Written by Nathan Hewitt

Recruitment metrics: Discover what is actually attracting candidates through attribution

Recruitment marketing attribution | Sapia Ai recruitment software

Let’s begin with the obvious: Good talent is in high demand and short supply. Candidates have become discerning shoppers, more aware of their worth than in recent market cycles. 

As a result, the onus is on us to change the way we source candidates and generate demand for our company. It’s no longer a case of boosting job ads across a few different channels; to court the best people, we need to focus on strategies that build meaningful and beneficial connections over the longer term. Today, branding, Employee Value Proposition (EVP), messaging, positioning, and creative differentiation are more important than ever.

Here are some questions you and your team may be asking:

  • How do we best promote our business as the one to work for?
  • How strong is our brand? 
  • What is our content strategy (Or: What do we say, when/how/why and to whom do we say it)?
  • How do we revitalize our Employee Value Proposition (EVP)?
  • How do we reach the best candidates in new and memorable ways?

The essence of new-school recruitment marketing

Summarized in a single phrase, your best recruitment marketing strategy is this: Add value. Sounds simple, but it does need some unpacking.

Take this recent episode of’s Pink Squirrels! podcast, in which we spoke with Jennifer Paxton, VP of People at Jen has taken an always-on approach to talent acquisition by being active as a content creator on LinkedIn. Jen regularly posts helpful tidbits and articles about people leadership, employee engagement, career development, and plenty of other topics. In doing so, she is also able to organically (and indirectly) promote the virtues of 

Here’s what’s neat about this: Jen is promoting Smile whether she references Smile or not. If you’ve built a dedicated audience, and that audience sees your other associations, they are much more likely to look favourably on those associations than if you mentioned them overtly or if they came upon the association in a different context (e.g., a display ad on LinkedIn). That’s good marketing.

According to Jen, this has been a big success for Smile, because she is constantly engaged in the process of creating and fostering good relationships with potential employees. Today, they may simply be followers and consumers of her content; tomorrow, they may be teammates. When a vacancy opens up, Jen has more tactics up her sleeve than merely boosting job ads. Her first (and best) option is to put a call out to her always-growing network of engaged professionals.

What Jen does is not necessarily easy – it requires dedication and consistency – but it is simple. It’s about adding value as a people leader, and creating a first-hand connection with the market. Everyday customer facetime is truly invaluable, and for Jen, it’s certainly working.

If you want to learn more about how you can lead recruitment marketing through an always-on content strategy, you can also check out this Pink Squirrels! episode with Russell Ayles, a veteran recruiter and LinkedIn Top Voice for 2022.

The challenge of recruitment marketing attribution

Here’s the rub: If you’re having to do all these new things over a long period of time to prime and court the talent you want, how do you know what’s working? For example, if it takes six months, at minimum, to build and execute a recruitment content strategy, how will you know in month two or month four how things are tracking?

Trickier still, when your CEO or CHRO asks to report on outcomes, what will you tell them? What level of analysis is suitable for stakeholders at that level? How do you reconcile the need for patience with the performance pressures of the executive?

This conundrum is the main reason most companies don’t bother with an add-value strategy, even when their talent pools have dried into a puddle. After all, the ‘boost-your-job-ad’ method still yields concrete and easily-understandable numbers, even if those numbers are bad.

Going new-school with recruitment marketing requires a bit of faith, supplemented by regular analysis of the signals of success. So let’s look at one of the biggest signals for success: Self-reported attribution.

Ask your candidates: How did you hear about us?

Seems far too simple to be useful, doesn’t it? In actuality, this one question can inform the success and evolution of your entire recruitment marketing strategy. It’s not a quantitative metric, of course, not as black-and-white as your abandonment rate or NPS metrics, but the insights can be truly transformative. Here’s how it works.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say your team has decided on a three-pronged strategy:

  • All talent acquisition leaders will start posting on LinkedIn, three times a week, according to a pre-set content plan.
  • The Head of Talent Acquisition/CHRO, the CEO, and the company’s marketing leader will create a twice-monthly podcast on an area of interest related/adjacent to the business (for e.g., if you’re a retail fashion brand, you might consider a podcast on the principles of design, or merchandising, or upcycling).
  • The regional Community Manager will take tidbits from the podcast and post them on Twitter daily, alongside a bunch of other fun and light content suited to the medium.

