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How To Hire A Good Web Analytics Person

I’ve been asked several times lately how to attract good web analytics talent. It’s a bit of a tough question, but I do think there are some guidelines that can be followed to increase your chances at finding a really talented web analytics person. Here’s my best shot at that formula.

Threaten yourself

You need to be open to the possibility that the person you decide to hire is going to be smarter than you, will have better ideas than you, and will—hold your breath for this one—routinely demonstrate how dumb you and others are. Exhale—they’ll do it nicely.

Web analytics is about making and proving sound business decisions, and that’s it. Most jobs in our industry are about making decisions of some sort, and good web analytics determines whether those decisions were good ones, and—hold your breath again—a lot of them weren’t.

If you fight this person, you’ll look ridiculous. If you see them as an ally and someone who can make you and your company better, you’ll have a powerful recipe for success, and I’m betting you’ll also be building a company culture that respects collaboration and attracts great talent.

If you’re feeling a little threatened by the person interviewing for the job, just think about it, that could be a really good thing.

Hire at the right level, in the right place in the company

Think about what you’re trying to accomplish with this person as a leader, evangelist or provider of this service in your company. If you’re hiring someone to run reports and play assistant to people who need data, stop reading this, go to the closest university, and get yourself some interns.

Data puking is not a career. There is no light at the end of that tunnel. Nobody you actually want helping you make business decisions would ever want that job. Some people may tolerate it, but don’t hold a carrot of a real job in front of a smart person. They will resent you for it and either leave, become lethargic or make it their goal to make you look like an idiot at some point in the future. Those are three bad things.

Now am I saying that you shouldn’t have an army of data pukers in your organization? No. You probably should. You just shouldn’t pay them very much: a good wage for this job we call web analytics devalues the jobs that really are web analytics by creating a lower mean. You also shouldn’t have “web analytics” in their title: this changes companies’ expectations for analytics people vis-a-vis their resumes and creates the rotten expectations and job descriptions we see today. And you certainly shouldn’t hang a more promising career over their heads in false hopes that they’ll turn into a real business person and do real work without losing respect for you or causing a stir.

Business first, data second

Ask the person simple and straightforward business questions to make sure that they are in passionate love with the core concept of how revenue and cost create cash flow, and be certain they understand how various disciplines and points on your org chart map to either or both of these key factors. If they start talking about how they can knit a sweater out of data, make sure they can bring it back to these fundamentals of business.

While the industry has been working on getting to this nirvana for years (and I have been screaming at what feel like brick walls about it), I think that Avinash Kaushik just drove a stake through the heart of the issue in writing the single best guide to embracing this concept in his recent post Win With Web Metrics: Ensure A Clear Line Of Sight To Net Income!. In this he gives some very specific (and very kickass) advice on getting this done. It is an absolute must-read. And while I normally talk about cash flow [from operations], net income is more or less saying the same thing.

The thing I would encourage people to think about most (and why I like op cash flow) is the operational efficiency and process piece, because a lot of people are really starting to understand that the real value of web analytics isn’t only web outcomes and increased performance but a metamorphosis of your business through vast improvements to your processes and operations. Check out this Analyze This post on The Real Value of Web Analytics to read more about how valuable web analytics can be to improving the operations of your business and why web analytics is a department senior leadership can trust to make unbiased recommendations.

Find a good fit (Duh)

Finally, and this may seem ridiculously obvious, you need to find a good personality for your organization. If you are a bunch of propellerheads, don’t hire a smooth operator. If you’re a bunch of jocks, don’t hire the guys they used to stuff in lockers when they were in high school. If you’re like most companies and have a good mix of personalities, figure out where you need “wins,” and hire a personality that will be compatible with the nay-sayers and win them over, knowing that their competency will more than make up for whatever personality mismatches are left over. And hire for those wins even if the personality doesn’t suit you. The wins and the business are more important, and you’ll probably get along better (and learn a lot more) than you anticipated.

For more of my yammering about where I hope web analytics is going, please check out these posts, too:

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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