Quantity vs quality: Why job board application volume isn’t the metric to focus on

by in Recruitment Trends

What is your priority when it comes to application response – quantity or quality? Wave‘s Emily Buckley looks at why job boards promising high volumes of applications won’t necessarily bring you more quality applications and details how you can be more targeted in both your job board choices and your job ads.

Quantity versus quality. It’s a dilemma recruiters have been contending with since the advent of the online job board slashed the cost of job advertising and opened up reach to a far wider network of candidates. Back then, when job credits were cheap and before data analytics became mainstream and available to all, it made sense to post your job to as many job boards as possible in order to attempt to cover all bases. The drive to focus solely on pulling in a high volume of applications is a hard one to shift from, especially as numbers of applications are what clients may be asking you for. However, should the goal be to receive as many applications as possible, knowing that a fair percentage of those are likely to be of lower quality (but at least you’ll have lots to work with), or to receive fewer applications but for those applications to be more relevant and therefore generally of a higher quality?

A changed market

In an ideal world of course you wouldn’t have to pick – you’d receive a high volume of quality applications for each job you post. One would go all the way to hire and the rest you’d keep in your CRM and nurture for future vacancies. However, reality is that the UK workforce has permanently shrunk, there is a global skills shortage and job board price increases have meant you need to be far more targeted with where you post your job and what you post. Besides, what you need is not to be flooded with a huge number of very mixed applications which take time to wade through but to target your advert and target the job boards that will bring you the highest number of quality applications. And today, that is entirely possible through data analytics.

Job boards still heavily used by candidates

The focus here is on job boards because, as a recruiter, it’s highly likely that you use job boards as part of your candidate attraction strategy. Despite all the talk over recent years heralding “the death of the job boards,” they are still very much the number one platform for recruiters to advertise their jobs. In fact, the Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 found that 80% of all jobs posted in 2022 were on job boards and a huge 89% of all applications received were via job boards. What is particularly interesting is that the number of jobs posted to job boards dropped by 1% from 2021 but the number of applications rose by 3% from 2021. Clearly, candidates are still using job boards more than any other platform. But with hundreds of UK-based job boards and thousands across the world, how do you know which job boards are best for your jobs – and what do you base that decision on?

Making data-driven decisions

Data is your friend here. Rather than throwing money at a range of job boards in the hope that spreading your jobs far and wide will produce a high number of quality applications, utilising data to make informed decisions is the smart way to strategise. Media budgets need to be channelled into job boards with a high ROI and data can help determine which job boards can provide that. One way to work out your ROI on job boards is by volume of applications received. If a job board is attracting a high number of candidates to your jobs and those candidates are applying for your jobs, this seems like a great return. But what if the majority of those applications aren’t relevant? If you find you are immediately rejecting a high percentage of applications from a particular job board, volume is irrelevant as you are not getting the candidates you need.

Quality over quantity

Quality trumps quantity (devoid of quality) every time. Three or four quality applications represent a better ROI than 20 applications that you can’t move forward. In data based on recruiter ranking, the Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 found that 77% of all applications received in 2022 were of ‘bad quality’, with 10% being ‘average quality’ and 13% ‘good quality’. When this happens, not only have you invested money in a volume of applications that aren’t relevant, in the race to find candidates you could be losing out to competitors who are receiving quality applications. With job board prices increasing, those increases must be justified not only in terms of volume but of quality. Job boards must be able to show that they are investing that money in targeted advertising, i.e. putting your jobs in front of relevant candidates. It’s something the team at Wave were really interested in when compiling the Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 and the results made for some interesting reading. Some generalist job boards that received a high number of applications received fewer quality applications than those that received far fewer applications overall.

Don’t forget niche job boards

The Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023 revealed that, when it comes to job posting distribution, jobs were spread across a number of different job boards, with no one job board hugely standing out. Most of the major generalist job boards featured but none of the niche boards. What makes this particularly interesting is that, despite this, four of the top ten job boards for applications were niche. Given niche job boards cater to a smaller percentage of the overall candidate pool than the generalist job boards, this data shows that niche job boards are a valuable job posting option, especially for those industries with candidate shortages. Niche boards can also attract certain demographics that are often overlooked, leading to a more diverse candidate pool.

Programmatic advertising as a way to increase relevancy

Job boards haven’t changed much in the past 20 years but the advertising models are beginning to adapt with developing technology. Programmatic advertising – which uses data to provide relevance to candidates and recruiters – is used by a lot of the new and niche job boards and the big generalist ones are beginning to adopt it too. As Ryan Bridgman of Jobrapido said in a Talent Matters podcast with Wave CEO Dave Jenkins, “relevance is fundamental to having a good experience as a candidate and is also of vital importance to recruiters in order to receive responses that are relevant.” What programmatic advertising uses is rich data, which builds a profile with which to target with relevant content. This is based on your candidate’s engagement (intent data). Rich data allows for greater relevancy than static data, such as a CV, as it follows a candidate’s journey, tracking the changes that ebb and flow in real time. It’s not for everyone, it requires feedback loops to be successful and it can be expensive, depending on the market rate, but many believe it’s the future of job board advertising.

What you can do to increase quality applications

Posting your jobs to the right platforms is just one piece of the candidate attraction puzzle. Your job boards might do everything they can to get your jobs in front of the right candidates but if the job advert misses the mark, those candidates won’t apply. In a recent webinar hosted by Wave CEO Dave Jenkins discussing some of the key trends from the Wave Recruitment Trends Report for 2023, panelist Miles Lloyd, co-founder of North Star People reiterates the importance of getting the content and structure of your job ad right in order to target relevant candidates. “We need to craft the copy of the advert to attract the right people and detract the wrong people… get people out of the process that shouldn’t be there in the first place.” Ensure you are using the right keywords, employ a standardised job title and don’t be too vague about the role. You don’t want to include the entire job description but you can be targeted. There are also a variety of tech tools on the market now that can de-gender or de-clutter your copy, streamlining your job advert to open it up to a diverse candidate base (opening up to people you might not have reached before, including highly relevant and skilled candidates) but narrowing in on those with the right skills.

Don’t forget to look to your CRM first

With costs rising across the board, it is more important than ever to to turn to your CRM to see if any of your own candidates fit the bill first. A CV search tool that also scours your own database is ideal for this. In the aforementioned Wave webinar, Miles Lloyd notes that, in the rush to find candidates that match the job requirements (especially when it’s not an exclusive contract and it’s a no-win no-fee contingency), the knee-jerk reaction is to quickly post each job to a range of job boards. “We’re in such as hurry that quite often we’re getting candidates that we’ve already had previously and they might even be on our CRM but nobody’s using the CRM because they’re not coding them properly.” Ultimately, you are likely to have a wealth of candidates in your own database so properly code your candidates and always turn to your CRM first to first to avoid wasting both money and time.

Unless they’re receiving thousands of applications per job, not many recruiters are going to say they’d rather receive fewer applications. What they might say, however, is that they need a higher number of quality applications. The reality is that all bad applications achieve is to add to a recruiter’s workload. So, go to your CRM first to check whether you already have the perfect candidate lined up and waiting. If not or to open up the pool further, post your job to the job boards that are more likely to bring you quality applications and ensure your advert is targeted (not forgetting to post to your own website too). Consult with your media strategist and/or your job board account manager, check the recommendations from your multi-poster, and track your data.


This article was originally published on ukrecruiter.co.uk on the 3rd of May 2023