Top 5 Talent Acquisition Inspirations for the New Year

Our Top 5 Talent Acquisition Inspirations for the New Year stand at the intersection of talent with big data. While great leaders are made of flesh and blood, the data that tell their story are made of binary zeros and ones. Every time we transact business online or at the supermarket, every time we interact with a government entity, every time we tweet, like, or comment, a digital record is born: we, increasingly, are the sum of all of that. There is a treasure trove of data available to be tapped — beyond candidate resumes and LinkedIn profiles — that can revolutionize search as we know it. Let the following examples serve as a guide:

1. Nate Silver. 

Nate Silver

Nate Silver is a statistician and blogger who first rose to fame in 2008 when he called the presidential election with incredible accuracy, getting 49 out of 50 states right. But then in 2012 he topped himself: he correctly forecast how all 50 states would vote for president. He even predicted a tie in Florida and projected it eventually would tip to President Barack Obama, which is the equivalent of predicting a coin landing on its side. He did it by taking polling data, weighing it for past accuracy and running 40,000 computer simulations at a time. He is author of the newly published book The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t. He is a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and has appeared as a commentator on CNN and MSNBC. He has spoken at TED and SXSW, and has been named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the world. What does this have to do with executive search? Everything. (See #2.)

2. Moneyball, the book.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis is a book about the Oakland Athletics baseball team. More important, it’s a book about talent acquisition.  Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane had a problem: his recruiting budget was small than nearly every other team.  He couldn’t afford to sign Major League superstars. Instead, he decided to outsmart the richer teams. He signed undervalued players whom the scouts consider flawed but who have a knack for getting on base, scoring runs, and winning games.

3. Moneyball, the movie.

Moneyball is a 2011 biographical sports drama film directed by Bennett Miller from a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane. If you haven’t yet seen the movie, it is time. There’s a reason Nate Silver got his start as a baseball statistician. To quote colleague Dan Lyons, “Bear in mind that before turning his attention to politics in 2007 and 2008, Silver was using computer models to make predictions about baseball. What does it mean when some punk kid baseball nerd can just wade into politics and start kicking butt on all these long-time “experts” who have spent their entire lives covering politics? It means something big is happening.”

4. Obama for America Data Analytics Team

The Presidential Election is our Nation’s executive search for Commander-in-Chief. No matter what your politics, the success of the Obama Campaign’s is a case to be studied. In fact, a right-leaning digital strategy firm Engage has just released its analysis comparing the technology strategies of the Obama and Romney campaigns. The report states that the Obama campaign’s analytics team employed 50 people, including an embedded analytics team measuring the campaign’s own internal operations. By comparison, the Romney campaign employed a data team of four people. Moreover, the Chief Digital Strategist for Obama for America Joe Rospars and his team did something no other campaign team had done before. They created a single massive system that merged the information collected from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers and consumer databases as well as social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states. Time Magazine reported the new megafile didn’t just tell the campaign how to find voters and get their attention; it also allowed the number crunchers to run tests predicting which types of people would be persuaded by certain kinds of appeals. The Obama campaign’s so-called persuadability score “ modeled how susceptible an individual was to changing their mind based on campaign appeals.”

5. Numb3rs.

In this digital era, we, the people, are all reduced to binary zeros and ones as data about us is captured in applicant tracking systems, resume databases, and social networks and in a near-infinite amount of databases outside the world of HR. The secret to recruiting great talent lies in the numb3rs. And no wonder: so too does the secret of the universe.

Now that we’ve share our inspiration, we’ll move on the innovation in executive search in coming posts.