interviewing-hiring-data-analyst

Hiring a data analyst

Analysts are in demand, and for good reason.

An analyst who can sift through tables of granular data, set up regular reporting and answer business questions is a valuable part of the company.

Hiring a team of data analysts from scratch is a big task, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Use this guide to determine what it is you need from an analyst and what you should be looking for when you’re hiring next.


Strategy
Who are you?
What you’ll do
What you’ll bring
Where you’ll fit
Why join us?
Promoting your role


Strategy

Before calling in a recruiter and writing a list of requirements, think about what you want from an analyst. Hopefully you’ve done some research to identify the gaps in your reporting, where your data is and how easy it is to get at.

Work through the points in the Designing the Data Team post to create a strategy and structure for your new hire to fit into.


Who Are You?

“When faced with an unusual title it makes it hard do any kind of research into the role and expected salary as a job seeker.”

The title “Analyst” is not as descriptive as you might think.

A quick look on any job site shows this could mean a Financial Analyst, process focused Business Analyst or Market Research Analyst.

The key when hiring is to be descriptive but not cheesy or too creative. Titles like “Data Artisan” or “Data Curation Specialist” may make sense to you, but not to the outside world.

If you are looking for a Marketing Data Analyst here is your chance to make this crystal clear. You don’t want to miss your chance with so many other opportunities out there for job seekers.

  • Will they be doing specialised work like Marketing Analytics? Using this title makes it clear that tools like Google Analytics and business acumen will be required. For some this is exciting work, for others, they would rather not be in the world of sales and marketing.
  • Will they be focused on report building? Some analysts enjoy setting up a suite of reports, others would rather be doing deep-dive analysis. Make this clear in the job title of your “Reporting Analyst”.

What You’ll Do

“Do not bait and switch – noone will be happy if you misrepresent the kind of work you are offering.”

When it comes to the job description it’s important to be clear about what it is you are hiring for, what a usual day will be like and not throw in every buzzword you can think of.

While this sounds obvious, many roles are several “Frankensteined” together. Doing this makes it look like you are unsure what you are doing, and at worst gives the impression you want three jobs for the price of one.

  • Are you a small operation? Don’t make it appear that you have a huge, established data warehouse at your fingertips.
  • Is this a solo role? Make it clear you are looking for someone to set up the function and cover analysis, visualisation and scoping this from scratch.

What You’ll Bring

“Don’t be tempted to make a wish list or pick a selection of tools just to fill in the space.”

As with the “What you’ll do” section it’s easy to start throwing every language and tool into the mix.

Keep in mind that data analysis tools are not something you can tinker around with at home. I know of very few people who have a petabyte sized data warehouse on their family computer. Indicate that ‘familiarity with’ a tool is also acceptable when going through the hiring process.

Analysts are natural problem solvers and will work hard to pick up the tooling if it’s different from what they have used in the past.

  • Will your analyst be using SQL and throwing the results over the fence to Excel? Don’t ask for an expert in R, Python and BI tools.
  • Do you have plans to expand into using enterprise-level tools? Make skills in this area ‘preferred’ or a ‘nice to have’ rather than essential.
  • Will they need to do ETL work? While the skills of an analyst are varied it’s best to know upfront if you are hiring for ETL or data engineering skills.
  • Will they be the key contact for the business? Analysts need to be able to communicate well with stakeholders and not so technical team members. But being the key contact for sales, finance or marketing and scoping requirements is a skill in itself.

Where You’ll Fit

Adding in details of how the role fits in the organisation can give the job seeker a better idea of reporting lines and team structure.

Think about the hours that will be expected, where the role will be based and if any travel is required. You may think that an analyst is locked into a desk all day but in-person meetings make a huge difference when scoping requirements. If you have teams dotted around town it’s a good idea to make this clear.

  • Are they reporting in to a data function? Being a solo analyst embedded in a team is a different proposition than being part of a larger function.
  • Who do they report to? This gives an indication of whether they will they report to a Product Owner, Project Manager or straight to the CTO.
  • Where are their stakeholders? Getting on a Zoom call is great, but being there in person is better. If there may be travel involved with the role make it clear.

Why Join Us?

“Put yourself in the role of the job seeker and ask what you would like to see in your next role beyond the work itself.”

This is a two way street and your candidates will be judging you on what you can offer them. Having a unique dataset to explore, career progression and flexible working are all worth calling out in the job ad.

While we are on this point, do not use foosball tables, beer and pizza, all night hackathons and Nerf gun wars as benefits. Company culture, flexible working arrangements and professional development appeal to a more diverse group.

  • Do you offer a budget for professional development? The tools and techniques in the analysis world are always changing so make sure there is budget for learning on work time.
  • What is your mission? Doing good things for the community and making a difference are motivators.

Promoting Your Role

Beyond your company website there are other places to promote your new role:

  • Employee Referrals – ideally those who have worked together before.
  • Universities – junior analysts are enthusiastic and in most cases come with a fresh pair of eyes to your organisation and the working world.
  • Social Media – just make sure you add a personal touch.
  • Analytics Meetups – this is a great way to make connections and to get involved by speaking or sponsoring an event.

When you have a selection of candidates who look promising move fast to set up interviews. Data skills are in demand and they will no doubt be considering more offers along with yours.

By investing the time into creating a job description and ad that candidates are excited to hear more about you will have more matches and a faster hiring process.

Stay tuned for my next post on how best to onboard and support your new analyst as they settle in.


Further Reading


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Helen Anderson

data analyst, technical writer, and product marketer, interpreting the story behind the numbers, shaping the voice of the product and growing developer communities.

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