Keyword Success Cuts Candidate Costs For Texas Health Care Provider

A year ago, Baylor Health Care System launched a keyword marketing campaign, buying ads on a variety of search engines. After 11 months of what began as an experiment, Baylor has generated 12,455 applicants at an average cost per applicant of $3.35.

“It’s worked very well for us,” says Baylor’s HR Communications Director, Eileen Bouthillet

Baylor’s story was told Monday in the Wall Street Journal, which also detailed last fall’s seasonal hiring push by United Parcel Service. Both companies told the Journal that search engine marketing produced more applicants at a lower cost than did print.

“We’re cutting newsprint wherever we can and trying to move more to online media,” Matthew Lavery, corporate workforce planning manager, told the Journal. “Google is outperforming other online media.”

Bouthillet, who provided us with updated cost per applicant figures, says Baylor worked with TMP Worldwide’s Dallas office to develop a campaign and track the source of the applicants. By far, keyword buys on Google, Yahoo, Indeed, and SimplyHired yielded the largest number of candidates at the lowest cost. But the job boards also performed well, even if they were 7.5 times more costly per candidate.

CareerBuilder job postings were responsible for 52 percent of all the candidates coming from the job boards, which, cumulatively, had a cost per applicant of $25.43.

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Compare that to the $403.14 Baylor spent per candidate on print.

Bouthillet also improved Baylor’s career center to make listings and the specific specialties more friendly to search engines, which also made them easier for candidates to find. Working with her staff web specialist, Bouthillet crafted custom landing pages for the keywords. So instead of a generic nursing page, she and her communications staff created pages for all the key nursing specialties being sought.

Optimizing the career site and job listings, she told us, was “kind of a no-brainer. We got better placement on the search engines and that helped drive candidates.” The Baylor name was also a draw.

The next step in the program is to track the hires. “It’s horribly inaccurate when candidates self-select,” Bouthillet acknowledges, which is why the TMP-crafted campaign embedded source tags into each component. Now, she and TMP have been pushing Taleo, Baylor’s ATS vendor, to incorporate TMP’s tracking tags to track both source and cost of hire right down to specific keywords, sites and whatever campaign media are used.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


8 Comments on “Keyword Success Cuts Candidate Costs For Texas Health Care Provider

  1. The WSJ article on March 9th and this article document an emerging method for filling the candidate funnel. What neither article addresses is quality of source and applicant to hire ratios. The WSJ article cited a 5250 candidate response to one campaign. How many of those candidates will be hired? How many will receive some form of personal touch point in the process? How many of those candidates will speak favorably about the application/employment experience? How many will feel they were sucked into another candidate black hole?

    Low cost and high volume may not be the desired end game.

    In a quality of source audit we conducted for one client, traditional print media actually attracted the highest caliber of candidate. As such the marginal sourcing dollars were moot (in the case of this article $4 vs. $400).
    The dollar differential can easily be off-set with one or two fewer interviews with poor caliber candidates.

    High volume response rates can create an alternative problem – applicant spam. The administrative challenges of dealing with hundreds or thousands of low quality candidates produces waste in the recruiting process. Candidates who do not get acknowledged feel slighted, which detracts from the employment brand and creates a negative viral buzz in the applicant pool.

    While it is important to find solid sourcing methods, don’t confuse volume with value. Be a systems thinker and explore the entire talent acquisition cost of sourcing through on-the-job proficiency. Then you can allocate resources where the ROI is best, as opposed to where the resume spam is the thickest.

    Think about it.

    Joseph P. Murphy
    Shaker Consulting Group, Inc.
    Developers of the Virtual Job Tryout®

  2. 12,455 applicants. It sounds like Baylor Health Care has conducted a terrific candidate attraction campaign. Step one in the process is complete and successful. Now, what do you do with 12,455 applicants? How do you ensure you didn’t miss the good one? How many good ones are in the pile? How do you protect your employer brand? Do you have enough recruiters on staff to handle the volume? Or the better question, do you want them to be spending a large part of their day sifting through 12,455 applicants.

    Most companies are struggling with the volume issues Baylor will now face. The unemployment rate has increased the resume flow of candidate attraction campaigns significantly. Smart employers like Baylor are utilizing technology to increase the flow of candidates even more. Recruiting organizations will need to evaluate how they conduct their operations to ensure they are providing high value service to their hiring manager while dealing with the increased flow of applicants.

    I would like to see a follow up story that outlines what Baylor did with the resumes.
    Good article John.

    Bill Opal
    Recruiters – Do you need a Flunky?

  3. Thanks for your comment Joe. You are absolutely correct about the quality v. quantity issue. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough in the article that Baylor, TMP and Taleo are working together to be able to close the hiring loop by accurately tracking an applicant from first click to hire. Baylor wants to be able to determine not only the medium that produces the highest applicant volume, but which produces the most hires. Though Eileen Bouthillet and I didn’t get this far in our conversation, the golden metric in HR would be able to track a candidate from first contact to final disposition, incorporating performance as well as hire to demonstrate what recruiting methods are best to attract the best performers for each specific job.

    So, as Joe Murphy points out, traditional print may be the right medium for certain jobs, while LatPro (tip of the hat to Eric Shannon) is a better place for other types.

    As for handling the sheer volume of applicants, I can’t say, Bill, how or what the company did. But applicant volume was not out of line with the need. Baylor hires about 4,500 workers during a year.

  4. Baylor Health Care System actually hires about 2,500 per year. Handling a large applicant flow hasn’t been a problem for us. The search engine keywords we purchase target our most critical openings, which are for licensed/registered nursing and allied health professionals.

    I asked our Director of Recruitment to comment on applicant management and our ability to identify the best candidates.

    She said for clinical, advanced degreed, registered positions, candidates are addressed in 24 to 48 hours of application – if they are qualified for the position based on the requirements stipulated by the hiring manager. First, they are contacted via telephone and email to schedule a phone interview. If they are not qualified for the position, they will receive an email informing them they are no longer in consideration for that position, but to continue to review our website for other opportunities. The email also contains contact information for the assigned recruiter, so they can get more information.

    For all other positions, the candidates are addressed within 72 to 96 hours, using the same process mentioned above. With 24 recruiters, we are able to connect with candidates within our targeted time frames 90% of the time.

    We believe our candidate quality has been good because our number of open positions has fallen to record lows and turnover is decreasing. We are really hoping to get Taleo (our applicant tracking system) integrated with our ad agency’s media tracking system, so we can more accurately determine the source of our quality hires.

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