Big Data is all the buzz these days. And with good reason. It is a vast storehouse of information that – with the right algorithms and filters – can be turned into actionable insight. Nowhere is Big Data more valuable than in Human Resources and Talent Management. People often ask me “Meghan – Why do you speak about seeing people in 3D?” Well world – This is one key reason why.
For decades the gold standards in hiring were the resume and personal interview. But a resume can hide a thousand faults and interviews favor those who are articulate and personable. HR and Recruitment staff often had to rely on instinct in making the final decision. By creating new streams of verifiable information about potential hires, Big Data is changing that. As LinkedIn‘s VP of Talent Solutions and Insights, Dan Shapero says: “Recruiting has always been an art, but it’s becoming a science.”
Big Data’s greatest HR value may well be as a predictive tool. By analyzing the skills and attributes of high performers, Big Data allows organizations to build a template for future hires. HR and Leaders can learn what to look for with incredible precision. The results of these analyses can sometimes be surprising. Degrees from fancy colleges have, in some organizations, turned out to be lousy predictors of success. Similarly, an impressive resume may not necessarily mean someone is good match for your organization. Big Data is democratic, supporting a meritocracy and enabling companies to make smarter decisions; Google has an entire HR division devoted to “people analytics” which measures qualities such as social skills, flexibility, emotional intelligence, initiative, attitude (negative or positive or AKA “good fit” vs “bad fit”), and perseverance.
Big Data also widely expands the hiring pool. HR can go online to sites such as TalentBin and LinkedIn and search the world for that perfect hire. A prospect doesn’t even have to be looking to switch jobs. Intuit recruiter Jennifer Hasche, puts it like this: “We found TalentBin to be a massive timesaver and critical tool in our discovery of top talent.”
For anyone looking for a job, Big Data is a game-changing way to increase your visibility. The greater your online presence, the more organizations will become aware of you and your accomplishments. Make yourself known on social media and networking sites; update your profile with new achievements and skills. The goal is build a three-dimensional online portrait of yourself; this can include pictures, letters of praise and recommendation, slideshows, videos, and even your old-fashioned resume. The goal: to make HR look at your online self and say, “We need to hire this person.” By the way, don’t ever deny anything negative in your past: Big Data exponentially increases the odds of it becoming known.
Big Data is a great people detective. It’s unbiased and discovers talent. The right algorithms can pinpoint hidden potential by harvesting and then filtering reams of information to deliver a star in the making. If you find someone who is passionate and engaged — on his or her own time – in online forums and communities that are fanatic about, for example, games or digital infrastructure or cloudware, you have uncovered some very important predictive data.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by Big Data, there is just so damn much of it. So remember: be selective. Know where your organization’s needs and Big Data intersect, and exactly what kind of data you need. You can ignore the vast majority of Big Data. But that sliver you do use can lead to unprecedented hiring success. All you need is one or two nuggets of data. Stay creative and open to all the possibilities.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 06/23/2013