How customer data can inform your hiring strategy

Customer data is essential to recruiting because it highlights what organizational needs can be met through an efficient hiring strategy.

How customer data can inform your hiring strategy

5 min read

Customer data is transforming the way companies recruit talent.

With data, hiring managers and human resources departments no longer rely on intuition or assumptions to match the best candidates to a position. They have access to large caches of data that tell them exactly what they should be looking for in a candidate for any given job opening. This is making hiring more efficient and precise.

“It’s relatively easy to use analytics software to sift through potential candidates and find those with data points that best fit your ‘shopping list’ of ideal attributes,” says business and technology advisor Bernard Marr.

The hard part is narrowing down the abundance of data to create that list of attributes. While convention dictates starting with data concerning the specifics of the position or a candidate’s credentials, one often-untapped resource that companies should be considering is customer data. Information mined from customers can be invaluable in recruiting.

The benefits of using customer data in recruiting

Knowing what customers expect can give companies insights into their hiring processes that may not be apparent just by analyzing internal data. The insights can be beneficial to the recruiting process in a number of different ways.

“Hiring is not magic. It’s science,” says Jim D’Amico, global talent acquisition leader at specialty materials company Celanese. When organizations use data in place of gut instinct in the recruiting process, they remove layers of uncertainty, bias and risk from hiring decisions.

Customer data is especially useful because it adds a level of validation to the recruiting strategy to ensure that the company is targeting the right candidates.

Data can improve the quality of hires

Every company wants to hire the best talent possible and get it right the first time. One of the best ways to do that is “create a smaller but better-qualified applicant pool to improve the yield,” advises Dane Holmes, global head of human capital management at Goldman Sachs.

Customer data can support this endeavor by providing sharper direction for hiring managers to take when recruiting. Customer insights provide information that helps organizations close gaps through by hiring the right people.

“Your talent base defines your competitive advantage,” says Kathie Patterson, chief human resources officer at Ally Financial. And who better to tell an organization where they stand competitively, and how to improve that position, than their own customers?

Data can save time on hiring

Hiring the wrong person can be a drain on human resources’ time and energy. But when company recruiters find the right people on the front end of the hiring journey, they save time in the long run to bring those candidates on board. That minimization of time to hire is one of the keys to successful recruiting.

By harnessing customer data, businesses create more specific hiring criteria, which helps ensure that job applicants are the right candidates for the job. Customer insights help narrow the job description to weed out applicants who aren’t a good fit, thereby speeding up the hiring process.

Employer showing thumbs up to successful black candidate at interview, executive boss satisfied with african employee work results, startupper got angel investment funding for business idea, good job

Case study: JetBlue’s flight attendant recruiting strategy

Flight attendant hires are one of the most important for JetBlue Airlines. “You can imagine how important the role is to the company and to our brand,” says Andrew Biga, former director of talent acquisition and assessment for JetBlue and current SVP People at GoHealth Urgent Care. “They are literally the face of the brand, and are able to change a regular experience with us to — hopefully — an amazing experience.”

That’s why it was so important for the airline to hire the right people for those positions. To do this, the company began incorporating customer insights into its recruiting efforts for flight attendants.

Before JetBlue Airlines started utilizing customer data in its recruiting strategy for flight attendants, the company had long considered friendliness to passengers the most important attribute when hiring flight attendants. “We had always looked to find the nicest people we could possibly find to be in the sky with [customers],” notes Ryan Dullaghan, JetBlue’s general manager of people data insights.

After running a customer data analysis, however, JetBlue learned that customers actually considered helpful flight attendants more important than simply nice flight attendants. That information changed the company’s recruiting strategy. “People will tell you they know the right kind of person for a given job,” Dullaghan says. “But what we think isn’t always what is best.”

That customer data — gathered via customer survey feedback, unsolicited compliments, and complaints from customer emails and engagement survey feedback — provided JetBlue with insights that continue to help the company identify the best candidates for open positions.

Young businessmen discussing customer data at meeting

How customer data can be incorporated into recruiting strategies

Customer data can be used throughout recruitment to help narrow down candidates and target those who are optimal choices. After all, customer experiences provide an honest look inside the effectiveness of a company’s processes, which can significantly alter approaches to recruiting.

HR consultant Susan Heathfield advises companies to dig into customer data to know what they do and don’t like about an organization. “You want to look at this data and then hire people who will fix your customers’ problems and perfect your strengths as an organization,” she says. Heathfield cautions that ignoring customer data may lead hiring managers to focus on the wrong candidates with the wrong skills.

Nicole Le Maire, people management consultant and founder of the blog New to HR, outlines the core elements of a recruiting strategy. There are a few clear ways to fold customer data in at any of these points:

  • Company goals. Use the data to help determine why the company needs to hire in the first place. Customers may provide clues as to how the organization can be improved through staffing.
  • Candidate assessments. Customer data can help shape candidate assessments by determining which data points (credentials, personality types, etc.) are most relevant. Think back to the JetBlue example. This kind of data helps ensure candidate assessments are built to find the right people.
  • Hiring team selection. Salespeople, customer support and customer success team members know a lot about your customers. Consider looking for ways to include these people and their insights into your recruiting strategy.

The more comprehensive your company can be in the data it uses, the more effective your recruiting strategy will be. While it’s important to use internal data points and applicant qualification data, customer data can add another dimension of insights to guide recruiting and help the business routinely hire the right person for each job.

Images by: rawpixel/©, Aleksandr Davydov/©, Dmitriy Shironosov/©

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