Guide To CPM vs CPC For Recruitment Marketing

Ads have become a weird gray area for recruitment marketers. A lot of people outsource ads altogether because it seems really complicated – the acronyms, the strategies, and most importantly the time. It seems like ad strategies and getting success will take a lot of time from ramp to results.

That’s a myth.

While yes, recruitment marketing ads will take some time –  it’s probably not as much as you think. There are ad managers, how to’s and guides galore. But there’s one fundamental thing you need to understand before ever opening the Ad Manager – CPC vs CPM. A lack of basic knowledge on how these work and what scenarios they work in has wasted a lot (and I mean a LOT) of recruiting budgets.

So what’s the secret to recruitment marketing ads – CPC or CPM?

I’ve been writing long enough to know you’re already thinking it. The answer is: it depends. But here’s some basic logic on both scenarios you can use.

CPC = Cost Per Click 

  • Translation: You pay when someone clicks on your link. Good for people who have little tolerance for risk and a lot of spreadsheets.
  • Pros
    • If your ad is really specific and doesn’t get many clicks, initially you’ll get thousands of impressions for free
    • The idea is that it’s a safeguard against paying lots of money if your ad isn’t getting clicks
  • Cons
    • If your ads perform well and you get clicks, you’ll pay for every one
    • You’ll pay a high price for great performance
      • Note: Compared to most job boards, this cost will still be really low
  • When you should select CPC for Recruitment Marketing
    • Roles with a high cost per hire and very specific skill set
    • You’re an ad beginner 
    • You have 12 other things to do and no time to monitor your campaign performance
    • Working with small budgets
    • You’re looking for a safe bet and to only pay for an action
  • Scenario
    • I’m a recruiting firm trying to build out my database with some really specific skill sets. I have a specific budget to work within and already tested the user flow. I know if I can get people to that page, they’re going to sign up because my page is that awesome.

CPM = Cost Per Thousand. 

  • Translation: You need to reach a lot of people all at once. Thousands, in fact. Good for people who know their target and where they hang out online.
  • Pros
    • You pay regardless of performance
    • If your ads get a lot of clicks, you still pay on a CPM basis
    • If things go well, you pay an incredibly low price per click (much lower than CPC would ever be)
    • Experienced media buyers can see cost/performance ratio come down significantly
  • Cons
    • You can inadvertently waste money when your ads are performing poorly
    • Notice the word “if” used a lot. It’s unpredictable.
  • When you should select CPM for Recruitment Marketing

      When this is one of your top 3 priorities  and you are comfortable with running campaigns and more confident taking a hands-on approach to optimization by adjusting manual bids and daily budgets

  • Scenario
    • I’ve used a CPM when I was trying to get a CEO’s attention for a conversation. I used an ad that had his face as the image and the copy said something along the lines of “I’m trying to reach XYZ in a creative way. If this worked, send it to him.” My landing page was simply a video explaining why I was trying to reach him. I paid a penny for that conversation.

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Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster,, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I am a Recruiter with not alit if experience. So this was EXTREMELY HELPFUL!

    Thank you!

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