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How Data Can Help You Land Top Talent

Want to hire a bright star? It's time to revisit how long you takes you to make a job offer--and find ways to streamline it.
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Tech founders know that landing top-notch talent is key to their businesses. Bright stars in the employment pool are in high demand. The last thing they want to do is elongate the interview and hiring process. Take your time making an offer, and that genius programmer or well-connected executive could sign with someone else while you're still trying to make a decision.

This is exactly the problem BlueKai set out to eliminate. After looking closely at its hiring processes, the marketing technology platform company decided it could strategically use data to shave in half the six weeks it normally took to go from resume review to offer. Not only that, but now the company often is able to make an offer on the same day a person is interviewed. Here's how they did it.

Map the Process

BlueKai started by looking at every stage of its hiring process--resume review, phone interview, in-person interview, hiring team debrief, when the offer was made, and whether it was accepted or rejected. The company found the biggest factor hanging things up was the debrief following the company's standard day-long, in-person interview.

CTO Jon Ingalls says because BlueKai provides data-driven marketing technology to its customers, it seemed logical to use data to improve the company's recruiting efforts. The first thing they found is that it was taking too long to put an offer in people's hands.

Make the Hiring Process Data-Driven, and Fast

Armed with that information, BlueKai pivoted.

Instead of waiting until everyone on the hiring team could get together in-person or online to do a stand-up vote regarding a potential employee, they started using a shared spreadsheet that captures how a candidate performed on various measures such as technical evaluations and character tests. In addition to letting hiring team members compare those metrics to other candidates' scores, the spreadsheet also allows them to see others' feedback and up- or down-vote a hire--many times even before the hiring manager closes out the interview day.

"It's kind of how I wake up in the morning--thinking about what to measure or if I'm measuring it right," says Ingalls, who was formerly director of analytics at Amazon.com. "Or should I be elevating some measurement to my boss that he or she doesn't know, but should know?"

Advice on Using Data

Cory Treffiletti, SVP of marketing for BlueKai, says that while plotting data points might come easy for a company like BlueKai, any company can pay attention to data and benefit from it, especially in an age where more companies than ever are applying analytics to simplify large, complicated data sets.

"The hiring process can be a very convoluted one where you can have too many people--too many chefs in the kitchen," he says. "What we're trying to do is make sure that the chefs in that kitchen know exactly what the recipe is they have to work with, they know exactly what ingredients they have to work with, and they can make the decision about what they're going to cook."

To do that, he says you need to look at the data, create data sets and data points for who it is you're trying to hire and what you're trying to hire for, and make sure that those things align.

"It may sound a little bit dehumanizing but we're talking about breaking down people to their skillsets and their talents and the different characteristics that they bring to the table and those are data sets that you can plot, read and put into action, so you can find the right people that are going to be the right fit for the company," Treffiletti says.

He says companies can use tools that range from simple excel spreadsheets that mark out key characteristics such as knowledge base, experience level, and competitive problem solving all the way to complex HR enterprise systems. In BlueKai's case, it relies heavily on various teams in the company, such as engineering to account management, to identify the kinds of skills that are required for someone to be successful in their role and the questions or tests that can be reviewed to prove their expertise.

"These tests and questions can be scored by HR during the interview process and a composite can be built that is then factored against the intangibles of cultural fit and attitude to determine if that person would be successful at BlueKai," Treffiletti says.

As for Ingalls, he says the more offers you have out waiting for decisions, the better you're doing at recruiting.

"It's an ever decreasing funnel and it's very akin to what's done in marketing, which is really understanding the data as it flows and gets narrow and narrow and narrow and you get right down to the customer, or in this case, the candidate in getting them to sign," he says.

Clever Marketing Doesn't Hurt

And while the subject of data-driven hiring might elicit yawns from some people, BlueKai knows that getting the right hires involves tactics that are anything but boring. Case in point: a clever video the company created.

It's a "Gangnam Style" parody of  the ridiculously viral YouTube video that's garnered nearly a billion views. BlueKai figured it could use the video's popularity to demonstrate the company's hip culture--something that certain segments of the tech talent pool deem important. So far, it's working--the video has created a fair amount of buzz for the company, which translates into more options when it's time to fill a position.

Last updated: Dec 7, 2012

CHRISTINA DESMARAIS

Christina DesMarais is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech start-up community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. On Google+, add her to one of your circles. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com.




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