Why your company should have a data-driven recruitment strategy

Post and pray has long been dead, even more so with the advent of the uncertainty brought on by Covid-19. Companies, especially those in the scale-up phase, need to build a solid data-driven recruitment strategy, right from the word ‘go’. I’m Terra Carbert, founder and CEO of SHEops Talent, a recruitment firm that helps companies hire great talent. Besides being a data nerd, I have also recently branched into Career Coaching.

As part of Freshteam’s Leadership Series, I share some of my experiences as a Talent Acquisition leader (have over 15 years of experience in this field), why you should go build a data-driven recruitment strategy, how you should go about it and how you can eliminate bias and make diversity and inclusion as part of your hiring process. I have included quite a few examples from my experiences of having worked at different companies and also, as a consultant of firms of various sizes.

Start early to lay the foundation for data-driven recruitment process

A lot of times what happens in early-stage companies is that while hiring, people go – “Oh, I like you or I know you. So come on, join our team”. There’s no objective viewpoint of the role or what the role needs and measuring what’s the likelihood of success. It’s important for your teams to start early with gathering data and establish a framework to assess the results you’re getting and measure what’s important. 

Essentially, you should look at what you are looking to hire for and if you can turn those into measurable objectives that can be used in the interview so that the decision about that hire specifically becomes data-driven.

Focus on advertising spend and recruiter marketing RoI

So, when you’re putting dollars and efforts into creating awareness about your opportunities, are you getting the desired results? For instance, are you getting the kind of visibility you hoped for? Depending on the stage of your business, getting your name out may be as important to you as applications, interviews, offers and hires.

You want to make sure you’ve got systems and tools set up to measure the results of your efforts and your outreach to the talent pipeline. When you’ve hired for sometime, you need to assess your back-end data and the following questions could guide you:

  • What are the outcomes?
  • Which recruitment channels worked?
  • What is your diversity? Are you aligned with your diversity objectives or with what the government is requiring from you from a diversity perspective?
  • Are you fast? Think, time to fill, one of the most common metrics across organizations.
  • How is your candidate experience?
  • Are your hiring managers enjoying your recruiting process?

These are some of the things that you can set up in the beginning stages of your company and this will help you lay the foundation of a data-driven recruiting organization (if you get the answers to the questions right), especially before a mass hiring process. Otherwise, you may have to disrupt your existing process at a later stage to put in a system to measure your recruiting data.

I think you should put in systems to build a data-driven recruitment organization very early. Recruiting is one of the most critical aspects to your success, especially if you’re in the scale phase. You’re not going to achieve your mission or your vision if you don’t have the right teams in place. So in my very biased opinion, it is as important as everything else you’re measuring in your business.

Challenges data-driven recruitment helps solve

Market knowledge: They also don’t understand the available talent pool such as how many people are there with a particular set of skills, especially for specialized positions, are there in a particular geographical region. So, you need to use data to educate them and say you may not find people with these skills in this location or even if you do, you need to have a really good carrot to attract them to your company.

Here is my experience where I led a team to fill in 55 jobs in 60 days and how I used data to convince the management to take certain important business decisions:

Market mapping: Assumptions about salaries of people in particular roles, especially those in the leadership positions. The current teams are probably not earning top-of-the-market salaries but want to attract the cream of the crop. So, they come with job vacancies with no idea about what the market’s earning and just pick a random number!

Hiring process: Some companies in early-stage recruiting do not use data to draw conclusions about who to hire. To solve this problem, you would need to design a company-wide interview scoring system, develop interview guides and teach the managers how to hire effectively.

Measuring the right metrics: You need to get your key metrics right and align them with the desired outcomes. Some of these metrics include: how many interviews did you get, how many placements did you get, how many requisitions are you holding, what’s your time to fill, what’s the time taken to onboard and hiring manager and candidate satisfaction levels. It’s quite important to measure these metrics in conjunction with each other. 

For example, every business wants to measure “time to fill” and “speed to hire” is something that recruiters are incentivized on. So, when you incentivize speed, what happens to quality or cost? And is “time to fill” the right metric to measure a recruiter’s performance? These are questions you need to answer before putting together a framework to drive data-based recruitment decisions.

