Getting to the Source

Employers are beginning to discover the powerful role analytics can play in transforming recruiting, but aren't sure how to harness it.
By: | December 11, 2017 • 8 min read

Recruiters know that locating the best candidates is a time-consuming process that can be likened to finding a needle in a haystack. But what if they knew which haystacks were more likely to be hiding that needle. How much simpler and effective might their jobs be?

Nowadays, recruiting systems don’t just collect and track applicants, CVs and interview summaries. They also keep mounds of data about the individual applicants and recruiting processes. Yet while these solutions have long provided information about metrics such time to fill, cost per hire and the number of candidates from a given recruitment source, they are only now beginning to address, in a meaningful way, the best sources of top talent.

At the heart of many of these technologies is the ability to use data to compare candidate attributes with those of successful employees. This, in turn, gives HR and hiring managers a leg up when evaluating whether someone is likely to be successful.


Despite the obvious benefits of uncovering the best sources of top talent, employers interested in going down this path must also wrestle with an assortment of challenges involving workflow, cost, culture and diversity.

Still, experts in the field agree that the use of analytics in narrowing searches to the best sources of hires is going to become a lot more common in the months and years ahead.

Honing the Process

Nik Shah, a partner and the people analytics leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Washington, is bullish on the idea of using analytics in this way. Being able to reduce sources to those that yield the best results can ameliorate the problem of having too many candidates to cull through and, thereby, less time to spend on the best, he says.

Recruiting systems, Shah says, enable HR departments to “double or even triple the number of prospects they can handle by automating much of the process. Then analytics’ systems that identify best hires reduce the number of candidates recruiters have to concentrate on. The next step, finding the best sources of hires, may hone the process even further.”

In working with clients, Shah says, PwC starts by making hypotheses about the best employees and the best sources for finding them. It’s a proprietary process, but generally looks at where the best employees — as defined by retention rates, 360 feedback, manager interviews and other factors — are found.  Those hypotheses are then tested using a modeling system.

“We plug in the data points based on our hypotheses and see what comes out,” Shah says. “Did we create an employee base that matches the top current employees? Did we find the best sources of [those] hires?”

Shah says that often the hypotheses are tweaked many times before they are used in an actual recruiting situation. Even after going live, he adds, they frequently have to be further adjusted.

“It’s very iterative and can rarely be accomplished out of a box,” he says.

One software maker that’s attempting to tackle this issue is San Jose, Calif.-based Visier, which offers a solution that allows users to query databases using natural language to, among other things, arrive at the best sources.

Visier Chief Strategy Officer Dave Weisbeck says the most daunting challenge is to understand what makes a great hire. Yes, he says, there are some obvious and easily arrived at data points such as length of time at a company. But other factors, such as engagement or performance, are much more difficult to measure, he says.

The Visier software permits HR analytics teams to cull the data to identify the qualities a company needs. From there, they can identify the sources that are best able to find individuals with those qualities.