Competitive Analysis — The Power of “Knowing Thy Enemy”

Dogs in a business meeting

Being surprised is rarely a good thing in business. One of the reasons Big Data has quickly become the darling of business is because its insights help diminish the likelihood of surprises. The game-changing nature of Big Data analysis is that it enables businesses to leverage what they’ve learned about themselves to develop more accurate models and forecasts and to then monitor their performance in a near-real-time mode. One of my passions is to help HR professionals see how they can apply and leverage these same types of Big Data-derived insights to create competitive advantage for the businesses they operate in. There are tremendous opportunities for HR to drive better business performance by understanding the patterns in the vast array of HR and company-related data.


Often overlooked, though, is that Big Data can also teach you about your competition. The “Big” in Big Data is also a reference to its reach. Traditional metrics and analytics initiatives are bound by the walls of the enterprise. One exciting aspect of Big Data, though, is that Big Data analytics are not bound by this limitation. Blending external data with a company’s internal data is a perfect example of what you can do with Big Data analytics. Critical business insights can be revealed by discovering the patterns in competitors’ business activities.

The wisdom and insights of Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War,” have been immensely influential and have inspired leaders in military, sports, and business for over 2,500 years. One of his stand-out, timeless insights was, “If you know thy enemies and know thy self, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.”

Competitive analysis has become an essential activity for marketing and business leaders in developing any corporate strategy. How apropos, then, that HR leaders also find themselves being able to contribute to their business’ success by performing an HR-centric version of competitive analysis. The “War for Talent” is a high stakes competition where the prized outcome is placing the right talent into the right roles, the first time. Every aspect of creating your talent acquisition strategy and planning recruitment marketing campaigns can benefit from competitive analysis. Reviewing the effectiveness of your recruiting efforts against that of your talent competition creates the context for understanding your own team’s performance. Knowing it took you 100 days to get 50 candidates is interesting information. But, if you were able to compare that against your talent competitors and learn that you took twice as long and got half as many candidates, then you’d have the context to know how well you’re truly doing. You could then begin to analyze and learn what factors contributed to your under-performance.

What if you could learn what online sourcing strategies your talent competitors were using? What if you could also compare how effective their campaign efforts were to yours? How about being able to know how much overall competition you’ll face? Or, what about knowing how your competition is marketing themselves to the same candidates you are interested in? These and other types of critical insights can be extracted through Big Data analysis.

Best-in-class talent acquisition teams regularly assess themselves against their competition. The “art” in winning the war for talent is intertwined with the Big Data science of analyzing the competitive data available. The methodology behind performing your Big Data competitive analysis is very important. Equally important, though, is having the ability to leverage this information to its fullest. You need to make your competitive analysis actionable – the insights have to guide your next decisions.

Want to learn how to experience the power of Big Data-derived competitive analysis? Make sense of what Big Data for HR really means, or learn more about how eQuest’s Big Data Competitive Analysis services are transforming the talent acquisition process for companies of all sizes across the globe.

Have you benefited from competitive analysis? I’d welcome your stories and feedback. Send them along to

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