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Best Practices in Job Applicant Attribution (aka. Why don’t my metrics match yours?)

We wanted to taken a moment to talk about how companies track applicant attribution and the challenges and opportunities it presents in shaping our understanding of the world of online recruiting.


What is Job Applicant Attribution?

Quite simply, it’s the way an organization determines how job applicants are finding their positions both online and offline.

Why is it important?

It helps to determine which websites or other forms of marketing are driving applicants effectively.

How do most companies do it?

Most companies utilize a dropdown on their job application that asks a simple question of the job seeker similar to “Where did you find this job?”

Is this a good approach?

Generally, it’s not a great approach. We discuss the challenges of it below:

  1. The top spot in the dropdown list for this question will almost always be the most common answer. Why? Because applicants generally don’t take the time to answer this question correctly. It’s similar to “How did you hear about us?” and applicants know it’s not going to determine anything relevant to them. How do you test if this is the case for your organization? Try swapping the order in your list of options (take your least popular option and make it the first item in the dropdown list) and see if the numbers vary. If they do then you know you’ve got an issue.
  2. Your applicants confuse the website that they found the job on with the company that actually placed the job listing there. To be fair this is an easy one to confuse and we can’t blame the applicant, but it does cause your attribution metrics to skew. How so? Let’s say you post a job to a recruiting partner such as Careerlink that also in turn shares that job listing with hundreds of other job boards, including some of the largest. The job seeker finds the job on a major job site (we’ll call it JobRecruiter.com), visits Careerlink (the originator of the job listing), then applies on your company’s website. From the job seeker perspective when asked where they found the job the applicant will inevitably say “JobRecruiter.com” because they technically did find the job there but it misses the important fact that the job would not have been found on that job board without Careerlink and its syndication network.

Why does this matter?

When considering your recruiting strategy it helps to know which channels are driving applicants cost effectively for you. To do that we need to dig deep enough to understand the nuance within the data to uncover which partners are truly driving traffic.

Is there a better way to track?

Yes! We are big believers in using the “referring url” method of attribution. What is this? This is data that is available via common analytics tools such as Google Analytics that allows you to track the domain that the job seeker arrived from. This data should match exactly with your Careerlink metrics for job seeker traffic!  It’s also a much more effective into which companies are actually driving the applicants to your jobs than the old dropdown menu question.

Want to know more about attribution?

Drop us a line.


All the best,


The Team @ Careerlink