What the Heck is Programmatic Recruitment Advertising?

Men, suits, computer.

It’s ok if you’re not sure, or even if you’re not sure it’s right for you. But harnessing the power of programmatic can help recruiting and staffing agencies save time, save money, and find the best candidates for your clients. 

For years, recruiting and staffing agencies have waxed poetic about winning the war for talent. But these days, the war for talent is only a battle. We’re not only fighting for talent – we’re in a war for attention. 

And to win that war, ever greater numbers of recruiters and staffing professionals are turning to the power of programmatic recruitment advertising. 


If simply reading that phrase makes you nervous, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Even The Recruiting Future podcast host and recruiting luminary Matt Alder observes that, “Programmatic Advertising is something that seems to strike confusion into the heart of many employers around the world. 

But unless you’re a Ron-Swanson-style luddite, you almost certainly understand the concept, even if you don’t realize you’ve already seen it in action. 

Ron Swanson throws computer

Alternatively, even if you are familiar and comfortable with the ins-and-outs of programmatic job advertising, you may not consider it a recruiting method that makes sense for your organization, seeing it as a tool reserved for in-house talent acquisition pros who have the time, luxury, and treasure to build a lasting employer brand.  

But more and more, we’re seeing staffing companies and some cagey thirdparty recruiters adding programmatic job ads to their repertoire of highly effective recruiting techniques as part of a more scalable sourcing strategy. According to PandoLogic – a “talent acquisition solutions” provider that has been “pioneering programmatic recruitment advertising since 2007” – in 2018, 83 percent of organizations embraced programmatic recruitment and invested over $46 billion in the approach. And those numbers continue to grow. 

Below, we’ll dive into a working definition of programmatic advertising, its originshow it works, and how it benefits recruiting and staffing agencies of all sizes when used to promote job advertisements.  

Programmatic Recruitment Advertising and the War for Attention 

When your prospective candidates go online, think about how many news outlets, social media platforms, ecommerce stores and streaming services – to name only a few of the more than a billion websites that exist as of January 2021 – are competing for their attention. And then imagine how many advertisements and “click here” or “read more” buttons exist on each of those sites. 

There are billions upon billions of little pieces of content competing to steal your prospective candidate’s attention away from that job ad you just shelled out to place. 

So, if you want to get that candidate’s attention focused on your online job ad, you have a few options: 

  • Spend an insane amount of money to make sure your ad appears on all the sites your prospective candidate visits. (The “spray and pray” approach.) 
  • Buy a traditional time based job ad on a job board or similar site and hope that the candidate you want is actively looking. 


Sounds pretty good, right? But what does that mean, exactly? And where did this approach and technology come from? 

What i“Programmatic Advertising? 

Has your Aunt Linda ever told you about how she was just looking at new cat toys on the internet this morning, and now she’s seeing ads for cat toys on every site she visits? Can you believe that coincidence? 

Aunt Linda Kristen Wiig

Well, Aunt Linda, that’s no coincidence; that’s just one small facet of programmatic advertising, to which programmatic recruitment advertising can trace its roots.  

Programmatic advertising” got its start in the early 2000s, and much of its present-day ubiquity can be pinned on the initial success of Google AdWords (now the 800lb gorilla of the programmatic advertising world). 

Before programmatic advertising, digital ads were bought and sold by human ad buyers and salespeople, which made digital ad buys expensive and inefficient. Ad space was purchased on specific websites, and marketers had to bid against each other to buy ads on the sites they saw as the most relevant and valuable. But there was no way to ensure the right users were being reached, so marketers bought ad space wherever they thought users were most likely to spend their timeagain, the “spray and pray” approach. 


Not long after that, ad networks allowed marketers to buy ads that they’d distribute across a collection of specific websites and/or – as with Google AdWords – place ads on search results pages, targeting potential customers by serving ads that matched their search queries. Eventually, ads could be targeted based on the demographic data collected on specific internet userson the records of those users’ search queries, and on their online behavior. And not only that; marketers could set an automatic bid limit for those ad buys, meaning that the manual bidding on ad space was eliminated and replaced by a computer that was always looking for the best deal in real time and updating bids in a fraction of a second without overspending. 

As for Aunt Linda’s cat toys an important part of programmatic advertising is “retargeting,” or the ability to record a user’s interest in a service or product and then serve that user ads related to that product or service virtually wherever they go on the internet. Basically, Aunt Linda looked at a cat toy on a website of an ecommerce store that tracked her behavior, then the marketing team at that ecommerce store tracked her behavior and sent her ads for cat toys right after she’d viewed their products, hoping she’d eventually make a purchase. 

