The Truth about Data-Driven Recruiting

Spring has officially sprung in Austin, Texas – and with its arrival, conference season is kicking off. Although Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Excellence Conference is now the first event, TalentNet Interactive has typically marked the beginning of my annual conference travels. This year’s event featured presentations from some of the best in our industry, as well as conversations with some of the savviest recruiters of our day. Hot topics included employer brand management, candidate experience, and data-driven recruiting.

This last topic got me thinking. Brandon Hall Group defines data-driven recruiting as planning for talent needs, sourcing candidates, and making hiring decisions based on data rather than on anecdotal information. Data-driven recruiters use historical data on source channel performance to allocate the sourcing budget, or monitor changes in baseline talent acquisition measures to evaluate the impact of employer branding efforts. But even as more hiring organizations wrap their heads around next practices like measuring employer brand and improving candidate experience, data-driven recruiters are the rarest creatures in the industry – more rare even than the purple squirrel riding a unicorn.

While we talk a lot about how quickly technology has evolved over the last decade – and we love to discuss use cases for social analytics and so-called Big Data in talent acquisition – the reality is that many hiring organizations are still on their first generation applicant tracking system. In fact, very few organizations have reached a point of maturity where data-driven recruiting is even feasible.

When I conducted our talent acquisition benchmarking effort, I asked hiring organizations to select the phrase that best described the maturity of their talent acquisition efforts. The options were pretty straightforward:

  • Casual: We source new talent when the need arises, and rely on traditional methods for assessing, hiring and onboarding. We aren’t tracking any performance metrics.
  • Developing: We do our best to identify and plan for talent needs, but our existing process is outdated and consistency is a challenge. We have some performance metrics in place, but have difficulty tracking them.
  • Stable: We have a high-level talent acquisition strategy that loosely defines hiring priorities, tasks and workflows. We track performance metrics to monitor efficiency and efficacy, but there is room for improvement.
  • Optimized: We have a clear talent acquisition strategy that is part of a larger talent management strategy. We regularly assess talent needs and plan accordingly, tracking performance of each stage of our process closely to ensure maximum impact.

As you might imagine, very few fell into the Optimized category. What may surprise you, though, is the number that fell into the lowest categories of maturity.

talent acquisition maturity


64% – more than half of the organizations polled – described their talent acquisition efforts as either Casual or Developing. For organizations that fall in these categories, immediate talent needs are enough of a challenge. Lacking even a high-level strategy in place to inform best practices and identify near- and long-term goals, requisition management is about as far as recruiters get. Even then, they’re still relying on outdated and inconsistent process pervasive in reactionary recruiting. Not exactly the ideal scenario for data-driven recruiting.

To be sure, data-driven recruiting is still a relatively nebulous concept for most. There’s more and better technology to support data-driven recruiting, sure, but success depends as much on a dedicated culture of measurement as it does on having the right tools in place. My friend Kelly Long, HR Chief of Staff at Rackspace, has a team of six dedicated to analyzing HR data – six analysts! – and they still struggle to make sense of all the data they have.

As I gear up for the next several months, I’m also finishing up research on maturity and impact of talent acquisition – including key recommendations for improved maturity. You’d better believe measurement and analytics are at the top of that list. Stay tuned!

Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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