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07 June 2017

Big Data in recruitment: the future’s here!

Carerix is also active in the German market and works closely with commercial journalists to highlight trends within the market. This article is a translation of:
Big Data im Recruiting: Die Zukunft hat begonnen (German)

Big Data is slowly catching on in recruitment. With the help of intelligent data analysis and self-learning algorithms smart HR software is now able to link and compare available data, and draw conclusions from it for recruitment purposes. This will make hiring staff more effective and HR processes more efficient. But wait a minute! What do we mean “will”? Big Data is not just a dream of things to come. The future of recruitment is actually already here. Around the clock smartphone and tablet users leave a data trail across the web. And none of this information is ever forgotten, a fact which online portals have long exploited. They capture these virtual footprints and filter through the wealth of diffuse data to build up a detailed behaviour profile of their users. Personalised advertising can then be targeted at online shoppers to induce them to buy particular products. Welcome to the world of Big Data!

What is Big Data? How is it defined?

Big Data means collecting and analysing large amounts of data from a variety of on- and offline sources. Already much-used by shopping portals, the idea works just as well in recruitment. The only difference is that instead of the latest offers on cool fashions or multi-purpose drills appearing in the user’s timeline, it is job adverts matching a particular set of career aspirations that pop up. Facebook has long since developed its own extended-reach product for employers – the Social Job Ad. Companies like LinkedIn, Talents Connect and Whatchadoo have also jumped on the Big Data bandwagon and are offering employers products that promise better matching of employers to job applicants.

How does Big Data Analytics work?

It’s all down to algorithms which trawl the web for usable information on an individual applicant in order to build up an accurate profile. Profile information is also collected from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Even material that job-seekers have posted on less well-known specialist portals such as Github and Stackoverflow is considered relevant. Given the current shortage of qualified applicants in many sections of the job market, this technology could hardly come at a better time for employers. According to a study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW), the most pressing staffing needs are in the health sector, closely followed by science and technology. Small craft industries are also feeling the pinch. And this trend is set to continue: according to IW forecasts, the number of people of working age is set to fall by a further eight million to around 37.5 million over the next 15 years. By 2050, not including migration at today’s rate, the number will have dropped to 29 million. In other words, the situation in the recruitment sector is only going to get tougher.

Recruitment: What can Big Data tools do?

Investing in the right technical support can, however, make life easier. Big Data technology can actually do so much more than just generate personalised job adverts on social media sites. Companies in the US, including Google, Walmart and IBM are already successfully using internal HR analytics tools to predict when (and how many) vacancies will arise in a particular department, which team has the lowest level of job satisfaction, and the likelihood of a key talent wanting to change jobs. Having this information means that employers can take necessary and timely steps.

Big Data: How important is it in the German market?

Big Data tools are used relatively little in the German market. But doubts about their use are receding. Respondents in a Bitkom study said they recognised the tools’ potential, particularly for the recruitment industry – 28 percent regard the use of Big Data in national recruitment as important, with 11 percent seeing them as a key factor in international recruitment. At the same time, over half of companies (52 percent) say they worry about the legal aspects of data protection. But these concerns are unfounded. Big Data Analytics from online information is perfectly legal – as long as the data concerned has been collected from public and generally accessible sources. Section 28 para. 1 of German Data Protection Law (BDSG) expressly allows the collection and analysis of such data.

Big Data and data protection

However, data protection rules are set to change with the introduction of a new EU data protection framework, taking effect from May 2018. Regulations governing what is and is not permitted in terms of data processing will be set out in Article 6 DSGVO-E. This is broadly similar to previous regulations. There will continue to be no problem with collecting publicly accessible data, provided that the individual user has given consent. And this will be deemed to have been given by agreeing to the AGBs of the various social networks. Without it the user’s profile would not be online. This message is slowly getting through to companies. Seventeen percent of employers with over 500 staff already say they no longer see any problem with using Big Data. On the contrary, they feel that Big Data delivers significant advantages to firms competing for qualified staff.

How can Big Data make recruitment easier?

And they are absolutely right. A good example is TAMO from HRlinkIT, which integrates easily into the Carerix Applicant Tracking System (ATS). TAMO stands for Talent Acquisition Marketing Optimizer. This Big Data tool provides companies with detailed insights into the behaviour of its prospective applicants. The software collates fragmented data from various sources such as its own ATS, Google Analytics, the career webpages of other companies and different social media sites, and analyses it according to different parameters. Recruiters thus gain a much more detailed insight into the active and passive job market than has previously been possible:

  • Reach: How many times has a job advert been visited?
  • Quality and persuasive effect of a company’s own job ads: Which vacancies did candidates visiting the company’s own careers page then go on to view on other careers pages?
  • Talent retention: What is the ratio between new applicants and those already known to the company?
  • Demographic: Does the age of potential applicants match that of the desired target group?
  • Suitability: Does the suitability of potential applicants match the desired target group?
  • Applicant search behaviour: What keywords did the candidate use in searching the website for jobs?
  • Recruitment mix: How can the reach and effectiveness of the various different recruitment channels used by a company be evaluated?

Advantages of Big Data solutions

Using all the collected data recruiters can find out more about the search behaviour and the needs of its job candidates and in turn optimise their recruitment strategy, tailoring it to the exact needs of their target group. It means employers can increase their chances of finding and hiring candidates who are both active – and passive – job-seekers. But beware! Using this tool to best effect could mean you won’t have time to complain about the shortage of skilled staff – you’ll be too busy trying to cope with all the email applications that will soon be filling up your inbox!