Vetting the quality of a hiring manager and their firm.

There are lots of companies out there, and lots of hiring managers to work for—but how can you tell if they’re any good? Often, we’re so focused on landing a job in the field of our choice that we forget that every industry is filled with bad managers and dysfunctional teams, and Analytics is no different. 

With that in mind, today we’re going to show you some strategies to help you determine whether the hiring manager and their team are worth working for.

***Please note that there are exceptions to every rule in this article–its purpose to give you a general idea of what to look for in a manager/firm–the specifics are really up to you and your preferences. ***

To a certain degree, whether or not a job is the right fit comes down to the individual—however, there are some questions you should ask in an interview that will clue you in on whether your hiring manager, (and the larger team you’ll be working on) is worth your time, or if you’re going to end up in a dead end job:

1. What is your history with the firm?

This question is great because knowing your hiring manager’s history can often give away quite a bit about their own position within the firm. The underlying question which you should be trying to answer for yourself based on the hiring manager’s response, is:

Is this hiring manager more or less experienced than most people at their level?

Depending on their level of experience, managers will be able to open new doors for you within the organization, which will eventually lead to new experiences and maybe even new roles.

More experienced managers generally have deeper networks within the firm compared to their newly minted counterparts simply because they’ve spent more time there and met more people.

Also, it’s easy to forget that managing other people is a skill in and of itself, and that in general the more time you spend managing the better you get at it. More experienced managers are not always better managers, but in many cases you can avoid ending up with a micromanager by picking someone who’s been around the block a couple times and has learned to let go.

That said, every rule has an exception, and sometimes working with a young and ambitious manager will get you further than going with a more experienced one—it’s just important with young ambitious managers to get a feel for whether their drive makes them a better manager or gets in their way—in any case, avoiding the 24 year old “whiz-kid” and the 64.9 year old “manager-4-lyfe” and picking someone in the middle with a substantial depth of knowledge is generally a safe bet.

This leads us to our next question:

2. What are the common characteristics of a successful analyst on your team, and how do you go about developing those characteristics?

There’s no secret sub-question on this one—it’s pretty straightforward. As a potential hire, you want to know if the manager you’ll be working under has a strategy for your personal growth and development. You’re looking for someone who’s going to take the time to teach you not only the skills you need to do your job, but also skills that will make you competitive with others in your firm as well as in the larger industry.

Especially in the beginning stages of your career, it’s important that each role you take has a strong learning and development component.

Managers who focus on making their analysts better instead of just demanding work product understand that your focus is on learning as much as possible, not just on doing what they tell you to.

They also know that in reality they can get more work and better quality work out of you if they take the time out of their day to coach you.  Being development-oriented is a win-win for both you and you hiring manager.

3. What kind of impact has the analytics community at [insert firm name here] had on the firm as whole?

We’re all familiar with the Googles and Amazons of the world—companies at the forefront of the tech industry depend heavily on data and analytics to guide their decision-making and have for a long time.

Other industries have been slower to catch on—and as a result are experiencing growing pains as they transition into a world of data-based decision making. It’s very difficult to convince an old-school EVP who has 35 years of gut-based decision-making experience that he or she should give up on everything they know and turn to data.

As a result, many firms across various industries are at different points in the development of their analytics capabilities—and it’s important to consider this when you’re interviewing for a job. Every firm wants to tell you that their capabilities and technologies are cutting edge, and most of them will (even if they’re not).

However, asking for specific examples of the impact the analytics organization in the firm has had on the decision-making process at the executive level will allow you to more accurately assess whether the analytics group is considered an authority on decision-making at the firm, or if they exist solely so that the firm can say “look how future-y we are!”

In reality, most places fall in between the two extremes mentioned above—but it’s important to know what you’re getting into because the legitimacy of the analytics organization as a whole will determine whether or not you get to do work that actually matters to the bottom line of the company.

4. Where or how do you see the analytics organization at [insert firm name here] growing over the next 3-5 years?

 This is a classic interview question you can use to show that you’re capable of thinking long-term/big picture as well as short-term—but it’s also a useful way for you to gather information about the future of the analytics organization at the firm.

Specifically, you want to keep an eye out for responses that answer questions about technology, resources, scale, and scope. Statements like—“we’re looking at doubling the number of analysts at our disposal as our workload increases, and we’re investing in a couple new databases as well as xyz new tools so that we can move into predictive modeling and analytics down the line.”–will tell you all you need to know about whether or not the firm is invested in growing its analytics capabilities.

It’s important to ensure that the firm you’re interviewing with IS focused on growing its analytics capabilities, because that means that the growth in terms of workforce and technology isn’t just to do a larger amount of the same work they currently do, but rather to facilitate larger, more complex projects involving more complex (read, ‘interesting’) types of analytics (like predictive analytics).

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So that’s it—these four questions can be asked at the end of an interview during the Q&A portion, or peppered in naturally as they come up throughout the interview.

It’s important that you ask them, though, because otherwise you might end up in a job that you thought was one thing (a dope new analytics job), but is in fact not what you wanted at all.    

If you have questions, or enjoyed this article please feel free to leave a comment below! Thanks for reading!

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