Strategies for Recruiting and Hiring Data Scientists

June 13th, 2014

How do you attract the right talent to leverage data science and advance your business?

Competition is fierce and data science is very multidisciplinary. The best professionals have a winning combination of mathematical, statistical and quantitative skills and sharp business acumen, all built on a foundation of natural curiosity and communication strength.

What to Look For

A-level data science candidates can come from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds. Consider these attributes, which help paint a picture of your Big Data superstar:

  • Mathematical experience: Business solutions often involve analytical models that are deeply grounded in math theory. The ability to understand how those models work is just as important as knowing how to build them.
  • Technology and hacking: An effective data scientist has the creativity and ingenuity to use technical skills to solve problems. They must leverage technology to manage enormous data sets and work with complex algorithms. This requires sophisticated tools such as SQL, SAS and R. A true “hacker” is a technical whiz who can use problem-solving abilities to master data mining.
  • Quantitative expertise with business hustle: Above all else, a data scientist is a business strategist. They need to have not only strong tech and quantitative skills, but also the acumen to leverage STEM capabilities to transform business results.
  • Intellectual curiosity: The spirit of data science is discovery – and the strongest practitioners are those who are constantly motivated by their curiosity to explore data in creative ways. Look for people who are not only good at answering questions, but who also want to ask their own. This genuine inquisitiveness is critical in driving a data scientist’s search for meaningful discoveries.
  • Communication skills. Members of your Big Data team must be adept at communicating complex information to diverse audiences using multiple media methods.

Don’t Filter Based on Degrees

When recruiting data talent, consider all academic backgrounds, zeroing in on the right skillset combined with the right intangibles, such as intellectual curiosity and business proficiency. Many data science stars are self-taught hackers who may not have chosen to sacrifice practical work experience to pursued advanced degrees.

How to Make it Happen

Use these tactics as you develop your hiring strategy:

  • Build a culture of data curiosity. Empower your data scientists to explore. Team them with line-of-business leaders to answer mission-critical questions. Competitiveness motivates data professionals, so positioning them as internal “consultants” is a smart approach.
  • Use your careers page and other tools to “engage candidates’ brains.” Publish short case histories showing intriguing analytics projects your company has planned and executed. Reassure candidates that they’ll have opportunities to shine and pave new ground versus being yoked to outdated thinking or technology.
  • Affiliate with universities that offer analytics programs. Develop relationships with students even before they graduate. Hire undergraduate interns. Consider visa sponsorships. This is a good first step toward building your future Big Data talent pipeline.
  • Use good old-fashioned networking. Approximately 83 percent of LinkedIn users are passive job seekers. The best way to reach passive talent is to understand your market and map out the talent within it. Use your own contacts, both on and off line, to connect with the best of the best.

Partner with a recruitment expert who specializes in data analysis as you craft your successful hiring plans for today – and tomorrow. Read our related posts or contact the big data recruiting team at Select Group, Inc., today.

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