Thriving in a Data-Driven World

It’s impossible to have a conversation about recruiting these days without talking about the role of data.

Magnifying glass and documents with analytics data lying on tablSo, I suppose it’s no surprise then to hear John Sullivan, author and professor at San Francisco State University, focus his opening keynote presentation at Recruiting Trends 2016, at the Hilton in Austin, Texas, on the role of data in the hiring decision-making process. (Recruiting Trends, which was acquired by LRP Conferences last November, is being held this week in conjunction with the Talent Acquisition Tech Conference.)

During his keynote titled “Forget the Hype: Data-Based Recruiting Reveals What Actually Works,” Sullivan told attendees that employers need to be much more data-driven.

If you ask CEOs what the biggest challenge is that they’re facing, human capital turns out to be No. 1, Sullivan said. “What’s not so good is that we’ve been a challenge for four straight years,” he continued. “And if you’ve been a challenge for four straight years, it means something needs to change.”

These same CEOs also said they believe recruiting the right talent has a huge impact on business success, Sullivan added.

So, if the impact is that significant, he said, that begs the question, “How come [recruiters] have no money?”

“I would argue it’s because we don’t make a very good business case,” Sullivan said. “We say we hired 20 people, but we don’t say those people brought in $20 million.”

In a fast-changing world, he explained, data tells you what works and what doesn’t work. But you need to be looking at the right data, he added. Google at one time looked at a candidate’s GPA, but the research found that grades made no difference in the quality of talent it hired—so it stopped paying attention to that metric.

“Stop having opinions about what’s the best source for hiring people,” he said. “Sure, you can have opinions, but if you want to influence hiring managers, you’re going to want to have facts that back your recommendations up.”

Sullivan also pointed out that CEOs care about quality of hire, and you should, too.

Most employers pay close attention to metrics such as the cost of hire, he said, but they should be focusing their attention instead on measuring the impact of their hiring decisions.

When you hire Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Lebron James, what you should be measuring is the impact he’s going to be having on your organization over the next 10 years, he said.

In other words, employers need to be thinking about the big picture.

Sullivan also pointed out that most companies don’t measure the failure rates of the people they hire, but should. He used the example of birth control, where there’s a 9-percent failure rate. If birth control doesn’t work, he joked, you might end up with 20 years of misery. Well, the same could be said of hiring. If you get it wrong, that bad hire could be in your organization forever.