Big Data in Recruiting: data versus intuition?

February 8, 2016 Sascha Grosskopf


Data-driven models now give a good overview and tailored recommendations for HR professionals’ actions when hiring. Experienced HR professionals know however that numbers and certificates alone do not constitute a perfect employee candidate – the right chemistry is also vital. But in principle, the more information a recruiter has for the decision-making process, the more likely they are to make the right decision. The proverbial search for a needle in a haystack is likely to take less time thanks to big data. But what role does the ‘gut feeling’ or intuition play in the final decision?

Facts, facts, facts

In the free market economy, intuition is in stark contrast to the "homo economicus" of neoclassical economic theory, which is regarded as the ideal type of decider. Digitisation reinforces this trend today, in addition, because it increases the pressure of global competition. A study by the Academy for Leadership demonstrates the enormous importance of facts and figures in management decisions. Of 560 surveyed managers, almost 76 percent reported they only decide to hire if they have all the relevant information, while just 14 percent said the feeling is more important than the mind. Is intuition so completely useless and overrated? Renowned economist luminaries would disagree there.

Success is through the stomach

A prime example of the importance of intuition in business decisions, however, is the example of Mövenpick. This is thanks to the success of the brand, especially the founder Ueli Prager, who against all recommendations of market researchers trusted his gut feeling and decided on the production of Premiumeis and against a low-calorie version. Mövenpick thus became the leader in the new segment of premium ice creams. Even stars such as major investor Warren Buffett or Apple founder Steve Jobs repeatedly emphasise the importance of intuition.

Data win - humanity wins

So what remains? Is intuition the Holy Grail for making the right decisions and Big Data the less useful brother? Hardly likely. After all, personnel management is mainly about finding suitable talent, so as to provide the foundations for a successful future of the company. This requires on the one hand, reliable data-driven models that facilitate that HR work and make things more efficient, and on the other hand requires a deep understanding of their own corporate values ​​– this particularly applies to the recruiting process. Only those who fit both professionally and personally for businesses can work long, stay motivated, and be successful.

Find specialists

Unlike many large corporations, the majority of medium-sized enterprises do not use Big Data’s potential. Medium-sized businesses, more than ever, rely on qualified professionals and appropriate tools for data analysis. Data models allow both better and more accurate reporting predictions. Experience and intuition should be maintained, but mainly in the company as part of the corporate culture. At the end of the day, however, neither intuition nor data models make the decision – they just show us new ways of thinking. The decision is made by the man, and as each of us knows this ideally comes from a combination of intuitive thinking and analytical evaluated data in perfect symbiosis – for the benefit of the company.

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