In human resource departments across the country, big data is becoming a big deal. In fact, data analysis is currently one of the most highly valued skills. More than 88,000 big data jobs were posted online in September 2013 – a 13 percent increase over 2012 according to Wanted Analytics. This trend isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon, either. As more companies turn towards business intelligence applications to streamline their operations, research firm Gartner predicts that 4.4 million big data jobs will be created by 2015.
The hiring surge stems from recent acknowledgment within Fortune 500 and smaller firms of the necessity and benefits of data analysis. The 2014 IDG Enterprise Big Data Study revealed that 49 percent of respondents were either already implementing big data projects or planned to in the near future. The 751 respondents varied from large enterprises to small businesses and came from CSO, InfoWorld, CIO, Computerworld, Network World and ITworld subscribers. More than a third (34 percent) of those polled were currently hiring new staff with specialized analytics skills.
Software for Hire
While big data has had a positive effect in overall hiring, it is also gradually changing companies’ interview processes. The Wall Street Journal reports that office tech giant Xerox now hires all of its more than 47,000 call center employees using advanced software. Such hiring programs ignore a lot of traditional interview mainstays such as job history, and focus more on personality attributes that have been proven to correlate with success in a given position.
Knack is a startup specializing in big data hiring software. The firm creates games that companies can use to screen candidates. The applications, which appear to be like many other online or mobile games, track player actions by the millisecond. Data produced from these tests can give hiring managers insight into an applicant’s leadership ability and management potential. Other companies like San Francisco firm Evolv work to reduce the subjectivity of the interview process through series of nonbiased questions. Evolv’s technology, which Xerox uses, allows businesses to tailor results to their industry and filter out certain metrics in order to create a more data-driven picture of applicants.
Though data analysis software can make for an easier screening process, hiring managers and talent directors need not fear losing their jobs. The intangible quality of meeting an applicant cannot be assessed by even the most robust data crunching software. These intangibles can be especially important when hiring for senior and executive level positions.
Big Data Degrees
In response to such increased job demand, universities across the country are starting to offer data analysis degrees. Master’s degrees in business analytics are available at some of the country’s leading institutions, such as Stanford and Rutgers, and at larger state schools like Louisiana State University, North Carolina State, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Even small, liberal arts universities are jumping on the big data bandwagon. Kentucky’s Bellarmine University, which has a total enrollment of around 3,500, recently announced plans for a master’s program and a big data research center. Alternately, websites like BigDataUniversity.com offer free classes on various analytics skills and let users receive certificates to present to future employers.
For those without a degree in data analysis – there’s still plenty of opportunity. Non-STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) degree holders can often help with big data analysis in unexpected ways. Founder and CEO of Catalyst IT Service Michael Rosenbaum writes that having a “wild card team member” like a biologist in the big data department “can help provide the needed out-of-the-box perspective that may just turn big data into business innovation.” Liberal arts graduates can similarly be useful for distilling complex information to digestible statements for shareholders. Experimentation in hiring in the ever-evolving big data field will help companies find their perfect analytics team.