Scott Helmes: Why big data is good for recruiters

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It’s no secret that companies face challenges when it comes to finding and hiring the best possible talent. This process could be made a lot simpler and companies could avoid some of the pitfalls if businesses used data in the right way. Big data has the potential to deliver real value for companies, no matter what their size.

How can big data help? 

Big data is a great way for businesses to understand where their in-demand talent pools may be expanding or contracting based on labour market trends and changes in the economy. Firms with a firm grasp on the labour market landscape for their in-demand roles are better prepared to expand at a faster rate as the economy recovers. Of course, while HR managers can seek support from data providers such as EMSI (Economic Modelling Specialists Int.) to provide a higher level of insight; many businesses continue to rely on intuition in order to support their recruitment needs.

HR managers need to be aware that they can leverage their internal recruitment data and broader labour market data to make smarter resourcing and workforce planning decisions. For example, if a company is hiring software engineers and struggling to find suitable candidates, firms can look to internal data such as time-to-hire reporting to spot the change in difficulty in filling these roles. If a firm is hiring in multiple locations, the data may help them understand locations where they may have more success in hiring. Companies can also turn to labour market data to confirm or dispel long-held internal beliefs on which locations should be included in the recruitment plan. The right analysis can often reveal a new approach and provide solutions to recruitment challenges across the business.

Where to start? 

There is an incredible amount of data available these days, and it’s growing exponentially by the second. While we’re lucky to live in a time with so much available data to access, the sheer volume of information can often slow people down as it is hard to know where to start. It’s important to remember that quality over quantity is key here. If you approach data in a methodical manner, with a clear focus and objectives, the analysis will become a much easier process.

For example, if your firm has access to job boards and CV databases, you can start by estimating the labour supply for your critical roles in various regions by checking the number of CVs listed on popular recruitment sites. A cross-reference of the posted job vacancies in the same area will help you understand the current demand for these skills. In order to identify recruitment opportunities, look for a mismatch of supply & demand. It will likely be easier to recruit in markets where the supply of candidates (CVs) outstrips the demand (jobs)

Of course this type of analysis is great in a pinch – but firms can expand on this analysis by tapping into external data from resources including the Office of National Statistics and the Open Data Institute to analyse entire talent pools and spot trends. Ask yourself: “Are total employment levels increasing or decreasing for my target talent?” or “Will it be easier or harder to recruit my critical positions?”

By combining internal data and broader labour market data, firms can strengthen their labour planning efforts – especially if they are relying on intuition to assess the talent landscape today.

What’s next? 

Labour market data is useful in its own way, but without the correct interpretation and analysis of the data you can’t make the smart recruitment decisions your business needs. Providing a narrative to your metrics is essential to building recommendations and developing a plan for how you will implement these recommendations will add weight and credibility to the process. A strong narrative is also critical in building support for initiatives with leaders outside of the HR office. HR leaders who can operate at the intersection of Big Data and storytelling will continue to be in demand for years to come.

Employment and recruitment data has existed for a long time, the recent increase in the ability to analyse this data and tell actionable stories about it is what is really delivering value for HR Managers. The best recruiting teams understand that data is critical to developing an effective candidate sourcing and selection strategy for today and tomorrow. Remember, an HR leader’s role is to source the right candidate, at the right time for the business.

Scott Helmes, Managing Director, CareerBuilder.co.uk

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