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Is big data the answer to hiring right?
These days, as a recruiter for HR roles, I’ve had clients asking me about big data and how it could possibly help in sharpening hiring processes.
Big data, or data mapping and analysis, is now a major buzzword in the HR industry, especially in the US, because of its many benefits. For example, hiring managers have said that they can now make better informed, data-driven decisions about candidates based on skills and aptitude, thanks to these people analytics.
While big data has been heavily implemented in the United States, its uptake among companies in Singapore has been low, mainly because of high barriers to entry. Many of my clients here have said that they lack the tools or expertise to perform proper data analysis.
For many HR teams in Singapore, laying the ground work for a big data strategy can sometimes be a challenge. Often, collecting data is not the issue — one of the advantages of working in HR is having a vast amount of information, such as job applicant profiles and attrition rates, available at your fingertips. However, conducting meaningful analyses of these data is probably another challenge altogether.
Know what you want to analyse
To make sense of data – or to even know how you should efficiently utilise/clean up your databases – you would first need to know what you’re looking for.
Let’s consider psychometric tests, which are often used in many companies here to test for “fit”. If you have two candidates, with one scoring 80 per cent and the other scoring 60 per cent on an assessment, which one would you hire?
Most people would naturally veer towards the candidate with the higher score. But what if he or she doesn’t end up being the perfect fit simply because the test didn’t account for the factors that truly matter?
As a recent article in Harvard Business Review puts it, psychometric tests will not help if you don’t have well-established measures of job performance. The tests need to be highly tailored to the organisation’s internal eco-system, keeping in mind culture and performance expectations, and constantly recalibrated as businesses are constantly changing.
To decipher which metrics your psychometric test should measure for, try answering questions like:
- What truly defines the job requirements and responsibilities?
- What are the behavioural traits that would best fit the role or team?
- What is the profile of historically successful employees in this role?
- Where have we found candidates for these jobs in the past?
Once you have your frameworks, you would be able to create targeted approaches in candidate sourcing and selection.
Don’t forget the human touch
While big data may seem like hard science, there is also an art behind its execution.
Data analytics can help to bring about more accurate hiring decisions, but it isn’t the only method you should use to recruit. It has to be complemented by a recruiter’s experience and intuition.
Let’s consider the same example of psychometric testing. Sometimes, looking at the 80 or 90 per cent fit without looking at what triggered the 10 to 20 per cent miss can be a grave error, says online HR magazine ERE Media. Could these high potentials have the tendency to blow up at clients or take on too much work, leading to dropped deadlines?
Data sometimes doesn’t tell the whole story, and that’s when hiring intuition steps in.
Seasoned recruiters typically have a hiring intuition that has been honed over time after talking to hundreds — or even thousands — of candidates and observing their behaviours. As external recruiters, we typically track our placements, checking in with clients to see if placed candidates turned out to be a perfect 10 on the job. Likewise, we also conduct similar checks with candidates to see if their expectations are met. Such feedback helps to affirm or fine tune hiring intuition.
While the use of big data in Singapore is less mature compared to overseas markets, the approach, if used correctly, can help organisations improve the quality of their talent and, in turn, overall retention rates. Talent acquisition practices are, after all, complementary to talent management processes.
As authors and talent management professionals Paul Turner and Danny Kalman once wrote: "The availability of big data per se will not be enough and it is the application of insight to the data that will make the difference."