Using data to strategically find the most qualified candidates

Data are an invaluable resource for recruiters. Evaluating your data can help you improve your recruiting strategy by answering questions such as whether that new career fair you attended paid off; if your new website design is bringing in more applicants; or if the application process itself is too cumbersome. Looking at recruitment evaluation results from surveys, applicant tracking systems, and demographics can help you plan a strategy that attracts the specific candidates your client wants.

Below are some articles written by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) recruiter Amanda Hurley who explains some of the best ways to use data when recruiting.

  • There are many articles and research today on measuring the return on investment (ROI) for your organization’s recruiting efforts. It is very important for many reasons, but how closely do we pay attention to it? Being informed of your ROI can help you see where your weaknesses are today and where you thrive. Below are the areas that I like to concentrate on when reviewing my organizations’ recruiting ROI.  

    I think the best place to start is to understand how your organization measures success. This is driven by your overall business needs when it comes to human capital. For example, a call center may not need to measure retention of their employees due to the expected high turnover rate of their employees. Their focus may need to be on how quickly positions are filled and the pipeline of candidates that they have waiting in the wings. It varies by company and by roles within your company. Once you have a clear understanding of your baseline, then your recruiters’ performance should be measured in a similar way. Below are a few areas of where you can start developing a true understanding of your ROI: 

    • Quality of source: Where are your best hires coming from? I would never recommend moving all of your eggs to one basket. Especially since today’s candidates use on average 16 different sources for their search. However, you can weight your basket in a certain direction when you see a significant trend. You really need to dig into the ROI you are getting from each of your recruiting tools, but that is a different conversation.
    • Candidate satisfaction: This is reviewing the satisfaction of your candidates in regards to your recruiting process. That’s right! Your 35-page application may not be as loved externally as it is loved internally. You can also look at how quickly you move a candidate through the recruiting process (time of first conversation to time of offer). With the competitive landscape today, if your recruiting process is leaving quality candidates dangling for those other companies to scoop up, then that’s a problem.
    • Turnover rate: This is one you are probably most familiar with and one that you already measure. Are you retaining your hires? Turnover is one of the biggest contributors to costs for an organization. Just think of how much the wrong placement can cost you in time and money. If you are constantly churning, ask yourself why and what you can do to slow down that pace.
    • Cost per hire: I’m always surprised when organizations do not have a firm grasp on their cost to hire. It is a simple calculation…you add up all the costs of your recruitment efforts (advertising fees, recruiter pay and benefits, Applicant Tracking System maintenance costs, relocation costs, recruiting agency, social recruiting, etc.). However, many HR professionals and recruiters do not have a good understanding of this cost.
    • Interviews per hire: How many candidates do your recruiters/hiring managers’ interview before a decision is made? This is a good metric that shows how well your recruiters understand your organization’s needs.
    • Performance of new hires: Now, this one is tough! How do you measure if an employee is a “good employee?” This can show you the strength of your recruiters, head hunter or hiring agency.  

    So, dig in! Look at your overall recruiting efforts and discover where you are excelling today and where you can improve tomorrow.

  • As a recruiter, I have many tools available to me to find that perfect candidate. In fact, I receive phone calls every day describing a product that will increase my time to hire or lower my cost per hire, but are we, as organizations, doing a good job measuring our return on investment (ROI) on the tools that we are using? Do we know which one is the sharpest tool in the shed?

    Recruiting tools can be employment websites, career fairs, local ads in your newspaper, social media ads, a full-time recruiter, a recruiting agency, your applicant tracking system (ATS), and much more. I’m always surprised to learn how little attention is paid to the ROI on these investments. Sure, you have that drop down box in your ATS so candidates can self-report their source, but we know they don’t always tell the truth. It has been reported that 80 percent of candidates select the wrong source. There are many reasons that this could happen, including:

