Most recruiters are professional networkers with masterful intuition and expert knowledge of legal matters. These are all praise-worthy skills, but what’s often missing is a background in numbers and statistics. This is not unique to recruiters — many professions require workers to be really good at certain skills while others languish. For instance, musicians are praised for their artistic abilities, but most couldn’t tell you where to find Rhodium on a periodic table.

And Math teachers can fill teenage minds with tricks for mastering calculus, but wouldn’t know where to begin if you asked them to substitute for the art teacher. When you focus so heavily on the skills required for your trade, it’s no surprise that you wouldn’t willingly venture into new skill areas, unless you had a good reason to.

For recruiters, there are now many good reasons to start caring about numbers and statistics. Big data — analytics gathered from personal research, outside studies, statistics, and other sources — is making its way into recruiting, and it’s here to stay. I make a point of saying that because we’ve all seen HR trends come and go. But this trend has staying power because its impact is enormous.

I’m reminded of the videos that circulated a few weeks ago celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Internet. It was ironic to see news anchors like a young Katie Couric go on and on about how she didn’t think the Internet was that big of a deal when it started. Now, I’m not insinuating that the influx of big data is comparable to how the Internet revolutionized our lives, but for recruiters, it’s going to make a big difference in how we do business.

Why Big Data?

Some may consider big data to be unnecessary. After all, you’re already recruiting candidates, and you’re probably doing a pretty good job of it. But what big data can do is confirm your hunches, and provide guidance based on statistics and more evidence, case studies, and insight than you could possibly process on your own.

While you may now be making good decisions based on your experience or intuition, big data will help you make better decisions based on logic and an incredible amount of pertinent information. If you could know the likelihood of a project’s success before it even started, or know exactly what people want and need to hear without going through trial and error on your own, why wouldn’t you?

Big Data Needs You

If it sounds like I’m implying that statistics and analytics can replace your expert intuition or years of experience, that’s not the case. In fact, big data is absolutely useless without you. Big data is incredibly valuable, but it is a tool that must be used carefully and well to be effective. As with many technologies, it’s up to the user to determine exactly how best to put it to use, and that’s where your experience and yes, intuition, come in.

Are You Ready?

Big data is here, but the real question is: are you ready for it? Can you incorporate it into your recruiting process, and are you and your team ready to invest in it and embrace it? From what I’m seeing in the industry, there is room for big data to grow and play a more important role in recruiting, but it requires a monetary investment, a commitment to learning how best to use it, and a desire to revolutionize your recruiting process — because that’s exactly what big data can do. If better hiring decisions, more successful marketing and recruiting, and a better understanding of what job seekers and employers are after sound good to you, then you might be ready for it.

Have you started increasing your use of big data? Let us know how in the comments section below.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.


  • Avatar Jill McKenzie says:

    In the HR field it’s extremely important to keep abreast of the times, but this is the field which is probably the mist resistant to any change. I haven’t used the big data yet, but they say it’s high time I stopped wasting time and started using it. Are there any real-life examples of how the use of big data complimented your recruiting process? I would be very grateful to learn about someone’s real-life experience.

  • Avatar Daria says:

    Nowadays everything is measured in numbers, and HR field is no exception – most managers require their HR departments to present hard data on the recruiting and training successes and failures. The use of big data probably could simplify measuring such things, but personally I’m reluctant to use it in my organization – my bad, because there’s a chance it’ll make my organization look like lagging behind the times.

  • Avatar Joe O'Brien says:

    Big Data. Insurance companies are experts at Big Data. Nothing new to them. Know anybody in the Insurance business? Not the sales people. The people who decide who they will insure and the rates they will charge. Pick their brains for a direction to go in.

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