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What you need to know when hiring a data scientist

Article authored by the Head of Data at X4 Technology, Jacob Knight.

I have been helping businesses appoint data scientists for 3 years and in that time, I have already seen the field change greatly with the rise of AI, and have experienced first-hand the widening gap between supply and demand.

A recent study highlighted that 28% more data scientists are required globally and the demand in the form of job postings is continuing to rise sharply. Despite this, 46% of CIOs report suffering from a shortage of skilled data scientist professionals and searches for data science positions by job seekers are growing at a much slower pace of 14%, highlighting a clear skills shortage when it comes to finding the right fit.

When a client reaches out to me because they need an individual data scientist or they are growing an entire division, there’s a number of things I ask them as it’s essential to narrow down their exact requirements in a market that can be hard to navigate at times. Here are my top 4 things to consider:

Need

Having a clear understanding of why you want to hire a data scientist is of course a good place to start. Artificial intelligence advancements bring exponential growth and so it’s no surprise that some businesses rush into hiring their first data scientist without having identified business problems or opportunities for them to address.

Data scientists want to work for a company with a clear vision, strategy and budget in place. Start by identifying the problems your business faces. For example, is your biggest pain point the quality of your data and therefore a company wide data cleaning project is the priority? If this is the case then you will want to hire a data scientist with very specific experience and knowledge of managing a similar project. 

Transparency

To ensure you find the exact skill-set you require, be clear about the projects they will need to work on and what is expected from them. Think about the environment they will be working in; will they be joining a team of data scientists? Will they be your first data scientist hire? Will they have the opportunity to work remotely?

If you are looking to hire your first full-time data scientist, do you have a technical leader who can steer and support the company’s data science initiatives? Setting expectations around whether they will have support or will be expected to guide and advise you is something to be clear about from the beginning.

Salary

Junior data scientists in and around London can earn anything from £25,000-£30,000, rising to £40,000 (depending on experience). Senior data scientists can earn anything upwards of £60,000, in some cases reaching £100,000+.

It’s important to be realistic when setting salary expectations. If you want someone with 5+ years’ experience and a proven ability to manage huge data projects, you won’t get the calibre of talent if you are only looking to pay £40,000. If someone with that level of experience and expertise was willing to accept that kind of salary, I would be equally concerned as to why. 

Speed

Often, unrealistic expectations will prolong the hiring process. On average the high calibre data scientists in my network receive 3 or more job offers at any one time, so employers must act quickly when it comes to interviewing and assessing the candidate.

On average the recruitment process from receiving the brief from my client to the candidate receiving the offer is 2 weeks for permanent positions.

If you want discuss anything I have spoken about here in more detail please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing me by emailing j.knight@x4technology.co.uk.

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