    • The candidate is more focused on submitting the right résumé than the right source. When you were searching for an internship or research participation program, did you pay close attention to where you found the opportunity? That information is not going to keep your résumé from getting to the recruiter. Isn’t that what an ATS is for? (I digress!)
    • The candidate chooses the source that they think “sounds” better. Which will make me sound more professional? I found this opportunity on your website because I’ve known all about your organization for years and years or, I found this opportunity while stalking my ex-boyfriend on Facebook. Easy choice.
    • The candidate can typically only select one source. The average candidate today uses 16 different sources for their research participation program search. If I only have one choice, then I will choose the last place I saw your posting, which could be your website or the employment website. However, I am not going to get to tell you how I saw a cool pic on Instagram of the research you are doing, which led me to your Twitter page, where I saw others talking about how your organization is the #bestplace2work, which led me to an ad on an employment website about an opportunity, which then led me to your website. What’s my self-reported source? The one that’s freshest on my mind.
    • The candidate is confused. Well, I found this opportunity on an employment website, but I’m on your website now so do you mean where I last saw your posting or where I first saw it? Incorporate better tracking to avoid this pitfall. Google Analytics is a great source for all of your digital efforts.

    You see, we can’t rely on the candidate to self-report. We have to step up. Most ATS providers can supply a source tracking code so that you can see where your seekers are coming from on your site. Google Analytics is an excellent tool to beef up your ROI game. Employment websites also provide excellent reporting for views, clicks, and applications submitted to your postings. However, you have to get a baseline of your own website traffic and applicants to really see the secret in the sauce. The advertising of your opportunity postings is bringing the horse to water. It is your job to make that horse drink, so look at your drop-off rates. You may be getting all of this great traffic from the investment you are making in these tools, but if they are leaving the application before they submit, then you have a problem. Understanding where your candidates are coming from and why they complete or don’t complete an application can help you make better decisions about your future recruiting needs. Better data always equals better decisions.

  • You just relaunched your career website. Your company invested major bucks on your brand new Applicant Tracking System (ATS). You sit back and wait for the candidates to roll in… but they don’t. What now? We sometimes think that if we build the website they will magically come to us. It certainly feels like they should if you have recently gone through a website redesign or a new ATS launch. There is a tool that is available to point you in the right direction or at least help make the tough decisions easier when it comes to making your career site stronger. The tool is your website analytic reports. You know, that report the webmaster sends you every month that you glance over and say, “Huh, somebody clicked on my bio?” and then you move on to the fires you must put out? Yep, that one!  

    Web analytics reports hold a goldmine of information and below are the top 10 data points to review and how best to use them to your advantage! 

    PS: If you are reading this and wondering, “What the heck are web analytics?” then go hug your webmaster and let him show you the light! If your organization does not have the resources or maybe you rely on a vendor for this information, ask for reporting on your website and key metrics! Better yet, have your contact do a deep dive into your reporting to show you trends and key performance indicators! 

    1. Unique visitors. How many individuals are coming to my your within a month? This one is easy! You want to establish a baseline of your average readership and activity. Knowing this information allows you to see what you are working with and helps you see trends! More importantly, when/if you do invest in advertising and marketing you will be able to have a metric to track Return on Investment.  
    2. Time spent. How much time are these visitors spending on your website? Do they come to the homepage and then leave after 30 seconds? Do they consume four pages then leave? By exploring this metric you can determine how to make your site “stickier” so that users stay! We want them to stay to learn more about your company and generate more interest. PS: If you did invest in an ATS, then you should also know when the candidate exits the application and how often. (That’s a whole other conversation though!)
    3. Activity by day of week. What day on average does your website receive the most traffic? Monday? Tuesday? I bet it is not the weekend! This is great information to use to determine when to post new content; when the content will be seen and acted upon most often! Personally, I like to post my opportunities on Mondays…because my website told me to do so.  
    4. Most popular pages. What pages on your site are being consumed the most? If your research opportunity listings page isn’t in the top two, then we have some work to do. Maybe the links to the listings are hard to find on the homepage and we need to make it more prominent. 
    5. Most clicked images/links. If you are linking to other sites (social media) then you want to know how your own website is helping to drive traffic, right? PS: Link to your social media. Please!  
    6. Top entry pages and top exit page. This is great to see what pages your visitors are coming to first and what pages your visitors are leaving! You may need to tweet your content to change traffic patterns. 
    7. Top search engines. My guess is that Google is at the top of your list, but how much search traffic are you getting? This can help you determine how optimized your website is for search engines. This leads to the opportunity to explore Search Engine Optimization Marketing! 
    8. Top search phrases. What are people typing to find you today? Is it a web address that is misspelled or maybe a competitor’s address? This might present a great opportunity to buy that domain name and continue to drive traffic your way! 
    9. Desktop or mobile. How much of your traffic is coming from a traditional desktop or a mobile device. Is your career site and ATS mobile optimized so that visitors can see your company on their phone? If not, you might need a redesign project. 
    10. Top referral pages. Where is your traffic coming from? This is a biggie! Is it coming to you from LinkedIn, Facebook, Google or Yahoo? Knowing where your traffic is coming from helps you determine messaging on your website as well as where to spend those precious advertising dollars. The data does not lie, and it can help you determine your strengths and weaknesses. Now, go find that report from last month that you strategically filed in the folder called “Trash” and see how your website is working for you today!
  • Don’t you love it when your computer is acting up and you call IT and they start the process of troubleshooting the issue? Oh, you want me to turn my computer off and turn it back on? Seriously, that’s the magic fix? I wish that troubleshooting all of life’s hiccups was that easy. Where is that reboot button? Most people think that a poor performing research participation program posting is hard to troubleshoot, but in reality it is pretty easy. So if you’ve posted your opportunity on several employment websites, but are not getting the response you need, here are a few steps to troubleshoot the problem and reboot your posting.

