Data skills are only part of the story

Kirsty Garshong our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 5/21/2015 3:29 PM

Make sure you tell the rest.

You have probably heard that there is a shortage of highly skilled individuals in many specialised occupations. This is partially because the current marketplace is very positive, and business people in the UK are generally optimistic and upbeat. Optimism leads to expansion and with expansion comes new jobs. This is, of course, all very good news if you are looking for a better position or you are a graduate moving into the workplace. Right now, there is a lot of competition for good data analysts, and the result of this is increased salaries, better benefits and potentially a better chance of finding the job you want.

A large part of our remit here at Harnham is to be a conduit between the jobseeker and the potential employer. In fairness to ourselves we are very good at getting people into the right role but there is still a lot you can do to help this process along. One of the small things you can do is recognise that as important and impressive as your data analysis skills are they are not the whole story of you.

As you would expect in the analysis industries, there is a very heavy focus on skill set. Your skills are the door opener in many ways because without the appropriate skills the employer will simply not consider you. However, we need to be very careful of over-reliance on qualifications and skill set. Once over the first hurdle you will likely still be in a pool of candidates all of whom will have a similar skill set. If you look around our advice section, you will see hints on CV writing, interview techniques and several other useful preparation aids. (All of which will be helpful, because what you need to do now is stand out a little more.) On an even playing field a small thing can make a huge difference, so here are some general tips to help you stand out.


  • Make sure you showcase soft skills such as teamwork and innovative practice. Employers are looking for you to be part of their business, and there is more to working than just being able to do the job. Make sure you find the opportunity to demonstrate you bring more than the tools of the trade.
  • Demonstrate application. The employer is looking for you to demonstrate the application of your skill set not the skill set itself, - they already know you have that. This one should be relatively easy to show if you are switching jobs but can be difficult if you are a graduate. Your insightful, research-rich dissertation is probably very impressive, but most degrees will also include some practical implementation you can talk about as well. If you did a sandwich year or work experience then they should hear about it.
  • Understand the wider marketplace. When you are applying for a specialised position, it is always good to demonstrate how this fits into the wider context of the employer's business and the general market. Have some examples memorised and make sure you know at least the bones of the employers marketplace, competitors and unique selling points.
  • Following on from understanding the market is demonstrating that you see how the stakeholders will engage with your work. With more companies using data as an integral part of their ongoing strategy, a good candidate should be able to demonstrate that they can deliver not just the data but also strong, well-founded and derived, strategic recommendations that will drive stakeholder engagement with the analysis. It will become more and more a part of the role of the data analyst that they bring the data to life by demonstrating the results in a way that will engage the less technical audience. It is really very important that you are able to engage successfully with both internal and external stakeholders and translate your work into a suitable presentation language. 
  • Answering the ‘So What?’ – A common request from employers is to hire analysts with genuine enthusiasm for actionable insight and a clear appreciation of how it can be applied to business strategy. They obviously want to understand that you possess the required level of technical competence for the position, but this alone, often isn’t enough. Are you capable of answering the ‘so what’ questions that come about as a result of your analysis? You may be capable of producing complex statistical models, but ‘so what’ does that mean for the business? What recommendations can you, and have you made based on your analytical findings that have helped to improve business performance? Do you know the impact your analysis had? Make sure that you demonstrate your understanding of analytics in a broader commercial capacity, rather than purely focusing on your technical ability.
  • Remember to simplify where needed. It is very easy to assume that everyone involved in the process will understand technical information or industry jargon and this may not always be the case. In a global business, for example, it is common for representatives of several areas to be involved in new appointments. Department managers may be hiring you as a specialist because they do not have that specialism in-house. Clearly do not explain everything in depth because there will be a general high level of knowledge in the room anyway, but remember that the more specialised the subject, the more you will need to explain.

Standing out as an applicant is often just a matter of being sensitive to the needs of the employer and then pointing out where you meet those needs.

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With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.

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