How to Improve Your Recruiting With Data-Driven Decision Making

Group making data driven decisions about how to recruit employees

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Sometimes when you look at a resume, you just know this will be an awesome candidate. And sometimes, when you first talk with a candidate, there's an immediate spark and you connect, and you think this person is a perfect fit for your company.

And sometimes, you're right. That person who is a master resume writer and who immediately clicked with your personality is the best thing since sliced bread. Other times? It all falls flat.

If you're lucky, you figure that out before the person comes on board. If you're unlucky, you hire the candidate, she leaves her previous job, and now you're stuck with an employee who either lacks skills or is a bad cultural fit for your group.

Can Data-Driven Decision Making Improve Your Hiring Success Odds?

Can you improve your hiring odds with data-driven decision making? You can. Dr. John Sullivan, a talent management expert and professor, took a look at how HR can improve by using data analytics. Many of his suggestions are directly applicable to improving your recruiting and hiring.

When you use analytics, you can find, interpret, and communicate meaningful patterns in data that will help you improve your performance. Specifically, you can use data to improve your recruiting practices and decision making.

Following are several of Dr. Sullivan's main recommendations about using data analytics to help your organization improve recruiting and hiring.

Use Data Analytics to Increase the Speed of Hiring

Recruiters are often judged by how fast they can fill a position, but it's not just the recruiters' goals that matter. Every day that a position remains unfilled, work isn't being done—or other people are approaching burnout as they try to handle additional workloads.

Additionally, every time you interview yet another candidate, you're not doing the other work in your own job. For a recruiter, well, interviewing is her job. For the hiring manager, though, her job is decidedly not interviewing. She needs to get back to work, preferably with a fully staffed team.

For hiring, use analytics that shows where the hiring process is most and least productive. What skills does this position need? What is the right ratio of management to individual contributors?

Additionally, when looking at candidates, take emotion out of the picture and look at what skills the candidates have. Can you develop analytics that helps you identify the skills in job candidates?

Design Your Recruiting Systems to Attract the Best Innovators

With the economy currently buzzing, there are more openings than there are new hires each month. It is great for job candidates and a headache for recruiters. They have more jobs to fill than they have quality candidates with which to fill them. Ian Cook, at Visier, advises recruiters to take advantage of their applicant tracking system (ATS) and integrate that data into the larger HRIS.

He points out that most ATSs don't provide the analytics needed. What a recruiter wants to know, more than the cost of hire, is the effectiveness of that hire once he or she is performing the job. But, this information is generally kept in a different system. The recruiter hires and then moves on to the next candidate, without real information about how the last new hire performed in the job.

If you can combine this information, you get valuable insights into how you can hire more effectively. For instance, what skills have been successfully applied? Are you eliminating quality candidates because they don't have the picture-perfect skills listed in the job description when those skills are not an indicator of success one the employee is on the job?

You cannot do your jobs effectively if you don't have feedback. While a recruiter is likely to hear back from a client if a new hire is an unmitigated disaster, she's less likely to hear if the candidate is simply okay, pretty good, or even fantastic.

In many companies, especially large ones, a recruiter may be sourcing 50 or more positions at once. Hiring managers only have contact with a recruiter when she is filling a vacancy for them. So the communication stops once a new hire starts work.

The result? No feedback for the recruiter and no ability to help the recruiter improve in recruiting and hiring. Providing your recruiters with analytics about their new hires can close this loop.

What Works and What Doesn't?

Everyone loves big job boards. You can't listen to a podcast without an advertisement for Zip Recruiter appearing, but do programs like Zip Recruiter work? How many quality new hires did you get from attending that job fair? Is your employee referral program effective at bringing in new candidates? How do those candidates perform in comparison to those found through other methods?

When you're willing to look at the actual data from these various recruiting activities you may find that where you're spending your time and money isn't giving you the best bang for your buck.

Are you sending recruiters to college fairs at great expense to recruit candidates similar to the ones you can find at the local college and yet not giving bonuses to employees who refer their former colleagues? What programs are most effective and which programs can you eliminate?

Smart HR departments will look at the actual numbers and allocate staff time and energy accordingly.

Are You Looking at Employee Exit Costs?

Recruiters think about hiring new people, but HR leaders need to think about the big picture. It's cheaper (often) to retain a quality employee than to search out a new one. Use an ROI model for recruiting and retention. What programs work to keep high performers? What programs are less effective?

Many companies set up limits on compensation decisions like raises and salary band jumps, but then will hire people with a big sign-on bonus to get top candidates. You need to take a look at those numbers and decide what is the most effective use of your budgets.

Finance and marketing and manufacturing all have analytics to show what is most effective. Does HR present the same kind of information when asking for increased budgets or executive training programs? Or, is HR trying to fly blind?

Remember, the CEO most likely comes from a numbers background. You'll be able to make your case much more effectively if you can speak her language. Coming in with, “this will help develop our pipeline” is all fine and good, but coming in with “this will reduce turnover among high performers by X percent and save $Y dollars per year" is much better.

Refine Your Hiring Criteria

Like looping recruiters back in on how a new employee performs, you need to take a look at what criteria predict success. Google found, for instance, that those brain teaser questions (How many plumbers are there in Peoria?) don't predict the success of an employee. So, they removed them. However, old habits die hard, according to a Quartz article, and many managers stick with them, even though they don't work.

You want to make sure that not only do your recruiters know what works and what does not work, but that your hiring managers know as well. Remember, many hiring managers only hire a new employee once a year—or even less often. If the recruiter isn't keeping them up to date on the best way to hire, who will be?

You live in a data-driven world. HR would be wise to adopt analytics that can give good insight into what works and what doesn't. Not only will it make HR more effective, but it will also allow HR to speak with the key decision-makers in a language they all speak: Data.


Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.