How to use ‘big data’ for better and more cost-effective recruitment

“Big data” offers HR an opportunity to take a more data-driven, analytical and strategic approach to recruitment, and enables businesses to ask new kinds of questions. Traditionally, they focused on: “How has the business performed?” Now, recruiters can focus on: “What will happen if…?” and “What direction should the business take?” This article gives you key tips for getting started on using data in a more effective way.

By using big data, HR can map out talent needs in alignment with the company’s business plan. Furthermore, the forecast provides direction on the effective online job sites to use that lead to more cost-effective recruitment campaigns.

The forecast also provides additional insight into the baseline hiring expectations (ie, difficulty to fill, anticipated total candidate response and time it will take to produce that volume of response). These insights direct recruiters on when they should start sourcing, what sources to use and if additional sourcing strategies should be deployed.

New technologies make it possible for HR to blend its internal data with data from external sources to make evidence-based talent management decisions and to raise HR’s profile as a strategic partner. This is especially true of today’s more evolved job boards, which provide much more information then their predecessors.

Analysis of big data also allows HR to track the effectiveness of current recruitment marketing campaigns. If these metrics underperform compared with the forecasted baseline, the recruitment team can investigate and address low candidate response immediately. This is a marked improvement to reviewing metrics in retrospect and then trying to determine what should be modified in the future.

Big data also enables additional real-time insights through comparative and benchmarking analytics. Recruiters can monitor how their campaign is faring, compared with similar recruitment marketing efforts running at the same time, and if competitors are having more success in reaching the same talent pool.

Companies around the world are investing in big data. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 85% of Fortune 1000 executives have projects planned or underway for getting more business value out of data their companies generate and collect. And a recent Gartner report projects that big data will account for $28 billion (£18.33 billion) of IT spending globally this year and will increase to $34 billion (£22.26 billion) in 2013.

It is less clear how organisations will gain business value from the vast amounts of data they gather. Companies are already awash in data. They know there is value to be mined but are unsure of where to focus their attention, how to unearth the insights buried deep within the often unstructured data, and how to act on their findings with sufficient speed and purpose.

Big data offers HR the opportunity to make more evidence-based human capital decisions. HR can get the right people into the company at the right times, the first time, using data to improve candidate sourcing and selection, speeding up the hiring process and reducing costs.

HR can test theories, proactively solve problems and conduct more complex predictive analytics related to sourcing and hiring strategies. In contrast, uniform sourcing and hiring practices inevitably lead to hiring delays and poor candidate selection, which results in delays to the achievement of business objectives.

Employers need to leverage a mix of sourcing strategies to build their talent pipelines. The forecast for the optimal sources and the anticipated candidate flow can be made with greater accuracy and precision.

How to use big data in recruitment

Start with the internal data in your core applicant tracking system (ATS) and HR systems. Look at the previous time to fill, cost per hire, sources of hire, attrition rates and performance scores for the positions that are critical to fill in the upcoming hiring year. Review the data and metrics to determine the most cost-effective sources and best candidate flow that led to the most hires; especially the hires that stayed employed with the company at least a year and were meeting or exceeding their performance goals.

Review your weblogs. Review the number of unique IP addresses that visited your job/employer site. Capture which websites they came to you from, which pages were most visited on your site, how long candidates spent on those pages and which pages they last visited before they left. It is also important to compare the number of candidates you received from your job board advertising against the number of fully completed applications you receive to determine your candidate drop-off rate.

Benchmark. Compare the above metrics with external sources – such as consulting firms, peer companies and consortiums. Work with job boards to capture key metrics about your company – for example, how often your company is searched for, how often your jobs are viewed and how often they are clicked on.

Subscribe to data services, for example web traffic data, Google Ad-Words or government labour data services. Use social media to see how potential applicants view the organisation, by measuring your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn traffic to see the number of likes, follows and re-tweets, and determine if there is a correlation between your employer brand and recruitment marketing efforts. Include data from outsourced vendors, blend it with your analysis and show predictive analytics related to sourcing and hiring strategies and its impact on business activity. Enter into partnership with a service provider that specialises in big data and analytics to help you glean insights into your sourcing and hiring strategies.

The importance of the human element

Despite the relative newness of big data, many companies are already losing sight of something crucial – the human element. This is understandable since the technical and technological aspects can be overwhelming.

However, the real value of big data lies in the answers it can provide, the insights that can be derived and its ability to enable business users to ask new kinds of questions that could not previously have been answered. You only achieve the data’s full potential when this information is analysed, interpreted, reported and put to use by an organisation’s people. The potential of big data could be squandered if HR does not take a leading role.

David Bernstein is vice president of eQuest‘s Big Data Division. The company offers job posting delivery and job board management services, including candidate sourcing metrics and job board evaluations (big data), job board consultation and planning, job board negotiating, and billing control. eQuest supports global applicant tracking systems, including Kenexa, Taleo, Oracle, SuccessFactors, SAP, Peoplefluent and Ceridian.

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