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Inside View: Robert Half Technology

John Reed, senior executive director, on how big data is reshaping recruitment

Thu Jan 7 2016

If you want to land an MBA job in the digital age, you need a polished online presence. Or so says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology, the S&P 500 recruitment firm.

Big data and people analytics have reshaped recruitment. These days, hiring managers scour online databases like LinkedIn to find talent.

But face-to-face networking is still key. Robots and algorithms have not replaced the humble campus visit — yet.

There are concerns among business that big data recruitment could create homogenous workforces. At a time when corporations take pride in their diversity, this is a stumbling block. But this is weighted against the myriad benefits to using analytics: reduced employee turnover, improved retention and, some say, enhanced profitability.

Your first step to a promising digital profile? Get rid of any alcohol-infused inauguration photos.

What advice do you have for job candidates in the big data era?

Networking and face-to-face communication is still essential, despite the advancements in recruitment. It’s also essential to have an updated, and employer-ready online presence, in the event that a potential employer is using big data for their recruitment efforts.

As there are now multi-pronged approaches to recruitment, it’s vital for jobseekers to maintain a polished presence throughout their search and their careers.

Is big data the future of recruitment? 

The use of big data for recruitment will certainly enhance [recruiting] efforts, but not replace the human element of hiring. These programs and advanced analytics will certainly help to identify people in specific searches, but a known network of people you trust will likely remain the first place potential employers look.

What are the key benefits of using people analytics to businesses, is it all about slashing costs, for example by reducing employee turnover? 

People analytics can be a great help to employers, allowing companies to profile candidates based on characteristics of long term, productive employees. They can also be used to understand stress levels, travel amount, and various other high-stress activities, to evaluate the overall wellness of the staff. 

The real value will be in identifying personality types, abilities, and other strengths to help create well-rounded teams.

Is there a danger that the use of data could discriminate, creating homogeneous workforces?

There may be danger to using big data for recruitment if the human element is totally removed from the process. Without the face-to-face component…. [Employers could] miss out…. On someone who may not have all the desired skills or traits, but are highly trainable and willing to learn.

How can companies make sense of the mountains of data available on candidates for jobs? 

To make an overwhelming amount of data less daunting, data modellers must identify key data domains that are relevant to addressing the problem at hand. By reducing the volume [of data] into manageable amounts, employers will surely be able to handle the data and make informed decisions.