April 15, 2016
Editor’s Note: This week on PPC Hero, we’ll be writing about the interview process and how to find the right candidates. Some posts will be highly specific to PPC roles while others will be general hiring tips. Make sure to tweet us your comments @ppchero.
Analysts offer a distinct skill set for marketing teams. It is a crucial hire for an expanding team, but what should you look for in a candidate?
Today we’ll walk through three attributes and three skills every analyst needs. These six fundamental qualities make up the core of a successful analyst.
What is An Analyst Anyways?
Before we go further, let’s define the analyst role.
We’ll define an analyst as someone who primarily focuses on the data, often in a more technical fashion. Rather than handling client relations and strategy, the analyst focuses on troubleshooting, validating, forecasting, and research.
Summed up, an Analyst trades broader client-facing time for depth in data work. Staying behind the scenes creates more space for going further into the data.
Key Attributes for an Analyst
Since the role of the analyst is to analyze, it figures that they have strong problem solving skills. While you can’t assess everything during an interview you should look for the ability to discern details, a ready recognition for missing facts, and the ability to recognize relevant factors and conditions.
A successful analyst must quickly identify issues and discrepancies. Spotting issues helps in quick solution turnarounds and provides a strong basis for further inquiries.
Anyone can run through a list, but a top notch analyst should discern the related factors quickly. Not to say they will have an immediate solution but he/she should be able to limit the focus and hone in on key areas.
You can gauge this quality by asking questions such as “in X situation what would be your first move?” and other questions that gauge how they approach the problem. Did the candidate mention the most common areas of concern or start somewhere completely different? Is the candidate able to ignore irrelevant data?
While this won’t guarantee you have an expert, it zeroes in on the candidate’s abilities. Are they able to quickly sort through options and model the situation or are they stuck following a generic checklist?
Finding Missing Pieces
Along with identifying problem areas, an analyst must be able to define what is missing. This is the key component in closing the gap between where you are and where you want to be. This is vital when solving new problems and developing new approaches.
You should be looking for strong and well thought out follow up questions from the candidate. Start with a general scenario and ask the candidate for suggestions on what to do.
Through this you will get a good gauge on the candidate’s process. Do they jump right into the answer and offer the flimsy examples, such as basic best practices?
Ignore raw speed in answering and focus on how well the candidate gets to the meat of the question instead.
A strong candidate clarifies conditions to grasp what it going on beyond the basic facts. This doesn’t have to be exhaustive. It could be as simple as “how long has this been going on?” or “have you seen any changes in other areas of the account?”. It all comes down to what facts or data is missing.
If a candidate can’t flesh out the problem on his or her own, he or she is limited to the quality of the question. This is a major stumbling point when dealing with users who don’t have the same expertise. It also hinders the analyst in finding solutions. If he/she can’t define the gaps, they also won’t know where to look or what resources to pull.
Accounting for What Happens Next
Does the candidate account for a changing situation? The ability to update answers in light of contingent factors is essential to producing actionable insights and indicates a nuanced understanding of the environment.
You can get a feel for this aspect by asking a multi-step problem. For inexperienced candidates I like to ask about the costs/necessities of a road trip. We must figure out what we need and how much it’ll cost in different scenarios. For a sufficiently long trip, does the candidate account for differing costs based on locations, lodging needs, and time?
While this sounds like a bland question it gives you a strong sense of a candidate’s reasoning. The answer also reveals the candidate’s ability to juggle multiple conditions and desire for accuracy. The most accurate answer is not as important. The main insight is the candidate’s ability to recognize and evaluate a changing environment. You don’t want a hire someone who can’t adapt or understand a volatile environment.
Key Skills for an Analyst
Working with data requires the ability to gather and manipulate data as well as portray it. We’ll take numerical literacy as a given and focus on these three areas.
Data does not only come from one’s platform of choice. The ability to navigate and understand new systems is a valuable attribute, especially in an agency environment. You don’t want a client’s new analytics or CRM platform slowing you down and hindering your insights.
As a side note to gathering, coding skills can be valuable if not completely necessary. Often times pulling data is quicker when bypassing the interface and using an API or using additional code to format the data in a more usable form.
Once you have the data, you need to do something with it. Most often the answer is Excel and the suggestion of pivot tables, lookups, slicers, and so on. This is because data on itself isn’t always self-explanatory. You need to configure it in a meaningful way to tell the real story.
It’s worth noting here that again, coding skills can be valuable depending on your internal workflow. SQL, VBA, and Python can each help in the data manipulation, visualization, and analysis. Not every team requires these skills but they can open new opportunities for future focused teams.
Communication is vital for any role but it worth highlighting for the analyst role. Due to the nature of the job, the analyst is much deeper in the data than anyone else. They have the best feel for the nuances and meaning. On the other hand, the insight is of no value until it’s communicated properly.
This is especially worth noting in cases where the analyst has a lesser role in client facing work. The invested time and effort will be unappreciated unless the analyst provides a digestible synopsis or report.
While a client facing role has ongoing chances to keep a discussion going, the analyst has a smaller window in which to explain the data. All the behind the scenes work must be distilled into a digestible format for the audience. If not, the work will be minimized and worse, unused.