Last year brought recruitment managers a suite of data-driven panaceas, from semantic search to predictive analytics, along with a host of case studies analysing the effectiveness of calculated hiring decisions, such as Google’s now famous data-driven interview process. So how is this Cambrian explosion of ’next-big-things’ in Big Data-hiring spilling over into 2014, and what talent acquisition strategies are coming into the spotlight?

The data on talent sourcing continues to push companies towards quality, particularly in attracting the holy grail of the 80% ‘passive candidates’, with budget reshuffles increasingly focusing towards ‘employee referral’ tools, frequently identified as the ‘fastest, highest quality and lowest cost recruiting source’.

The battle for quality talent is now pushing HR managers to focus on the ‘candidate experience’,  and lessons from the marketing industry are now pushing companies to move beyond Big Data and towards analysing and improving how candidates perceive their brand. The spotlight is now turning to a new ‘Moneyball Moment’ - effective inbound recruitment.

Building The Brand
Employer branding is by no means a new concept, but it is emerging as the most effective strategy not only in talent sourcing, but in enhancing employee retention. Many recruitment businesses and agencies that have flirted with Big Data and transactional recruitment are shifting their focus back to where the value lies - in relationships. A growing number of HR managers are taking heed, and taking relationship-building strategies into their own hands, through an 'inbound' online hiring strategy. Inbound hiring processes' share three key steps:

1. Attracting high quality talent with content that exposes your company’s vision and culture and communicate it through your careers site, video, blogs and social media
2. Engaging passive visitors and convert them to applicants through effective calls-to-action and channels to connect directly with people at the company
3. Hire better by analysing and measuring the effectiveness of your sourcing strategy and by nurturing a growing relationship through continuous communication

These three channels define inbound recruitment - a process of pulling in interested prospective candidates with relevant content, and creating lasting relationships through ongoing engagement. 

The success of inbound is primarily driven by careers sites, which are en-route to becoming the most effective sourcing channel - second only to referrals. Effective career pages are responsible for more than half of what we see to be 'inbound' methods, with 40% of total external hires in 2012 coming through career pages (24%) social media (3%), college and career fairs (7%), and direct applications (7%).

More company hires happen through applications directly from a company website than through adverts on job boards - and yet a very small fraction of resources is dedicated to driving ‘inbound’ through effective careers pages (spending on 'brand' and 'website' average at <2% of HR budgets and a tenth of spending on job boards or referrals).

In light of the recent success and low cost of careers-site driven strategies, it is not surprising that there is a growing number of companies publishing case studies that mirror strategies polished within inbound marketing and sales to in their data-driven talent acquistion. The challenge HR managers face now is on how to develop the sourcing strategy that suits their firms' specific hiring needs and culture - to analyse their own inbound hiring process, and to find the data and software that helps them optimise it - in time for inbound recruitment to make its mark.