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Ads, Automation and Recruiting

Ads, Automation and Recruiting - A Right Recruiting White Paper

Ads, Automation and Recruiting – A Right Recruiting White Paper

For every problem there is someone who wants to sell you a solution. Every day I hear about a new recruiting advertising website. Every day I get a new email about how I can automate my process to find new candidates. At best these are marginal tools and, at worst, they are a waste of money. Let me break both down separately below. The two keys points are:

  1. Advertising turns the candidate into supplicants. In this employment environment, good candidates won’t do that.
  2. Automation turns the candidate into a commodity. Human Resources people, of all disciplines, should never forget that recruitment is about people and people are not commodities. People know when they are being treated like cogs in a machine.


We stopped all job advertising 3 years ago and it was the best decision I ever made.

Recruitment advertising brings you the convenient candidate, but not the best candidate. We now fill more jobs more quickly by going back to basics and ignoring the static of advertising on websites. Here are some things to consider.

The perceived value of advertising websites is that they provide pre-screened candidates and give you a small, but targeted pool to choose from. Well, here is what one of our client’s found out.

We visited a fellow a few months ago. John owns a small, but growing business and wanted to expand from 2 locations to 4 locations. To do that successfully, he needed 2 General Managers. He was referred to us by a client of ours from his Vistage Group.

When we met, he told us about the ad he ran 2 months earlier. He was excited because he got 105 resumes. He looked through them and had 10 people who seemed to fit the job in some way. He contacted the 10 and 6 called him back. He interviewed 6 on the phone, tried to bring in 4 for physical interview. One declined. He interviewed 3 and ended up with 1 weak finalist. He called us. We filled the jobs for him in one month.

These are reasonably normal metrics for an ad – 100 responses to get 1 possible finalist.

Here are some things they don’t tell you when you sign your advertising contact.

  1. Every person who sees the ad that you pay for also see links for 5-8 other similar jobs at other firms. So, your potential candidate is immediately shifted to other employers’ opportunities as well. How does that help you? Your ad is urging them to also apply to other employers.
  2. Advertising websites make it very easy for people to reply to ads in bulk. That leads to people replying to every ad. Often your ad response will not have even looked at your posting. They respond to the title. Clients have often told us that half the people they contact don’t even know what ads they have actually responded to. Every resume you get was also sent to 10, 20 or more companies.
  3. Advertising websites often urge potential candidates to check out your firm’s ratings as an employer. Every disgruntled ex-employee is now accessible to your potential candidate pool. You’ve just paid money to someone who is promoting gossip about your firm. Super.
  4. Most websites give the candidate an estimated salary range for similar jobs. In my decades of recruiting, I have learned one thing – when you give a candidate a salary range, the only number they hear is the highest number. So, if you are paying $75K for a job that some algorithm says should be between $60K and $90K, why are you surprised when every candidate wants $90K? Your advertising vendor is working against you.

Most people are happily employed now. Ads don’t touch them at all. More aggressive recruitment styles have convinced good candidates that the job will come to them. Our candidate quality improved dramatically when we stopped advertising and instead relied on headhunting techniques for all of our projects. It also sped up the process. We had less static and could focus on the good candidates.

We are wrapping up a project for a client in Alabama now. They were seeking a Finance Director and their CFO contacted us because she knew us from her prior employer. She warned us that we would probably have to look outside the region because they had covered the local market with ads and got nothing. In 2 weeks, we had two local finalists, both very very excited about the job. There is no substitute for an aggressive, professional and knowledgeable recruitment approach.


This is an absolute fraud, with one exception. Automation vendors want you to spend money to buy software that will mine the web and social media and deliver your message directly to a candidate’s doorstep. It is basically a randomly targeted ad. In the last week, I have personally contacted by AI driven algorithms to apply for the following jobs:

  • VP of Transportation
  • Sales Manager for a Chemical Firm
  • Construction Manager
  • Food Service Director

I am not even remotely qualified for any of those jobs. This happens weekly.

