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Time Warner Spent $15 to Find Its Last Hire—You Can, Too


Last year, we found that social media recruiting is on the rise, and it’s no wonder. Finding candidates through sourcing channels such as job boards can be expensive, especially for small businesses. In fact, we found that companies with fewer than 50 employees spend more for each new hire—over $600—than any other business size, even though their recruiting budgets are far smaller than larger companies’.

But recruiting on a budget isn’t just for the little guys. With the expansion of social recruiting, even recruiters at large organizations are realizing its fiscal benefits. Case in point: Time Warner Cable (TWC), which operates in 29 states and employs over 50,000 people. With 700 open positions at any given time, its recruiters are always looking for new sources of candidates.

I spoke with Travis Triggs, TWC’s talent acquisition social media program manager, as well as Matt Brown, founder and vice president of product at Work4, a company that specializes in Facebook recruiting for Fortune 500 companies, to see what tips they could offer to businesses of all sizes looking to use Facebook to bolster recruiting efforts.

Facebook Best for Jobs With Broader Skillsets

First of all, before you decide to invest time and money in Facebook recruiting, you should determine if the social platform will help you find talent for the types of jobs you’re trying to fill.

According to Brown, Facebook is great for almost any type of position—especially those where candidates are likely to be tech-savvy and have more complete social media profiles (e.g., software engineers or marketing managers). But when it comes to those positions with highly specific qualifications, you may want to resort to old-fashioned headhunting.

For instance, if you’re looking for a software engineer, you can easily target Facebook users with experience in certain programming languages (more on that to come). However, if you’re looking for a software engineer with knowledge of a particular version of SAP software, and who has worked on a software implementation with a company of over 100,000 employees, those people will be much more difficult to target.

“We can do all of the big data stuff we want,” Brown says, “but we’re not going to be able to—at least now, with the level of information available on Facebook—identify who those [specific] people are.”

At Time Warner, Triggs’ experience has been similar. The majority of hires the company has made through Facebook, he says, “have been more customer-facing—customer service, inbound sales, tech support, field tech.” In other words: positions that don’t require extremely specialized skills.

Tailor Your Facebook Ad to Match Your Desired Outcomes

Facebook offers several different advertising options that users can choose from (below). Brown notes that, depending on what outcome Work4’s clients are shooting for—a new hire, employment branding or career fair registrations—he and his team will adjust the type of advertisement they run.

That said, Brown advises companies to use one of three types of Facebook ads:

  1. Clicks to Website. This option leads potential applicants who click on the ad directly to a job posting, either on the company’s careers page or on an external site where these jobs are posted in full. This type of ad makes up approximately 70 percent of Work4’s clients’ Facebook ads.
  2. Page Post Engagement. This type of advertising makes up about 20 percent of the ads Work4 runs for its clients. These types of ads are intended to generate interest in a company’s employer brand, and often consist of posts about events the company is hosting, a video the company recently released or photos of current employees carrying out their daily tasks.
  3. Event Responses. Finally, Brown says that about 10 percent of the ads run by the company are in order to register Facebook users for real-life or digital career fairs.

Since the first option is the most frequently used ad—as well as the ad most likely to result directly in job applicants—we will focus on how best to leverage the “Clicks to Website” option for the remainder of the article.

Use Broad, Interest-Based Targeting Criteria

When using Facebook’s advertising option for “Clicks to Website,” you’ll enter in the URL you’d like to send applicants to on a page that looks like this:

Once you’ve entered in the URL for the website you’d like to promote—for instance, Software Advice would likely choose to target its careers page, where we list our open positions—you will be taken to a page where you can enter in targeting criteria, which will determine who will see your ad.

Facebook allows advertisers to get very detailed with their targeting criteria—an employer could, potentially, target only married women with conservative political leanings.

While these categories can be helpful to narrow down your audience, be sure that you’re not being overly restrictive. For instance, if you were to create an ad targeting software engineers by using the “Work” demographic to limit your ad’s reach to Facebook users listing their current job as a software engineer, your ad might appear to only a few thousand people.

According to Brown, many Facebook users don’t list details about their current position—for example, they may say they work at Google, but won’t specify that they’re a software engineer with the company. To get around this potential problem, Brown suggests targeting users based on interests that have a high correlation with other profile data that would suggest the user is, in fact, of a certain profession. So, in this example, if he and his team were looking for a software engineer, they might focus on Facebook users who list a certain programming language in their “Interests” section.

“We know that there’s an x percent chance that if you like Python, which is a programming language, that you are a software engineer,” he says.

By using this kind of strategy, Brown adds, Work4’s clients are able to target candidates who might not necessarily have complete profiles.

