The Myths, Hype, and Opportunities of Big Data for Recruiting

I go to a lot of conferences. Not as many as some, but enough to have grown tired of certain hype-heavy talking points that find their way into seemingly every presentation. Mobile is one, which I’ve written about before. Social is a tricky one because, although we’ve been beating that same drum for years, hiring organizations have only just begun to tap into its full potential, which I’ve also written about.

But there’s one other mega trend I’ve yet to discuss: Big Data.

Defined as “extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions,” big data is quite possibly my least favorite topic of conference conversation. This isn’t because I’m skeptical of its various uses and applications in HCM – and talent acquisition, in particular. It’s not because I think there’s little to be said about big data that hasn’t already been said.

No, what grinds my gears is that big data is carelessly tossed into far too many conversations, with 9 in 10 presentations over-hyping and under-explaining the opportunity to drive serious changes in the way we find, hire, engage, and retain talent.

I think that’s really what people are trying to get at when they talk about big data, but most barely skim the surface of this conversation. This has created a false sense of urgency for organizations do something – immediately, now, today, if not yesterday – about all of the data they’re sitting on. It has also left many with no idea of where to begin.

Big data is far more than a buzzword, and it’s already being leveraged by the most effective marketing and sales organizations in the world like Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. These organizations analyze consumer habits and buying behavior so well that sometimes I swear they know me better than I know myself. And they’re using this to drive business outcomes.

Of course, the scope of talent analytics is a bit more focused, but it doesn’t make it any less powerful. It can be used to break the endless cycle of source-hire-repeat. It can be used to get past anecdotal ROI in talent acquisition. It could very well be the key to high-performance everything … if you’re using it effectively.

If you follow the Brandon Hall Group blog regularly, you know we feel passionately about the power and potential of big data done right. Last month, Mollie Lombardi wrote a fantastic piece on workforce analytics. Just yesterday, Trish McFarlane gave a sneak peek of our session on big data at #EXCELLENCE15.

Later today, I’ll be joining my friend Joel Passen, co-founder of Newton Software, to cut through the all of the hype and present some actionable insight on how hiring organizations can leverage big data (more specifically, talent analytics) in talent acquisition. It’s a part of Newton’s Recruiting Bootcamp series, and something I’ve been looking forward to for a while now – and I’d love for you to join the conversation.

Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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Kyle Lagunas