It’s not just about the numbers when hiring Data Professionals

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Numeracy skills and relevant qualifications are obviously important to our clients and something we check out in our candidates. However, you might be surprised to hear how often it is softer skills which separate those candidates who get hired and those recruiting managers tell us “aren’t quite right”. When we reflect on what these leaders tell us about the roles for which they are hiring, it’s not really that surprising. It seems behind all the hype surrounding Big Data, Predictive Analytics and Data Scientist roles, businesses still need people who can communicate well.

Over the years, trial and error have taught us that it’s so important to spend time understanding what hiring leaders are trying to achieve, or what they really need from a new role. As we’ve discussed this and reflected with those same leaders on how new hires are working out, a pattern has emerged. More & more such managers talk about their analysts needing to be able to tell a compelling story with their analysis.

It seems many in corporate life are drowning in information and beyond tired with sitting through presentations of endless Powerpoint slides. Hearing from candidates who are succeeding in their new roles and achieving promotions, they often tell of how they’ve learnt to communicate the complex in a simple story. One example is a “burning platform” that needs action.

Sadly it seems both academic study, and some of the behaviour of companies, can encourage a perception that more slides and complexity shows how much work you have done. I can certainly empathise with an analyst who’s been wrestling with a thorny problem for weeks and wants to get across the effort involved and how they finally “cracked it”. But it sounds like both marketing, analytics and business leaders appreciate the analyst who can simplify their findings.

Perhaps telling a simple story through your analysis should be a requirement on today’s numerate degrees? Hearing how important it is to grab the attention of busy business leaders through the first few words, it sounds like some training in journalism would help. Love them or loathe them, tabloid headline writers do know how to get their message across in a few simple words.

Another thing we have learnt from both our highly skilled candidates and those hiring managers with whom we’ve built long term relationships, is the benefit of visualisation. Apparently psychological studies have proven how much faster most people can grasp the information from a simple graphic as opposed to the same information presented as a table of numbers.

This skill is often popular with our candidates. Many of them have only used R, Matlab or other sophisticated programming languages, where data visualisation is complex or limited. Getting their hands on SAS, IBM or other analytical software, as well as mastering the power of Excel + Powerpoint, is appreciated as learning a new craft. A really effective data visualisation is a thing of beauty, or is that just me?

So, candidates and hiring managers, we hear you and thanks for the lesson. We now actively seek those with strong communication skills and encourage people to develop their storytelling and visualisation. After all, in the end what excites both our clients and their analysts most is seeing their analysis acted upon. Knowing you made that happen, is well worth the effort to simplify.

Do you need help finding the perfect storyteller who also knows their numbers? Get in touch with MBN who are one of Europe’s leading Data Science, Big Data, Analytics and Technology recruiters? Contact me on