Anyone who knows the recruiting field understands the intense workload and fast pace that recruiters must operate in. Additionally, recruiting isn’t a skill you learn once and then spend the rest of your career on autopilot, either. As a result, recruiters have always needed to be the early adopters of the HR world, passionate about finding the best tools and the hottest sources for candidates to get the job done. No sooner have recruiters begun to incorporate the latest tool (i.e. social media) into their daily practices than they come upon the new It Girl of business: Big Data.

It would be easy to dismiss Big Data as a fad, if for no other reason than technology fatigue. But that would be a huge mistake. Data, in general, informs decisions and can help you make better decisions faster. Big Data, specifically, serves up an entirely new world of questions that can be asked and new ways to apply insights based on the answers. It is not a replacement for all other tools; it’s a new tool to be added to the decision-making toolbox.

Big Data is the new frontier for innovation, competition and productivity—across all industries and functions. By leveraging Big Data, recruiters can transform their image from “reactive,” responding to the “just-in-time” talent needs of the business, to a “proactive” business partner that has the foresight to make better and faster talent acquisition-related decisions.

Big Data is currently being applied to the talent acquisition process in a number of ways. Here are just a few:

Diving Deep to Reduce Turnover:

Gate Gourmet, a provider of catering and provisioning for the airline industry, recently looked at a variety of large data sets for its one thousand employees at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Gate Gourmet was experiencing 50 percent turnover, and they suspected that it had to do with commute time. To test this theory, they gathered the information in their internal systems – ATS, HRIS, performance review systems, POS data, sales performance and comp systems – and data from external systems – compensation, demographics, recruiting informatics, traffic and transportation, and social media. The company discovered that the attrition rate was closely connected to factors such as how far away an employee lived from the job site and how accessible public transportation was. The patterns that Big Data analysis revealed enabled the company to adjust its hiring strategies to achieve “fully staffed” status for the first time ever, and to lower unwanted turnover to 27 percent.

Targeted Recruitment Marketing:

Job boards are evolving to provide a gold mine of information for employers and talent acquisition professionals. Part of job posting evolution is the poster’s ability to tag aspects of job listings that provide essential information. This new functionality yields analysis that enables HR to precisely target sources that have the greatest likelihood of increasing candidate flow for specific positions. This builds stronger talent pipelines and accelerates time-to-fill–and enables smarter marketing spend as well, since you won’t be wasting money on job boards that don’t perform for you.

Predictive analytics can be derived from the huge volumes of data job board collect, such as how easy or hard it will be to fill a nursing position in Cincinnati or the best day of the week to post a software engineer job on a particular board. Big Data can also help uncover valuable trends and patterns on “click decisions”—that is, why or why not a candidate takes the critical step to apply for your posted job—so that you can quickly adjust your course of action to attract more candidates.

Mining the Internet for Hidden (Programmer) Gems:

A startup called Gild has garnered a great deal of attention for its combination of data aggregation technology and a proprietary algorithm to analyze developers’ code and professional contributions. Gild says that it “goes where developers hang out” on the Internet and scores developers on the quality of their public code and professional knowledge. It then scores these developers—and has done so millions of times—to offer recruiters a deeper look into a candidate’s true skills. This eliminates some of the guesswork and blind faith that recruiters who don’t happen to be developers must employ. In addition, Gild also gathers social media activity for each candidate to help you determine culture fit.

Great, but what if you’re not looking for developers? Gild offers a taste of what the Brave New World of Big Data offers recruiters. The company has been featured in the New York Times and snagged some high-profile clients, and that means it’s only a matter of time until other enterprising souls create ways to harness Big Data to discover all kinds of talent.

Proactive Talent Acquisition:

For organizations with mountains of internal data and a large workforce, Big Data analysis can be put to work to help determine how many employees are needed now and forecast how many will be needed in the future. IBM is doing just that. The company recently did a Big Data mash-up of internal data from two sources: its HR database and its global services billing database. IBM’s Big Data consultants were able to detect dozens of patterns that would not have been detectable otherwise. This helped IBM forecast shortfalls in critical talent areas; they then began the process of training or hiring the talent needed to fill projected gaps. IBM also could see via this analysis where they had talent overages and trimmed accordingly.

Conclusions:

Big Data takes the blinders off and eliminates the element of guesswork that has been of necessity embedded in the recruiting process. Armed with predictive analytic insights, recruiters can not only anticipate what will happen but be able to act on it as well. That kind of advantage is invaluable to an organization. Big Data can take you from reactive to proactive, from gut instinct or habit to evidence-based decision-making, from “I think” to “I know.”

Jennifer Boulanger, Director of Talent Acquisition at a Big Data-driven company called Opower, recently framed the importance of Big Data in a LinkedIn article on the future of recruiting: “Recruiters will become competitive intelligence to companies. Recruiters will know what is going to happen within companies and talent markets before it happens.” Peter Cappelli, Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, recently remarked that until now, companies have been flying blind in their recruiting efforts. Big Data takes the blinders off and eliminates the element of guesswork that has been of necessity embedded in the recruiting process. Armed with predictive analytic insights, recruiters can not only anticipate what will happen but be able to act on it as well. That kind of advantage is invaluable to an organization. Big Data can take you from reactive to proactive, from gut instinct or habit to evidence-based decision-making, from “I think” to “I know.”

Author: David Bernstein is the VP of eQuest’s Big Data division and their Big Data for HR service. He writes and speaks regularly on how data analytics can predict future behavioral patterns of candidates and create a competitive advantage in candidate sourcing.

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