Everyone wants to be more data-driven, but when it comes to recruitment marketing, that isn’t always as easy as it seems.

Sure, when you roll out a social media advertising campaign, you can pretty easily find out how many candidates are seeing your ads and clicking your links — but what happens after that? How can you gain insight into users’ behaviors once they have clicked your call to action (CTA) and navigated to your careers page?

For many recruiters, the knee-jerk answer here is “Google Analytics.” But this, too, can be deceptively complicated. Once you’ve worked with your IT team to get access to your company’s Google Analytics account, the most likely outcome is that you’ll be inundated with disorganized, hard-to-parse data from which you’d be hard-pressed to gain any actionable insights.

Mapping the Candidate’s Journey

Let’s back up a step: The candidate’s journey is one of the most important conceptual tools recruiters have for understanding applicant behavior and refining talent pipelines. As a potential candidate moves from awareness to consideration to an ultimate decision with regard to your company, they’ll take a number of concrete steps: visiting a social media profile, clicking on an ad or job post, signing up for a newsletter, navigating to your careers page, filling out an application, etc. If you can map out exactly what these steps are and track the passage of each candidate from one to the other, you can begin to gain meaningful insights into your target personas and their behaviors.

For instance, in tracking the conversion rates of users who click particular CTAs and are redirected to your careers page, you might notice a wide discrepancy in the outcomes between two different campaigns. Maybe candidates who click on one CTA in particular are less likely to eventually submit an application than those who are driven by different campaigns. This might tell you the campaign you have created around the CTA is targeted at the wrong people, or that its content doesn’t align well with the content of your landing page. For example, users may click the link expecting an entry-level job ad only to find you’re actually advertising a C-level post. Conversely, users might be navigating away from a particular job so that they can apply for a different one that is better suited to their needs.

In each of these cases, tracking the candidate’s journey more thoroughly allows you to find and address any weak points in your pipeline. This, in turn, means improved recruitment marketing efforts going forward and a better recruitment marketing ROI in the long run.

Unfortunately, however, most HR departments right now can only really see half of the candidate’s journey with their existing analytics.

What’s Happening on Your Careers Page?

What do I mean when I say most recruiters are only seeing half of the candidate’s journey? Essentially, I mean this: While most social media recruitment campaigns have built-in tracking capabilities up to and including the point at which someone clicks your CTA, the tracking tends to stop there. At this point, you’re completely in the dark. Either you have no data and thus can’t generate meaningful insights or make meaningful decisions, or you have extremely complex data of which your average recruiter can’t make heads or tails. Google Analytics has a lot of latent value, but it can also be intimidating for those who don’t have strong quantitative backgrounds.

All of this raises a serious question: How can recruiters gain real value from the data they are collecting? Google Analytics data might not always be packaged in a way that is immediately useful, but if you can identify a set of specific KPIs you want to track from the get-go, you can cut through a lot of the noise.

You might, for instance, have Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters in the pages on your site that signify conversions. If you do, you can navigate to the “Goals” section in your Google Analytics dashboard and set a new goal with these parameters in mind. In this way, you tell Google what you’re looking for, and it begins to provide some legible information.

From there, you can begin to ask yourself follow-up questions (one at a time!) and let the data guide you toward things like time spent on your website and other behaviors that might be impacting conversions. Luckily, you’re not necessarily alone here: out-of-the-box Google Analytics can be tough to manage, but there are plenty of services out there to help you make better sense of those numbers.

Turning Data Into Insights

With the answers to your questions well in hand, the dream of data-driven recruitment marketing can become a reality. This doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it occur all by itself. Recruiters need to make sure their tracking tools are enabled on every relevant page throughout the pipeline — and that means on everything from the landing page to the thank-you message that appears after a candidate has applied. Recruiters must also ensure that, if they are hosting some of the pipeline infrastructure on their ATSs, they’re able to place the appropriate tracking codes in these ATS pages.

With these hurdles out of the way, it is possible to visualize every step your candidates take within your applicant funnel. Then, you can begin to answer your most critical recruitment queries: How is your careers page user experience (UX) impacting applicant experience? How much time are candidates spending on each page? What factors correlate most significantly with applicants making the choice to drop out of your process?

Once you have answers to these questions, you can make changes and try again. When you look at the new numbers, you’ll be able to tell how much of an improvement your changes have made in your pipeline. More than that, you’ll be able to delight prospective hires by providing them with a battle-tested UX and carefully refined content and workflows.

The combined powers of data and analytics are causing seismic shifts in how recruitment marketing functions, and this type of basic integration with Google Analytics is just the tip of the iceberg.

Tarina Pop is head of recruitment marketing at SmartDreamers.

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