Monday, 23th January 2012
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.