Health Technology Company Reducing Big Job Board Spending, Boosting Social Media

A Massachusetts company with about 1,400 employees ended its contract with a large, national job board, and is allocating — as the graphic shows — its time and money to advertising on Indeed, Facebook, LinkedIn, SimplyHired, and more.

Athenahealth is a healthcare IT company, recently mentioned by Barron’s, that provides online services for doctors, such as billing services. It has received a number of honors like the 2011 “Best Place to Work in Massachusetts” by Boston Business Journal and was named to Fast Company’s list of the world’s most innovative companies in 2010.

While turnover is low, and Recruiting Operations Manager Susan Treadway says engagement is very, very high, athenahealth does have its recruiting challenges. Hiring for its critical sales and software jobs is challenging, competing without a big name against two that are quite big and have New England operations: Google and Microsoft.

Treadway’s department reports to an SVP and lies outside of the human resources department. Interestingly, it includes only six people, though it’s adding 400-450 people a year.

In 2009 in particular, it started to believe that its job board spending just wasn’t working well enough: too many applicants, not all qualified, a lot of sifting, too much recruiter time. Athena ultimately wanted not just to fill jobs but to improve hire quality and make sure its recruiting practices brought to athenahealth the innovative, fast-moving types who fit the culture.

It started using Indeed sponsorships at the end of 2009 and ended its contract with Monster in August 2010.

Athenahealth brought on HireClix, a recruitment marketing firm also in New England, in October 2010. HireClix immediately began refining the placement of Indeed ads. As an example, HireClix worked with Indeed to identify cities where salespeople would most likely to be living or traveling, such as Dallas, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and placed ads in those search results, rather than in a region like “Northwest,” which wasn’t a common way for people to search. Treadway says she hadn’t previously fully understood the Indeed relationship — how to get the most out of the dollars she was spending.

This year, athenahealth has expanded its social media recruiting. Using Facebook and LinkedIn ads, HireClix targets passive candidates by geography, work history, and job title.

Athena and HireClix would, for example, look for people who had experience in the field of healthcare electronic records, and place an ad on their social media profiles. If a competitor was involved in a big layoff, HireClix would put a small ad on the LinkedIn profiles of employees of that company if they had a word like “PHP” or “gaming” in their profiles (the latter not because athenahealth’s a gaming company, but because that might reach the right type of person).

Gaming enthusiasts and software developers were also targeted through ads placed on websites such as and

In search of passive candidates in the sales/business development field, 50-60,000 were targeted through LinkedIn and Facebook ads that generated 3.2 million impressions, stats that cover a period of about five months. This led to 1,300 visits to the athenahealth careers site.

LinkedIn, it’s finding, has generally worked better for sales, Facebook for software developers.

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Athenahealth and HireClix experiment heavily to see what ads, colors, phrasing, and so on work — and then scrap what doesn’t. They’re also using Google, both to place banner ads and to place text ads that show up when people conduct searches.

Treadway doesn’t see Twitter as a big part of her current recruitment advertising. Craigslist, and some niche job boards in the healthcare field, are used some, but Treadway doesn’t see niche board spending as something that’ll grow in the near future.

As for live events, Athenahealth also sponsored a mobile food truck at MIT, where it has had a long relationship. On May 18 of this year, it gave away free food during the breaks between exams during finals week. HireClix used Facebook ads — highly targeted to mention the specific classes people were taking — to get the word out to math and engineering students. The ads targeted 480 students; 191 saw them. Recruiters and software developers, of course, were on hand to schmooze with students.

More than 250-300 students came out in the rain, and the food sold out in three hours.

With all these changes in recruitment ad spending, Treadway is bombarded by excited recruiters wanting to place ads on this or that site, now that they see what’s working and what’s not. “You can throw out a big net in the ocean,” she says, “or you can get to the right fish by putting out the right bait.”

“But,” I asked, “how do you know these really are the right fish?” Right now, there aren’t a lot of metrics as to the quality of the candidates arriving at athenahealth and being hired. Treadway says she’s confident that the quality of candidates is up sharply, based on everything she hears from recruiters and employees (“people here are pumped about this kind of stuff,” she says, “not just the recruiters.”). The company’s moving from SonicRecruit — which was bought by Taleo — to Kenexa 2X BrassRing, which she says will give it a greater ability to generate the metrics and reports it needs to measure how various sources of hires are working out.

The culture at athenahealth is strong: it sees itself as offering disruptive technology, integral to the health care infrastructure of the future. All employees — called athenistas — are considered insiders, who hear quarterly results before Wall Street does. Everyone’s eligible for bonuses. “Transparency is big,” Treadway says. Though 360 reviews are given to everyone, “you better have said it already to them.”

She says the company is aggressive about moving to cutting-edge programs and technologies, even if it’s not sure of the exact outcome, and that this applies to both the company’s medical software as well as its recruiting. “We love taking on and trying new things,” she says, “but we don’t continue to do them if they don’t work.”


14 Comments on “Health Technology Company Reducing Big Job Board Spending, Boosting Social Media

  1. Thanks, Todd. This is very intersting to me. I like to see orgs who have a clear and targeted strategy instead of blindly following “the next big thing”. I’m particularly interested in how/what they did to accomplish two things:

    1) “Interestingly, it includes only six people, though it’s adding 400-450 people a year.” What tasks do these people do, and what do they NOT do to accomplish this?

