More HR Jobs Requiring Big Data Skills

Big data - photoexplorer - freeThe geeks have arrived in HR, declares Josh Bersin. “Statisticians, mathematicians, and engineers have entered the people analytics space.”

Writing in Forbes, the noted industry analyst and consultant outlines the development of the use of “big data” or, as he calls it, “people analytics” in the hiring and management of talent. “Human resources departments are getting serious about analytics. And I mean serious.”

Just how serious? Wanted Analytics coincidentally just came out with some numbers detailing the growth in human resources jobs asking for “big data” skills.

Although the numbers aren’t big — only about 400 recruiter jobs in Q4 of 2014 mention data skills — Wanted says it’s a year-over-year 54 percent increase.

More frequently, big data skills are appearing in job postings for HR generalists, comp and benefit specialists, and trainers.

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In the last quarter of 2014, some 1,500 HR generalist jobs required some knowledge or use of big data tools, more than a one-third increase over 2013. The 770 jobs for training and development specialists or managers mentioning big data was an even larger 46 percent increase. Comp and benefit positions have always entailed some understanding and application of big data analysis, whether or not those words were actually used. In the fourth quarter, Wanted found over 1,000 benefits positions mentioning big data as a job requirement.

According to Wanted, across all HR jobs appearing online, demand has increased 41 percent.

Image: photoexplorer /

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


7 Comments on “More HR Jobs Requiring Big Data Skills

  1. Sooner or later HR has to accomodate BigData skills in their skillset. More early they start, much easier will be for them to keep abreast with data and numbers. Article just reminisce of increasing importance of data in HR.

  2. So the buzz word du jour has started showing up more often in job postings, which are often extensive wish lists anyway. How many of those companies actually have access to anything qualifying as big data, much less the capacity to analyze it? That would determine the reality of whether or not big data has any significant impact on HR. And then there is still the issue of whether or not anyone has a clue how to use it and avoid fallacious reasoning, or if they’re just going to torture the data until it confesses to support any business model or decision they’ve already committed to.

    1. I agree Medieval. I worry about how big data might be used or abused by organizations that start with an assumption, then move the data around enough to support it. It takes someone with a very deep understanding of statistics and psychology/sociology (to name a couple fields) to understand some of the basic principles…especially correlation and causation. Big data used in the wrong hands can be mined and filtered enough to show anything.

      1. Correlation vs causation is a big one that people just don’t get, and it’s in play now. How many times have recruiters encountered hiring managers who will not interview people from… this particular industry, or this particular company, or who went to this particular school, etc.? It’s usually one experience with one person from X that ends up prejudicing them against X for eternity, and then it becomes self reinforcing when they don’t hire from X, but the team still does okay, so hey, it must be the right decision, right? And that works, for a while, until they burn through the labor pool in the area and the only people left are from X…

        Until more people are capable of actual, rational thought, big data will just enable the same poor decision making. It will just make it faster.

  3. First things first….before you can begin analyzing data, you first have to collect it and structure it.

    Funny thing is….there is a treasure of information sitting in a company’s ATS if they know how to grab it, refine it, and manage it.

  4. There are tools like Tableau, GoodData, IBM’s Watson Analytics, etc but in my opinion they don’t offer what recruiting team leaders need.

    I say this because most tools out there offer dashboard type reporting. Pie charts, bar charts, line graphs and other 10,000 ft views of information. Staffing leaders need more granular information.

    When I’ve built dashboards in my experience, it gets attention for about 1-2 weeks and then they don’t get looked again because they don’t offer “actionable” data.

    Contrary to that, are scorecards. Pulled in excel so no learning curve, easy to share, and no one has to buy anymore software.

    Scorecards show names, numbers, and percentages…weekly. That’s what staffing leaders need to effect change…weekly scorecards that name names. Its what gets reviewed in the weekly 1 on 1 meetings.

    When scorecards get introduced, recruiters get nervous but once they understand them…they get used to them.

    Scorecards have worked every time I’ve used them when staffing leaders are taking their team in a direction. They allow a team to define goals, set goals, and measure goals.

    Typically this wouldn’t qualify as “big data,” but once you start to refine your ATS info with industry info, location info, against other companies and industries, aggregated data over time, etc. you can start to talk the talk in regards to…big….data.

  5. The main issue, like a lot of issues is people applying what they think the term big data is (which they are generally wrong btw) but is not actually a reflection of what big data means. [Actually

    [Big Data is an all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets so large or complex that it becomes difficult to process using traditional data processing applications. The challenges include analysis, capture, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and privacy violations. Thetrend to larger data sets equates to additional information derivable from analysis of a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, allowing correlations to be found to “spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on.” Scientists, Practitioners of Media and Advertising and Governments alike regularly encounter limitations due to large data sets in many areas. The limitations affect Internet search, finance and business informatics].

    I know of only a small % of companies that 1) Are actually thinking about how to apply this in TA 2) Even smaller % again, actually have Workforce Analytics staff focused on this 3) And the smallest % and most importantly, actually can point to getting something from it.

    Net/Net – TA (and the related industry) will be a huge consumer of big data and the predictive analytics to drive it and benefit from outcomes in the future. But right now today, as I type this, only a small fraction are even on this journey, and I am sure we can all understand why, given the majority of TA functions are still trying to work out how to most efficiently get the data out of their own ATS to influence strategic business decisions.

    Just an Analysts’ Opinion 🙂

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