Top 5 Things to Look for When Hiring Data Executives
March 14, 2021
by Krista Bradford

Top 5 Things to Look for When Hiring Data Executives


With more and more companies harnessing the power of big data and analytics, the demand is on the rise for skilled data executives. In fact, here at Intellerati, we have experienced an influx of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) engagements as companies.  Companies are discovering that Chief Data Officer positions and openings for other senior data executives are getting harder to fill.

Senior executives with data science expertise know how to think about data. They understand what amazing things can be done with all that information. They harness analytics to inform decisions around how often to contact each kind of customer and what “channel” to use for each type.

For example, they know whether it is better to reach out on Facebook or by email. They spot patterns in customer or user behavior. They understand how to leverage the time of day customers are more likely to log in to a website or to play a game. Ultimately, they harness the power of data to acquire, engage and retain customers.


Where Data Science Sits

The data science, analytics, or CRM function often sits between Marketing and Engineering — serving as a kind of translator, Alternatively, it is frequently seated in Marketing. Either way, the scope of responsibilities vary according to the organizational needs and structure of each particular company. Employers in pursuit of top CRM leadership talent are seeking a very nuanced blend of knowledge, skills, and abilities.

But overwhelming, they look for 5 basic qualifications:

1) Can this person not only think, but do? While the role requires someone who is pretty technical and highly educated, most of our clients require that the candidate not be all up “in their head”. In fact, some clients cite that as the reason they prefer candidates with a master’s degree, such as an MBA, over a Ph.D. In addition to ideation, a candidate must have the executive ability to formulate strategy and execute against that plan. Moreover, most clients are seeking a balance of technical knowledge with an intuitive sense of the customer, one that is informed by a background in the marketing discipline. In order to translate data analytics into ROI, you need a balance of the technical with real human insight.

2) A proven track record of success When considering candidates ask yourself, “Has this person done what you need this person to do successfully in the past?” As you speak with the executive, get specific examples describing how they have solved the problems your organization is looking to solve in the past. For example, if your organization is looking for someone that can increase new customer acquisition, make sure that the candidate has solid examples (with metrics if possible) of how they are doing that in their current roles or in their past roles. Of course, past performance is not always an accurate indicator of future performance, but it does speak to a person’s character.

3) Where has your candidate worked previously? Does the candidate you are considering come from an academy company that is well known for cultivating great CRM talent? Often top CRM candidates are alumni of academy companies — major corporations with large data sets that help them master their craft. Alternatively, gifted Ph,D.s in data science are frequently drawn to startups that enable them to do “cool stuff”.

4) Does the candidate have startup experience? If your company is still early stage, you will likely need someone who has had experience working in a startup-like environment. To be successful, CRM executives at startups must be willing to “roll up their sleeves” and must be comfortable with ambiguity. If a candidate has not yet worked in that kind of environment, then there needs to be something entrepreneurial in the background that speaks to their ability to get things done in a more rough-and-tumble environment. Conversely, Fortune 100 companies require CRM executives with large company experience, adept at eliciting the buy-in required to get things done.

5) Is the candidate aligned with company culture? Almost as important as the candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities is the person’s fit with your company culture. If your culture is work-hard-play-hard, then the candidate should have a history of success working in that kind of environment. That leader may not be the best fit for a larger company that moves more slowly, is more staid and formal, or where executives don’t clock as many hours.

Of course, these are not all of the points you should consider as you conduct your next executive search for a head of Data Science. For more tips, check out our Executive Search Blog. What do you believe are the essential qualities for your next data hire?

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