    2) “In search of passive candidates in the sales/business development field, 50-60,000 were targeted through LinkedIn and Facebook ads that generated 3.2 million impressions, stats that cover a period of about five months. This led to 1,300 visits to the athenahealth careers site.” Who looked at 50-60k LI, FB profiles?



  2. I like this too, Todd. And as always Keith poses the right questions.

    Is there evidence that the people drawn to the site lead to better quality hires? Do they have a way to screen – effectively screen – 50k-60k profiles?

  3. Hi Keith & Paul – Thanks for reading the story regarding athenahealth’s strategy. I can probably answer the questions related to the targeting of the Facebook and LinkedIn profiles for the sales and business development roles.

    We helped the client build targeted advertising campaigns which created a potential audience of 50,000 – 60,000 professionals who fit the profile. We then used athenahealth branding in our advertising and creative to build a compelling “call to action” for these passive candidates.

    We typically focus on having folks apply to a specific posting or some time we drive candidates to the careers page. It really depends on the client’s objectives.

    Regarding the screening… We didn’t have anyone who combed through the tens of thousands of profiles manually, we leveraged the targeted advertising platforms from Facebook and LinkedIn combined with our digital marketing expertise to create an audience that fit the passive candidates we were interested in reaching for the client.

  4. Does this lead to better quality hires?….As Susan mentions in the article, we feel that we are getting better quality candidates and hires from the effort since we are starting with the targeting in mind first. In our eyes, we narrow-cast recruitment marketing campaigns versus broadcasting jobs leading to better interaction with the candidates we want. We think this narrow-casting approach will only continue to get more sophisticated.

  5. @ Paul: Thank you; you’re very kind.
    @ Neil: Thank you, too. So the ads were carefully targeted toward the 50-60k profiles, and that led to the 1,300 career site visits.
    1) How many hires came from this campaign(*50-60k profiles—> 1,300 visits)?
    2) How much did the campaign cost?



    *Seems ~the same response rate as for LI InMails.

  6. Hi Keith –

    Unfortunately, we don’t disclose our clients’ specific budgets and costs for campaigns. The Facebook campaigns have proven to be a very effective way to reach passive candidates for our clients in comparison to other recruitment marketing channels. This can vary by geography, job function and client. I can also tell you that the conversion rates sound very similar to LinkedIn InMails. That tends to vary as well. Targeting and conversions all depend on the audience, the copy/creative and call to action. That’s why you need to closely manage and optimize your recruitment marketing efforts.

  7. We hear this repeatedly every year… Some company is cutting it’s expenses using job boards. Social Media will save the recruiting world from the big nasty job boards.

    The fact is… if you do not get the word out, you do not find the candidates. Job Boards are here to stay. Companies who fail to keep this in their recruiting tool box will lose in the talent war.

    The economy will get better. Where will you be once that happens? Me, I will network and stay in contact with those on the market now so I can hire them in the future.

    Good luck with this one.


  8. Hey Bill – Thanks for the comment. I think your position is an interesting one and has merit but I think you emphasize the extreme position that social media will save recruiting. I don’t see athenahealth’s balanced recruitment marketing mix as an extreme social media solution to save the world. A few other thoughts on your comment…

    1) Job Boards are not Nasty – When the perform, as they have for many years, they are a good source of candidates. I think people need to diversify their efforts because the candidates have spoken with their actions and job boards are not the only game in town. Recruiting teams need to continue to find ways to measure source of hire so they can constantly evaluate what works for their needs. We see niche sites like VetJobs, AfterCollege and others as great opportunities to meet client needs.

    2) Job Boards are here to Stay – Job boards may have a role but it has changed. See the Compete traffic comparison below of Indeed, LinkedIn & Monster. Recruiters need to take note of new channels…

    3) Getting the Word Out – I would suggest that getting the word out via job boards and a job posting leaves a lot of employer branding opportunity on the table. Blogs, videos, podcasts with executives, hiring managers and employees are all great ways to showcase culture & team versus a job description.

    4) You mention networking is important to you and it looks like you personally leverage LinkedIn quite well. Networking and personal relationships are key to any recruiter’s effort. I think LinkedIn specifically has helped us all take at least one step closer to each other.

  9. @Neil:
    Thanks again. I understand your need for confidentiality. Can you let me us know how long the campaign took from inception through completion (or at least when the “last” of 1,300 website visits)?


  10. The fact is that the Job Boards are here to stay. Once the economy gets better Companies who fail to keep this recruiting tool in their box will lose in the talent war.

  11. Hey Linda – An interesting comment. The client recruitment marketing mix leverages a college job board in the graphic above. As a recruitment advertising agency, we value job boards for our clients when it is appropriate as well. I think there are two key parts to highlight here. Consumers have changed behavior and recruiters need to innovate. The corporate recruiting teams need to innovate by exploring and understanding the new channels that consumers are leveraging as they explore new career opportunities. To simply rely on job boards alone or a just a mix of job boards as many may have done 3-5 years ago creates risk for an organization’s talent acquisition strategy.

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