting, perhaps it is somewhere, but it doesn't seem to be on planet Earth at this point. But it's definitely increasing and depending on who you're talking to and how you look at it, maybe 20% of the market at this point, maybe 25%, but there are... I will say, Steven, one of the things I've seen is that there seemed to be some differences of adoption rate, which isn't really surprising between sites in North America versus sites in Europe versus sites in Southeast Asia.
0:15:07.6 JD: So adoption rates in Southeast Asia are strong, they haven't been around as long, but the growth is strong adoption rates in Europe. My report said actually there was a higher adoption rate than here in North America, we were talking about this early that that may have been a fault in my survey that maybe we needed to have more data, but all I can do is look at the survey and say, "Well, this year it says they're higher." So I think that's interesting. But it's like a lot of what happens I've seen, and that's why I've been interested about your take on what programmatic is and what it offers to job boards and who employers is because even though these technologies roll through, adoption rates always seem to drag because I think employers, to a lesser degree, job boards are inherently conservative about adopting new technologies until they fully understand what they could do, I don't know. What's your two cents on that?
0:16:05.6 SR: I totally agree. I think if you were to ask a typical job board that says, we're not using programmatic, if you were to ask them, "Are you sending some or maybe even all of your jobs to another job board to help drive more traffic, to... " ZipRecruiter does a lot of that, for example. I bet most of those job boards that are telling you that they're not using programmatic would answer yes, we are sending our jobs to ZipRecruiter, the answer to the programmatic question therefore is yes, because even though the job board itself doesn't own the programmatic technology, ZipRecruiter is programmatically driving traffic to those jobs, and so if ZipRecruiter is your vendor and you're essentially outsourcing your programmatic job ad distribution to them, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, I'm just saying that I think that there might be a bit of a disconnect that some people in the industry might think they're not doing programmatic, they actually are. I see that when we talk to employers, if you talk to any, any Fortune 1000 company and ask them, "Are you using programmatic technology?" Chances are, they're gonna say no.
0:17:22.3 SR: And if you say to them, "Are you posting jobs to LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, College Recruiter? Just about any of the higher traffic job sites, and we're not in that group with those three, but we're certainly higher than a lot of others, those same employers would probably say, "Oh yeah, sure, we absolutely send jobs to LinkedIn, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, etcetera." Those sites are programmatically driving traffic to you, so even though you don't own the technology, you are using programmatic technology.
0:17:51.2 JD: Right. It's a bad analogy. But it would be like talking to someone who says, "Oh you know, I don't like computers. I never use computers," and you say, "Well, that's a new car, you have. Do you drive that car?" And they say, "Yeah." "Well, you know what, you're using a computer. You have a phone, you're using a computer." So, I totally hear that. I guess the final question I wanted to ask you, Steven, on this, and I think it's something that probably comes up at some point for almost everyone is what is programmatic most effective at in terms of the hiring employers and job boards versus what is at least effective at.
0:18:30.7 SR: Oh, that's a great question. So I guess maybe a good way of answering this is, what do you need for programmatic to work? One thing that's really necessary in order for programmatic to work is, and I'm thinking now about our audience, very much global, we don't have a huge number of listeners in Antarctica, but otherwise we're pretty well represented globally.
0:18:56.4 JD: We're working on it. We're working on it.
0:18:58.0 SR: Yeah, yeah, they're just... It's summer, there actually isn't? In order for a market, a region to have a good opportunity for a job board to succeed in programmatic, there has to be a fair number of job postings paying on a pay per click or pay per application basis. Yes, you can do the programmatic where you're sending jobs to a LinkedIn through job slots, but there's just not that much of that, and if your job board is gonna really go all in on programmatic, like we did at College Recruiter, there's just not enough of that activity, to really how to hang your hat on to succeed there, so the market itself, the niche that you're in, whether it's Malaysia or whether it's Africa, or whether it's sales executives or globally, whatever that market is. You've gotta have a decent amount of it. It doesn't have to be most, but it has to be enough that if you capture your fair share of that market that that's largely gonna be cost per click or cost per application, it has to be fragmented. If you're in one of those countries or in one of those niches where one or two job boards own the entire market, or 90% of it, that's gonna be pretty hard too, because it's unlikely that those job boards are gonna sell on a programmatic cost-per click basis, 'cause they'd rather sell a duration-based posting for $1200 a month, they're just gonna make more money that way, it's a monopoly or monopolistic kind of a market.
0:20:26.8 SR: But if you're in a market where one job board has say 60% and then you've got another 50 job boards that are sharing that remaining 40%, then that's fragmented enough that there's a good opportunity there, and then the other one is debatable. Chris Forman of Appcast talks about a hook into the AP, into the ATS, what I take away from what he's saying, and he's definitely one of the most knowledgeable people in this area, probably the most knowledgeable is, what he's talking about there is that you've gotta have a way of figuring out which of the clicks, which of the candidates that you're sending to that other job board, to that employer are quality. Quality typically means that that candidate has applied, maybe been interviewed, maybe even been hired but if you just send a whole ton of traffic, you don't really know what traffic is good, what traffic is bad, therefore you have a hard time figuring out what to sell, what not to sell, what traffic you wanna buy, what traffic you don't wanna buy.
0:21:25.5 SR: The expression that we use within College Recruiter, is that with programmatic money chases quality, and what we mean by that is if our customers, whether there are other job boards buying traffic from us, whether there are employers, but if they perceive the candidates that we're sending to them as being of quality, they're applying, they're being interviewed, they're being hired, then they will send more money to us than we can count, and so that's what we really need to see in order for programmatic to work well.
0:22:00.1 JD: Okay, very well said, Steven. I think that's an interesting analysis of the pros, and I'm not even sure I'd say the cons, the limitations of programmatic, which I think is... Which is sort of the way I look at a lot of these techniques that you have when you're thinking about how are you going to leverage response and make high quality response for your customers, for the employers, and also make sure that you have a high quality experience for the candidates, and that's basically you just wanna find the tools that do that, it's not necessarily as a tool, good or bad, it's does it achieve your objectives? Well, listen, Steven, I think that's about it for today. If people wanna get in touch with you and talk to you about programmatic or cost per click or CPA or anything else, how do they do that?
0:22:47.9 SR: Yeah, feel free to hit me up on LinkedIn, linkedin.com/in/stevenrothberg or just shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. It's been a pleasure, Jeff.
0:23:06.9 JD: Yes, likewise. Like I said, this is BOGO day on the JobBoardGeek podcast. We got a co-host and a guest all in the same human body, so I wanna remind everyone that they can subscribe to JobBoardGeek via our RSS feed or Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Deezer, Pandora, there's just a whole lot of ways that you can keep this content coming to you. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I'm the Job Board Doctor. You've been listening to JobBoardGeek, the podcast about connecting employers and candidates. This is it for today's show. So I'll be seeing you later. Have a great day. Bye.