Grab Attention With Images, Engage With Creative Copy

Once you’ve decided what job listing you’d like to promote on Facebook and have determined your targeting criteria, you’ll need to determine what images and copy you’ll use for your ad.

First and foremost, every ad should include at least one image to capture a job seeker’s attention (Facebook allows you to post up to six).

“We discovered that our top posts that produced the most engagement had an image,” Triggs notes. “Now when we post a job, we post an image relevant to that job along with that post—and we’ve seen a tremendous increase in engagement by doing that.”

Brown agrees: “The more attractive and visual you can make the ad, the better,” he says.

At Work4, every single Facebook job post is accompanied by what Brown calls a “job card.” These usually include some kind of branding from the company, and in some cases, a map of where in the world the job is located.


Work4 Job Card

Next, you’ll need to ensure your copy will engage job seekers. To do this, you’ll need to let them know the job is actually targeted toward them for a particular reason. In other words, ensure that your ad has some personality and doesn’t sound like it was generated by a computer.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for a software engineer, and you’ve refined the targeting criteria of your ad to appear in the Facebook feeds of graduates from the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) who live in California and know the Python programming language. With that targeting criteria in mind, you could easily insert into the “Text” section of your ad something along the lines of: “We’re looking for Berkeley grads like you to code in Python.”

By getting your audience’s attention with an image and keeping them engaged with creative copy, you’ll be more likely to ensure they make it to the third and final step: applying for your job.

Set a Minimum Budget of $200 for Each Recruiting Ad

After you’ve determined your targeting criteria and uploaded the image and copy for your ad, you’ll need to decide how much money you want to spend on promoting your open positions.

“Clicks to Website” ads on Facebook charge the advertiser on a cost-per-click basis. Employers can specify a maximum dollar amount for each ad when it is launched—either an amount per day or a lifetime budget. Then, every time someone clicks on the ad, a certain amount (you can either set a maximum bid for each click, or let Facebook optimize your per-click bid) will be deducted from the total budget. Once you hit your budget maximum, your ad ceases to appear.

What it comes down to: the more money you put towards the ad, the longer it will run.

For instance, consider a target audience for a software engineer job in California. Facebook’s recommended bid-per-click will vary depending on the ad, but by following this formula to estimate your Facebook advertising budget, the sample target audience of 2,600,000 would result in approximately 146 clicks per day. Based on Facebook’s recommended bid, this translates to a cost of $87 per day to run one ad.

With this sort of daily cost, Brown suggests putting a minimum of $200 towards each job you’re trying to fill. That way, in this instance, you can break up the budget into two sub-campaigns for the same job posting—each one day long and with a maximum of $87 (though it’s likely that the entire $87 will not be depleted for each sub-campaign).

So, for a given job, Brown will create two (or more) separate Facebook ads that go to the same URL—where his client’s jobs are posted. However, for each sub-campaign, he will target different criteria.

For instance, if he were seeking applicants for a software engineering position in California, he might create a sub-campaign like the one above, targeting specific interests. For the second sub-campaign, the target audience might be Facebook users who studied computer science at UC Berkeley.

“After 24 hours, we’ll kill the lower-performing campaign and shift all of the budget to the higher-performing campaign,” Brown says. Work4 can then hone that ad to ensure enough of the target audience is clicking through to the job posting and actually applying.

When compared with the cost of traditional job boards, the savings is significant. Instead of placing a posting on a job board site and, as Brown says, paying “$500 for the job to be on there…and hoping you get something,” you can run a Facebook ad campaign for $200. This cuts costs greatly and increases your return on investment, as the ad is more likely to reach an audience that is actually interested in your job posting.

Over at Time Warner, using this sort of Facebook advertising has also been extremely cost-effective.

According to Triggs, TWC spent $1,500 on Facebook advertising alone last year. With this relatively small budget, the company was able to hire over 100 new employees—meaning it spent just $15 for each new hire. When compared to Software Advice’s previous research, which found that larger companies, on average, spend $40 per hire, Facebook ads have had a great return on investment for TWC.

If you follow Brown’s advice for using Facebook ads to recruit, you might find that your company experiences some of the benefits Triggs has experienced at Time Warner. And if you’re a small company, Facebook might be a great way to decrease your cost-per-hire: from $600 to less than $20.

 Image courtesy of Work4. 

I Love Saving Money” created by Anthony Crider, used under CC BY / Resized.

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About the Author

Erin Osterhaus joined Software Advice in 2012 after earning an M.A. in German and European Studies from Georgetown University. She focuses on the HR market, offering advice to industry professionals on the best recruiting, talent management, and leadership techniques.

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