It’s been well documented that there is a worldwide shortage of good analysts. That shortage will only grow exponentially in the next decade. What is not well documented is what exactly makes a “good” analyst. Many hiring managers operate under the assumption that, by definition, an analyst must fit into the Analytical Thinker persona. Analytical Thinkers are defined as left-brain, numbers-oriented people as opposed to right-brain, creative types. Unfortunately, while it would be incredibly convenient to stick to these caricature-ish definitions of people to make the hiring process easier, actual people are lot more complex. Thank goodness for that because being a great analyst requires a lot more right-brain skills than most people would think. That is why, in my experience, evaluating potential analyst hires based on the traditional attributes associated with the Analytical Thinker profile is a huge mistake.
I have scoured the internet looking for the qualities that are most often attributed to Analytical types. I have searched articles, blogs, research papers and most sketch out a similar portrait of the analytical person. Here are the most common quirks correlated to the Analytical profile and why it would be disastrous for you blindly accept these traits in analyst candidates.
1. Data Addicts. While it is true that analysts should love to try to attach data-evidence to everything, it is also true that they must temper this “addiction” with the wisdom to know when getting/showing more data will just slow down the managerial decision-making process. Having the people skills to be curious about how people make decisions and providing data in the correct amount and format that each specific manager can absorb often makes a bigger impact on the quality of the decisions than the actual data provided.
2. Extremely Logical. The job of an analyst is to present every perspective of a problem. That is the foundation of logic. Yet in business, to do so effectively, you must be able to gently quiet the voices of biased enthusiasm in order to let the data do the talking. Quieting those “biased” voices without coming across as a jerk can be a major challenge, especially when one of those voices is a senior executive. The people skills required to present a contrary point of view without turning people off is tantamount to throwing a 100 mile per hour fastball. Therefore, make sure you test tact as much as technique in any analytics prospect.
3 Independent. There is no inherent story in any set of data. The story is only uncovered when you layer it with context. That context often comes from undocumented narrative, which means that the best analysts leave their desk and “mingle” as much as possible to get to the “why” of any data point. In fact, the best analysts I have ever met are the opposite of introverts. They link, liaison, consort, lunch, happy hour as much with other departments as they do with their own in order to have the whole version of the truth.
4. Predictable. If there is one business jargon you want associated with your analyst is “thinks-outside-the-box”. The last thing you should expect is for a clerical or predictable thinker to come up with groundbreaking, disruptive analysis that will lead to more profit. Predictive data good, predictive people bad.
5. Bad marketers. It’s no secret that numbers people are not allowed at most Marketing meetings. That is because of the myth that their stoic left brains can’t possible have the random, ingenious explosions of creative revelation reserved for “people persons”. In the most forward-thinking companies, the data analyst is Marketing and Sales best friend. For the most part, gone are the days where you can “personality” your way through a sales pitch without looking hollow. The best analysts have an affinity for Marketing and Sales even if they have never worked in those departments. If they are not interested in Marketing and Sales conversations then they are great analysts for 1982.
6. Poor communication skills. Most analysts are given a pass when it comes to communication skills because the common perception is that they tell stories through data and charts. Unfortunately, people read their own bias into any analysis, if they can read the analysis at all, therefore it falls on the analyst to be the Great Explainer. In fact, the best analysts have almost a “trainer-like” ability to explain and ensure that their explanations are being understood. That goes beyond having good communication skills, it is more like having Dojo Master skills.
7. Modest. Analyst modesty alone kills many analytics efforts. If an analyst is not able to boast the benefits of being data-drive without giving others the impression that they are arrogant or snobby, then they will probably have very little job effectiveness. In business nobody likes a braggart, but talking up analytics success stories and their impact on the company as a whole affects the attention that is given to the analysis that is being produced.
I today’s personality focused hiring process, you should be careful with the persona that you attach to any job. The fact is that the best Marketing people are great at data analysis and the best Finance people have deep creative sides. Limiting your world view to certain characteristics for certain positions will inevitably also limit the results that your new hire will deliver.
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Robert Hernandez, Statistical Analysis and Data Mining for Revenue Growth Robert is an expert in the field of mathematical Hotel Optimization and Analytics. He has spent the last 17 years building data-driven forecasting and optimization models for companies in over 20 different industries, from tech to tourism. Robert possesses a very unique skill set including cross-disciplinary experience, advanced mathematical and analytics skills, data transformation, industry-specific knowledge and business-process improvement expertise. Robert began his career at the Walt Disney Company in Revenue Planning. Read More+