The Recruiter’s Intro to A/B Testing

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Could tweaking your email subject lines or the color of your ‘apply’ button help you attract more candidates? A/B testing can help you find out.

A/B testing
Image: Christian De Pape

Data-driven marketers swear by A/B testing. Why don’t recruiters? Don’t we want to look to optimize conversion, i.e. maximize the number of applications we get and candidates we engage? Maybe it’s time for us to get in the game.

First off, let’s start with the basics.

What is A/B testing? According to Optimizely:

A/B testing (also known as split testing) is a method of comparing two versions of a webpage against each other to determine which one performs better. By creating an A and B version of your page you can validate new design changes, test hypothesis, and improve your website’s conversion rate.

BuzzFeed is a good example of this. The social news and entertainment company uses a headline and image optimizer that tests multiple potential headlines and image thumbnails with every single one of their posts. Performance is monitored in real time and is used to determine which headline and image combination gets the highest click-through and share rate.

Basically, BuzzFeed has different versions of each of their articles running simultaneously in a big giant never-ending experiment. According to Contently, lots of huge media websites do this.

Interesting, right?

But why does this matter to talent acquisition?

Funny you should ask. We asked a recruiter, an employer branding social media strategist, and a good ol’ digital marketing expert, all who use A/B testing, for some insights:

How do you use A/B testing?

Charlie McClaskie, tech recruiter at OpenPros: “Mostly in email. I use A/B testing in subject lines, email content, job descriptions, and in some cases job titles. This can also be applied to LinkedIn InMails, or other channels such as SMS, Twitter postings, etc.”

Shawn Ryan, social media strategist at Clearlink: “I use A/B testing to compare two versions of a career landing page and pick the best page based on accurate data.”

Mitchell Callahan, co-founder and CEO at Saucal: “A/B testing is good for making improvements to my goals with click-through rates or sign-ups. Like a lot things, it’s difficult to know if you’re being successful unless you measure them.”

How has it improved your practices?

Charlie: “Based on my data, A/B testing lends to higher click-through rates, open rates, and conversions. Because this is recruitment, conversions can be described as prospect-employer introductions, interviews, and/or hires. However, a conversion can also be as simple as making a great connection with a candidate that you can ultimately place down the road.”

Shawn: “A/B testing has allowed me to figure out which career landing page is converting better. I typically create two variants for an open sales position and then split the traffic 50/50. After the pages have received an adequate amount of views, I’ll pick a champion page based on the conversion rate and drive 100% of the traffic to that page.”

Mitchell: “In my emails, I can track click-throughs. Furthermore, I try variations on my homepage and inner pages, depending on what my website’s goals are. I test how many people apply to jobs, again based on the copy, or how the information is displayed. I also do A/B testing by medium, trying variations based on where my traffic is coming from, tailoring my message to that audience.”

What tools or software do you use to do your A/B testing?

Charlie: “I’ve used MailChimp, Constant Contact, and a few other email marketing tools. My current go-to is Great for automated ‘drip’ campaigns!”

Shawn: “I recently discovered Unbounce, a landing page platform. Unbounce allows me to quickly create career landing pages and start A/B testing without having to rely on a web designer or developer. A subscription to Unbounce starts at $49/month. If you require applicants to upload a cover letter/resume, you’ll need to add a Wufoo form to the page. Wufoo starts at $14.99/month.”

Mitchell: “Optimizely for making adjustments. Inspectlet for data.”

What advice would you give any recruiters looking to adopt A/B testing to improve their practices?

Charlie: “Jump right in and try different approaches. Know your audience, use relevant content. Don’t always be dry with a basic text email, try funny subject lines, personalize the message, if you’re able to share information about the company add links to interesting facts (YouTube videos, company decks, CrunchBase info if applicable, press releases, etc.). Also, don’t be afraid of a few negative responses. There’s always 1–2 recipients that haven’t had their coffee yet when they read your email.”

Shawn: “A/B testing for career landing pages can help you increase applicants. You’re letting potential candidates slip through the cracks by not understanding what elements on a page turn viewers into applicants.”

Mitchell: “Ensure you’ve got a large enough base to measure. The more users and the more conversions, the more accurate – and useful – the data.”


About the author

Lily Weiner is Content Coordinator at Recruiting Social. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter @lilyweiner.

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