When the Internet came of age, recruiters suddenly found themselves living in a much bigger world. But now we’re worried about it growing too fast. “Big data” is becoming a concern for many staffing agencies and HR departments.

With the tools now available, searching for talent seems easier than ever, but the hard part is optimizing your search to find the right people in an ocean of candidates. Better and faster insights are what recruiters need to stay ahead of the game.

Here are some tips on the emerging technologies that can make your searches more targeted and meaningful.

Big data and staffing

When we talk about a big data problem in recruiting, what we really mean is unstructured data. Candidates and their skillsets can’t be packaged into tidy little databases any more. There are notes, emails, tweets, blog posts and thousands of interactions that happen between recruiters and job-seekers that contain a valuable, but messy pile of information.

On the Internet, Boolean searches on Google are one of the quickest and easiest ways to precision-guide your efforts, but what about all the information that passes through your organization? Could you be missing out on a key piece of internal data that could tie in with your online recruitment efforts?

Definitely. And one of the ways you can improve your ability to find that piece is by understanding the context of the information you’re sitting on is by using analytics and semantic searches. Here are three different ways you can handle your data sprawl.

Option 1: Context through the cloud

One of the most obvious choices is to look to a provider that has the horsepower and specific expertise to offer you analytics as a service. For instance, Monster.com has a platform called SeeMore, which gives you insight into multiple sources of information (databases, resumes, social media, emails, etc.) in one place.

By linking these disparate strands of data together, you can match skillsets to positions, look at trends, and quantify talent by assigning scores to different people.

Option 2: Enterprise search and content analytics software

If you prefer to deploy your own software in-house and give it your own tweaks, there are vendors that supply what you need right here in Canada. OpenText’s Content Analytics can give you a way to categorize information through semantic searches for key phrases or concepts in all sorts of textual forms. You can use it to keep relevant information and discard what you don’t need. It also has data visualization tools to look for trends and you can set up alerts for specific tidbits of information you’re looking out for.

Another Canadian company, Coveo, has a product called Advanced Enterprise Search that performs similar functions, and can filter relevant data to certain people in your organization based on their “proximity” to the information (e.g., a recruiter with particular expertise). It can connect the dots from many different sources, from Gmail to Twitter to Microsoft SharePoint.

Option 3 – Do it all yourself

If you’re dealing with massive datasets and have the resources to operate your own infrastructure, you can start from the ground up by buying the hardware to process big data. This usually means servers running multiple processors in parallel stacked with in-memory data processing capabilities and solid-state drives.

Prices for this kind of gear are dropping steadily. IBM, for example, is selling budget versions of its high-performance POWER7+ servers that start at just over $6,0000. You can also custom-build your own servers. This is a lot of work, and you’ll have to buy your own analytics software in either case, but if you need serious speed and want to keep your data in house, it’s one way to do it.

What’s next?

In the future, predictive analytics may even be able to estimate how well candidates will fit into certain positions. Nothing will replace the traditional face-to-face interview, but for recruiters, having technology that can read resumes and create a shortlist of the best prospects could be a very neat tool. So, it’s worth keeping an eye on where analytics is going and how it can help your hunt for talent.

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