If we did a search for the most used statement in any of my newsletters, it would probably be a variation of “the purpose of collecting data is to take action on it.” Oddly enough, I’ve actually never taken that a step further and outlined what you should look for in an individual to analyze that data and determine what those actions should be. Whether you run a Fortune 500 company or are just starting out, it’s vital to understand what makes for a good analyst – and how that analyst can work towards greater brand development.
My favorite part about my job is the ability to challenge everything and push people to realize what potential truly is if we avoid the status quo and run through any barriers. In our own way, Ebiquity North America has taken this approach by integrating our divisions -- media value, intelligence, and marketing performance – into a full service business model which leads our clients through a very common lifecycle. If we stuck with the status quo, we wouldn’t be able to do this. Since embracing the lifecycle many brands go through, we’ve made moves to really find certain types of analysts, ones who can take data, apply it to strategy, and create an actual story across the board.
So, let’s take this non-status quo approach and outline how to find the ideal candidate for your analyst position. First, let’s level set on the fact that your analytics program will only be as good as the people on the team, and your team will only be as good as the weakest member of it. The same is true in all facets of life, albeit sports or otherwise. Therefore, what are the qualities and intangibles you need to search for in an analyst candidate that can understand the greater perspective of your brand? How do you determine if this person has what it takes to deliver you the insights you require to drive your business forward? Well, let’s break this down into three categories:
When evaluating talent, I honestly spend the least amount of time on the person’s background and experience. Anyone can exaggerate on a resume to make themselves look great -- I’m fairly confident that is exactly what resume building workshops teach you to do. I also think too much weight is put on the technology experience of the individual as it pertains to the tech stack you may be using in-house. Quite frankly, for an analyst position, it’s all about data analysis; if you’ve seen one technology in a particular category, you’ve probably seen them all. The implementations of those technologies will vary, but the data usually looks the same when it’s displayed on the front end.
So, what should you look for? Look for ownership. Look for promotions. Look for adaptation. If the person is coming right out of college, look for signs that this person has applied themselves, but not too much so that it stunted their personality along the way. Obviously, make sure the candidate has a background in math if you’re looking for a statistician, but be more focused on what would never be written on paper. Get into the projects this person has done and make them explain how they worked on those projects.
Most importantly, have the candidate explain a project that failed and how he or she recovered from it to reestablish the importance of data within the organization. In doing so, you’ll dig into the most important part of a person’s background for this role: storytelling. If they cannot tell a story about themselves as you dig into his or her background, then you can never expect them to be in a boardroom presenting data with contextual relevance to your executives.
Culture. You can’t create it overnight, but you can destroy it in an instant with the wrong hire, particularly when that hire has to work across departments. Your analyst team is tasked with setting a tone and creating a data-driven culture throughout the organization. When you really think about it, you’re incubating a startup within your larger organization and looking to convince someone (your executives) to invest in it. You’ll live or die by the ability to tell a story within the data and you can’t do that if you don’t have people with the right attitude to do it.
Behavioral psychology is a passion of mine, and that comes in handy when you’re interviewing someone for any position. It’s all in the eyes. You can tell a lot if you see fire or passion in someone’s eyes as they talk to you about something they really enjoy. So, if you’re interviewing an analyst and they don’t exude passion, you should probably end that interview and move on.
You’ll want to find someone who truly enjoys digging in and learning on their own while teaching themselves along the way. This includes areas of your business they may not be the most familiar with. While a varied background is ideal, being proactive and taking advantage of educational opportunities shows that they are willing to learn about other areas of your business. You’ll also want someone who has the ability to listen and understand the needs of the people they interact with and not the person who simply wants everyone to know how smart he or she is all the time.
Finally, find someone with something to prove, who will put in the time to make a name for themselves within your organization. Don’t fear bringing in people that are smarter than you -- that’s what leadership is all about. Good leaders become better leaders when they are challenged by the people they surround themselves with.
This section is going to be short, just like your interview should be. Focus on the things you want to learn, get the candidate to interact with you, and build the conversation, allowing you to create a lot of openings for them to ask questions and get buy in.
You want to get the person to feel comfortable and not like they are in an interview; don’t just rapid fire a bunch of those cheesy interview questions. This strategy will ruin the flow of the interview and stop you from really being able to see what this person can bring to the table for your organization. Most importantly, get them to commit to your requirements in the interview. As you're discussing the role and bantering back and forth about experiences, pause the conversation to ask simple questions: “So, how do you feel about that?” or “Can I count on you to deliver on this idea?” You want this person to feel like they are part of your entire brand if they join the team. In addition, you also want them to be fully briefed on what is required of them well ahead of any formal job offer. There should be no surprises on either side.
Overall, finding the right analyst isn’t easy, but it also isn’t the most complicated thing in the world. Prior to even screening anyone for the job, focus on keeping it simple and making sure you’ve fully thought through who you want and for what purpose. The intangibles are much more important than the background -- don’t be afraid to take a chance on someone who may not have all the experience but does have the ability to grow, learn, and embrace your vision. Finally, fail fast and don’t be afraid to make changes. You’re building a growing company and unfortunately, time will always be money.
Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.