Programmatic Advertising: Buzzword Breakdown

The current lifecycle of most jobs is pretty linear – write your post, spray and pray, see what comes back, repeat. That repeat step typically involves copying and pasting the same job description, posting on the same job sites and whining about the same ridiculous cost per applicant. Yet, we don’t change. It’s rare to hear about any distruption in that well-tested model.

It doesn’t help that we’re really just guessing when it comes to digitally advertising jobs. Most recruiters have 0 background on placing an ad, PPC, or even know what an impression really is. That leaves a lot of people guessing on where to advertise, what to say, where to be online and where to buy.  Then, the problem is compounded by blindly following lists and terrible webinar content versus doing our research or using the technology that’s available. I mean, the way you do things now works – at least eventually, right?

What we tend to forget by falling back on our fail-safe mantras is that our job ads are marketing our companies. They’re an opportunity in disguise, disguised by our philosophies and insistence that it’s “just a job.” The reality is that our job descriptions take passion and dull them into a bunch of adjectives and nouns that mean nothing to someone from the outside looking in. They focus on the work, not the demographic, psychographic and behavioral data that is so readily available with the addition of a few technology hacks like marketing pixels.

Science: Why Programmatic Ads Work

Shifting into a new mindset on marketing jobs starts with a scientific approach. What some might call an educated guess. Instead of researching “where to search for Java candidates,” it’s doing a search to find Java communities and comparing popularity. It’s about going to different corners of the cave and discovering new people versus following the path everyone else uses.

Then, it’s about testing that theory with marketing pixels (a little slice of code that tracks where people go from your site) to prove a strategy and see that someone is actually doing what we expect them to do and if not, where they’re going instead. It’s about refining and retargeting instead of using the same recycled model. We’re tapping into a data set that can help us make better budgeting decisions when it comes down to the whole “spray and pray” job distribution method.

Using just this top level data, we can make decisions. We can start to track paths and understand where our best candidates are coming from. That’s what programmatic is all about. Delivering impressions to people who might actually be interested instead of showing an ad to a million people who aren’t nurses.

That pixel I mentioned earlier delivers the big data we really need to improve and make decisions about advertising with more information. That is the definition of programmatic advertising. At its most fundamental level, programmatic advertising is the automated process of buying and selling ad inventory through an exchange. What makes it smart is all the intelligence and algorithms that go into making those display decisions based on activity instead of just a whim.

You’re probably wondering why you’d take the risk of trusting the computers to do your job, considering the current post and pray model might work. There are a lot of reasons, beyond just working smarter not harder:

  1. You can target your budget goals more closely – Programmatic advertising tools keep working even after you’ve booked the ad. It’s optimizing for applies instead of clicks and delivering measurable differences in ROI.
  2. It’s cost-effective – With programmatic, you have the ability to adjust your budget in real time based on results instead of pouring your money into one time buys that don’t work.
  3. You can gain more customer insights – Programmatic technology is constantly gathering data based on the type of candidates that apply to your jobs.
  4. It makes media buying easier– Stop sitting on calls with job ad vendors for hours while they try to swoon you with numbers that don’t mean anything. Instead, spend time focusing on the next steps and following up with candidates. You know, that whole candidate experience thing.
  5. It’s scalable – It’s easy to dial up with programmatic during seasonal hiring waves because it allows you to to reach a larger audience across multiple websites and touch points in a timely and efficient manner.



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Missed Connection: Finding Opportunity

I’ve been reading Hillbilly Elegy. I highly recommend the book for anyone – job seekers, recruiters, hiring managers and everyone else who interacts with other people on a regular basis. It’s a lesson in empathy, human nature and the statistics behind beating the odds.

Now, if you know anything about the author, you’re likely wondering how I got all of that from a book written by a white guy who went to Yale law. But that’s not where his story began. He was born to a drug-addicted mother in Kentucky. Include that with an absent father and a revolving door of disappearing father figures, his chances of success were slim to none. He began to understand the concepts of work and education in a community where no one had ever gone to an Ivy League school; where people had to leave town to discover opportunity. He belonged to a family where more people had served jail time than attended college. The odds weren’t in his favor.

Throughout his story, he highlights the impact history made on their beliefs, their view on institutions and the distinct moments when he had to learn to change his story. The tipping point where he couldn’t let history dictate his future any longer. He was lucky. You’re probably thinking “lucky? really?” but I mean it. How many kids are born into poverty and don’t end up poor? Not many. But their limit isn’t solely a function of their upbringing. It’s also an outcome of limited interactions, opportunities and mentors.

I know. I was just like him.

That context is exactly where my frustration begins when I’m listening to most job search advice. See, the resume and networking don’t matter if you never apply or don’t talk to influential people. What so many people suffer from is not a lack of intelligence but knowledge of the scope of opportunities that exist. It’s hard to believe that people don’t know about going to college for the average, privileged teenager. But consider this. If your parents and friends don’t talk about college – how would you know?

There’s little to no consideration for that lack of knowledge when it comes to the job search. We sit around and tell people all these tactics for job searching when the most efficient and effective strategy is to find people and build relationships. To be kind to everyone you meet. To do your best no matter what job you’re doing and that will make you stand out in a world where hard work is admonished or mocked as “over-achieving.” In fact, I found my first job in the recruiting industry by doing exactly that. I’ll never forget that CEO who said “I don’t know what you’ll do but I know you’ll work hard. I’d like to hire you.”

I was lucky. Lucky I took that terrible tutoring job with even worse pay. I realize not many people are randomly in scenarios where they’re meeting people who have that kind of power so instead of offering up the cliche job search advice, I want to share advice about seeking out opportunities.