Every one of them was an email that named a specific company that desperately wanted to speak to me personally about a job with the above title. The intention is to get me to believe that I was selected personally, which incents me to follow up and enter the candidate pool. Since I have no qualifications for 99% of the jobs sent to me, I have to conclude one of two things is in play:

  1. The same email is basically sent to 1,000’s or more people using almost random criteria.
  2. Whoever is doing the selecting, human or machine, has no real knowledge of the job and is using irrelevant criteria.

In either case, the job description is basically being spammed to as many people as possible in the remote hope it will catch the right person’s attention. You, as an employer, are specifically named in that email. How does that help your brand?

In either case, the job description is basically being spammed to as many people as possible in the remote hope it will catch the right person’s attention. You, as an employer, are specifically named in that email. How does that help your brand?

Back in the late 1980’s, I was one of the first people at my employer to get a PC as a recruiter. I bought a software package, built fields and added criteria for every person I spoke with, candidate or not. If we got an assignment for a Manufacturing Engineer, I could search for the criteria “mfg eng” and get the names/numbers of the hundreds that I had ever spoken to who were Manufacturing Engineers. They were at my fingertips to be called.

My billings increased by 50%. People noticed. I was tasked with training the other recruiters. Sadly, they were all disappointed because they wanted the computer (AI) to only spit out the few specific people for the job. They wanted the 3-4 people they could call with the right skills who were active at that moment. Who wants to call 100 people, I was told?

The world does not work that way. Candidates are active or passive depending on the quality of the job placed in front of them. Skills change over time – someone with no machining background a year ago may have moved to a machine shop environment since. Data becomes obsolete. My hundreds of calls to hundreds of Manufacturing Engineers is the definition of recruiting. Using AI to select candidates can’t factor the vagaries of titles/jobs into code. A Project Engineer at one firm may be a Process Engineer at another and a Manufacturing Engineer at a third. Some jobs require candidates from certain industries, certain size companies or certain cultures. That’s not code driven either. There is no real substitute for three things. And, these are the things that most candidates want from recruitment. 

  1. Human knowledge – human knowledge is the ability to explain the details of the position, employer and culture that your client represents. That does NOT mean read a script. It means explain and answer questions with a high degree of knowledge. Our pre-screens for jobs are at least 30 minutes and are a conversation, not a script reading.
  2. Human judgment – the ability to understand the candidate’s background in more than a buzzword manner. Knowing their industry, company culture and job function helps you explain your client’s job in greater detail and contrast.
  3. Human insight – the ability to point out the positives that the client might have for them personally. Last week, I spoke to someone with 8 years in aerospace about a job in the chemical industry. My first point to them was that another few years in aerospace would make it impossible to break into another industry. Now is the time to move unless they wanted to specialize. Pointing out that a 40 year old Plant Manager candidate would be reporting to a 64 year old Director Ops can say a lot about potential career tracks. Automation can’t do that, nor can a 25 year old temp reading a script.

 Recruitment is simple. You need:

  1. Someone with the judgment and knowledge to select as large as possible pool of relevant candidates
  2. Someone with enough knowledge of the client and the world at large to explain the job to the candidate pool positively and honestly
  3. Someone with enough maturity to be able to actually understand and explain the candidates’ personalities, skills and motivations to the client/employer/manager to help them make decisions. I once had a contact tell me that an internal recruiter told him a specific candidate was good at team building. When he asked how she knew that, he was told that it said it on the resume. Really, is there anyone alive who thinks they themselves are bad at team building? He found out that the recruiter had never actually spoken to the person.

You need people. Recruitment is people talking to people. The contact with the candidate is your representative and they will judge your firm based on the quality of that contact.

Lastly, remember I said there is one exception in which automation can be helpful. That’s, not surprisingly, is IT recruiting. IT skills are “hard” skills. You have a language or you don’t. You have a certification or you don’t. It’s less subjective than the traditional market and automation can be a helpful tool in selecting an appropriate candidate pool. If that’s your niche, there are tools for you using automation.

Of course, all this info is self-serving. I know that. After all, I own a recruiting firm. I don’t own a website and I don’t own an AI software company. But it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Please contact me directly to discuss and see how/if we can help your recruitment needs.

As ever – Jeff

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