Scratching the Surface of Social Data

Dave Mendoza does not believe businesses should be afraid of social data. Instead, he wants to help them harness and embrace it. The global talent acquisition strategies consultant at Dave Mendoza & Associates Inc. said most organizations fail to make sense of the huge quantities of data that now exist for potential job candidates. In his latest research titled “Futurecasting,” Mendoza developed strategies to help transform the way businesses discover, analyze and interpret social data in the recruitment process.

Companies have more access to social data than ever before. How has this access impacted the hiring process?
It’s a matter of bits and pieces. Pretty much universally everyone is involved in some aspect of the edges of this technology. I wouldn’t say — and I think I can speak broadly enough — that every client I’ve spoken to, and all the executives and the talent acquisition base tend not to have a roadmap, so to speak, or a cohesive strategy. It’s more of a tinkering. For the most part what you’re seeing when we’re talking about social recruiting is someone accessing a LinkedIn recruiter account. That tends to be the largest component of usage in talent acquisition. The other would be having a Facebook career page or having a Twitter feed, which is generally used as a high-tech Craigslist of job postings as opposed to true engagement. That’s the extent to which the industry at large can take that technology.

Can an applicant’s social data predict his or her future success with a company?
The technology that exists is rather isolated in terms of companies experimenting with it. Where I see the current off-the-shelf kind of technology you could generally use with big data at bigger companies, there are aspects of predictive analysis, basically software packages, which can assess certain trends.

For example, let’s say you start the process today or you looked at someone’s social media in general, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. If you review the time space of the people you have within your company now as employees and assess when they graduated, and the time they made a certain position, you can start to compile a predictive analysis — the ability to know the general average of time it takes for someone to go from graduate to a certain level of management.

Likewise, if they come from certain schools, regions or companies, that can be compiled today with existing technology. In terms of large, mega-data sets for major corporations, I think that’s in the process now in research labs. To do so on a smaller scale is achievable, and there are some low-tech ways to do that as well. If companies spend more time looking at their current employees, at their last two employers and job titles, they can predict and achieve a credible amount of data to make smarter decisions about where to hire and make it faster.

What are the best websites a hiring manager can go to when researching a potential employee?
Most of that is very familiar players. So you have your Jobwork and of course you have LinkedIn. You have a counter issue that happened prior with Jobwork. And that is that social media, the pool that hiring managers use, tends to be the same fishing hole. Hiring managers and recruiters tend to approach the path of least resistance. They tend to look in the same places with the same search methods, and there’s a larger pool beyond that. It’s not so much different types as it is different methods to glean the right data from the right websites. That’s more important. Yes, you can still go to Monster, LinkedIn and everything else, but there are certain patterns and certain keywords to look for.

What are some of the traits recruiters should look for in online candidates?
Of course every position has a different requirement. The things people are missing are the not-so-obvious areas of someone’s social profile. For example, who they are connected to, who their fellow colleagues are and at what employers. Plugging in the names of your current employee into social profile searches allows you to see who their former team members were, and you learn more about the employee.

People with similar skill sets who work together on the same team tend to be the type of person you are looking to hire. Guilty by association can be a positive thing when you are looking for hires. People who have associations in certain departments at certain companies tend to be the right people to hire. Recruiters and hiring managers are not spending enough time researching groups within a given social network. Look within [the applicant’s] profile, on the side and at the bottom. There tends to be a lot of rich gems overlooked.

What can hiring managers do with all that social data?
The issue with real-time data is that companies fail to have a basis for quality control, as in what is a definition of a complete record for a candidate. There’s a difference between a talent lead and a candidate. Recruiters tend to put the minimal amount of information in a data record. They’ll put in a number or an email, and they tend to be work emails or a work number. They tend to also overlook putting in a country, city and state. The problem with that is people in this economy tend to either relocate for business or family concerns for a company. Two, a recession means they will be laid off, and you will have a work email and a work number to nowhere. If today every corporation changed its online application forms to require a personal email and a mobile number, it will expand the lifespans of its data for five to 10 years. By keeping records with a social URL, you are able to find [an applicant] much easier. Simple little tweaks would make a resounding difference.

Is access to social data a positive thing for hiring managers and recruiters?
The issue is the relevance of the people who are applying and the quantity. The problem, whether in paper or digital, is there is just too much data. Resume-parsing technology still has a lot of issues. When you are using current resume-parsing technology to pick out certain key phrases or job titles, they’re going to grab the wrong position. [The software] may very well put in the database that [an applicant] is a volunteer at the Rotary Club and not a software architect. That’s a big problem. You need an administrative function to reconcile which is the relevant term.

Companies love to buy new technology. The technology can work perfectly fine, but if you have no one review the data on a daily basis to make sure the job titles match the data record, they are going to have issues of bad data. Bad data is the biggest curse right now that bogs down the entire system.

What are some of the pitfalls of using social data when vetting applicants?
There’s a deluge of data that can be lost in the trail, and it depends on how well your CRM system is set up. Another issue is that every country has different laws about privacy that impact your ability to identify and engage with candidates.

Germany and France, for example, have far more restrictive rules on engagement, so people have to personally opt in to be communicated with or called. Another issue in our country is in regards to Facebook. There’s controversy about wanting employers to ask for passwords and monitoring your exchanges within your private profile.

Recruiting by the Numbers

More than 90% of employers used social recruiting in 2012.

2/3 of companies now recruit via Facebook and more than half use Twitter. Almost all use LinkedIn.

43% of respondents feel the quality of applicants has improved thanks to social media.

20% say it takes less time to hire using social recruiting.

Source: Jobvite, 2012