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Big Data Comes to Hiring

By Steve Jones,

I remember first seeing kiosks a few years back in some stores such as Best Buy, Target, Barnes and Nobles, etc. The devices had banners above them that invited people to apply for a job using the computerized system. This was just before my oldest son started applying for jobs, and shortly thereafter I found a few articles that stated quite a few of these large corporations were using the same company to manage the kiosks and pre-screen candidates. Not only were they considering the applications, but they were examining employment records, noting which candidates might have been terminated or left another job quickly. They were trying to use analytics to decide which applicants to interview.

That entire process reminded me of the "black mark" on your record that I heard about as a kid. It was a reminder to not make too many mistakes, at least not serious ones, that might follow you forever. It appears now that it's not just entry level jobs that are starting to use data and analysis for hiring decisions. It seems as though some companies are starting to evaluate candidates with different types of algorithms and applications for a wide range of positions. This piece from the Atlantic talks about the history of hiring and a few ways in which data is being gathered about workers and used to analyze their performance. Even more interesting the section about halfway down that talks about how they analyze developer's work from afar.

It's expensive, time consuming, and stressful to hire people. We've proven in technology over and over that many of the hiring decisions made, aren't made that well. We find talented people being underpaid and quick to leave, while other employees are overpaid and are happy to toil away in their positions for years. Neither situation is good for the employer, and often not good for the employee either. It's less than motivating for any of us when we don't find some challenge and enjoyment in our jobs.

Ultimately I know more "people analytics" will be used in the hiring process by some companies, but I find that even with the data, there's one thing that seems to matter more: personal referrals. Networking matters, and there is no shortage of companies that are placing lots of value on their employees' networks. Some of them are even looking to conduct the majority of their hires through networking. So make sure you're networking with others in technology. You never know when it will be the way you get your next job.

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