Finders Keepers: how employers hire and retain top data science talent

Tim Jonas our consultant managing the role
Author: Tim Jonas
Posting date: 7/4/2018 10:52 AM

Data drives business and Data Scientists are in high demand. Employers know hiring the right talent is the key to a healthy bottom line now and in the future. As the year comes to a close, many are hurriedly finalizing their fourth quarter numbers, while others think ahead to January’s New Year resolutions. 

In the first of our 2-part series, we’ll focus first on how and where employers find and retain talent. Next, we’ll focus on how employees can improve their chances to land one of the hottest jobs for 2018.

In our 2017 salary guide, we can help you find the best talent at the right price. According to our latest big data conference 76 percent of employers are seeking to grow their analytics team; learn how to find and keep top level data and analytics employees for your business.

Where the Data Scientists are

While every state has some concentration of data science professionals, the hotspots for deep analytic talent are found in large metro areas such as New York, New Jersey, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco. Of the five largest metropolitan areas, San Francisco tops the list for deep analytic talent. 

As tech companies move their Silicon Valley startups from San Jose to San Francisco, employers are upping their game to find and retain big data professionals. An estimated 65 percent of San Francisco startups are less than eight years old offering the perfect opportunity to grow a data science team from the ground up. 

Beyond the unicorn - What employers look for in a data scientist

CEOs are looking for problem-solvers in technology-rich environments. Problems are like people, everyone is different and with no unifying common language to identify competencies in job postings, attracting candidates needs to be approached differently.

Rather than look for unicorns, that one mythical creature which encompasses it all, employers are building data science teams. Data science is more than simply looking at numbers and determining algorithms, it requires creativity and non-linear thinking; it’s looking at numbers and applying it to people. The more diverse skills and backgrounds, the greater insight can be brought to analytics. One key skillset is for data professionals to be able to tell a story with data.

Competencies needed for data analytics roles often include strong credentials in both education and experience. The nature of data science requires a high bar of educational experience with employers typically interested in a college degree and three to five years’ experience with about a third of job postings requiring an M.A. or higher. But, just as data scientists may be tasked to think outside their comfort zone, so too must employers. Demand is often much higher than supply, so employers must think more creatively and strategically about finding talent. Many businesses often look inward to identify staff with potential to learn new skills. 

Best Practices for Retaining Talent

Whether employers begin in-house or seek outside candidates the goal is to ultimately keep such talent. Integrating data science across the company and keeping data scientists engaged in meaningful work are a few ways to retain top talent. 

Good data scientists are in high demand and competition is fierce. To keep them motivated and excited to stay, best practices include offering support, a sense of ownership, and a strong purpose. 

Support can be as simple as making sure your data science team has the tools they need to succeed such as the correct software to an investment in education. Some companies may even offer opportunities to meet with other academics and data scientists from other companies to build a team’s skillset with new ways of doing things and helping them to keep with the trends in the sector. 

Data scientists don’t work in a vacuum. Recognition and a sense of ownership work hand-in-hand to ensure a deeper understanding of the problem and opportunity to present their analyses to the decision makers. Ultimately, motivation lies in the opportunity to solve challenging problems and by engaging their minds with interesting data sets and questions to solve keeps them mentally sharp and more engaged with the company.

Companies everywhere need data talent to help them grow and improve their bottom line, but companies with more complex problems and continual data flow have the best chance of attracting deep analytic talent.

If you’re interested in building your data and analytics team, we may have the data professional for you. We specialize in Data and Analytics recruitment and always have a wide range of Data Science vacancies at both junior and senior levels.

For the East Coast and Mid-West teams please call 212-796-6070, or email

For the West Coast team call 415-614-4999 or email 

Related blog & news

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

Visit our Blogs & News portal or check out our recent posts below.