How to Interview Your Next Web Analytics Superstar

How to Interview Your Next Web Analytics Superstar

Michael LobanUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Recently, I came across a fascinating article on by Daniel Kehrer – Analysis Shows Jump in Marketing Analytics Jobs. Here are a couple of stats that I found particularly eye-opening and inspiring:

  1. The growth rate in marketing-related analytics hires is up 67% over the past year and 136% over the past three years.
  2. As of July 2013, there were 23,118 job postings that included one or more of these requirements: marketing analytics, advanced analytics, marketing mix modeling, media mix modeling or digital attribution.
  3. Big Data alone might create 1.9 million new jobs by 2015 in just the U.S.

Whether you believe these numbers or not, there is no argument that the field of web analytics is growing, and organizations that take marketing seriously are either hiring web analysts or people who can do this type of work.

Here comes the challenge:  Interviewing an analyst is an art. You need to be able to find those who are truly masters of data or have the potential to become one. There are plenty of imposters, and here are 10 tips/questions/examples to spot them.  

1) Start with a WTH? question. Skip the casual “What were your responsibilities at the last job?” question, and ask something that will test how the person analyzes information on their feet. Here are a few questions that other companies ask:

  • Forrester Research:  If you were to get rid of one of the states in the US, which would it be and why?

  • Google:  How many cows are in Canada?

  • Bain & Company:  Estimate how many windows are in New York.

  • InfoTrust:  How many people in Cincinnati are happy about living in Cincinnati?


2) Test their desire to learn and grow. Make sure you ask who their favorite bloggers in this field are, what conference they would like to attend this year, the last book on big data that they read. Each industry has celebrities, ask them to name a few. Remember, they get bonus points if they mention Michael Loban (the humble author of this post).

3) Check up on their knowledge of current events. What was the last big Google Analytics announcement? How do you think Google’s acquisition of Nest will change the world? Remember, you are looking for a true analytics die-hard. They are the people who wake up to alerts from GigaOm.

4) Can they explain web analytics to the least analytical person in your office? Cristine Cravens from Hobsons gave me this description of the perfect analytical person:  â€œA collaborative individual who will work with the team to help them understand the data to do their jobs better, as well as experiment with new methods for analysis and ongoing optimization.†Analytics and insights have no value if the person who has them lacks the ability to share them.

tell you again 

5) How would they leverage analytics to benefit your company?  This question kills two birds with one stone. First, they will show you if they have done their research and reviewed what you do and your online presence. Second, it will give them an opportunity to share their insights. Look for the person who has the most impactful ideas.

Simcha Kackley, from iSqFt, offered me the following analogy:  “I want a mechanic that will change my oil but find other items that I can be proactive about under the hood that I had no idea about.â€

6) Tools and techniques. If the knowledge of a certain tool is a requirement at your company, test for how well people use it. I have seen people who have used Google Analytics for years, but yet lack some of the most basic knowledge. Here are a few sample questions:

  • What are you favorite reports?

  • What features don’t you like about the tool?

  • How does it integrate with other third-party tools?

  • How does it compare to the other tools that are standard in our industry?


7) Show and tell. This is a bit different from what you might think. Give them a report, a chart, a graph, an analysis and ask them to explain. You might also give them a report and ask them to come back with a presentation for the second interview. You are looking to measure their effectiveness as analysts and not as data crunchers. It is one thing to crunch a report,  a vastly different thing to analyze it. 

show and tell

8) What do they obsess about? Avinash Kaushik suggests that analysts should obsess about outcomes. Avinash points out that companies care about money; non-profits care about impact; governments care about cost reduction. They all care about outcomes. In plain terms, ask why they do what they do?

9) Proximity is power. Ask if your applicants attend Web Analytics Wednesday. Ask if they are members of the Digital Analytics Association. How do they stay close to other analysts, other marketers? Here is a picture from one of Cincinnati’s Web Analytics Wednesday’s.

web analytics wednesday

10) Ask about modeling, any type of modeling.  A good digital analyst uses analytical insights not just to report the past activities, but to model what can happen in the future. We often call this the “Anchorman†approach to analytics = reporting on the summary of past marketing activities. It is certainly an important skill set, but you want to look for the person that can do something beyond just the pure reporting.

anchorman reporting

Bonus question. What do you think is the role and responsibility of a <insert your job title>. In other words, Morpheus from The Matrix has summarized it quite well:  “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.â€


Summary. A good digital analyst is hard to find. There are plenty of people who are good at using tools or printing out charts, but this is not what you are looking for. You are looking for the person who can do all of that before lunch and then focus on maximizing outcomes. I hope this is helpful. If you have other insights, ideas or questions that you like, please let me know. Good luck in your search!

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