8 Tips for Getting the Analytics Job You Want

When it comes to its analytics professionals, global online consumer lender Enova International makes sure its people are "the best of the best," recruiting only the cream of the crop and rewarding them for their accomplishments monetarily, with additional vacation time, training, tuition reimbursements, and so on.

Adam McElhinney, head of business analytics at the Chicago-based firm, told us so during last week's A2 Radio program, "How to Land a Great Analytics Job" (listen on demand). He didn't talk specifics, but the offers would appear to be enticing. Why? "We want to make sure Enova is really respected in the analytics profession and that we're driving a lot of value for the company."

Looking at the numbers, Enova typically receives a couple hundred resumes for each job it posts. If it interviews 100 people, it'll typically offer only four of them jobs -- and at least three if not all four accept, said McElhinney, who typically interviews about four to six candidates per week.

McElhinney said he thinks Enova's hiring practices and goals are what you'd find at most leading-edge analytics shops. So here are eight things you need to know if you're aiming to pass McElhinney's or his ilk's scrutiny and land a coveted analytics job.

  1. Avail yourself to internships. An internship, as McElhinney said is the case at Enova, "is really an extended interview process. Its purpose is a pipeline for new full-time hires." What's more, as a potential job candidate, working within a company as an intern will give you a sense of whether the environment is really the right fit for you.

  2. Get involved with a professional society. The emphasis here is on involvement. Don't just show up for meetings but become involved in some way -- offer up your web development skills if you have them, or help write a newsletter or volunteer to help plan an event, McElhinney said.

  3. Show continued development. McElhinney suggested three ways to make your resume stand out in this respect. One, get an analytics-related certification, be it via an independent organization like INFORMS, platform-specific from a vendor like SAS, or related to a specific domain, like finance, risk, or actuarial science. Two, enter a data analysis competition at Kaggle or the like. You don't have to win, but do be prepared to talk about the experience. Three, participate in open-source software development, maybe creating a package for R, working on a Python data analysis tool, or showcasing projects on GitHub.

  4. Be prepared for the interview. If you've neither read the job description nor researched the company, that'll be apparent during the interview -- and possibly end up excluding you from further consideration. Along the same lines, McElhinney added, make sure you can explain anything you've placed in your resume. "I mean, don't list some software package as a skill if you've only used it once and aren't prepared to talk through it extensively."

  5. Ask plenty of questions. It's a "huge red flag" when you don't, McElhinney said. You're potentially considering whether you want to spend your workweek with these people and build this experience into your long-term career path. "So you should have a lot of questions about the job, the culture of the company, about the backgrounds of your area coworkers, and a lot of questions about the day-to-day activities of the job."

  6. Don't try to be too impressive. Talking about some obscure modeling technique or software intricacy might serve to annoy more to impress, McElhinney said. Tread carefully.

  7. Demonstrate business savvy and be a good communicator. Having quantitative expertise is usually a given for analytics positions, but some employers are going to want you to have business acumen as well, especially if analysts are embedded in the business units. And, if you want to be in the thick of things, you've got to be able to express yourself and hold your own in presentations and conversations with the business.

  8. Supplement traditional analytics techniques with new skills. Today, candidates who have machine learning and programming skills stand out given the push for real-time analytics, McElhinney said. You might see this listed as data science, "but it's essentially analytics with a programming background as well."

Share your job-hunting experiences below. What's worked for or against you?

Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

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Re: Good Advice for Career Advancement
  • 7/10/2013 10:41:41 AM

"Timely" -- as in you're currently looking for an analytics-related job? If so, what are you finding out there in the job market?

Re: Good Advice for Career Advancement
  • 7/9/2013 6:05:53 PM

Thanks Beth for the timely and relevant advice!

Re: Good Advice for Career Advancement
  • 7/8/2013 9:08:23 AM

Right! Adam's advice for approaching a job employment opportunity is universal rather than limited to analytics positions. That makes it well worth sharing on a widespread basis!

Re: Internships
  • 7/7/2013 5:01:52 PM

I really hate to see what has happened to Internships.  It was  how I got my start, and when I was doing it I was fortunate enough to get paid as well - that is for the most part is a foreign  concept to most employers now.

Some companies realizing that they can get this labor for free, have more interns ( unemployed ) than they do actual employees.

Looks like a good thing has been ruined.

Good Advice for Career Advancement
  • 7/7/2013 4:56:25 PM

These are great tips for getting an Analytics job or any job actually.  I think being prepared for the interview, continuous improvement and humility are major structural foundations necessary to gaining employment in Analytics or any other area.

Re: Internships
  • 7/3/2013 5:24:08 PM

I'm glad you have had such positive experiences. Many are not as fortunate. Just today:

(Reuters) - PBS talk show host Charlie Rose and his production company will pay roughly $110,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former unpaid interns, under an agreement approved by a New York state judge.

The victory, another win on the wages front for interns, comes amid a wave of lawsuits that followed a June 11 ruling by a federal judge in Manhattan that former production interns for the 2010 film "Black Swan" were de facto employees of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

In the so-called glamour industries of film, publishing and other media, unpaid internships are standard. The cost-saving practice has spread to other businesses, prompting experts to predict that litigation in more traditional fields could be next.

Re: Internships
  • 7/3/2013 5:12:12 PM

Yes, I am working in the US. A few of my internships have been in Phoenix and now I'm in Chicago.

Re: Internships
  • 7/3/2013 4:54:48 PM

@bnebeker3 Are you working in the US?

Re: Internships
  • 7/3/2013 4:07:01 PM

I'm actually very surprised that people on here are saying how bad internships are. I am currently on my 6th internship. At each internship, I have been treated as full-time staff, have been paid very well (a few even gave me the same benefits as full-time employees), and I've come away with great learning experiences. Are there "internships" where you are not paid and treated like dirt? Of course. The key is for the student to do their homework before signing the offer letter.

At-a-glance resume building
  • 7/3/2013 2:01:08 PM

Fans of the data visualization/infographic and analytics-related job seekers might like this infographic, "How to Build a Winning Resume"

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