The Role of Big Data in Graduate Recruitment

When you hire someone fresh out of university, there is always an element of an unknown quality. You are their first employer as they launch their career, and you are making an educated judgement about their potential. You might partner with a recruiter who has experience with this demographic or, better still like Brightsparks, has known them through their student jobs. Without this, all you often have to judge a graduate will be their basic CV, their grades, potentially a little work or internship experience and the interview/assessment process.

Many companies have this down to a fine art and have a keen eye for the tell-tale signs, but they would nonetheless welcome deeper insights into what makes these people tick and whether, indeed, each graduate is right for them.

The combination of social media activity and big data analytics are starting to provide this picture in ever more detail; as people with this data progress through organisations, it is becoming ever easier to draw some interesting conclusions.

To give a simple example, you will be able to crunch the data to see the sorts of posts that someone has supported. You enter a few relevant adjectives about your culture and the algorithms will come back with a potential match. There is a valid debate about whether we portray our true selves on social media, but over time and with a larger data sample this will likely be increasingly the case. With our lives being ever more impacted by technology and everyone leaving a larger digital footprint, our interactions and personalities online are likely to resemble our true selves more accurately.

The big challenge of Big Data lies in what to do with the data that you have at your fingertips. As more people move through organisations, it may become ever more possible to build up social “portraits” of a successful marketing, sales or operations professional. As more successful people are “modelled”, organisations will increasingly know the sorts of things that they are looking for.

For those of you who think that this is a little creepy, maybe it should simply be seen as a new type of personality questionnaire. Of course, the results will always be taken with a pinch of salt, but if it helps to find the hidden potential within a person, then I think that it could be used remarkably efficiently. The technology and user data is not quite there yet, but in 5-10 years I can see this becoming a crucial step in the graduate recruitment process and something we are investing time and resource into investigating.

Of course, the benefits of seeing someone working at first hand will never diminish, and we see our unique added value in this area continuing, but for companies who do not have that opportunity for real-world insight, a Big Data sourced candidate profile might give them the next best thing.

I am all for helping companies making the best possible hiring decisions, and the more credible data that they have at their fingertips, the better. Of course, this can’t replace real-world interaction with candidates through the recruitment process, but we can’t deny that Big Data will play a part in allowing us to reach the depths of someone’s personality that little bit easier, hopefully meaning we can focus our time on those more likely to succeed in our organisations.

I’m all for getting to know and understand people better; we’d be crazy not to use all the resources at our disposal to do so!