How Big Data is Changing the Way We Hire

It used to be you were only as good as your networks, but today, the saying might be that you are only as good as your code.

Through the use of Big Data techniques and analysis, recruiters and HR professionals are increasingly following the talent footprints that can be discovered through various online analytics.

Forbes earlier this year identified this trend where recruiters can plumb databases to locate potential candidates who have been stuck in the same position for too long, or those who are quickly rising to new heights. Indeed, there are analysis firms such as Gild.com, RemarkableHire, Entelo and Talentbin.com that can search through open source projects to find the best developers for major tech companies such as Rackspace, Amazon and Expedia.

The New York Times also wrote about Gild earlier this year, following the story of one individual who, despite not going to college, was identified by Gild as top talent, recruited and eventually hired. He’s still working there today. And this is someone they would have never found otherwise – in fact, he had no idea of the firm’s existence before they contacted him. These analysis firms are also being used to identify how well a potential recruit may perform in their new job, much in the same way that the SAT test can help predict college performance.

But there are other, less obvious methods. Through various Big Data contest sites, posters can claim fame and at least modest fortunes from winning programming challenges. The most notable of these is Kaggle.com, which has run hundreds of contests and awarded thousands in prices. Recruiters often go after these successful entrants.

Security vendor Impermium sponsored a programming contest on Kaggle a few years ago. The prize was $10,000, along with an opportunity to interview for a job at the company. While Impermium ultimately did not hire anyone, “the Kaggle competition was useful and we were able to examine many interesting algorithms,” CEO Mark Risher wrote in an email. Facebook has run several Kaggle contests to find new talent, as well.

In addition, crowdsourcing is a growing trend that I recently wrote about in ITworld, and has proven to be very effective in locating talent. These include homespun efforts, along with sites such as ProjectEuler.net, HackerRank.com, India-based CrowdAnalytix.com, Innocentive.com (for the life sciences), and TunedIT.org (mainly for education and research projects). But Kaggle has been around since 2010 and has the largest audience.

For all of these sites, what is interesting is that you can quickly search for the contest winners: there is no mystery in most cases about who won or what they did. But while these examples are suitable for finding your next IT or programming superstar, the big data techniques that firms are using to target non-tech disciplines like marketing and communications are still in their infancy. Still, this is an area that bears watching, as it promises significant growth in the future.

Have you been able to make use of Big Data to bring in better workers? Let us know about it in the comments below.