Many of us recruiters that started in the field when it was customary to fax candidates’ resumes were also used to light brown manila folders. Folders that housed our most prized “possessions” – Marketable candidates and resumes!

I loved the folders, and they were my universe – albeit a very small one. I had them stacked several tiers high in multi-level, wire file folder holders, each tab neatly marked with the candidate’s key skills. I knew the contents of these folders inside and out! Going through the folders looking for a phone number or resume (while cumbersome and slow), was just part of everyday life as a headhunter and not a huge problem.

In a world of just “little” data, I think I’d still use only the folders, but now we are dealing with millions of records and having access to algorithms to pick out the 1% of profiles I am interested in taking a closer look at in just seconds is awesome!

So, the answer is definitely I love big data! But – as with many good things – us humans tend to manage a way to make it “bad” by using it incorrectly or relying on it too much.

Where this becomes evident in recruiting is when we think big data and the associated search tools will do the actual recruiting for us... These tools merely reduce a barn full of hay (99%) to a hay stack (1%) – now we still need to go and find the needle!

We are left with a smaller universe of potential applicants that now need to be contacted, vetted, and ultimately convinced to join your team – Just like in the ‘folder days’. Whaaaat?

Oh how tempting it is to rely on big data and then embark on clever outbound social media campaigns, offers for free draft beer, or career pages populated with pictures of lots of happy workers in hopes of attracting the ideal applicant out of the 1%...

Don’t get me wrong, all of these employer or agency branding initiatives are useful (and even expected these days), but not only is the 1% target group being bombarded by other campaigns as well, but – even worse – in the end we may discover that our big data search produced a hay stack that didn’t contain any needles or that it did, but others picked them out faster...Now what?

So, love and embrace big data – but never stop recruiting ! Big data without a professional recruiting effort behind it is like relying on WebMD for medical care... WebMD delivers a vast amount of data – which is great and very helpful – but when one of us is ill, we still want to have an experienced physician by our side!

by @MLeitzmann