Every company talks about being data driven, but what skills do your employees need to actually run your company based on data? Hiring managers need to find employees that are willing to learn how to find the right data, how to analyze the data to understand the root cause of problems, and the communication skills to explain their findings.
What does a data-driven company look like?
It’s easy to say your company uses data to make decisions, but if the actions of the teams don’t match with the claims on your job descriptions, your data-forward employees won’t stick around long. Data-driven companies have metrics built into their long-term goals. They consistently access the information collected by software and then use that data to help frame their understanding of customer behavior and internal performance.
A data-driven company will make progress toward defined company, departmental, and individual goals based on a consistent cycle of reporting on data, analysis of results, and iteration of processes. These behaviors ensure that all team members understand where the company wants to be, where it stands right now, and what it takes to make the goals. Hiring individuals who understand the value of the data that their apps collect is crucial to supporting these initiatives.
What data skills are not
Universities and job recruiting sites will often conflate data skills with software. Someone who is good with data may understand how to use Excel or Tableau to visualize their information, but the skills it takes to dig into the data and draw conclusions from it go beyond software.
You can teach anyone to use a piece of software, so don’t hire for software knowledge. Instead, look for the underlying curiosity and communication that it takes to learn the “why” of a situation and express the needed improvements.
Data skills to hire for
Data-driven companies need people who see a problem, want to understand why it’s happening, and then work to fix it. The natural curiosity that it takes to take those steps and dream of better performance isn’t something they teach you in school. While you may not be able to program your applicant tracking software to search resumes for curiosity characteristics, you can select for this trait in your interview process.
Consider asking questions like:
- Tell me about a time that you solved a difficult problem at work
- What’s the last thing you read or saw that you didn’t expect to like?
- Tell me about the most recent time you tried something new
Curiosity is a soft skill. But you need to hire people that are interested in popping the hood and figuring out how systems work or processes can be improved.
A curious person asks, “Why does it work like that?” and an analytical person will gather the data to explain it. People with analytical skills have an understanding of causality and try to think around corners to find out what they don’t know. These employees will think critically about their own work, the work of others, and will often be highly motivated to improve processes.
People with analytical skills try to think of all of the contributing factors for an event and are willing to research whether those potential factors have had an effect.
To hire for these skills, ask questions like:
- What data/metrics/KPIs were you measured on in your last position, and how did you perform according to those metrics?
- Tell me about a project that didn’t go as well as you wanted. If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?
- Tell me about a time when you used data to solve a problem.
Also Read: Moving Beyond Data to a System of Insight
A really good data analyst who can’t communicate their findings isn’t going to help your team much. When looking for your next hire, consider not only whether the person can communicate well, but whether their preferred mode of communication meshes with how the rest of your team approaches communication.
If your team prefers to host weekly presentations to large groups, a new hire with crippling stage fright won’t perform well. But if your team shares findings in monthly written reports, that same employee may thrive.
Openness to feedback
One of the most important skills for all modern employees to have is the ability to listen to, integrate, and grow from feedback from teammates. While you can ask interviewees flat-out how well they take feedback, they’re all likely to say “really well” or some variant thereof.
You may have better luck understanding how well the individual takes feedback on a test drive or in conversations about previous work. Ask how the person prefers to receive feedback, and ask them to tell a story of a time they’ve received feedback they didn’t agree with. Consider how those answers mesh with how your team works. A candidate who only wants written feedback may not be the best fit for a team that takes 90 percent of its meetings in a face-to-face environment.
Use your own critical thinking skills to find employees with data skills
If you work for a data-driven company, you’ll need to ensure that you’re using your own data skills to find the right candidates. Look at your hiring tools to understand the types of candidates that traditionally have success with your company. A good applicant tracking software will let you analyze your candidate pools and will give you data on your hires and those you pass up.
Then examine your job descriptions to ensure that they are data-forward and are attracting candidates that have the right skills. It may make sense to A/B test your job postings to see if different titles, descriptions, and application tools attract different types of candidates.
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