Pay for performance sounds good in theory, but not always in practise. Every link in the recruitment chain has to take responsibility for its own function. That is to say that it’s the responsibility of an advertising medium (a job board) to attract enough suitable candidates, and guide them easily to view the advertiser’s vacancy. They should also make the application process as quick and efficient as possible, and reassure the candidate that their data will be protected. Basically they need to bring the candidates to the ad, and enable an effortless application. However, whilst you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make him upload his CV and apply. A poorly written job advert, with a low salary (or even no salary) shown, posted by an agency with a dodgy reputation, for an unattractive employer, will of course get only the applications it merits.

Could you ever imagine The Telegraph charging for each person that looks at your advert, or applies to your vacancy? I don’t think so. Of course advertising online allows sophisticated tracking, in ways that print media could only dream of. However, just because it can be measured does not mean the job board has complete responsibility for the number.

When recruiting, I was firmly of the view that my responsibility ended on the day my candidate started employment. From that point, I had no control of the situation, and if it didn’t work out, the employer and candidate were the only parties involved. The employer had the privilege, and the responsibility, to select the right candidate, and ensure a good fit. In much the same way as the person offering the job has to take responsibility, the person writing the advert has to shoulder some of the blame (or credit) for the response. Pay for performance can be an abrogation of that responsibility. is the most successful Job Search Engine in the UK, and is the only one to feature in the Hitwise Top 10 Awards for recruitment websites for 2008. We charge on a pay-per-click basis, and as such, we know that vacancies from some of our clients, in the very same sectors, get much better responses than others. We do try to consult with, and advise on what factors can improve click-thru rates, conversion rates and bounce rates, but mostly it’s beyond our direct control.

Ultimately though, our job is to deliver the targeted job seekers. We are judged on outcomes. Our clients use their own detailed stats to assess their cost per registration and application from our candidates. If it doesn’t work for them, they don’t come back. However, over 1,000,000 candidate click-thrus per month suggests that it does.

All advertising media are judged on outcomes, and now that it’s measurable, buyers can determine where best to spend their marketing budgets. Pay-per-click, pay-per-application, or pay-per-placement are merely different ways of partnering with providers. It’s the price and the service, not the billing model, which dictates value for money.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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