Will A/B Testing Be the Next Big Thing in Recruiting?

At the end of last year, ERE published an article called “9 Talent-acquisition Trends to Watch for in 2017.”  I was excited to see one of the bullet points was as follows:

A/B testing will become a critical factor in the battle for talent. Do fewer candidates drop off during the application process if you reduce your number of screening questions? Is a candidate more likely to join your talent network if you include an employee video on your site? Do candidates respond faster if you email or text them? More HR teams will be testing and gathering intelligence to optimize their process and communications strategies because chances are their competitors are already doing it.

If you are unfamiliar with A/B testing, it means testing one version of something against another to see which version performs best and then utilizing those results for future campaigns and even future tests.

I was excited because I have been speaking about split testing (i.e. A/B testing) for a long time now and about what it could do for us in recruiting.  I wrote about this almost two years ago in “This is What Recruiting Could Learn from Direct Marketing.”  I have long believed we should be A/B testing our most re-used job postings.  That way we can change elements of the job post, like wording, pictures, videos, etc., to see which job postings attract the most top level talent.

You change only one variable at a time, but over time the job post will become better and better at targeting and attracting the people we want to apply.  This does take time, because you need your sample sizes to be statistically significant – but it also doesn’t have to be a huge sample size either.  This continuous improvement, however, adds up over time and the talent acquisition department (not marketing) should understand how to test their own content.  It is not difficult to do.

You can test all sorts of things in recruiting:

  • Job Titles
  • Job Descriptions/Posts (format and content, including qualifications and requirements)
  • Template Email or LinkedIn Subject Lines
  • Template Email or LinkedIn Messages
  • Prescreening Questions in ATS
  • Phone and In-Person Interview Questions (number, type, etc.)
  • Application Process
  • Application Method
  • Corporate Careers Site (look, layout, length, etc.  Number of applications and time spent on site and how many pages viewed.)
  • EVPs or other “hooks”

Most companies still do not do this, and I just don’t understand that.  There are many reasons to A/B test in recruiting:

  • In marketing, there are numerous case studies showing utilizing A/B testing increases conversion rates.  For recruiting, conversion rates would most directly correlate to applications…and also quality of applications.
  • Reduces bounce rates.  In recruiting, this would be number of people who view the job post, but do not apply.
  • Better website content and content engagement because you must discuss which content is valuable and why. As you generate the variables to be tested, you create a list of potential content improvements.
  • It makes recruiting more fact and metric based.  Organizations using A/B testing value data over opinions.
  • Lowers risks in making changes because you test variables in a sample, get the results, and then if the results are good…implement globally.  You don’t make big changes without knowing what it will do.
  • One of the best things about A/B testing is that it is so simple to analyze real, factual results with the method. When analyzing data from an A/B test, it’s relatively easy to determine a “winner” and a “loser” based on simple, straightforward metrics (i.e. time spent on page, conversions, etc.)

I keep hearing that Talent Acquisition is ever more focused on metrics.  I think A/B testing is an easy way to measure (through the numbers) what changes we make are the right changes and have the most impact.  Otherwise, we are making changes blindly and not really knowing if what we were doing (before the change) was actually better or not.


See this post and more at http://www.neorecruiter.com/


Eric Putkonen is a public speaker / presenter and he is passionate about recruiting / talent acquisition & retention, culture & employment brand, engagement, and leadership (which affects all of the prior).

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