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Why companies can't hire Data Scientists?


There are about 2,500 Data Scientists in Boston. Indeed.com displays 1,643 job listings for Data Scientists in Boston. That means that there are around 1.5 Data Scientist jobs per candidate. But not all Data Scientists in Boston are looking to switch jobs. According to data analyzed by my company, Talenya, only 227 of the 2,500 are likely to be open to new opportunities. That’s more than 7 jobs per candidate! This is what the “the war for talent” looks like and it gets worse.

Assuming you’re a small, growing company looking to hire Data Scientists in Boston, you will be competing for talent against giants like Amazon (123 openings), Pfizer (42 openings) and Biogen (35 openings).

While the small companies are willing to pay around $120,000 for a Data Scientist with a few years of experience, the big guys are willing to pay $160,000 - $230,000.  If you’re a Data Scientist, which job are you going to take?

What can the small companies do to attract Data Scientists? To start with, they must be working with near real-time data. They have to start their search with a clear picture of the talent pool and competitive landscape. For example, if there are only 500 Data Scientists with 5-10 years of experience, companies have to consider lowering their requirements to perhaps 2-4 years of experience and consider hiring based on potential.  There may also be skills that can be made advantages rather than requirements especially when those skills can be taught in a few weeks.

Data Scientists aren’t always seeking the highest pay. They look for technological challenges and an opportunity to advance their career mid and long-term, and many small companies can absolutely offer this. Those companies need to better communicate their story so that it attracts and engages these diamonds in the rough. Their offer should include components such as stock options as well as built-in promotion opportunities.

Data Scientists want to speak more with other techies and less with HR. They want to understand the technological challenges, the problems they’ll be solving for, the opportunities to learn new skills and fully understand the company’s business. Technology managers need to understand their importance in attracting great talent and free up time for that task.

Finally, companies must have a super-efficient recruitment process in place, complete with accountability and KPIs. Unfortunately, this is rare.  My company had a client who has not been able to fill Data Scientist roles for months on end. The first thing we did was to speak with candidates the company had previously failed to hire. We found out that candidates were given two days to complete an assignment that required five days to complete. These candidates took two days off their regular job to complete the test and failed not because they were unqualified but because the assignment was completely unrealistic. One candidate told us they completed the test and submitted it but no one from the company got back to them. Other candidates were not shy about telling us the company was totally disorganized in their hiring process. Clearly, these tactics are a sure way to lose the talent war. Another company took their candidates through a series of technical tests and then a personality test and then a series of Skype and in-person interviews. The process took weeks and seemed to always change.

The best candidates were not impressed with the bureaucracy and impersonal nature of such processes. I am not suggesting that companies compromise on talent quality or that they need to send private planes to jet ideal candidates to exotic locations, but that they should be realistic, efficient and engineer a super smart and inviting process.

Good candidates have alternatives and they evaluate companies, among other things, by their hiring experience. If I was a candidate experiencing an inefficient process, I can only assume all the other functions at the company were equally bureaucratic, unfocused, disorganized or impersonal.

Many fast-growing companies don’t have the resources to generate talent pool data or create an internal infrastructure capable of attracting, engaging and hiring the best talent because it takes focus.  It’s important that every fast-growing company take a critical and realistic look at their process. Job boards, employee referral programs and software databases don’t hire talent. Highly skilled and informed people do!

Gal Almog is a veteran entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of Talenya, a technology- based recruitment company. www.talenya.com  



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