In this example, the cat toy people are using programmatic advertising to surface exactly the right cat toy advertisement to Aunt Linda at exactly the right time. 

Programmatic advertising also makes ad buying more efficientcheaper and less time intensive, ensuring only the users most likely to purchase are served ads, and those ads only appear when the cost to show them falls within your pre-set advertising budgetThis allows marketers to spend more time working on other important projects, rather than spending time bidding on ad space across the internet.

For those who really want to nerd out on programmatic advertising, this video from the Interactive Advertising Bureau does a great job explaining its benefits and how it works.

Ok. But what’s Programmatic Recruitment Advertising? 

If you guessed that programmatic recruitment advertising makes sure your job ads are seen by the right candidates on the right sites at the right time – thereby helping you win the war for their attention – go ahead and pat yourself on the back.


And, just like programmatic advertising used by marketersit optimizes your recruitment advertising through the use of online data collection, targeted job ads and automated real-time bidding – and not just on job boards, but all over the internet.  

It eliminates inefficient processes and unnecessary cost, and automatically posts your ads on multiple relevant sites to reach the most qualified talent. And it makes cost-effective and time-saving recruitment ad buy decisions faster than you can say, “Wow. That saved me a lot of time and money!” 

Additionally, programmatic recruitment advertising allows recruiting and staffing agencies to test and measure job ad success, adjusting their approach – sometimes automatically, with changes made by aalgorithm – tcontinually improve performance and ROI. Generally, when recruiters need to step in and make a change, performance enhancement requires only minor adjustments that can be implemented quickly and result in significant improvements. 

How Programmatic Recruitment Advertising Helps Recruiting and Staffing Agencies – A Recap 

Soprogrammatic recruitment advertising makes sure job ads are placed where they are most likely to be seen by the most appropriate candidates via automatic adjustments to where and when they are posted, (and, sometimes, even how they are worded).  

The approach benefits recruiting and staffing agencies by: 

  • Helping agencies place job ads where they’ll be seen by relevant candidates, focusing ads where they’ll attract appropriate talent. 
  • Maximizing ROI on job ad spends by automatically selecting the most logical ad placements for greater efficiency. 
  • Optimizing job ad performance via continual – and often automatic – testing and adjustment. 
  • Saving your recruiting and staffing teams the time they’d otherwise be spending on manual, timebased job ad placements on traditional job boards. 

Iall-programmatic the future of online recruitment? 

Programmatic recruitment advertising has already been a hot topic in the recruiting and staffing industries for the past few years. And given its many benefits, it’ll almost certainly continue to grow in popularity. 

If your recruiting or staffing agency has yet to experiment with programmatic recruitment advertising, the barrier to entry is low, and the approach will likely improve your time to hire without impacting your ad budget. In fact, if you’ve been using the “spray and pray” approach until now, it’ll probably save you money! 

Beyond that, because of its potential for a clinical, highly targeted approach, programmatic recruitment advertising can truly help you win war for attention. And, most importantly within the staffing and recruiting industries, it’ll help you win the battle for the right talent at the right moment. 


Some of Our Favorite Programmatic Job Advertising Platforms 

If you’re looking for a programmatic recruitment advertising partner, these industry leaders can get you off on the right foot: 


Appcast – Appcast’s award-winning programmatic technology and world-class team make it easy to find qualified candidates for all your open jobs.” And we love their tagline: No more guessing. No more stressing. Just exceptional results.  Not to mention the fact that Appcast is directly integrated with Crelate to help you scale up your recruitment advertising through Crelate as efficiently as possible.

recruitics – The good folks over at recruitics bill their company as a “data-centric recruitment marketing agency,” and profess (in a really long sentence) that their award-winning programmatic job advertising technology targets your ideal candidates, distributes your jobs to an extensive network of partner websites and gets you the applicants you need – all using a performance-based (pay-per-click or pay-per-application) approach, giving you more control of your recruitment advertising budget to get the best ROI.” Also, their company name is a portmanteau, which is always a good sign. *ahem* 

PandoLogic – Referenced above. According to PandoLogic’s PandoExchange website, their programmatic job advertising platform “can drive more candidate traffic for your advertisers with access to PandoLogic’s unique network of sites – TheJobNetwork – and maximize ROI on job ad spend through AI enabled real-time bidding. 


Talentify – Among the tools they offer to talent pros, Talentify says they help recruiting and staffing agencies, “spend smarter when advertising on channels you already have by adding our Programmatic Algorithms.”  

Take a look, and see if any of these platforms can help you harness the power of programmatic recruitment advertising. 

And learn How to Build an Effective Recruiting Metrics Program with our free e-book. 

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