Using Indeed to Recruit Technical Talent. Warning: Use At Your Own Risk

by Samantha Ogletree

At Stout Systems, our clients have always looked to us to find a skilled developer or engineer to solve their company’s unique technical challenges. We’ve always understood that these “purple squirrels” as they are called are not found on the typical job seeker platforms. Additionally, qualifying these technical candidates comes with its own obstacles that are unique to the industry. Typically, we see our clients’ HR departments are swamped and often unable to carry out the task of strategically and creatively finding these software engineers–much less screening and qualifying them. Other clients have an understaffed technical department that doesn’t have time to weed through the stack of inbound resumes on top of their daily list of tasks. That’s where it would appear that Indeed comes in.

Indeed has been running a very expensive advertising campaign for the past several years. We all know the brand and its proposition: hire whomever you need as fast as you can. Their database is one of the largest in the world and has far surpassed that of ZipRecruiter or Monster. Seems like the answer to all of our problems, right? Wrong. When it comes to hiring mid- to senior-level software engineers and developers for custom projects, Indeed can be an absolute nightmare and cost-suck. The familiar Pay Per Click paradigm that Indeed had been running with for so long is now being replaced with a new prototype–the Pay Per Applicant. We now have the opportunity to pay for only applicants who we deem qualified, rather than someone who merely clicks on the job advertisement. And not only that, we have the opportunity to REJECT these candidates within 72 hours if we determine they are not a good fit AND not get charged for them! Seems like a perfect solution to our hiring woes, right? Again, wrong.

I will break down how your team can use Indeed to find potential candidates in its database under this paradigm. But please note, I am also going to prepare you for the obstacles you will face using this platform because, unfortunately, there are many. I will be using language and instructions from Indeed’s site as well as my own experiences with using Indeed for hiring. This article will include my opinions based on these experiences.

But first, let’s start with credentials–I’ve been working for Stout Systems in the Michigan technical staffing and recruiting industry for 6 years. Stout is a recruitment company located in Ann Arbor that has been sourcing, qualifying, and hiring software talent for Michigan- and Ohio-based organizations for over 25 years. All that is to say, we’ve had to tackle many unique hiring challenges–not the least of which has been the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Setting aside Indeed’s incredibly hostile user interface and arbitrary cost analyses, I will just focus on posting the job and finding candidates based on Indeed’s own best-use instructions. I will leave the task of technical screening and evaluating candidates for another article.

First, if your company hasn’t posted on Indeed before, you must verify, or “claim,” your business page. This can be a task in and of itself. Indeed’s website instructions state that you can select the “Claim this Company page” button on your company’s profile, but this option was not available to us so we had to call their employer helpline. No matter how you verify, the process can take Indeed up to 3 days to approve. Once your company is claimed, you must build out your company profile. This includes photos, salary data, “why join us,” and about sections. You needn’t worry about putting in your social media or website links–Indeed does not direct visitors off of Indeed. You must also make sure to solicit your employees to submit reviews so that you build a good and reputable company page. This can take some time which, as those in the hiring business know, is of the essence. We came across a serious issue with our reviews on Indeed when someone who had never worked for or with our company (they were a Deskside Support Tech, a role we’ve never been hired to recruit) and had given us our only poor rating. You can’t remove or delete poor reviews–a policy we wholeheartedly agree with–to maintain transparency. However, should someone who has never worked for your company choose to air his or her grievances against your company erroneously–Indeed will do nothing about it.

Next, you’ll want to make sure your company is “approved” for the Pay Per Applicant paradigm. This is the new pricing model offered by Indeed to employers “which enables you to only pay for quality applicants, so you can make hires faster” (all language from Indeed’s site). To be approved, you must meet with an Indeed sales representative. They may not be able to answer your technical questions–they’re all learning how it works with us–as this model is still BETA. 

Now you can finally post a job. You’ll want to input a good descriptive title for the position, as well as the location (onsite, hybrid, or remote), and the compensation package. If you don’t want to write a job description, Indeed has an AI that will attempt to write one for you. This is nowhere near helpful if you are hiring a technologist to achieve specific goals for your company. Indeed’s algorithm is still in its learning phase (remember, PPA is in BETA) and will not have a robust knowledge of technical skills and requirements. There is an option to have “deal-breaker” questions for your job posting. This is a question that the applicant must answer in order to submit their application. For example, if the role is onsite, a deal-breaker question could be “Are you able to reliably commute to [location] or willing to relocate with an employer-provided relocation package?” If the applicant selects “Yes,” they are allowed to submit the application. This can present a problem when a candidate lies on the deal-breaker question and appears to be qualified on their resume or application. Indeed has no policy to prevent this. You have 3 days (72 hours) to communicate to the individual and confirm their information, references, and skills before you are charged for their application. Your hiring team must act fast. 

