May 10, 2018

3 Ways to Incorporate A/B Testing Into Your Recruitment Marketing Strategy

Written by
Matthew Kosinski
Tags: HR Recruiting

If you’ve spent an appreciable amount of time in recruiting, you’ve likely heard on more than one occasion that “recruiting is marketing.”

This is an oversimplification, but it makes a good point. If marketing boils down to an attempt to get consumers interested in and buying a company’s products, then recruiting shares a similar mission — just swap “consumers” for “candidates” and “products” for “open roles.”

Given the close parallels between recruiting and marketing, recruiters have been adopting certain tactics from their marketing cousins for some time now. This has lead to the blossoming of new and exciting recruitment marketing and employer branding tactics.

However, there is one tactic in particular that savvy marketers use and recruiters seem to overlook: A/B testing. Recruiters would do well to bring this technique to their toolkits, as it can drive more candidates of a higher quality into their talent pipelines.

What Is A/B Testing, and Why Does It Matter to Recruiters?

To quote the Harvard Business Review’s simple definition, A/B testing is “a way to compare two versions of something to figure out which performs better.”

For example, a marketer may draft two different emails for the same campaign. They then send one version to one audience and the other version to another. The marketer will track the amount of traffic each email drives to a relevant webpage. Whichever email performs better will be used to launch a wider campaign.

A/B testing can be valuable to recruiters in a few different ways, including:

  • Increasing the reach of job ads and employer branding content: By testing different content and distribution channels, recruiters can track what kind of advertising attracts the most attention from their desired audiences.
  • Improving conversion rates: Similarly, recruiters can test which content/channels lead to the most conversions from impression to applicant.
  • Improving overall quality of hire: A/B testing can also help recruiters pinpoint the content and distribution methods that yield the highest-caliber talent.

Recruiters may also want to consider the conclusions of 2013 Ziprecruiter research, which found that small changes in job titles could lead to massive differences in the number of applicants. For example, job ads using the title “Receptionist/Administrative Assistant” received an average of 122 applicants, whereas ads using “Administrative Assistant” received an average of 57. Without A/B testing, a recruiter may never have caught such a thing!

3 Ways to Use A/B Testing as a Recruiter

Now that we’ve established the value of A/B testing, let’s look at a few ways recruiters can deploy this method practically:

Testing Job Titles

Job titles are the most obvious candidates for A/B testing, and they offer the quickest wins. Tweaking job titles requires relatively little effort, and as the Ziprecruiter research shows, small differences can lead to many more conversions.

Keep two things in mind when trying out possible job titles:

  • Titles should closely reflect the same keywords candidates are likely to use when searching for jobs. The more common the keywords in your title, the more people will see your ad. Try to avoid obscure phrasings or “trendy” revamps of traditional titles. There are more people in the world looking for “project manager” roles than there are looking for “director of innovation” roles.
  • That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a title with a little style and flair. While “director of innovation” won’t turn up in as many search results as “project manager,” it will catch more eyeballs when it does.

What recruiters may want to do, then, is test two job titles: one traditional, keyword-centric title, and one idiosyncratic, unique job title. Release two identical job ads under different titles, and monitor which one drives more traffic, more applicants, and/or more high-quality candidates.

Testing Job Descriptions/Job Ads

As with job titles, A/B testing of job descriptions and job ad copy will be a matter of balancing the right keywords with the right way to grab a candidate’s attention. Does a straightforward, keyword-rich list of duties coupled with a personable description of the company culture do the trick? Or do candidates prefer something with more verve all around?

When A/B testing job descriptions and job ads, you may want to test distribution methods instead of, or in addition to, the content. Do your ads reach more people on LinkedIn or Indeed? Does Twitter deliver higher-quality candidates than you own company careers page?

If you are going to test distribution channels, don’t run the tests concurrently with your content tests. Using identical ads on different channels will give you the most accurate test results. If you vary the content and the channel at the same time, it will be hard to tell which variable is responsible for which results.

In fact, this is a rule that applies to all A/B testing efforts: You should only test one variable at a time.

Testing Employer Branding Content

There are a few different ways you can A/B test your employer branding content:

  • What form of content gets the most engagement? Does your target audience prefer videos, blog posts, photo essays, or something else entirely? Toy with different types of content to determine what works best for your organization.
  • What channels are best for your employer branding content? Are more job seekers engaging with you on Instagram or LinkedIn? Does your company blog reach a wide enough audience, or should you consider other hosting options for your employer branding content?
  • What kind of information do job seekers respond to best? Are they looking for straightforward company news? Recaps of company outings? Informative content that is related to the company’s field but not about the company itself? Pay attention to how your audience responds to different kinds of content.

As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to test all three variables at once. If you want to know what kind of content gets the most engagement, don’t test that while simultaneously seeking the best channel. Keep those tests separate.

A Closing Note on Metrics

One final point must be made before you head off to try your own A/B testing for recruitment advertising: When you go into an A/B test, you should go into it knowing which metrics you will track and which metrics matter most to you.

A/B testing can help increase your reach, your conversion rates, and your quality of hire — but the same content won’t necessarily achieve all three at once. For example, job title A may drive a higher number of applicants, but job title B may result in applicants of a higher quality on average.

Before any A/B test, clearly identify which metrics you will track and how each metric will be weighted in determining your next course of action.

A/B testing can be a valuable tool in a recruiter’s toolkit, provided it is wielded properly. Determine what you want to test, why you want to test it, and which metrics matter most — and then start testing.

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Matthew Kosinski is managing editor of Recruiter.com