With massive layoffs hitting major companies around the world there’s no shortage of people looking for jobs.

But at the same time companies are watching how much they spend and want the most bang for their buck anyway they can get it. That’s true when it comes to recruiting too.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that more and more companies are experimenting with search ads to reach potential hires.

For some employers, there’s evidence that it’s a viable strategy. The Journal cites Baylor Health Care System as an example.

The large non-profit bought ads on Google, Yahoo and employment-specific search engines, resulting in over 5,000 applicants in the first six months at a cost of $4/applicant. The company reports spent $30/applicant on job boards, which produced over 3,000 applicants, and $750/applicant via newspapers and magazines, which produced 215 applicants. Needless to say, Baylor Health Care System was pleased with the results and is putting its money where it works best; it’s now spending less on job boards and on print listings.

Another company having success: UPS. Its search ad campaign last fall to recruit holiday drivers drew 150,000 applicants at a cost 70-80% cheaper than print ads.

Of course what works for one company doesn’t work for every company and the Journal gives the example of Bessire & Associates Inc., which hosts recruiting events. Its search campaigns drew few attendees at its events.

So are search ads a threat to job listings?

They might be. Print advertising looks especially vulnerable.

But like most things, however, whether search ads are a viable tool for recruiting depends on the industry/market. Generating a lot of applicants at a lower cost isn’t necessarily the best approach to efficient recruiting so what makes sense for some companies and positions won’t make sense for all companies and positions.

Another important factor is how well run a campaign is. After all, search ads are like any other form of advertising: if you don’t plan, execute, measure and refine, you’re not going to succeed.

The good news for players in the search space is that if they can make themselves useful to businesses and recruiters when times are tough, they might be able to make search ads an integral part of their recruiting efforts when the job market picks up. That would be certainly be a new avenue for growth in the search ad market.