Deep-diving versus topline glance: Skimming through the numbers present a particular view but dissecting the data might help you uncover trends that are not resonating with the overall storyline. Here’s an example of what I uncovered when we realized we were not hitting the diversity quota for a particular role:

Recruiters need to wear marketers’ hats too

Most times, recruiters would just go in for a standard strategy – the familiar channels from where they always source their candidates. There should be a point in the process where you pause and say – “Wait a minute! This isn’t working!” You might suddenly realize that the places where you post your job ads might be great to source candidates for the role of a receptionist but not quite so for an electrical engineer.

And so what’s fascinating about this part of the process is so many managers want to just put it on the lap of the recruiter and not really think about – “Where do we reach this audience?” 

What you need to do as a recruiter is to approach this like a marketer. You need to answer questions such as:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • Where do they hang out?
  • Where can we get their attention like nobody else?
  • How can we get creative and stand out as a business that’s just not a part of the noise of all the people competing for the same talent?

Here are a couple of interesting ways in which we reached out to a group of potential candidates in my earlier stints:

Creating a talent acquisition strategy in the scale-up phase

Make sure you’ve got access to tools that you need to set up measurements for key metrics you want to track. Two of my favorite tools are: Emsi and CareerBuilder’s Supply and Demand. The main data you may want to track is where your inbound traffic comes from when you advertise. If you find the tools to be expensive, you could partner with a recruiting firm to get access to data and also, track and measure it.

Check if you can get a raw data dump related to your hiring requirements.

You need to track the date stamps: when did the candidates apply, when did they do their first phone interview, when did they get interviewed in person, what was the date of the offer, what the date of acceptance and what was the time between each step in the process.

Don’t give your managers copies of resumes/candidate profiles and ask them what they think of the candidates. Train them how to hire.

Measuring likability is a garbage way to approach hiring. You need to design your interview process to evaluate – “Can they do the job? Do they have the capacity to thrive in the job? Would they be able to exhibit the values that you want your company to reflect?” But these should be designed to provide objective results and not aligned to what somebody on the interview panel thought.

An interview guide can be created to evaluate almost anything. A lot of times, an interview starts this way – “Tell me about yourself” and then the conversation becomes about the person’s resume and the job profile. For instance, if you need somebody to solve problems in a high production environment, you need to ask problem-solving questions. It could go like, “Tell me about a time when you had three machines fail at the exact same time and your repair source was not available.”

Of Culture fit, Diversity and Inclusion in Recruiting

“Oh, they don’t fit into our culture” is so dismissive while hiring, especially when you don’t have your culture properly defined. It’s a convenient escape hatch excuse to not hire someone who’s perfectly qualified for a position in a lot of cases. And you would want to eliminate that statement by putting values-based or behavior-based interview questions in the interview evaluation guide. 

So, if as an organization, we value teamwork, then I’m going to ask them questions that ask of the person to demonstrate the times they’ve effectively worked as a part of a team or to uncover maybe where they’ve had some trouble working on that team. If we, as an organization, value data-based decisions, then I want to understand if this person has experience using data to make decisions. And I’m going to look for people who share the behaviors or the values that I’m trying to establish as an organization (and maybe they don’t exist yet).

You need to lay down the interview process, the questions you ask, the way you score interviews such that you’re collecting data at every stage and the entire decision is based on objective metrics.

While establishing your organizational culture, you need to consciously avoid bias. We all have unconscious bias. Our brains have shortcuts, which come from our whole lives like it is – they just exist. It’s not good or bad. So, if you’re not using data to make hiring decisions, your brain may draw a conclusion about somebody that’s totally wrong based on a word they choose or a nervous tic or something that’s not at all related to whether or not they’re going to be able to do the job.

So, if you set up your process to be values-based, behavior-based or skills-based in the interview, you will be able to reflect your culture and also be able to evaluate if the hires that you get are going to fit in your company culture. This would also help eliminate people who have strongly-held opinions about words or behaviors or for blinking or being late. The same goes for when you’re trying to bring in diversity in your organization.

Here’s a personal example I’d like to share about bias:

Hope this post is able to guide you while putting together a data-driven recruitment strategy in your organization. Do share your comments/views in the section below or you could reach out to us if you have any questions.