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Big Data – Why Should MBAs Care?

Recruiters are beginning to use Big Data models to analyse candidate profiles - what can they discover about you?

Wed Jul 10 2013

© treenabeena
Worrying about that photo on your Facebook profile after one too many drinks? Regretting that offensive Tweet you sent? You probably should. Big data - or simply large sets of personal collated data - is changing the nature of recruitment and it is big business. It will change the way you think about your online interactions. And it is the future, according to Mithun Sridharan, Consulting Partner at pliXos GmbH and an ESMT MBA.
“In the past, many decisions were made based on instinct and experience,” he said. “As the world moves rapidly and customer tastes evolve faster, data-driven decision making is increasingly gaining importance.”
Rather than relying solely on a rigorous interview process and data derived from your reume, employers are able to ‘mine’ through deep reserves of information, including those of your online footprint. Some human resources departments use this data to shape their hiring process. All of which means you may not get a chance to flash your winning smile or display your charming personality to a hiring manager. Instead, an opinion on whether you are suitable for a job could be made without you ever talking to the recruiter.
A host of new data-driven recrutiment products are popping up, such as Entelo, software launched by UCLA MBA Jon Bischke last year that allows HR managers to run mass searches on candidates for IT jobs - including 'passive' people who are not actively job hunting.
Similarly, the online recruitment giant, LinkedIn, has a busy team of data scientists building segementation and targeting tools for recruiters to access 'passive' candidates and mine information quickly from the LinkedIn treasure trove.
Last month Brenda Dietrich, IBM Fellow and Vice President in the IBM Research Divisions, told Business Insider how they’re utilizing big data to efficiently manage the size of their workforce.
“[We can ask] six months from now, do we have enough java programmers in Bangalore, enough [technicians] in Utah, enough database administrators in Zurich? We can [then] start hiring and training in advance,” she said.
A team of IBM data scientists mash together workforce numbers (employees) and billed projects (revenue) to forecast future hiring needs. No doubt they're using big data methods to hire and screen candidates too!
Francine Bennett, CEO and co-founder of Mastodon C, an agile big data specialists, argues that big data makes for more effective recruitment.
“There is a lot of data available online about every individual, as well as in their CVs,” she said. “It would be interesting to see if collecting that data and then building models which compare the CV and online data to their eventual success in being hired or not, and how their new bosses evaluate them, could be really powerful.
With the use of big data on the rise, Mithun agrees with the benefits on offer to recruiters. “Traditionally, recruiters had to manually sift through tones of candidate profiles. This is a daunting task,” he said. “Big data and analytics automates these tasks and allows a comprehensive evaluation of a candidate's capabilities and helps avoid recruitment faux pas by providing objective benchmarks of an applicant's candidature.”
There is no doubting these are powerful tools. But one of the problems with using vast amounts of data when selecting prospective job candidates is that it takes away the human element of human resources. 
Big data has provoked debate among leading MBA institutions. The McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University recently held a conference to debate big data in March this year. They invited faculty members, students and busines executives from the US to talk about ways to incorporate big data in clasrooms (a video of the conference can be accessed here).
The fear is that companies will hire people based on their statistics rather than on their talent or potential. But Francine dismisses that notion.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” she said. “Data should always complement the experts who add a human element – it should take away the boring or inefficient parts of their jobs and give them predictions to support their human judgment. But of course, an individual can’t be purely summed-up based on their data alone.”
But surely some of this data is private, you might ask. How can MBAs protect their personal data from prejudicing hiring managers against them?  
“Don’t put things online that you don’t want used,” she says, bluntly. “Make profiles private if they don’t relate to work. If data hasn’t been released then hiring managers can’t use it.”
Mithun also has no sympathy for job-seekers who have embarrassing private information in public, either. “Embarrassing private information should not exist in the public domain in the first place,” he added. “An act of leaving compromising information in a public, easy to access place on the Internet demonstrates a lack of judgment, seriousness, levity and lack of attention, even to one's own private confidential information. So, a hiring manager is justified in deciding against the candidate.”
There are clearly advantages to recruiters using big data, and in particular users’ Internet data. And while the process is changing the recruitment process in some segments of the business sector, fears still remain about how fair it may be in practice. Whether you agree with it or not, though, big data is coming. Due diligence in your online interactions will go a long way to shaping your digital footprint because, as Mithun says, “the internet's memory lives long and does not fade quickly or easily.”

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