How to hire for analytic positions

Given the importance of analytics to social and mobile game companies (just see all my posts about LTV, performance marketing, virality, monetization, etc.), having the best business intelligence (BI) team is of central importance. Finding that talent, however, is not easy. I have been very lucky to work with some of the best BI talent throughout my career; they have made me look much smarter than I am. Not everyone will be as lucky as I have been. A recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review provides great advice on predicting the performance of potential analysts.

Data Ninja

The article points out that the ideal analyst does not exist; the job description is looking for a “unicorn.” You should not be hiring for a laundry list of skills (e.g., “I need someone with R, SWRVE and Mixpanel expertise”) because the game industry is evolving so quickly most of those skills will soon be outdated. Instead, you should look for the curiosity to keep learning, rather than the skills themselves.

The research discussed in the MIT article points to several traits that are crucial to finding great analysts:

  • They have a cognitive “attitude” and will search for deeper knowledge about everything.
  • They are driven to be creative and will want to create not only solutions, but also elegant solutions.
  • They have a strong desire to “do things the right way,” and will encourage others to do the same.
  • They have an extremely high sense of quality, standards, and detail orientation, often evaluating others by these same traits.
  • They tend to be somewhat restrained and reticent in showing emotions, and may be less verbal at team or organizational meetings unless asked for input or if the topic is one of high importance from their perspective.
  • They may take calculated, educated risks, but only after a thoughtful analysis of facts, data, and potential outcomes. They persuade others on the team by careful attention to detail, and through facts, data, and logic—not emotion.

Overall, when looking for members of your BI team, focus on their curiosity and creativity (also a good idea when hiring for any position); not their resume or existing skillset. Finally, do not put too much emphasis on the interview process. Analytic professionals are analytic by definition, and thus may not be charismatic or present well in an interview even though they have the traits you need. Moreover, an interview is only one small piece of data in the picture of a candidate; do not put too much emphasis on this single data point and look at the body of work.

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