Three tactics, three different channels. Now, to track the ongoing health of these measures, you might look at the following metrics on a monthly basis:

  • Trending traffic to website/careers page
  • Increase in social media followers
  • Increase in podcast shares

And plenty others besides. But, crucially, you should also add a field to the form you use as a first step in a job application: A free-text field with a simple, mandatory question: How did you hear about us?

(Ensure that, in form design, you don’t lead the candidate in any way. Don’t have any pre-text in the field (saying something like ‘e.g., Seek’). You want unbiased results.)

You’ll be amazed at what you can learn. Some candidates will offer you vague and unhelpful responses (like ‘Internet’), but over the medium term, you should start to see trends emerge. For example, if a great many of your good candidates are hearing about you through the podcast, they will tell you, and you will come away with hard numbers showing which of your long-term brand-building strategies is working best.

After six months, you’ll start to see more candidates. And you’ll see the following (for e.g.):

  • 30% of candidates say they heard about you through LinkedIn
  • 40% will say they heard about you through the podcast
  • 10% will say Twitter
  • 20% might cite some other channel, like referrals

This kind of recruitment marketing attribution is helpful because it is simple, it is highly indicative (both of past performance and future improvements), and it is compatible with the reality of the market we’re in. Right now, the majority of candidates aren’t looking for work with you – but they are looking for useful, valuable, enjoyable content. It may be a six-month journey from awareness to application readiness, and you should be with them along that journey, helping, educating, informing.

If, instead, you get stuck looking at the ROI of job ad boostings, or even the success of individual pieces of content, you’ll be led astray by the data. In isolation, individual customer touchpoints do not help you iterate. In fact, they will have you doing something different every week. You’ll confuse your audience, see limited success, get frustrated, and quit.

Channels, conversely, paint a picture of customer consumption behaviors and traffic patterns. They show, over time, that your presence is of net benefit.

The best part about self-reported attribution? You can start doing it now, without making any changes, and start to capture data about your activity and brand strength to date.

Give it a try.


Hiring automation: It’s Time To Use Your Words

This Recruiter Says How You Write and What You Write Can Tell an Employer a Great Deal About Your Fit.

Barbara Hyman believes the most important skill for people looking for a job in the post-COVID world will be the ability to write.

“People who think clearly, write clearly,’’ says the chief executive of the artificial intelligence-powered recruiting firm Sapia, which judges its candidates on the most basic of skills.

The firm, which has big-name backers including Myer family member Rupert Myer, former Aconex founder turned venture capitalist Leigh Jasper, fund manager Dion Hershan and former JB Were partner Sam Brougham, gives every job candidate a first interview by asking them five text-based behavioural questions on their phone that take around 20 minutes to answer.

Then the company’s predictive models assign a “suitability” score to each candidate using over 80 features extracted from their responses and the system specifically precludes the use of names, gender and age to determine the recommended shortlist, removing unconscious bias from the recruitment process.


The company’s technology has already been used by 400,000 candidates looking for roles in retail, healthcare, customer service, hospitality, contact centres and graduate and trainee roles across 34 countries.

Its clients include Qantas, Bunnings, the Iceland Group grocery chain in the UK and Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica.

But Hyman says her biggest target client in the post-COVID world is government.

She believes the economy can only be sustainably reactivated through large-scale job security and that requires redeploying existing skillsets to meet in-demand industries.

“This requires a sophisticated and scaleable solution to find jobs for those whose industries have been decimated by the pandemic and have no jobs to return to. Our solution can immediately activate these job seekers into the new economy, steering them to the jobs they will be good at, she says.

She claims if the government activated this sort of technology for a range of growth industries the economic and social impact would be unprecedented.