  1. Make sure you have a complete LinkedIn profile if you want a professional job. Yes, even if your current job is flipping burgers. Digital appearance matters and not existing could hurt you. This varies by industry and role but if 60% (ish) of recruiters are starting on LinkedIn, you should too. If it’s empty, think about your story and where you want to be. Use the objective area to share it.
  2. Learn how to find hiring managers and team members on LinkedIn after you apply to a job. There’s keyword search. Use it.
  3. Don’t use lame template outreach e-mails to connect with people you believe can mentor or help you. Treat it like a dating site when you actually care about meeting someone. Research people. Get to know them. Interject details that prove it.
  4. You can download a formatted resume that’s easy enough to edit online. What most people won’t tell you is that your resume shouldn’t be creative but rather, should align to the job description. Here’s why: 80% of recruiters haven’t done the job they recruit for and most don’t know that “keyword research” and “SEO” are the same thing. You need to act as the translator and copy and paste information from the job description into your resume. I’m not talking a 100% duplicate but at least 30% of your information should align 1-1.

For the rest of you that are so fortunate to not understand how kids don’t end up in college or have an advanced degree, please pay it forward. Respond to that random email request for a networking call. Offer advice. If you don’t, just remember that karma knows your address and she’s very patient.



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Dumping Diversity: Action Talks

Ever notice how all diversity content is pretty much the exact same? We’ve created this culture of conversation about diversity that involves a hell of a lot of finger pointing and not nearly enough action. We sit there and point out how many cents less a woman makes versus a man. We point out how many women sit on the board of companies and how many have none at all. We point out how there aren’t enough women in this industry or that. We point out the success of companies who do bust the curve.

Then, nothing happens. It’s the equivalent of watching a car accident. You’re stuck there. It’s something to talk about. It’s not directly impacting you. So, you turn your head to watch.

On a rare occasion, someone runs in to help when it’s not their job. By rare, I mean that one person occurs at the same frequency of a lottery win or being struck by lightning. It’s one-in-a-million kind of rare that people will stand up in the face of adversity rather than sitting back to watch and comment. Giving all of us a platform like Facebook to react instead of understand has done almost nothing to help that human reaction. It has taught us very little about how to save yourself from the same ending.

So if you’re going to take the time to talk about diversity in the first place, please take the time to focus on projects and initiatives that actually help. Here are a few to get you started in case that voice in your head that says “there’s really nothing I can do” is a little too loud.

  1. Get involved in the communities you want to hire. Note I did not say sponsor and recruit but get involved. That means you show up at happy hours for women in IT. You go to African American History celebrations at the local library. You march in the Pride parade. The bottom line is that you support the community you want to hire with your humanity. They’ll notice.
  2.  Create internal mentorship infrastructure that partners people with completely different backgrounds together. It should be cross functional and cross cultural. Make more opportunities for people to experience each other.
  3. Develop partnerships with local groups to offer career advice. The most empowering thing you can do is teach someone how to find a job. Hell, if they get a job at your company – that’s a win.
  4. Look at the data. Don’t just assume you have equality. Look at what parallel roles pay for men and women. Look at the percentage of each group you have across the company. Be honest. Set goals, not quotas. Hold yourself and everyone else accountable. To clarify on quotas – they are typically crap but ratios tell stories. Let the data tell the story.
  5. Stop writing about the discrepancies and start writing about the action you take.

Go on. You have work to do.



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Why I Love Recruiting

I write when I get that bug in my ear – that little voice that just keep repeating a one-liner or something that clicks in my head. Otherwise, writing feels a little forced and I feel like people can smell my insincerity and the forced manufacturing of ideas. This weekend, that little bug kept saying “I love recruiting because it’s this perfect blend of psychology and ….”

I couldn’t pick one word to concisely and prophetically complete that sentence; to summarize all the nuance I’ve picked up about recruiting. For the people we hold in the highest regard, I imagine each of them would share a different second word about what drives them.  Personally, I love the mix of psychology and science that goes into it. How the best of our industry can be so balanced in their approach to human nature and then use a thousand plug-ins and hacks to discover the details.

What pushed me to finally translate that bug into a post was a call over the weekend. A call I wasn’t expecting on a Saturday morning from a millennial who wanted advice on how to get an HR job. She told me that she wanted a job in benefits. No more than 3 sentences later,  she tells me she wants a high-energy environment and to work on the weekends.

“Stop right there,” I said. I hate to burst a bubble but benefits and “high-energy” don’t usually fit into the same category for me. I quickly stepped up on my metaphorical soapbox and started this diatribe about why I thought she should try recruiting.

See, recruiting isn’t perfect but at least it’s not a check box job. It’s not process and printing. Yes, still printing even though it’s 2017 (but print is not my diatribe of the day so I’ll let it go). Maybe I’m mistaken but half the traditional benefits jobs I hear about are restrained by a lot of legalities. You’re trying to make sure you’ve crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s.

Recruiting at it’s best is conversations, creativity, development and relationship management. We tell the story that makes a job description something human. We have the opportunity to make a candidate feel like a human instead of a piece of paper. We offer people a chance to be inspired, creative and happy at work. I’d suggest a round in recruiting to anyone who’s trying to figure out where they fit in HR. The people side is critical to all the things that support people, after all.

While I understand the value of payroll and benefits and am so grateful to the people who make it work seamlessly in so many organizations, their teams aren’t typically a fit for someone with bright eyes who wants to change the world and minds. There just isn’t a lot of space for innovation.

She hesitantly agreed and I could tell she was nervous. Recruiting has a reputation – not always a good one. Despite that, so many of us are recruiters by trade. So, now I’m curious. Why do you love recruiting?

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