Getting Paid to Hand-Pick Your Co-Workers: A LinkedIn Ads Experiment

Using LinkedIn Ads with Recruiting Referral programsWhat if you could hand-pick your co-workers, and make money in the process? The idea isn't original. Many great companies offer referral bonuses because they know that talent attracts more talent. And yet referrals only account for about a third of new hires at many companies. Recently I tried an experiment to see whether I could use LinkedIn Ads to turn myself into a de facto paid recruiter for my company.

How to Set Up a LinkedIn Ad for Recruiting Referrals

When I heard about some new openings in my department recently, I had an idea to use LinkedIn Ads to help me recruit for the new gigs. The goal was to scale my efforts in finding qualified candidates so that I could invite them to apply for these new jobs. If I could get someone hired through this process, I'd be eligible for a referral bonus. The setup consisted of three steps:

Step 1: Create a LinkedIn Ad Campaign

First I signed up for LinkedIn Ads and created ads targeting candidates based on the positions available. I created two cost-per-click ads with the goal of learning what I could from the differences in the ads.

Ad 1 "Broad" - This ad cast a wide net across all marketers in the Twin Cities with a few years of experience. I used geography, experience (via age as a proxy), and industry in my ad targeting.

LinkedIn broad targeted ad

Ad 2 "Narrow" - This ad honed in on just marketers with experience in higher education. It contained all the parameters of the first ad, as well as some specific company-level targeting to restrict the ads to showing only within the higher education market.

LinkedIn referral program ad with narrow focusAfter creating my ads, I created a budget, pointed them at a special landing page I created on my blog, and launched my campaign.

Step 2: Sending LinkedIn Ads to a Landing Page

The ads began receiving impressions and even sending a few folks to the landing page I created to promote the openings via clicks. This landing page wasn't anything special. It contained some basic information about working for Rasmussen College, a list of links to all the open jobs, and a contact form where I instructed interested parties to direct their queries.

Landing page for LinkedIn Ads

Step 3: Screen and Submit Referral Candidates

Once candidates contacted me, we'd exchanged a few emails to see which positions appealed to them the most, and where their experience might fit in best with the company. I gathered a resume and cover letter from candidates who were a good fit and submitted them through our company's referral submission process. If there wasn't a good fit, I reached out to my LinkedIn network to see if anyone was looking for someone like my candidate.

The Results of the LinkedIn Ad Experiment

At this point, I have some very encouraging results, but I haven't hit a home run. The ad with a narrow focus has received 1700+ impressions, but hasn't yet earned any clicks despite several changes to the image, headline and ad copy. On the bright side, this ad hasn't cost my any money, so it's been a free learning exercise.

LinkedIn Ad results

On the other hand, the more broadly targeted ad has received over 19,000 impressions, 18 clicks, and 2 contacts. One candidate was qualified, while one wasn't suited for the positions we had available. What did we learn?

  • With 18 visits and $56.38 spent, I averaged $3.13 per click
  • Of the 18 visits, 2 contacted me, for a visit-to-lead conversion rate of 11%
  • With 2 contacts, I averaged $28.19 per candidate
  • With 1 qualified candidate, I'm averaging $56.38 per qualified candidate
  • Hypothetical: I may have to recruit five qualified candidates before someone lands a job. In that case, I'd average a cost-per-hire of $281.90

If the qualified candidate lands the job, I have found a rock star for my team and have earned $1,000 (referral bonus) on an investment of $53.16 (at a humble ROI of 1,781%). Even if I have to recruit a total of 5 candidates before someone gets hired, I'll still be looking at an ROI of 255%. In fact, at this point I would only need one candidate out of 19 to land a job in order to break even on the investment. 

Taking LinkedIn Ads to the Next Level

Given the preliminary results from my campaign, the outlook is promising. Yes, there are multiple areas for improvement as I look ahead. I'm going to continually tweak my ad campaigns for both targeting and ad creative. I also want to refine my landing page to increase my visit-to-lead conversion rates. But overall, I may have just stumbled upon a great way to hand-pick my new co-workers and get paid a like a professional recruiter in the process.

What do you think of the LinkedIn Ads approach to recruiting through referral bonus programs?