The art and craft of BIG Data in the battle for talent - Part One.

The art and craft of BIG Data in the battle for talent - Part One.

Posted on 01/06/2015 

by Eddie Barclay

I was first introduced to the concept of big data a few years ago working for a specialist Insight & Analytics Consultancy.  In reality, the idea (although it wasn’t called Big Data then) is decades old.   The fact that there are some data sets that are too large/complex for traditional data processing and analysis is now embedded in every area of marketing.  Like any ‘new’ idea there are a lot of purveyors of snake oil, but it’s impossible to ignore the importance now being placed on big data and the associated predictive analytics that are often a synonym for it in today’s recruitment world. 


To put some context into this, Wikipedia tells us that “the world's technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s; as of 2012, every day 2.5 exabytes (2.5×1018) of data were created”. That’s quite a lot. Most of it doesn’t concern us recruiters, although a lot of it is of importance for marketers generally.  But when we look at recruitment and the uses we make of big data, there is one name that stands out…


That name is Linkedin.  It is the recruitment consultants’ friend and, possibly, their biggest foe.  Linkedin makes no secret of the fact that it sells against recruitment consultancies, telling companies that one of the biggest advantages of its CV database (for effectively that is what Linkedin is), is that they can mine it directly without any third party involvement. Of course, in the meantime, Linkedin has been happy to take the recruitment consultants’ dollars for access to said CV database and we have been happy to oblige.


As well as Linkedin, GitHub, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks are seen as ‘big data’ sources of potential candidates and recruiters, with varying degrees of confidence, have been trawling them too, but Linkedin is the fallback for us all.  It’s where the really big data (i.e. lots of CVs/candidates) are.  But do we really make best use of it?


I rather suspect that most recruiters don’t get involved in the academic arguments about big data: they just get on with it, using the various media/technologies as they see fit in order to achieve (too often) the quickest and  (ideally) the best results for their clients.  However, it is arguable that a bit more detailed knowledge and understanding would benefit us all – clients and candidates alike – and make it easier for people to be matched to jobs that bring mutual benefits to both parties.


This, of course, is largely about the passive candidate, that hen’s tooth, rocking-horse dropping or needle in a haystack that in today’s battle for talent is the Holy Grail for many clients. However, it’s not just a question of how to identify these individuals from the mass of ‘data’ available, it’s how to craft your communication with them in such as way that they turn from being a passive candidate to a very active one indeed.  And the pros and cons of big data in both identifying and communicating with such candidates will be the subject of my next two blogs.



Eddie Barclay, Associate Director, Nine Twenty Technology