As many a frustrated recruiter or hiring manager can tell you – a good data scientist is hard to find, and even harder to hire. Quality candidates frequently end up with multiple final round interviews (often within days of each other) leading to multiple offers. In such a competitive environment, your challenge is to figure out how to set your company apart and make it more appealing to top data science talent.
The solution lies not just in crafting an appealing brand or corporate image, but has to encompass the more mundane steps of the application/interview process. A candidate’s experience during this critical phase can have a huge impact on whether they envision themselves having a future at your company. While certainly not all encompassing, the following points suggest a few key areas to focus on when you want to increase your success rate of guiding candidates from first impressions to a first day at work:
Communication: Prompt communication and follow-through cannot be stressed enough. This is not to say you must have detailed correspondence with every single person who applies. However, once you have identified a candidate who looks like they are worth your time, make sure they know you think they are worth your time! Lack of communication is not only likely to make a candidate feel disrespected, but it also gives the impression that your organization does not function efficiently, that ideas and people will get lost in the shuffle, and that it could take a long time to get things done. All of these negative impressions will increase the likelihood that a quality candidate will more rapidly engage with one of the other organizations vying for their attention.
Communication: Just kidding. But only sort of. Taking the principles of good communication one step further, we have the concept of accessibility. This element particularly applies for candidates who are in the second or third round interview stage. At this point they should be able to speak to and meet with the hiring manager (and potentially other members of the team), and they are going to want to see that this manager is engaged with and involved in the interview/hiring process. Managers are always going to be busy. However, finding the right next member of the team should be exciting! Managers who are too busy to get interviews scheduled promptly, and who can’t focus a decent amount of time on dialogue with candidates risk giving the impression that this will be the dynamic in the workplace as well – where leadership is not dedicated to setting clear expectations for their team (see next point) and is unavailable for questions.
Expectations – Know what the plan is for how this candidate will work with your existing team, and be prepared to talk about specifics. Candidates want to know what tools they will be working with and on what kinds of projects. They want to know what they will help your team accomplish in the next 6 months AND why these things are critical to the success of the enterprise. This kind of forward thinking helps them feel important and allows them picture themselves in the role. It also encourages them to start brainstorming about how they could contribute. They aren’t even hired yet, and they are already mentally engaged.
Offer Opportunity – not just a job. Quality data scientists are bright folks. They like what they do, find the technology they work with exciting, and enjoy learning about the use of new tools and new methodologies. They are hyper-aware that they are in a field that is constantly evolving, and they want to be able to keep up with everything that is new and interesting. A big deterrent is if they feel they will risk getting stuck in a box – in one specific niche doing one specific type of analysis as their skills stagnate. Data scientists will avoid environments like this because they know that ultimately, stagnation will result in the death of their career.
Facilities – Believe it or not, the physical work environment you offer a candidate can make a difference. The dream of many in technology is a career with the Amazons or Googles of the world. So, in recruiting, these places are your competition. While you may not be able to provide free gourmet lunches or views of the Pacific, you can provide an environment that says, “We’re about tech and we’re serious.” In an example of the importance of facilities and environment, we recently worked with a candidate who was facing two, competing opportunities from similarly-sized organizations in the financial services sector. One is housed in a 70’s-era building at the end of a shopping mall. The other recently invested in a beautiful, open-floor plan, technologically updated showpiece office. When making this investment management explicitly stated that it was intended to attract tech-savvy talent. At least in this case that investment paid off as the candidate, a super-strong data scientist, decided to take their offer, noting that the facilities were part of his decision.
Compensation – As much as we hate to bring it up, you know that comp is going to be important. Yes, people have different drives and some will value things like work-life balance more than others. Still, like it or not, someone who can make $160k / year is going to have a hard time accepting $105k just because of work-life balance. $140k? Maybe.
All this is not to say that you have to pander to candidates in order to get them to seriously consider your company. That isn’t doing you, or them, any favors either. But rather, the above points are meant to be an encouragement to step away from antiquated, assembly line hiring practices and instead approach the process with greater mindfulness and attention. Quality candidates will return the favor.
At Dataspace we take pride in our ability to locate, attract, and screen top data science and big data talent. In fact, only 2% of all the candidates we see make it through our screen. So, if you’re looking to fill critical contract or permanent roles, give us a shout!