What Bersin’s 2015 Talent Acquisition Factbook Tells Us About What’s Broken in Recruiting

By Lori Sylvia, Chief Marketing Officer, SmashFly


Last week, Bersin by Deloitte released its 2015 Talent Acquisition Factbook, and the numbers tell the story that every talent acquisition leader knows firsthand: It’s costing more and taking longer to hire.

The average cost per hire is now around $4,000, and the average time to fill has reached 52 days, compared to around $3,500 and 48 days in 2011, according to Bersin.

What’s behind the nearly 15% increase in cost per hire in four years?

Candidates. They’re behaving more like consumers as they research and engage with employer brands, they have more career choices than ever before, and for some talent pools, the number of skilled workers is decreasing, making the competition for talent tougher.

To reach consumer-minded candidates, recruiters are spending more, but most are not getting a better result. Bersin’s research shows they’ve shifted budget from outsourced recruiters and agencies (from 38% in 2011 to 18%) to increasing their spending with professional networking sites (from 4% in 2011 to 12%) while still pumping the same money into job boards (steady at 19%).

Just look at two of the leading job boards. LinkedIn reported a 45% increase in revenue in 2014 to $2.2 billion. And Indeed―acquired for an estimated $750 million to $1 billion in 2012―reported a nearly 30% increase in site visitors over the past year.

LinkedIn and Indeed are winning share of wallet, yet organizations say it’s costing more and taking longer to hire new talent. So then, how effective are these channels?

SmashFly recently conducted its own survey (albeit on a much smaller scale than Bersin) of 175 talent acquisition pros, and we asked them to rate the quality of hires they get from job boards on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being terrible and 5 being amazing. Their answer:

83% rated the quality of job board candidates from so-so to terrible.

It’s worth noting that Bersin’s survey separated professional networking sites from job boards. At SmashFly, we group them into the same bucket―to us, if you can advertise a job, it’s a job board. We integrate with hundreds of them, so that our customers can distribute their jobs automatically using our Recruitment Marketing Platform.

Don’t get me wrong—I believe there is a valuable place for job boards in the recruitment marketing mix. I’m not suggesting eliminating spending on job boards―I’m questioning the level of continued investment for the ROI.


If job board quality is so low, why, then, are the top job boards thriving with one-third of the recruiting budget?

A key reason is that most recruiters don’t know how much they should use job boards—or which boards for which positions—compared to every other recruiting channel. I’m not suggesting this is the only reason—but without actionable analytics to inform a better strategy, it’s understandable why recruiters keep doing the same thing, even though they don’t get a better result.

That is what’s broken in talent acquisition: Not knowing what’s most effective.

The complicated part is that talent acquisition leaders would agree.

They have little trust in the source data entering their ATS. They don’t want to use spreadsheets either. They’re frustrated they can’t confidently stand in front of senior management.

But it’s not their fault. The HR tech industry has failed talent acquisition leaders by being slow to innovate in some areas and by lacking integration with other tools in the talent acquisition value chain.

Without a way to systematically and agnostically measure recruiting tactics from the initial source of influence all the way to hire—across all programs, channels and campaigns down to the individual job level—recruiters will never have the insight into what is and isn’t working so they can optimize their strategies.

Case in point: The respondents in Bersin’s survey reported that career sites were responsible for more hires than any other source. But is the career site really the source? Where did the lead come from in order to land on the career site? Even if the lead went to the career site URL directly and then applied, what campaigns, touchpoints and content influenced their decision to apply?

Recruiting analytics is broken, but it can be fixed with the right technology platform—and they do exist. Talent acquisition leaders must demand better from their HR tech vendors, staring with better integration and measurement—or find a new solution that will do the job right.

You can download Bersin’s 2015 Talent Acquisition Factbook executive brief here»

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