Basics for incorporating “Big Data” into
your Recruitment Process

Big Data.

Is it really another buzzword thrown around by the guys at the very top to make us look at them like Gods? Or something to get HR professionals really excited about? Whichever answer you might feel more inclined to, what is important, is to understand how Big Data is changing the way businesses are recruiting.

Whatever you want to call it, ‘Big Data’, ‘insight’, ‘people analytics’ or simply ‘doing your job’, the benefits of using data to help in the recruitment process are amazing. It can not only reduce the amount of time it takes to recruit the right person and lower the recruitment cost but it can also drive down the cost of training and, as we’’ve already seen, lead to employees staying with the business for longer.

But there’s already been enough written online about why you want to use Big Data in the recruitment so we’re not going to bore you by repeating all that. Instead, what we want to share is something much more interesting, and that’s the ‘how’ you incorporate Big Data into your recruitment process. Oh yes! almost holly grail topic… 🙂

Identifying when and why a position is available.

The first way of incorporating Big Data is to start using it before a position has even become available. This might seem counterintuitive but stick with me, I’ll explain more. You want to be using data to give you an indication of when someone might be leaving. This isn’’t about spying on employees or looking at their browser history to see what websites they’re looking at while on work-time, – you might not want to know the answer to that… But, instead, what it should focus on are the individuals themselves to see if there are patterns might suggest they could be looking for alternative employment.

For example, have they gone from smashing their KPIs or targets out of the park every year to just scraping by? Have they been taking days off in patterns which would suggest they’’ve been attending interviews or has their absence record taken a turn for the worse?

By looking for changes in behavior, you’’ll be able to spot the signs that a position is soon likely to become available, and if that is the case, then you need to look at why?

There is a whole host of reasons why someone might leave a job such as more money, better career prospects, having a lousy boss, falling out of love with the company, or changes to their personal lives.

By understanding the ‘why’, appropriate action can be taken. For example, if the employee is struggling to cope with their workload then training may be required. Or, if there is an issue between the line manager and employee, then mediation could be a solution. These are just two basic examples, and what is important to remember is that Big Data allows you to explore the ‘why’. When HR departments start exploring the ‘why’ that is when they can go from being a reactive team to a proactive one and when that is achieved they can start to add even more value to the business as they are then able to justify their ROI.

Ease of finding a suitable candidate.

So, your company has got a position vacant for whatever reason which means that the next way you can use Big Data is to assess how easy it will be to find a suitable candidate for that position.

Here’s a common scenario: Business “A” opens a position with several recruitment agencies who go through their list of candidates and put forward candidates who match the required criteria. Business“A” selects some of those candidates and interviews them several times before deciding that none of them are suitable. Them some waiting time for agencies to present profiles again for the same scenario to repeat. Then go back to the drawing board with Hiring Managers to work out what is a must-have and what can be learned on the job, fine-tune the profile requirements, update the recruitment agencies with modified criteria and start the whole process again.

Sound familiar? Thought so! and it’s is no-one’s fault really, its just the way things happen in medium to large size organizations. Unless you’re working day-in-day-out recruiting for a specific industry in a particular region, it can be tough to know how easy, or not as the case might be, to fill a certain position.

But here’s the thing. Data can tell you how easy or difficult it will be to fill your position based on what you’re looking for.

By analyzing such data, you can see right at the start of the process whether you will be able to find the right person, with the right skills, for the right money in the right location. And isn’’t that something we’ all like to know from the start?, as it wi’ll certainly cut out all the toing-and-froing that sometimes occurs?

Gut vs Data.

Data can’t lie, unless it’s statistics as they can be skewed to show anything you want, but that’s a topic for a different day… Sometimes, recruitment can come down to making a ‘”gut-decision”’ about whether someone is suitable for a position or not but with the use of data, you can either validate or counteract that decision.

Let’s throw in another scenario as it always helps with explanations. Candidate “B” says they are fantastic at problem-solving and gives a wonderful example during the interview and hiring managers believe him/her. How great would it be if you could use data to check out their claim even if their references collaborate it too? By gamifying the recruitment process you could actually see this skill in operation for yourself and end up with quantifiable data that can be used as a benchmark across all candidates.

Data looks at things in a very black & white format and removes a lot of personal bias that can creep into the recruitment process, and we all know how much we are depending on personal criteria… Data shouldn’t’t be used to replace personal judgment on the suitability of a candidate but, rather, to reinforce that the correct decision has been made by adding more science to the decision.

Finding and using the data.

Sources of data exist in a multitude of places but basically, there are internal and external sources.

Internal data: – This is the type of data we alluded to earlier such as employee performance ratings and attendance records.

External data: – CV’s is the most common form of data but social media profiles, peer-to-peer reviews, and website behavior could be other forms.

Collecting the data is probably the easiest part as there are a wealth of tools available that will pull together such information. But we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that the difficulty arises in analyzing and interpreting the data and using it adequately.

You’’ll want to get rid of any “messy data”, that is data that doesn’t have any true value, and clean up your database to remove duplicate or incomplete records. What you should then be left with is a set of data that can be crunched, sorted, and analysed to produce actionable plans.

It’s no good saying: “There’s only 2% of people in our city who have the skills we need” if you’re not then going to act upon it. Should you look at outsourcing that role, training people from within, moving the location of the business, or change what you’re looking for? These are the kind of strategic decisions that can be made once you start to use the data.

How to use data in the position’s lifecycle.

It’s become clear, or, at least I really hope it has…
that Big Data should not only be used to analyse simple statistics but it should be used throughout the lifecycle of a position, it will assist your HR in taking the guesswork from recruiting and bringing the correct candidate onboard and produce a recruitment procedure strong and economical.

By using Big Data to get answers to the previously mentioned key questions during the recruitment planning process, you’’ll be in a much better position to make smarter and more profitable recruitment decisions in the key aspects as:
“Staff turnover rate, cost per hire and time-to- fill”  

Let’s them summarise those four questions, shell we?

a. When and when the position is available?
b. How easy will it be to fill?
c. How does data reinforce the recruitment decision?
d. Where do I find the data and how do I use it?

The use of Big Data in a position lifecycle will turn any organization HR department from reactive to proactive and in total control of their recruitment process.

Integrating the Big Data approach.

Adopting a Big Data approach to recruitment requires a significant shift in focus and resources which can be off-putting to many HR organizations. Heck, It even scared us the first time we had to assist a client at integrating it. However, if your organization requires it, teaming up with a partner like ourselves can ensure that your business starts to make better use of the data available out there.

Through our Customized Delivery Services we can put in place a tailored programme of tools and frameworks that are needed for your business to start using data more effectively.


Why not getting in touch with us to discuss ways in which we can assist your organization?  Is as easy as REQUEST A CALL  and we will get in touch with you sooner that you think.


This post was written by Tomas Cides Jimenez, Managing Director at People Place.

Tomas joined the Group in 2007 as a Senior Recruitment Consultant, and has been successfully working his way up to his current position. Becoming responsible for entire business operations within Central Europe and Western Europe. Working closely with managers at all levels in the clients’ portfolio to ensure the business delivery and client satisfaction is always at highest standards. To follow Toma’s blogging articles you can subscribe by clicking the box on your right or register with us.  Or why not connecting with Tomas on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn. 

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