Strategic warfare: How to hire and retain top analytics talent

Talent acquisition professionals and hiring managers are facing several headwinds, especially when it comes to hiring and retaining data analytics professionals. The traditional challenges are finding the right allocation of challenging and inspiring work, providing compensation and growth opportunities, and offering work-life balance. There are few professionals whose dream position wouldn’t entail competitive, above-market compensation, inspirational work and a 40-hour-or-less work week. Unfortunately, this is infrequently the reality.

The perfect job seldom exists, and neither does the perfect candidate. Every data analytics candidate has their unique thumbprint of values that will lead them to accept an offer and to remain at an organization for several years. However, as an analytics professional grows both professionally and personally, that thumbprint can change over time. One candidate may stay in a position for regular raises and growing compensation; another may find meaning in their work; and yet another may remain in their position for the clear expectations and work/life balance.

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There is no panacea to guarantee that top talent will stick around in an organization. That said, there are some steps hiring managers can take to find the right candidates and boost retention.

Hire smart people and teach them skills

Using case studies rather than a skills checklist effectively uncovers elements of quality in the hiring process.

One of the most common pitfalls and inefficiencies that we see in the analytics talent market is an overemphasis on certain software or platform skills. Skills such as Python, Jira, Github, Snowflake or others are common within job descriptions, but there’s no real indication which are the highest priority or which are going to immediately apply.

This can both discourage highly qualified candidates from applying because they are missing expertise in just one of the listed skills, or conversely, encourage candidates to over-list skills on their resumes and CVs based on general familiarity or cursory coursework.

For hiring managers, a skills section on a CV that lists off dozens of software, languages or applications is effectively meaningless without either a cover letter that discusses how those skills were used to solve a problem or similar elaboration in the responsibilities or accomplishments section. Moreover, most candidates will be sustainably engaged and excited about a job that gives them an opportunity to learn and grow rather than doing the same work for slightly increased pay.