“In a healthy economy, the cost benefit in Australia alone is $1bn net benefit (cost) for every 100,000 workers that get back to work one month earlier through reduced welfare payments and increased consumer spending. That is significantly higher when accounting for government subsidies as a result of COVID,” she says.

“A big part of getting back to work is the confidence and the mindset. We are exploring different avenues to allow people to use our chat bot to find their true role in the new economy. This is the vision we are trying to sell to government – you have your own personalised career coach that helps you find the ideal role.”

Hyman said one of the company’s big-name backers Rupert Myer, the chair of the Australia Council for the Arts and an emeritus trustee of The National Gallery of Victoria, had given her “amazing introductions” into the government and university sectors.

“When I came into the business in February 2018 it was running out of money. I had to get a bunch of the existing investors to support me,’’ says Hyman, a former chief human resources officer at REA Group and a human resources and marketing director at Boston Consulting.

Her data science leader at Sapia is Sri Lankan-born Buddhi Jayatilleke, who has a diverse background in machine learning, software engineering and academic research.

The firm has raised $4m in the past 2 years, including bringing in Australian global recruitment and talent management firm Hudson as a strategic investor last year.

“That gave us credibility because the number two recruitment firm in the market believes in what we are doing,’’ Hyman says.

“Whether you like it or not, there is enormous amount we can learn about you in 200 words. Just the very fact we don’t use any secret or behavioural data, you have to build trust from the beginning with your candidate. The completion rates are 95 per cent, the engagement rates are 99 per cent. But the key point is when we give you back your feedback. It is effectively a public service we are performing with this feedback.”

One of the firm’s initial backers was Rampersand, the venture capital firm which has a focus on early growth stage tech businesses.

Rampersand co-founder Paul Naphtali says the firm invested in Sapia for its ability to put data at the centre of a company’s people strategy.

“It’s a massive challenge for a start-up to aggregate the data and build the algorithms that can identify an individual’s suitability to a role quickly and accurately. It was a bold and ambitious plan from the beginning, and Sapia is now well on its way to becoming that data-centric engine,’’ he says.

“The company started with working to turbocharge the recruitment process by quickly identifying the right talent for the right roles.

“It’s taken time to build the tech and the data sets, but it’s paying off as a number of Australia’s leading companies now have Sapia as a default part of the process.”

He says the firm is now entering a new phase “where it also powers internal people management as well as for job seekers, which is obviously very relevant in the current environment”.

Recently in London Sapia was awarded the TIARA Talent Tech Star which honours the businesses globally in the talent acquisition industry.

Source: DAMON KITNEY, The Australian, October 30, 2020

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AI uncovers potential ‘Job-Hoppers’

The language candidates use in conversation can reliably indicate their propensity to ‘job hop’, new research shows.

Sapia, which uses text-based communication to interview candidates, has uncovered a correlation between candidate language and job churn that is “stronger than what you would find normally in traditional psychometric testing of job-hopping”, says CEO Barbara Hyman.

HEXACO Personality Model & Job Hopping

Similar to its recent study measuring candidate personality traits, researchers used data from 46,000 job applicants who completed an online chat interview and used the six-factor HEXACO personality model to analyse responses.

The HEXACO traits are honesty-humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness (versus anger), conscientiousness, and openness to experience.

The ‘openness to experience’ trait has long been considered in organisational psychology circles as an indicator of job-hopping, and this has been reinforced by Sapia’s research, says Hyman

“Low agreeableness also correlates with people who may move and look for better opportunities,” she adds.

Analysing candidates’ responses to determine their job-hopping likelihood is especially useful for many entry-level roles, where people do not have prior experience on their CV.

“We know ‘flight risk’ or staff churn is a really big problem for our customers, particularly those who hire at volume into low-skilled roles. For them to be able to identify this upfront and avoid or minimise it was really valuable,” Hyman says.

And, from the candidate’s point of view, “we’re seeing a real craving and an appetite for understanding yourself and understanding where your strengths are best placed”, she adds.

