By Kathy Gurchiek

LA JOLLA, CALIF.—HR professionals need to apply “big data” to talent acquisition, analytics expert David Bernstein told attendees at the 2014 HRPS Global Conference, because “if you’re not bringing in the right people, then what are you coaching? Are you trying to make do with the best you’ve got?”

Data can drive strategic recruitment marketing and give organizations a competitive advantage, said Bernstein, vice president of the “Big Data for HR” division at job posting provider eQuest. The author of Big Data: HR’s Golden Opportunity Arrives (eQuest, 2013) presented the concurrent session “Moving Beyond Metrics—Using Small, Large and Big Data to Create a Strategic Talent Acquisition Function” at the annual conference for HR People & Strategy, an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Typically, if HR uses data, it collects business intelligence on something that has already occurred. Through predictive analysis, however, big data can tell HR professionals why something happened and allows them to “make some incredible forecasts.”

But to make this work, HR has to make the link among the data about the organization’s needs and use that information to implement a predictive analytic strategy.

“Linkage is the key,” Bernstein said. HR has to “be able to answer the ‘so-what’ questions … and be able to tie [the data] to some business situation” in a way that helps the organization.

Talent acquisition and talent management need to dovetail, and hiring should be tied to business results. HR professionals must know the profile of the positions they are hiring for and which employee embodies those attributes so they can point to a current employee as an example—telling the recruiter, for example, to look for another ‘Joe’ or two more ‘Jills.’ ”

And when an organization is more precise in finding the people with the skills it needs, it can reduce its cost-per-applicant and cost-per-hire, Bernstein said.

The sources for acquiring talent have exploded in number. HR can use big data to learn what talent sources have worked best for their organization, he pointed out, citing as an example figures from a 2013 report titled High-Impact Talent Acquisition:

  • 18 percent come from both job boards and internal candidates.
  • 14 percent come via the company’s website and employee referrals.
  • 9 percent come from both professional recruiters and networking sites.
  • 8 percent come from search aggregators.
  • 7 percent come from university recruiting.
  • 3 percent come from print/newspaper advertisements and billboards.

“If you use data to plot your course … [you can] constantly measure the effectiveness of what you’re doing” so you can change course if needed, Bernstein said.

Big data also can be used in ways other than talent acquisition, such as for retention.

Bernstein cited as an example a manufacturer that achieved “fully staffed” status for its hourly workers for the first time ever by determining attrition patterns and adjusting its sourcing strategy accordingly.

Bernstein said big data allows him to “see things happen in motion” instead of six months later.

“It’s all about targeting and results.”

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.

Contact Syndeo for more information on how recruiting data can help with strategic HR decisions.