“Here’s a $10,000 signing bonus. When can you begin?”
That sounds like a fun start to getting a job in analytics — or really any job in general, but how realistic is it? Turns out, it’s not that far-fetched. But it's also not a reason to jump in.
Before you take the plunge, check out these 10 tips for getting hired in digital analytics.
1. Understand Your Motivations
Taking time to understand why you desire a career in analytics is a crucial foundation for your satisfaction and success. Do not go into analytics if you’re simply bored with your current job, want money, or want to “get into big data.” If those are among your key motivations, you will end up being exposed in the interview at best, unfulfilled and getting fired at worst.
2. Research First. Apply Last
Found a good position? Great. Slow down on filling out the candidate profile and clicking the submit button. Research the company first and if it’s a good fit, go ahead and apply. The last thing you want to do is waste both your own and someone else’s time if it’s not a right fit to begin with.
3. Network and Build Relationships
The digital analytics community is a bit of a rare bird. We are a group who is very willing to help others and discuss tough topics in an effort to resolve them. It is uncommon to find such a strongly bonded and helpful group of people working together. Talk with digital analytics practitioners, recruiters, professors, consultants, and vendors to share and gain perspective on positions, companies, and the industry as a whole. These relationships can help guide you into the right niche, showcase your experience, provide opportunities for jobs, and even turn into friendships. A relationship can simply start with an invitation for coffee or lunch.
4. Use Your Relationships in Your Job Search
Use the relationships you’ve forged when searching. Don’t stop with browsing companies for open positions or setting up alerts on SimplyHired or Monster. Keep going. Here are some ideas: Sign on with a recruiter you jive with. Let your friends and those in the analytics community know you’re looking via in person and online conversations. Contact your old professors, and see if they can introduce you to specific companies. Befriend HR recruiters at companies where you’d like to work (take them to coffee). These relationships are invaluable for getting a job in analytics.
5. Understand the Company’s Motivations and Culture
This one is pretty — really — important. There are a lot of mid- and small-sized companies beginning to jump on the analytics bandwagon, and in doing so, they’re hiring a lone soldier — i.e., the analyst-to-solve-all-data-problems. On the other hand, some are ahead of the curve and building out teams. Be aware of the situation you’re considering, and hone your communications and interactions appropriately. While you may not envision staying at the company for the long term, if you can give them at least two years, it may be of benefit to both parties. However, I recommend refraining from saying you only see yourself there short term.
6. Know Thyself (Related to Analytics)
Know which skills you have related to an analytics career (coding, auditing, statistics, finance, reporting, analysis, communication, process) and which ones could provide interesting/unique perspective for the position (politics, operations, leadership, creative, sales, and many others). Even if your career path to-date isn’t directly related, figuring out how it contributes to an analytics position gets you one step closer. Take this perspective into the interview, and guide the hiring team toward understanding how you can contribute.
7. For Mutual Benefit, Be Honest
Lying can be blatantly stating a skill or experience you don’t have, but also fudging your levels of expertise. A good interviewer will be able to tell the difference between “advanced” competency and a novice level. Any weakness here will destroy your credibility. Additionally, if you get a job on a true premise, your performance expectations will be realistic to what you can provide. And, if you don’t have a skill set but want or need one, find a way to pursue growth in the area, and let the interviewers know it.
8. Learn, Get Experience, and Give Back Simultaneously
Go to AnalysisExchange.com and sign up for a project. AE matches up a mentor, a student, and a (non-profit or NGO) businessperson to complete a consulting project in less than four weeks. That’s free experience for you, a way to further non-profit initiatives around the globe, and a method to give back to the community. Also consider reading relevant blogs and books or earning certifications through learning sites like Coursera.
9. Develop a 100 Day Plan
Having a plan for your first 100 days will knock the socks off an interviewer. It may not end up being exactly right, but it shows that you’ve been thoughtful on how you plan on integrating and setting up a foundation for successful contribution to your position. It may even separate you from the rest of the pack. The President of the United States has one, and so can you.
10. Audit and Refine Your (Web) Presence
Good hiring managers and recruiters will Google you. Outstanding hiring managers and recruiters will Bing you, look you up on many social networks, search for your handles and nicknames, and maybe even do an image search. Be aware of the image you (and your handles) present. You could also use this to your advantage and optimize a digital résumé for search engines.
Bonus: Be Careful With Signing Bonuses
This is a “bonus” tip worthy enough to mention. If a company offers you a signing bonus as part of your compensation, ask yourself why they need to use such a recruiting tool. If it’s not a pro-rated repayment structure, they may have a retention problem, and it should be considered a red flag. If it is a pro-rated repayment structure, they may simply be using it as an added incentive to close the deal. It’s worth considering that signing bonuses can simply be golden covered handcuffs.
Using these tips along with best practices in the hiring process can surely put you on a solid trajectory for getting an analytics position.