The researchers also note further work is required to assess the true predictive validity of the outcome – that is, establishing the correlation between inferred job-hopping likelihood and actual job-hopping behaviour.

Addressing bias

Sapia has also incorporated the job-hopping measurement into its algorithms to provide this additional information to recruiters, says Hyman.

Importantly, however, “we don’t automatically discount someone who has a high job-hopping likelihood; it’s just another data point you get to look at”.

For some employers and roles, the ‘openness to experience’ trait is generally desirable, Hyman says.

“In investment banking, you want people who are comfortable with looking outside of the box and being really curious and questioning,” she says by way of example.

She stresses the intention is to allow recruitment decision-makers to use the technology as a “co-pilot, not an autopilot”.

Read more here: When used properly, data amplifies inclusive hiring.

Barbara Hyman, Shortlist, Thursday 27 August 2020 2:20 pm

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How the contrast principle is messing with your job interviews

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, author Bob Cialdini explains how the contrast principle can unfairly distort our perceptions of quality and value. By comparing a really good thing to something that is just okay, we tend to judge the latter as far worse than it is. It works the other way, too: when presented with a host of bad options, the best of the bunch – the lesser of all the evils – looks disproportionately attractive.

Cialdini gives us myriad examples: Realtors who show you a couple of dingy properties to make the target property look better, and retail salespeople who suggest a really expensive coat to get you to settle for the cheaper belt. The principle also turned a series of bad management decisions into the Watergate incident, if you can believe that.

It doesn’t stop there, however. The contrast principle is a natural and inextricable part of the traditional face-to-face interview.

Comparing the gregarious extravert with the soft-talking introvert

Janie is bright, exuberant, and chatty. The interview starts strongly. She strides proudly into your office, hand outstretched, smiling warmly. Her clothes are fashionable. Her resume is colourful and well-designed. You like her right away, as does everyone, because she’s a ray of sunshine. She probably plays the harp and makes her own muesli.

The interview goes well. Janie knows what to say, and because she is extraverted, she knows how to deftly circumvent tricky technical questions. There’s a slight concern in the back of your mind that she is not sufficiently experienced, but you figure that her outgoing, can-do attitude will more than make up for that (and you might be right).

Alice is your next appointment. She’s a lot quieter than Janie. She speaks a lot less, too. Her smile is genuine, and she is perfectly well spoken, but Alice is clearly nervous. Her manner is cautious, full of apprehension. 

You notice that her resume is excellent. Ticks all the right boxes. She’s a veteran in the field. But there’s something amiss: She’s just not like Janie. As a result, you’re probably not going to call her back for a second interview.

This is one of the most common ways the contrast principle plays out: If the second candidate does not match the energy of the first, if her presence does not illicit the same rise in dopamine, then we are likely to favour the first candidate. Objectivity quickly goes out the window.

Here are some other examples of how the contrast principle affects hiring

  • We are more likely to hire people who look, sound, or think like us. So, resultantly, we might rank a candidate higher than they deserve in comparison to others.
  • We spend so long looking for a candidate to fill a role that we lower our standards over time, and give later candidates more leeway than we do earlier ones.
  • Multiple candidate rejections may lead hiring managers to relent and accept a less-than-perfect candidate. This is an example of the contrast principle and  the reciprocity rule working together (that is, multiple rejections make the hiring manager more likely to concede and accept a lesser decision, in order to appear more cooperative to those doing the talent hunting).

How to remove the contrast principle from your hiring process

There are many suggestions out there for mitigating or removing the contrast principle, but the truth is this: If humans do your face-to-face interviews, you cannot prevent the potential for contrast bias. Even conducting what’s called a ‘blind resume review’ will not help. Yes, you can assess resumes stripped of identifying characteristics, like race or gender, but you cannot account for the fact that the details themselves are easily doctored and falsified. Don’t forget that 78% of people lie.

The bottom line is this: You need a blind, non-human smart interviewer to do your first-round interviewing for you. It’s the only way to be free of biases, compromise hires, and the intractable likeability factor. We can help with that.

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