What skills are potential employers seeking? What skills might you have that they need to solve their problems?
What are your skills of value to an employer?
Employers don’t really care about your resumé or your qualifications, as incredibly interesting as you think they might be – prospective employers want to know what can you do to help them.
Your best “resumé” is an honest, evidence-based list of your applicable skills, and your level of attainment in those skills:
|R programming||Moderate- advanced||Worked 3 years at XYZ corporation analyzing high volume consumer data for statistical predictions; wrote 4 R packages|
|SQL||Moderate||Utilized SQL data bases for XYZ Corp: wrote scripts to access and clean data|
To be a good fit for a prospective employer – that is, to be someone who a prospective employer sees as having the skills to solve their problems, to add value to their enterprise – you need to know several things:
- What are the skill sets and skill levels a prospective employer is seeking?
- What are your skill sets?
- What are your levels of attainment?
- What is the evidence for your skills and attainment?
Perhaps surprisingly to many people seeking employment in data analysis, employers will usually spell out quite explicitly what is they are seeking in terms of skill sets and attainment levels. If you are a match for some of these – not necessarily all- what you have to do is provide the prospective employer with evidence.
For example, in June 2015 the Boston Globe advertised for a Data Scientist. The skills they listed are as follows:
Skills and Experience:
- College degree in computer science, statistics, math, or economics
- 2+ years of experience in quantitative analysis. Experience with:
- data cleansing
- modeling fitting
- time series
- machine learning
- significance testing
- statistical quality control
- Bayesian methods and/or similar approaches
- Proficiency with surveys, sampling, data collection, and research methodologies
- Experience writing code (Python, PHP, or related) required
- Fluency in SQL and relational databases
- Experience with a statistical package such as R, MATLAB, SPSS, SAS, Stata, etc.
- Experience working in large data sets using tools such as hadoop, hive, pig, elastic search.
- Experience with web technologies and consumer behavior is a plus
Let’s start with the first, which is a qualification: “College degree in computer science, statistics, math, or economics”
Will they really exclude people who do not have a college degree in computer science, statistics, math, or economics?
What if you have a 2 year Associate’s degree and a lot of experience?
What if you have a degree in biology in which you minored in statistics?
What if you are a business major with computational experience?
In other words, how critical really is this stated qualification? One way to find out is to make a phone call and ask. Generally, a qualification like this indicates what the employer imagines will be the ball-park relevant training for an applicant for the position. Rarely is it a set-in-concrete requirement. But ask.
Then there’s the question of experience: “2+ years of experience in quantitative analysis.”
That’s not a lot of experience. Do you have it?
What if you are straight out of college, just completed your degree, or have started work but would rather work for the Boston Globe as a data analyst? Did your college training include any real-world experiential courses? Did you do any internships? Did you work on research projects with faculty?
Pull together all your work experience and provide evidence.
Now the rubber hits the road with a – long – list of skills.
Even with a college degree and 2+ years of experience, are you likely to be proficient in all these skills? Probably not. So take their list and state honestly your best estimate of your proficiency level in these skills – don’t sell yourself short, but don’t overstate your abilities either.
Provide firm evidence for what you claim is your skill level. Again don’t overdo it with a mountain of detail – just imagine what a reasonable person would want to see to come to the same conclusion as you about your skill level.
What if you don’t have certain skills in the list? What, for example, if the only time series and optimization experience you have is a couple of class assignments? Then state that. Just be honest. But also state anything you might now be doing to improve those skills – not what you intend to do, but what you are now doing.
Give the prospective employer – in this case The Boston Globe – the clearest, most honest, picture of who you are in terms of the skills they have asked for.