5 Tips for Hiring the Right Data Analyst

July 18, 2011
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5 Tips to Hiring a Data Analyst 200x300 photo (data analytics careers)

Author:  Linda Rosencrance, Spotfire Blogging Team

5 Tips to Hiring a Data Analyst 200x300 photo (data analytics careers)

Author:  Linda Rosencrance, Spotfire Blogging Team

Let’s face it — data analytics professionals can help make your life easier.

In fact, the right data analysts can get you to the all-elusive “One Version of the Truth,” then move you beyond the truths into predictive analytics, according to Adam Neary (adamrneary), a self-described “data guy.” They can also build better business cases, and implement statistics actively to drive tangible business results.

But how can you be sure you hire the “right” data analyst?

Analytics expert Meta Brown (metabrown312) said the key to the hiring process is to sit down and figure out your company’s needs and goals for yourself rather than rely on someone else like a recruiter to work it all out for you. After all, you have more invested in hiring the best person for the job than any recruiter does, she said.

 If you don’t determine your own needs and goals first, you won’t be able to determine exactly what you need from an analyst.

According to Meta, here are three questions to ask to find the right talent:

  • Why do you need an analyst? Is your business facing some problem that you want to address like the high cost of acquiring customers or decreasing profits? Or maybe your business is doing OK but there are other opportunities you can pursue.
  • What’s the value of analytics to your business? Address the needs you’ve identified and estimate the value of each one to your business. Remember investing a million bucks to solve a problem that’s only costing you half a million is probably not a good idea. You should, however, spend the money necessary to fix the problems that are causing your company to lose money.
  • What do you need that you and your current staff can’t do? Are there things you need to do but can’t because you just don’t have the time to do them? Maybe you just need help analyzing certain data because you don’t know exactly how to do it.

Neary said when you interview a potential candidate first tell him about your team then ask him to talk about how he would work with your team and which problems he would prioritize. And ensure that the candidate understands the business impacts of the analytics projects he has worked on. Be sure he didn’t run numbers just for analysis’ sake.

Once you establish your own needs and goals, you will need to assess a candidates hard and soft skills.   Here are two critical areas where your candidate needs to shine.

  • Does the candidate have data visualization skills? Your data analyst should understand graphs, maps, and charts, as well a dashboards, scorecards, data mashups, and even Excel workbooks to get the right information to the right people
  • Can the candidate collaborate and persuade? In real life we need “soft skills” to communicate, persuade, collaborate and work with others. For a data analyst who needs to gather requirements, frame a problem, elicit data or manage a client, the ability to collaborate and persuade effectively is essential.

The data analysts are out there, and they want to find you as much as you want to find them, Meta said. If you follow these tips, you may soon be saying, “You’re hired.”