Weekly Digest: Hiring Babies

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Baby analysts, that is.

My job can be pretty stressful.  It’s the exact intersection of the numerical, the analytical, and the strategic of thinking.  I need a good team that I can rely on so that I don’t waste my mental energy worrying about them.  And I do, I have an amazing team.  I hired well, and it confirms to me every day that I hire for the right reasons.

So when my company experiences extraordinary growth and I have space on my team for a brand new analyst — I call these baby analysts — straight out of college, no experience necessary, bright eyed and bushy tailed — I get a zillion resumes and it’s more important than ever to concentrate hard on finding the right kind of person.

Anyone who reads the job description and knows someone who has done it, thinks they can do it too.  Anyone who got an A in statistics or quantitative analysis thinks that they automatically qualify.  Anyone who has added a couple of numbers together in Excel for a budget office or financial institution thinks it can’t be that much different.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.

I don’t even want the people on my team who think they are fantastic at this before they start.  They will either be overwhelmed or I will be disappointed.  Or perhaps I will be underwhelmed and we will both be disappointed.

So, when no experience is required, how do you pick the right candidate??  Here are the things that are important to me.

1. I want a high energy person who is hungry to learn.  So, eliminate the slackers who want to complain on day 2 about long hours or working on weekends, who think that knowing everything should just come naturally and it won’t take time and a lot of effort just to understand.  For them to complete a very small project it will take 10x the amount of time that it would take me or any other member of my team.  And that’s just how it is in the beginning.  Enjoy the learning curve.

2. I want someone who asks really good questions.  And never has to ask the same one twice.  I love a good question.  It makes me think about things back at a basic level, reminds me where I came from at one point, and brings me back into the frame of mind where building blocks start from the floor.  But please don’t make me repeat myself.  I aint got time fo that shiz.

3. I want a resourceful person who can seek out answers on their own as well.  Ask me for answers if you have a deadline to meet, try to figure it out on your own first and don’t be lazy if you have the time.  I am looking for someone who can be self sufficient for the most part and not hand-held 24/7.

4. I want someone who can remain calm before, during, and after the multiple overlapping storms.  Deadlines are very serious in this business.  Can’t loose your cool.  EVER.  One of my interview questions is whether the person has an exercise routine.  I wouldn’t NOT hire someone over the answer “no, I workout exactly never” but all other things being equal, I would hire the candidate who proactively takes care of themselves and deals with their stress in healthy ways outside the office.  I also unfairly characterize people who work out regularly as being smarter.  Shame on me.  But it’s true.

And I would argue the most important quality in any person I would consider hiring…

5. I want someone who cares deeply about the work they do.  This specific quality, work ethic, is not something that can be taught.  I can teach a baby analyst every little technical thing they need to be able to to their job well.  But I can’t teach them how to care.  So if they don’t have this, the just forget about it.  I would rather have this quality than someone who is genius smart.  A person who cares deeply about producing a good quality product, supporting the people they work with and for, wants positive recognition for their achievements, is someone who will put in the time and energy to really understand all facets of their work, learn quickly, and be a great addition to my team.

Hiring newbies can be challenging but if you focus on hiring someone with the attributes that you can’t teach rather than expecting them to already know things you can teach will get you everywhere.  Know-it-alls, y’all can stay at home.

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