Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How to Hire a Web Analyst - Part 1: Mindset and Key Skills

Hiring a web analytics expert - a web analyst - can be quite a difficult task, especially if you're just starting the process of building the web analytics function at your company. Experienced analysts are in high demand, and are demanding high salaries as a result. By the same token, hiring inexperienced analysts, or even hiring people with no analytics experience at all, can be a risky bet.

What's the right way to solve this puzzle? Over the next week or so, starting with this post, I'll be posting a series on this very topic - how to build out the analytics function without hiring only highly experienced web analysts.

Recognizing a Good Web Analyst

Who will make a good web analyst is more a question of mindset and personality than it is of rote skills or past experience. Of course, hard skills and past experience make a difference, but you'll quickly find that experienced web analysts are in high demand, and are demanding increasingly higher salaries. As a result, the most efficient way to build your organization is to hire one solid analyst, if you can find one, then focus on building a team of people who, based on mindset, personality, and key non-analyst skills, can be quickly groomed to be solid web analysts. To do this, you have to look at candidates not for "what they've accomplished" but for "what they're capable of."

Mindset and Key Skills

A good analyst has an analytical, problem-solving mindset. They constantly seek to understand why things are the way they are, how seemingly unrelated things are connected, and to be able to explain that all to others. They think systemically, meaning that they have a fundamental belief that all things are connected (i.e. "if I push here, something will fall out over there"). A good analyst also has a simplifying mindset. They look for ways to distill complex ideas into simple, fundamental concepts that are understandable by everyone. This latter ability is crucial - in order to drive action from data, the data has to be turned into a story that is consumable by marketers and business people, and from which actions or "next steps" can be derived. The last thing you want is an analyst that simply overloads your marketers and managers with data.

The only hard skill I've been able to identify that has a connection to the mindset described above is writing. An individual who can clearly explain complex ideas in writing is demonstrating the ability to analyze and simplify. An individual who cannot write succinctly cannot be a good analyst. (They may actually understand what's happing in the data, but if they can't communicate it, what good does that do you?)


In my next post, I'll cover the three main personalities I've observed that make quality web analysts: The Critic, The Explorer, and The Expert.


LunaMetrics Blog said...

Hi Aaron. I would like to disagree about the writing part. Plenty of people are required to communicate with .ppt, using great visualizations that their boss actually looks at.

Also, I think a great analyst has passion for analytics. FWIW.


Aaron Gray said...

I'm glad you brought this up. You're absolutely right that powerpoint is the delivery format of choice, and that visualization is a key part of delivering an impactful message. When I talk about writing, I'm talking about the higher skills of writing -- the ability craft and communicate a persuasive story, not just the ability to write a sentence or a paragraph. The ability to write, in this instance, is the ability to organize the structure of the presentation so that the message is clear, easy to grasp, and impactful. Knowing what needs to be visualized is part of that skill, too.

As far as passion, I couldn't agree more. As a matter of fact, passion is a key characteristic I look for in anyone I hire, for any role. Thanks for pointing out my omissiong.


LunaMetrics Blog said...

BTW, I think it is great that you are doing this series. Robbin

Aaron Gray said...

Thanks. I appreciate that. :-)