Aaron Gray // Greater Returns

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Musings on Web Analytics, product strategy + other stuff.

How to Hire a Web Analyst – Part 2: Personality

In my previous post, I outlined what I have found to be the right mind set, and the right core skill set to look for in a web analyst, especially when you’re looking to hire someone whom you plan to groom into the role.

Today’s topic is personality. I’ve observed three personalities in the quality analysts I’ve known:

  1. The Critic
  2. The Explorer
  3. The Expert

In reality, pieces of each personality are in everyone I’ve ever hired or recommended for hire as an analyst, and each is a critical component of a successful individual. I’ve found that, in a given individual, one personality tends to dominate.

The Critic

The Critic personality is someone who is generally driven to question what is presented as “truth”, “fact”, or “good”. They find reward in uncovering “things that aren’t right”, creating an understanding of what they’ve uncovered, and receiving recognition that they’ve uncovered something valuable. Of course, there is a pitfall to this personality. As with all strengths, this personality taken too far can become a weakness. You don’t really want your analysts to go to your marketers and tell them point-blank that their work is awful. Your management challenge with this personality will be to teach them to soften the message to the business; to teach them that it’s just as important to show people what’s working as it s to show them what isn’t working.

The good news is that I’ve found that this personality is generally well educated, well spoken, and able to distill complex ideas into simple truths, as that is the nature of the Critic. They also tend to be good writers and communicators.

The Explorer

The Explorer personality is curious and driven to understand, but doesn’t have the potentially negative “critical” outlook of the Critic personality. They find reward simply from the process of exploring the depths of possibility in the data, and also from “driving good results” for the business. This personality will tend get frustrated if the business doesn’t know how to put him or her to good use, but is an extremely valuable contributor when they are used appropriately. As with all personalities, there is a pitfall. The urge to explore has to be put aside at some point in order to finish the analysis, create the story, and drive the actions necessary to create positive impact on the business. Your management challenge with this personality will be to let them explore to the extent required for the business, and to help them develop the discipline required to have an end in sight and work toward that end.

This personality doesn’t have the strong correlation to the simplifying mind set that I’ve found in the Critic. You’ll need to watch for that.

The Expert

The Expert personality seeks to be seen as an expert in all that they chose to take on. They receive reward from recognition of their expertise in any number of subjects. This personality makes an excellent consultant, and you’ll often find them in a consulting role. This is a confident personality, able to gain trust from their audience even when they don’t have all the answers. It’s a good personality to have around. Don’t confuse this personality with the confident huckster. You still need to watch for the core mind sets (analytical, simplifying) and the core skills of communicating and writing succinctly. You’re looking for someone who truly is and seeks to be expert in what they do, not just confident.

I’ve seen this personality in a wide range of education levels and with varying degrees of communication skill. Look for someone with excellent person to person communication ability, with reasonable writing ability. You may need to coach on the softer business skills such as protocol.

Backgrounds

In the next and final post in this series, How to Hire a Web Analyst, I’ll look at some of the work experiences and educational backgrounds that I’ve seen in top notch analysts. Here’s a teaser for you… Statistics isn’t on my list.

Filed under: People, Web Analytics

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?)

Personalities

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.

Filed under: People, Web Analytics, ,

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