Many of us have been there. How do we identify and recruit our analytics staff? It can be hard because 'analysts' aint 'analysts'. Do we need the smartest algorithm builder, data engineer, spreadsheet jockey, business analyst or the nicest person? Some analysts present as having profound knowledge of the inner workings of tuning algorithms but little ability to talk to actual humans, whilst others manage to find things in data, but limited capacity to take it to the next step.


Its a problem of a single title being applied to a broad discipline and its accentuated because we are yet to see a 'gold standard' definition of the analytics professional and its various flavours, but watch this space for more on that. Ultimately and as the HR dept will remind us we all have strengths and weaknesses and they can be used best in a complimentary manner, but there are some things that I just reckon cuts across all of that and these should be at the heart of all in the space.


Here's a few tips - I'm sure you have many others. 


1) Focus on people that focus on actual problems. Does the organisation need someone that can analyse techniques for analysis, or someone that can analyse data? Is their focus on their own analysis process, or is it on your business need? Hire the latter and augment it with assistance on the former when you need to.

2) Hire those that are naturally curious. They will generate insight when others don't. Don't assume the best analytics staff will have a stats or computer science background - they come from all over the place.

3) Recruit people who are willing to do the other stuff. Some analysts think their job starts when they get the data and finishes when they build a model. You will find that they require a lot of direction and ongoing maintenance to keep on track. Those that can work out what they need to do, and how to create change and bring people with them will be very valuable.

4) Hire people for their range of current skills. Breadth of skills shows a willingness to learn and to use the right tool for the occasion. Those with strengths in one or two things will see the world through those lenses. Here's the answer - what was the question again?

5) Sometimes and maybe often you'll want a right answer - not just a good answer. This means you need someone who loves the detail and can ensure that the steps of analysis were well governed and repeatable.

  • Joanne Fuller

    Joanne Fuller

    Lecturer Queensland University of Technology
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  • 2 years ago
Hi Peter,
I enjoyed reading your article. I would be interested to know your thoughts on the value of analysis/research experience from working in the academic environment. With many job ads making reference to minimum number of years of 'professional experience' I wonder how academic experience is perceived within the industry? Any advice would be appreciated.
  • Tim Manns

    Tim Manns

    Business Consultant SAS
    I'm a Data Mining Dude!
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  • 4 years ago
Good article, but you are assuming the employer is in a position of power and the one making the decision. I don't believe they are.
There might be great analysts out there and the employer can't attract them -it might be the last place on earth the analytst wants to work...

So I'm flipping this thread on its head and suggesting what an experienced analyst might want from an employer:

- Salary package. Obviously an employer with an expectation of a senior analyst and yet offering of graduate pay isn't going to get the best analyst. Its a hot market, skills are on short supply (especially experienced analysts), and the employees have the power at the moment - employers need to face it and pay up :)

- Budget. Money talks. No analyst wants to work in a dept that will not invest in new data sources, infrastructure or have a desire to push boundaries and implement something new.

- Grow a centralised team (or interest in growing one). I've found it is often unhealthly for an organisation to have silo'ed analytical teams. Less opportunity to grow capability and skills for analysts. Vary the work performed and reduce risk from a human resources - cross training point of view. Stay clear of any analyst, manager, or large employer keen to maintain an analytics dept of 2-3 analysts.

- Executive support. Are there plans to make analytics drive decision making, or strategic projects that are dependent upon a serious analytical capability (even if your team is not involved, this is a good thing).

- Rich source data. Something meaty to fuel all those innovative analytics you will be expected to drive in the next few years. Related to previous points, what is the budget for improvement to the datawarehouse and *integrated* organisational and operational data (I'm still not convinced of the value of big data dumps on Hadoop if it is not integrated with operational systems or a process to *deploy* the business intelligence does not exist...)

- Narrow focus upon specific vendors or platform to solve all problems. Lets face it, no one technology can do everything. Sometimes you need to be flexible and use an approach or tool best suited to the job. Analysts have their favourite tools. An employer will restrict their recruitment options by expecting analytics to be performed with a single tool or a single vendor. Focus upon results of the role, not just technology. Invest in skills and resources as much as technology.

- Build a diverse team. Looking for the 'silver bullet' analyst (although it is true they exist) that can solve all your analytics needs is far more difficult than building a team that will compliment each other. For example, a naive graduate with strong new technology skills or strong theoretical statistics is very valuable to support a veteran analyst that may no longer have the time to maintain or improve those established models he built 5 years ago...

There is more, but you get the gist :)


  • Jasjeet Singh

    Jasjeet Singh

    Energy management engineer Ford motor company
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  • 4 years ago
Peter I completely agree with you it's more important to look at the overall skills of a candidate to prepare a business case rather than just analyzing the data. And that could come from different background.
Another advantage of having a diverse experience is the unique ideas that can be applied while working as an analyst on the basis of non related experience.

  • Susan Jones

    Susan Jones

    Functional Analyst Western Power
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  • 5 years ago
Fantastic article. Thank you.
Excellent article. Hope that recruiting staff will take a look at that. In today's industry, few jargons in the resume are used to screen candidates, often reflecting the lack of knowledge of the recruiter. In these cases, industry insiders have an advantage regardless of the level of skills and cross-industry portability rarely happens.
  • Miguel Jesus

    Miguel Jesus

    Head of Analytics and BI SOLERA (NYSE:SLH) - AUDATEX
    Experienced manager with 15 years of experience in Insurance, Software and Electronics, an Executive MBA and five awards for outstanding annual results in sales and ma...
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  • 5 years ago
A good analyst in my opinion is always a balance between business skills to understand the problems, benefits and solutions, stats skills to analyze, model and test the reality at hands and IT skills to operationalize it. And this is why I agree it's not easy to find this combination in individuals and they may come from all over the place.
  • David Kerr

    David Kerr

    Director Sabre Professional Services Pty Ltd
    Dave is the head of the QLD Chapter of IAPA, a position he has held since 2010. He is also the Director of Sabre Professional Services, a small company that specialise...
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  • 5 years ago
Excellent article Peter... Particularly like number 3. I fell into that trap once and ended up with a prima donna that was only partly utilised. Big mistake.

And yep I have tips - here is my number 1 - but it can be applied to almost every high skilled position.

Consider the communication skills across the whole team, once a candidate joins; and consider how work is conducted, or likely to be conducted.

The candidate either needs to be able to communicate effectively to business stakeholders or you need to be in a situation where someone can be there as an "interpreter" (either a manager, or a fellow analyst that can communicate effectively).

Having said that, there are plenty of analysts out there that are geniuses and can communicate. You just need to be patient and keep looking.

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