Corporate Eye

Canaries in the (Data) Mine


For a while now, I’ve been looking for some really different ideas about recruiting. (Not looking super- hard, I confess, but keeping an eye out.) I’m not sure I’ve found any, but I do think this story is worth reporting:

Part 1: Arrives in my Inbox the weekly issue of SmartBrief on Workforce. SmartBrief provides quick summaries and links to various current stories, and comes in many different flavors—in addition to Worforce, I subscribe to Entrepreneurs, Leadership, Interactive Advertising, and Social Media. Fine and free resources, so if you haven’t already, check out the options.

In this issue . . .

Part 2: I discover an article about data mining in HR. It contains some interesting ideas about using data analysis in large companies. For example: “Microsoft studies correlations between thriving workers and the schools and companies they arrived from. Also, by analyzing communications within Microsoft, analysts can ID ‘superconnectors’ who help share ideas and others who appear to hold them up, so-called bottlenecks.” Although less than 2% of companies are starting to crunch people numbers, Rupert Bader, director of workforce planning at Microsoft, comments that “You have to bring the same rigor you bring to operations and finance to the analysis of people.”

However . . .

Part 3: I notice there are 69 comments on the story. That’s quite a few in relation to the typical business story, so I drill down and find that many commenters are not happy. Their remarks range from variations on “this is just sad” to “wasn’t it fancy math that got us into a financial crisis?” to “Go ask HAL, Mr. Bader.”  If you skip over the squabbles, these comments are well worth reading, as they flag some serious concerns and also highlight perceived issues regarding HR.

So then . . .

Part 4: I wonder if there are ideas that apply data mining to recruiting. No news on that yet, but I do end up discovering Broadlook, a turbo-charged tool for Internet research, with a specific application to recruiting. See a demonstration here, along with an example of the Broadlook ROI proposition. Then go off-topic and view the About page for Broadlook CEO Donato Diorio—just because it’s interesting.

And finally . . .

Part 5: I am reminded that “Data mining” is a very complicated concept. It’s difficult to implement data mining successfully, and very challenging to interpret/utilize results effectively. Plus–the term is used by different people to mean different things. Sometimes wildly different things. So this seems like an area to be approached with great caution.

Thanks to the Boston Public Library Photostream for the canaries!

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.