How Big Data Improves Hiring (Even in Small Organizations)
Big data in hiring is all the rage, but don’t be fooled into thinking that big data is just for Silicon Valley technology companies or large organizations. The use of data and science to make management decisions benefits small organizations every bit as much as large firms. The only difference is the higher amount of press coverage large firms get for their innovative HR decisions.Of course, Google is one of the most visible champions of using data to evaluate HR practices. But we’ve been using similar principles with small clients long before Google adopted their more data-driven approach to HR. And it’s important to remember that not all people experiments succeed. When most people think of Google’s hiring process, they still think of the challenging brain-teaser questions. Questions like, "How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?" In reality, Google stopped asking those questions many years ago. Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, said in a 2013 New York Times interview that the brainteasers are "A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart." Instead, he said, "what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up."
To help us all learn from each other’s people experiments, Google decided to share many of their big-data refined HR practices---in a site called re:Work, a "curated platform of practices, research, and ideas from Google and others; it’s designed to help you use data and science to make work better." I highly recommend the site, there’s a lot of valuable content there.
Just to highlight two topics from the Hiring subject:
1. Guide: Create a Job Description
As Google points out, the "job description is often the first thing a potential hire will see from an organization." First impressions are vitally important, and many job descriptions fail to actually do enough to explain what the job is, what your organization is about, or what your culture is like. Most tragically, most job descriptions don’t actually describe why someone would want to work for you.
Our work with small organizations has reached the same conclusions (admittedly, we published our material several years before their site existed, but it’s nice to see them agree with us almost word for word):
- February 2009: Bad Job Ads Attract Only Desperate Candidates
- September 2009: Are Job Boards Dead, or Are Your Job Ads Just Deadly Dull?
- February 2012: Why Your Job Ads Are not Delivering Results
- March 2014: What’s the Real Problem with Job Advertising?
- May 2016: 3 Mistakes Hiring Managers Make With Job Descriptions and Postings
- May 2016: Better Job Descriptions: The Overlooked Hiring Process Step That Improves Your Business Outcomes
2. Guide: Review Resumes
Like with job descriptions, this core part of the hiring process is fraught with mistakes and errors. As Google puts it, "therefore, a structured and consistent approach to reviewing resumes can be beneficial." (This is true of every aspect of hiring---we wrote about it in our Consistent Hiring Viewpoint Documents.)
Too many hiring managers treat the resume screening portion as the "excuse to disqualify" step. They pick only the best looking resumes, and discard the rest without reservation. But consider your own work experiences. Would you want a 2 page summary of your entire career to be the only case you can make? Any number of inherent, subconscious biases can affect the hiring manager’s decision---including a resume’s level of polish. But we’ve found that the most polished resumes are often from the career job-jumpers, and less-polished resumes hide much stronger candidates.
Here’s some more thinking we’ve done through the years on reviewing resumes:
- June 2009: Your Resume Bias is Causing Your Staffing Problems
- October 2009: You Got All That From Reading the Resume? Really?
- May 2011: The Perfect (Resume) is the Enemy of the Good (Hiring Process)
- May 2012: The Best Candidate Rarely Has the Best Resume
- Jun 2012: Resumes are a terrible way to select candidates
- April 2013: Reviewing Resumes? Don’t Make This Common Mistake
- April 2014: Why Picking The Top 4 Resumes Often Leads to Hiring Failures
- June 2014: Want to hire top performers? Stop taking these shortcuts when sorting through resumes
At the end of a long search, you want to be confident that you hired a top performer, not left wondering if you could have found someone better. If you would like to spend less time on the irrelevant, superficial aspects of interviewing, and more time understanding the deeper elements of what will make someone successful, download our Employer Guide to Interviewing.
It is entirely possible to hire top performers consistently, even though people and job markets are inherently unpredictable. The problem with hiring is not the candidates or even the job market. The cause of most hiring failure is the hiring process itself. The typical hiring process is a flawed relic from the past, relying on gut instinct and personality instead of market research.
From this download, you get both of our Consistent Hiring guides: Supporting the Hiring Decision and Recruiting Top Performers. In just a few minutes, you will learn:
- How typical hiring processes accidentally eliminate highly qualified candidates
- How to structure your hiring process to make better hiring decisions
- How market research leads to smarter hiring decisions
- How to know when more recruiting would be a waste of your time
- The magic number of interviews that makes hiring a statistical certainty
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