Recruitment metrics: Discover what is actually attracting candidates

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.

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