    1. How long has your posting been live? The average posting time for some industries is over 60 days! You may need to hurry up and wait for the candidates to find and decide to apply.
    2. What information are you providing the candidate? I bet you have included a lot of information about the research that they will be doing, but what about your company? Today, candidates are spending more time researching opportunities prior to submitting their applications. To help expedite the time it takes for candidates to apply, why not provide them information about your organization and your culture right there in the posting.
    3. Keep it real. Are you being realistic with the type of candidate you are seeking? I know you would like to have an MBA with four years of experience, but make sure the candidate’s qualifications are appropriate for the opportunity.
    4. Are you linking to your social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)? The candidate is going there anyway to search and find you…make it easy for them.
    5. Check your reporting. Are you getting a lot of views, but not a lot of clicks? That means you need to check the title you’re using for your opportunity and also the titles your competition is using. What does your competition look like? Do a search for title in your area and see how many other competitors are looking for the same talent. If there is a lot of competition, you may want to reword your title.
    6. Check your reporting again. Are you getting a lot of clicks but not many applications? This could be the competition again, or it could be how you have worded your posting. Use the posting to explain why a candidate would want to work for your company. Make an emotional connection! I bet you already know the companies that do this well. Have you seen SalesForce’s Instagram where they showcase the exciting lives of their employees? My invitation for their Star Wars themed holiday party must have been lost in the mail. We all know that REI’s employees “opted-out” on Black Friday starting in 2016. The point is, think about what makes your organization unique and how best to share it.
    7. The application process. If you haven’t done it lately, go to your posting and follow the steps that your future participant will have to complete. HINT: If it takes you longer to apply than it did to apply for your mortgage, then you have a problem. We see that the peak time for applying to research participation program opportunities is Monday-Wednesday, right in the middle of the day. So, if a candidate can’t complete your application during their lunch break, you are missing out on candidates! I know you need certain information, but you don’t need it to on the first introduction, do you? Think of it like dating. Let’s have coffee before we commit to having dinner. The candidate doesn’t know if they like you yet, and you don’t know if you like them. Let’s ask for a little bit of information (coffee), enough for me as a recruiter to know if I’m interested, and then let’s ask them for full application (dinner). 

    If you implement the steps above, you will see more success with the quality and quantity of the applicants you are seeking. Happy posting!

About the Author
Amanda Hurley is an ORISE section manager located in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Previously, she worked for, where she recruited top talent, managed various projects and developed retention strategies for companies across the United States. Hurley has a background in recruitment, marketing, sales and organizational communication. As an ORISE project manager, she recruits for and manages the relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Research and Development Office. She is the subject matter expert for recruiting trends and technology. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.