Using Data-driven Hiring to Edge out the Competition

When times are good, and business is booming, companies can afford to make a few mistakes and sweep a few imperfections “under the rug.” And that’s okay. No process is perfect. However, when business slows down and it’s time for spring cleaning, what was swept under the rug comes to light.

In other words, during periods of quick growth, companies tend to sacrifice quality of hire for speed. The effects of these decisions surface most clearly when the pace slows down. That can be a sobering moment for companies that stop and take stock of the decisions that worked for them and the ones that worked against them. Recruiting efficiency is an area that is quickly and clearly exposed when this happens. The inefficiencies and the lack — or absence — of sound hiring practices can be seen in cost per hire, turnover, and retraining costs.

To find improvements in any process, businesses look at data.

Data, data, everywhere

We’re not talking about boiling the ocean, but there is meaningful information that can be gathered and put to use everywhere in the recruiting process. Hiring leaders who do not operate with this mindset leave money on the table, which again, is easy to measure in terms of increased cost per hire, decreasing retention, or unsustainable retraining costs.

Without data measurement, organizations cannot optimize for “all-weather” efficiency.

Smashfly CMO Lori Sylvia goes all in on the importance of measuring talent data when she says, “If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.”

This is not a call to recruiters to build sophisticated data models, but rather to critically think about how data can help determine who they should be hiring for and how they can best appeal to them.

Knowing that data is all around us, the question needed to make use of it is: “What data points are the most meaningful to me for this process?” Here are a few tips for recruiters — of all levels — to make leveraging data easy, impactful, and second nature.

Ask yourself who fits into the talent pool for your business

The last part is important here. Someone may check all the boxes for the job description and still not succeed at your organization. It can come down to various factors, like culture, level of training, the ability to multitask, or teamwork. Whatever the reason is, hiring success depends on going a level deeper into the candidate profile than the resume.

Let’s go over an example where the goal was to reduce the number of conversations and increase the quality of conversations with candidates. Brendan Browne, VP of Global Talent Acquisition at LinkedIn, was looking for candidates to fill an engineering role. They took a quality-affinity approach that measured the candidate’s qualifications (their quality) and how highly they thought of the company (their affinity). The criteria for affinity included asking three yes/no questions:

  • Do they follow the company?
  • Do they share relevant content on their profile?
  • Do they have a meaningful first-degree connection?

Upon reaching out to candidates who ranked higher in affinity, the team experienced a 57% increase in the response rate.

There was nothing highly technical about the process. It just came down to the team figuring out what data points from each candidate were meaningful to collect. It’s an easy exercise that can be applied across companies and roles.

Take a microscope to your outreach

Keep track of your messages. Recruiters shouldn’t shy away from testing new copy, subject lines, and time of day for their candidate outreach. It’s the most obvious yet overlooked metric to gauge the effectiveness of your outreach. Doing this enough will give you a sense of what tone is resonating most with your candidate pool.

To have reliable data, one cardinal rule is to test one thing at a time. For example, measure how two different groups react to a different subject line or call-to-action alone rather than changing both at the same time.

If your message has reached a point where you feel it is well and truly optimized and it’s still not meeting your goals, shift your focus to identify weak spots in the candidate journey. There may be moments where engagement is dropping off for enough candidates, signaling a trend to address with an alternative approach — and then measure the success of.

Think about who else is talking to your dream candidate

Chances are, the competition is also talking to the same candidates as you. Keeping tabs on competitor hiring activity can help inform your hiring strategy. Think about what the hiring experience is like for the candidate when they talk to you, versus the competition. Check out competitors’ job descriptions and ask yourself:

  • How do they communicate the employer value proposition to prospective candidates?
  • How candid are they about the salary and benefits they’re offering?
  • How much of the company culture and company values shine through in the description?
  • How easy or intuitive is the application process?
  • Do they show the prospect genuine gratitude for their consideration?
  • What would I look to improve in this experience?

Doing this, even once in a while, helps make sure you’re not falling behind the competition and gives you an opportunity to raise the bar by brainstorming and implementing improvements to your candidate experience.

Being data-savvy is simply knowing how to answer your biggest questions

For recruiters, useful information is everywhere. The easiest way to benefit from a data-driven mindset is not to overthink it. Simply start asking questions about any aspect of your recruiting process, and then take measurements to uncover answers.

The more confident you are about the data you have on talent, their affinity for your company, and your competition’s practices, the better your process will be in finding and appealing to the best candidates.

Shannon Pritchett is Head of Community at both hireEZ and Evry1 (which she co-founded in 2021). As a talent acquisition leader, she remains passionate about connecting companies with their most valuable asset — people.

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