Let’s assume you reach out to the candidate within this time frame and do not get a response back in time. You have to make a relatively quick decision on whether this candidate is telling the truth in their answers to these questions. On the other hand, let’s assume the candidate does respond, you have a conversation with them and realize they have lied on the deal-breaker question. You have to have this information before 72 hours pass in order to avoid a charge. What happens when a job is posted through the weekend (a statistically active time for job seekers)? In our experience, it creates a lot of stress for Monday morning. Now on to the charges…

Indeed claims to have a powerful tool that is used to determine what the price of your applicants should be. This can range from $20-75 but, according to Indeed, there isn’t a cap on this. By simply typing in the job title, Indeed populates this cost per applicant. In our experience, these costs add up very quickly, especially when a candidate must be assessed within 72 hours. Unless you have a team of individuals dedicated to screening inbound resumes and communicating efficiently with candidates, it can be overwhelming and take up a lot of time.

Once your job is posted, you can “train” Indeed’s algorithm by “liking” or “disliking” a selection of resume previews that Indeed populates for you based on the job description. This is difficult because only a few skills and qualifications are presented (we never see a fleshed-out resume in this part of the process). After you have completed this step, the job is posted and you can use Indeed’s Instant Match, or Candidate Search tool, for the specific job. This, again, doesn’t present many fruitful opportunities. Instead, it produces a mountain of Indeed profiles–a result of Indeed’s dedication to quantity over quality. This isn’t unique to an employer’s experience with the site. Indeed’s AI overwhelms job seekers with thousands of jobs vaguely relevant to their skill set and interests and encourages them to apply for as many as possible. This is precisely why the PPC has failed employers in the past, but the PPA method does not remedy this situation. It appears to only remove it from our minds temporarily. 

Okay, enough griping about Indeed. Here are some tips I’ve discovered that can help you navigate this treacherous landscape.

  1. Do your research. Large HR departments will generally have subscriptions to salary info. If your company doesn’t, then you’ll need to do some research. With a quick search on the web, you’ll find that there are freely available sources, but you do have to take into consideration how big the sample size is and whether or not salaries are adjusted for location. One of the benefits of using a recruiter is that they are often a good source of information when it comes to salary. Looking at local job advertisements for similar roles is valuable too (for the ones where they include the salary info). And, all of this is probably worth the effort because the fact is, competitive wages never hurt an employer’s ability to attract and retain great people. Summarizing this, you should really know how your salaries stack up against similar positions in other companies, in similar locations in similar industries, and particularly compared to what is offered by your direct competitors. When we’ve surveyed candidates, one of the top common reasons for leaving a job is “to improve my salary.” This will help you attract a larger number of inbound resumes and it will also require you to set a budget that determines the value of each potential candidate.
  2. Be quick and communicative. Even without Indeed’s 72 hour countdown, your company should be in constant communication with applicants. Don’t let a resume get lost in a black hole–make sure you are humanizing your hiring process by declining candidates in a timely and considerate fashion. You never know when you might need someone down the road. Your hiring process is also a way to advertise your company’s culture. If you have deal-breaker questions in place, verify each candidate’s answers either verbally or in writing. Use them to start the conversation: “I see you said you can reliably commute to [location]. Are you native to the area? What do you like about living in [location]?” You’re more likely to get a quick response when the candidate wants to engage with you.
  3. Utilize Indeed’s Instant Match (Candidate Search) Tool as liberally as you can. To my knowledge, there is no limit to how many resumes you can view. Keep in mind, these are Indeed resumes that may or may not be entirely fleshed out. They lend themselves to questioning and verification. Additionally, when you reach out to candidates using the source tool and encourage them to apply to the role, you will be charged for those individuals ONLY if they apply. In that case, perhaps be selective with the invitations. There is a good feature within the Instant Match tool that allows you to add specific skills and requirements to narrow your search. Start with a few important skills and fine-tune your search as needed. Hopefully, that will generate better results. 

Indeed has thrived, despite bad reviews by both job seekers and employers, as one of the biggest job search engines in the world. It is a really big fish in a small pond of popular job posting sites. But it is nowhere near the robust tool that it needs to be to support its hiring claims. I have faith that moving forward, Indeed will remedy some of these issues with their site. I don’t anticipate every problem to be resolved, but it will have to improve significantly in order to survive. All this is to say, yes, we will continue to use Indeed intermittently as we see fit. But we certainly will not be using it as our primary hiring tool. Not only does it present a lot of problems with our candidate experience, but it doesn’t uphold its promises to make hiring easier. Our primary hiring tool has always been, and will continue to be, our amazing staff of humans. They can listen between the lines, think beyond binary, make magic happen, take pride, build relationships, adapt to new challenges, and break rules. These are things that are best solved through the use of human intelligence–which Stout Systems harnesses in abundance. Sourcing and qualifying candidates cannot be simplified by using Indeed’s AI to weed through keywords on a person’s Indeed resume. It requires a humanistic approach–the basis of Stout Systems’ hiring principles. We are Fueled by the Most Powerful Technology Available–Human Intelligence.

This is a technical/business article catered to developers, hiring/project managers, and other technical staff looking to improve their skills. Sign up to receive our articles in your email inbox.

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Stout Systems is the software consulting and staffing company Fueled by the Most Powerful Technology Available: Human Intelligence®. We were founded in 1993 and are based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We have clients across the U.S. in domains including engineering, scientific, manufacturing, education, marketing, entertainment, small business and robotics. We provide expert level software, Web and embedded systems development consulting and staffing services along with direct-hire technical recruiting and placements.
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