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Employers are facing a lot of pressure to fill open positions efficiently and effectively — a task made even more difficult in light of low unemployment and a shortage of people with specific types of skills. Some enterprises are tackling this challenge with data analytics, by incorporating embedded reporting and analytical tools into their talent acquisition programs. By integrating different data sources into their hiring processes, these enterprises can expand the pool of potential candidates, identify qualified applicants, and improve the hiring process.

Miles Ward, chief technology officer at cloud solutions provider SADA, explained to VentureBeat how his organization uses data analytics in recruiting and hiring. Prior to SADA, Ward was a director at Google Cloud and was involved with initiatives including NASA’s livestream of the Mars Rover landing and the Obama for America 2012 U.S. presidential campaign.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

VentureBeat: What are some of the challenges IT leaders face today in sourcing, recruiting, and hiring new engineers?

Miles Ward: Here are three:

  1. Sourcing a diverse pipeline of candidates. I’m eager to have my company be the best place for engineers from all backgrounds to learn cloud, and making sure we do the work to dive into equitable sourcing is a critical part of that. Being the best takes more work than just putting up the job description.
  2. Doing interviews over video chat is hard, especially without practice. Now that everyone has had around 60 weeks straight at it, we’re certainly improving, but it still can be difficult to get a clear read on a candidate: Was that awkwardness or just a mic cut? Do they make strong eye contact when it’s not a camera? How do you take good notes when the candidate can’t speak over typing noise?
  3. Onboarding workers remotely is a whole new process, You can’t just mail folks a laptop and hope for the best.

VentureBeat: What role does data management/analytics play in overcoming these challenges? Please provide an example of how you’re using data/analytics tools in this way.

Ward: It’s critical to keep a distributed and remote team on the same page. We use Google Forms to garner feedback from candidates and from employees on what we can do better, and Google Sheets and Google Data Studio to create simple points of collaboration inside and across teams to share the feedback. We also use a recruiting tool to track all candidates, stages of interviews, feedback and scoring, and offers. Those help us pay attention to our metrics to make sure that we’re keeping track of commitments and holding each other accountable.

VentureBeat: How is the use of data/analytics tools going to change the process of talent acquisition? What advice do you have for IT leaders looking to better leverage data for hiring purposes?

Ward: We’re working on improving the performance of our interviewers. Measuring the success of folks and the ratings given by our interviewers helps us find out who is more predictive in their evaluations.

We’re also working on improving the targeting of our promotions for open roles so that we’re sure to evaluate an increasingly diverse candidate pool.

We’re doing more careful monitoring of our team utilization forecasts and getting a more nuanced view of the skills we’ll need to tackle tomorrow’s customer challenge. That’s helping us both recruit and cross-train our teams to continue to meet customers where they are.

When evaluating SaaS tools, I look for my teams to have clear ownership over and access to the data we create, where the SaaS vendor can be clear about what infrastructure system is being used to host our app and where the tools have existing integrations into other key parts of our operating stack. We also want to see examples from their other customers who’ve done the same integrations, with timelines and details galore. The more they can share, the more comfortable we can get.

For our systems at SADA, and many that we’ve helped customers stand up, we’ve built integrations between SaaS APIs like HubSpot, Monday, Netsuite, Greenhouse, Trello, and many more using Google Dataflow, as a low-overhead, efficient, managed platform for building and maintaining these crucial integrations. Built on OSS Apache Beam (a model and set of language-specific SDKs), it’s a safe investment that’s paying dividends for us in our pace of integration.

VentureBeat: One of the challenges is to know how to buy the right platform/tools (or go homegrown). What specific questions do you ask in the evaluation process? What features are useful for the examples you gave us earlier?

Ward: Very little of basic business functions are not best served by SaaS tools today. The real question is: Do you already have part of what you need? Sometimes that can be almost harder: If you have the recruiting system online but no data from the marketing system connected to it, how can you tell which roles get the most interest (but which maybe don’t convert into applications)? The bigger you are, the more you need to be prepared for the bulk of work being in the integration, not the selection and implementation of tools.

VentureBeat: What was it like helping Obama for America (OFA) win the 2012 presidential campaign? I assume there is a data story there, too?

Ward: OFA of course was all about data, and about recruiting. I’d built a startup that analyzed social media data and then went to Amazon. I got a call from “the most important technologist” in the Obama campaign, who said since I’d worked on social, and on cloud, and on some of the tools they were using in cloud, they’d love me to come help. I was pretty surprised: How did they know what I’d worked on? His response: “Well, you tweeted about all that stuff, right?” It seems they’d figured me out, or at least the tools they were working on had. Data can help you find great candidates.

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