How I slashed recruitment costs for my boss

How I slashed recruitment costs for my boss

Background: When I started with our group, we were already recording our group’s job ads in a spreadsheet for invoicing purposes. With a few listing templates in the archives, placing the ads were treated as a necessary evil and like a fixed cost that couldn’t be optimised.

Assigned to post the job listings and keep the spreadsheet up-to-date, I quickly realised that services such as Trade Me Jobs and Seek were providing some good stats that we weren’t using. We could add these to the spreadsheet, build up solid history of data, and use this to get better performance out of our future job ads, ultimately saving us costs in terms of wasted job ad listings and extra time spent relisting ads.

By expanding the spreadsheet a little and dropping some extra data in there as each job ad expired, it soon became very easy to see what was working well and what could be done better.

Advertising job positions can be a pain in the butt. It’s easy to fall into the trap of copy-and-pasting previous job ads, or just hitting the ‘relist’ button, without any consideration of how well your job ads are performing or even knowing what they’re costing your business.

By dropping a few stats into a spreadsheet and lining them up against some key elements, it’s surprisingly easy to get a picture of what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to get far more bang for your buck for future listings.

Most job listing site provides stats on how well a listing has performed. For Trade Me Jobs, these are:

  • Number of views on the job ad
  • Number of applications received

While Seek also adds:

  • Number of times the job has appeared in a search result

You can get a good idea of your job advertising effectiveness when you record these in a spreadsheet row alongside:

  • The position your ad was for (job title)
  • The cost to place your job ad
  • The category your ad was placed in
  • The salary bracket used (and whether this was displayed or not in a separate ‘Y/N’ column)
  • The content of your ad, i.e.:
    • Job listing title (note that the ad title can be different to the position itself)
    • Branding options (company name/logo, etc.)
    • Whether photos were included

Once your ad has expired, you’ll want to see a few metrics that represent how well the ad has performed. These should be extra columns in your spreadsheet for views and applications, and then more columns with formulas to work out:

  • Conversion rate of ‘number of times appeared in search’ to ‘listing views’
  • Conversion rate of views to applications (applications divided by views x 100)
  • Cost per view (job ad cost divided by number of views)
  • Cost per application received (job ad costs divided by applications)

Trade Me Jobs Ad Stats

Trade Me Jobs Ad Stats

Seek Ad Stats

Seek Ad Stats


I’ve put together a Google Spreadsheet version that I’ve given access to view and make comments on. You should be able to copy and paste this into Excel, but it won’t keep the formulas.

  • For your End Date, use “=A3+30” (a typical listing is 30 days)
  • For Conversion Rate, use “=[applications]/[views]” and format as percentage
  • For Cost per View and Cost per Applicant just divide the job ad cost by views or applicants respectively

Once you’ve built up some data, you can really get some awesome figures to help you put together future ads. Next time you have a job ad to write, filter your ‘position’ column by the position you want to advertise for (e.g. ‘receptionist’) and then scan your results to see which titles, categories and other content worked best for previous ads. You can also rank by the conversion rate column to view your vest performing ads of all time, for example, and set ‘conditional formatting’ rules to highlight the top 10% (or the top 10, or all those that are above average) in each column.

Analysing the Results

Excel Formatting for Job ReportsA good conversion rate (of searches to views) tends to show your job title is working a treat. People are seeing your job ad in their search results and they are then choosing to click on your job ad to find out more. Note: Trade Me doesn’t show you how many times the job ad has appeared in search results, but Seek does. I haven’t included this in the Google Spreadsheet example, but feel free to add it.

High rates for ‘views to applications’ means that your listing content successfully convinced the viewer to apply (helped by the body text, listing photos and making sure people are applying through the ad’s buttons rather than by copying and pasting your email address).

The costs are also going to be good indicators of the effectiveness of the ad, as well as the effectiveness and price of the particular service used. Say Seek and Trade Me give you the same number of applicants; they were both effective, but your cost-per-applicant is going to give you an idea of which was more efficient.

In summary

All-up, this is a very simple concept that takes just 15 minutes to set up and a few minutes to update for each job listing, and yet this will provide you with some awesome data to take your job advertising to the next level and turn you into a recruitment pro.

You’ll be empowered to create better job ads for the right platforms, attract more views and applicants, relist less often, waste less on poor performing ads, and spend less time managing your ads, saving your business costs and delighting the boss.

What to be aware of

Avoid displaying your contact details in the listing descriptions. This allows people to apply by emailing you outside of the job listing platform, so they won’t count as an application for that ad and you won’t be able to measure the ad’s effectiveness as easily.

Also be aware that it’s not all about the cost when it comes to the service you use. Some services may be more expensive and provide less applicants, but if those applicants are of a better quality and more suited to your role, you don’t want to rule that service out based on cost alone.

Now all you have to do is plough through all those CVs.

Any questions or issues setting it up, feel free to leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to help.