Data Plays Growing Role in Driving Hiring Decisions

By Dave Zielinski May 28, 2021
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​When the recruiting team at Dropbox was looking to improve how it recruits diverse talent, it didn't rely on educated guesses or assumptions. To help inform their decisions, recruiters instead turned to analytics that were embedded in a recruiting technology platform.  

In a presentation at the recent virtual HR Technology Conference and Exposition, Michael Moriarty, former global head of talent acquisition for Dropbox, an online storage and file-sharing company in San Francisco, told the audience how he worked to build a data-driven recruiting team at the company that leans heavily on analytics to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) hiring goals.

Moriarity said his team uses analytics from the Gem technology platform, gathering metrics such as time candidates spend in each hiring stage, pass-through rates of phone screenings and other metrics tied to underrepresented groups, and gender among job applicants.

Recruiters can review interview stages for different hiring managers by gender to see which managers might need help in balancing gender equity on their teams; analyze what percentage of their time is spent on phone screens with men compared to women and underrepresented groups; and track pass-through rates of hiring stages, including the rate that extended offers are accepted to help determine why some candidates may be declining offers.

Tracking such metrics helped the Dropbox team uncover some issues with its diversity recruiting in 2019. "One thing we saw was about a 10 percent increase in the number of underrepresented candidates falling off at the phone-screen stage versus nondiverse candidates," Moriarity said.

The recruiting team looked more deeply into the issue and decided, as one of multiple steps, to revamp its phone-screen preparation process for all candidates. "We wanted to help them better understand what was involved in the phone-screen process and the objective of that stage," he said. "Over time we saw that metric come back up to the average fall-off rate for all candidates in phone screens. Being able to spot those kinds of trends is why having layers of recruiting data is so important."

As a result of the new data-driven strategy, 42 percent of Dropbox hires in 2020 were from underrepresented groups, Moriarity said, an improvement over previous years.

The growing role analytics are playing in employers' decision-making was highlighted in research and advisory firm Gartner's recent Data and Analytics Summit Americas 2021 conference. One recurring conference theme was how reliable data is becoming more vital to success in an uncertain and quickly evolving post-pandemic business environment. As a result, companies need to prioritize and embed more analytics throughout their operations—including HR—rather than farm out data analysis to information technology professionals. 

Evolution of the Recruiting Team

Transforming the Dropbox recruiting team into a data-driven unit didn't happen overnight, Moriarty said. "It's an evolution," he explained. "We started with our sourcing team by showing them the value of being able to identify and understand candidate pipeline snags or bottlenecks so they could improve performance there."

The focus on analytics also has helped recruiting leaders manage the team more effectively. "Using the data makes it easier for managers to coach or teach processes that can help," Moriarity said. "Managers also can encourage peers on the team who might be having success using analytics to mentor or coach others."

Working with Stakeholders

Success in diversity recruiting isn't just about generating and analyzing data, Moriarity said. Creating an open and trusting relationship with business partners such as hiring managers is also crucial to DE&I initiatives.

"Having good data is the first step in allowing us to be more transparent with hiring managers," Moriarity said. "If, for some reason, we can't hire on time or there is some snag in a candidate pipeline, we'll quickly bring that to a hiring manager and explain our hypothesis of what is going on, based on the data. The trust we've built has allowed us to move faster and be more strategic collectively as recruiters and hiring managers working together."

Moriarty told a story that underscored the importance of recruiting working hand-in-glove with stakeholders and balancing different analytics. In past years, his performance was weighted heavily on the metric of new candidates' accepted offers but not on how quickly those new hires then started on the job.

"In past years, we had exceeded our goal for offer accepts, but my partners in the company missed their targets [for quickly getting candidates on board] because of the delay between hiring and starting time," he said. "Performance on those two metrics weren't aligned, so we worked on new processes and analytics to become more in sync so both parties could meet their goals. From our end, we decided to slow down for a while and put a pause on hiring. We realize it's not just about recruiting success but organizational success as a whole."

Dave Zielinski is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis.

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