Five keys to hiring (good) business intelligence professionals

Learn how to find, qualify and hire business intelligence (BI) professionals. Get a list of core questions to ask candidates, and learn the biggest mistake to avoid when filling BI jobs.

The economy may be slowing and people may be losing jobs, but finding and hiring high-performance business intelligence...

(BI) professionals is still not an easy task.

Companies don't lay off their best BI employees -- in fact, they will do all they can to keep them. In a soft job market, it can even be more difficult to hire those high-performance BI professionals, because the candidate pool is diluted with lower performers. Expect to pay more for talented BI professionals than for other IT professionals with similar experience levels. Also, expect to pay at least an 8% compensation increase to a BI candidate who is currently employed. Both BI and enterprise resource planning (ERP) professionals are typically equally highly compensated.

So how do you attract and hire BI professionals who will excel in your organization?

Develop a message to market the organization -- and the business intelligence job

To attract top BI talent, you'll first need to develop your message about why a BI professional would want to work for your organization and what advantages your company has over other organizations. The ideal plan is to get a quality BI candidate interested -- and then qualify him or her.

Cast a wide net to find business intelligence candidates

To find top BI talent, first go to your top BI employees for referrals. Your other sources will be recruiting firms that specialize in BI recruiting and, of course, the Internet. BI recruiting firms often have a network of candidates who will not be on the major job boards or actively looking. When working with a recruiter, be sure to share your message about why a BI professional should be interested in your company. A good recruiter will assist in building that message and will ask you a lot of questions about your company. Being in IT, most BI professionals are out on the Internet -- but most are not on the big job boards. Check out those big job boards, but then look at sites where BI professionals interact with other BI professionals and where they go to gather information.

Ask the right questions during business intelligence candidate job interviews

When gathering information or interviewing candidates for a BI job, there are some typical questions you should ask to determine whether the person is going to be a good fit. Here are five core questions to ask a potential BI candidate in an interview.


  1. How large is the data volume or data warehouse you are working on -- and what has been the largest data warehouse you have ever worked on?
  2. How much of what you do is new development vs. maintenance/support?
  3. Who do you interact with on the business side, and do you gather business requirements?
  4. Do you follow any type of methodology and, if so, which one?
  5. What are the main BI tools you have experience working with?

Of course, there will be many other questions you will want to ask, but the list above should give you an understanding of the candidate.

Consider what's truly important when hiring a business intelligence candidate

BI is not a commoditized skill set. Most BI positions have considerable interaction with the business, making soft skills essential. BI professionals with both technical skills and soft skills are highly sought-after by most companies.

More about business intelligence jobs
How to get a business intelligence job

Business intelligence and data warehousing salaries continue to rise

Ask the expert questions about getting a BI job or hiring a BI professional

I believe you need to be certain a BI candidate has three things. First, a history of applicable job responsibilities; second, the personality to be a good cultural fit with your organization; and third, technical skills. If you find someone who fits all three criteria, hire him or her right away.

It is important to understand the job function the BI role will be filling. Depending on the responsibilities, industry experience may or may not be important. For back-end extract, transform and load (ETL) and data-intensive positions, someone who knows industry jargon is probably not as qualified as someone on the reporting side who is dealing with business users on a daily basis. Understand a candidate's current and past responsibilities and determine whether those responsibilities can be leveraged for the position you are trying to fill. The cultural fit is an obvious necessity, as with any open positions.

Avoid common business intelligence hiring mistakes

The biggest mistake I see companies make is recruiting BI professionals just based on technical tools and skills. Very few candidates will have the exact technical skill set your company is looking for, but there are many BI tools and technologies that are very similar and can be easily learned by top BI professionals adept at transferring their skills to new technologies. Most major ETL tools are relatively similar, and someone with good Informatica skills should be able to pick up Datastage and vice versa. This can also be said for reporting software and most databases based on SQL.

When recruiting BI professionals, remember to sell your opportunity and then qualify the candidate. If you feel a candidate has had similar job responsibilities, is a good cultural fit and is intelligent enough to learn, don't worry as much about the technical tools. Technology changes all the time.

More business intelligence job information

Don't miss Part 1 of this two-part series: How to get a business intelligence (BI) job -- essential advice and insight for both BI recruiters and job seekers.

About the author: Matt Mueller, president of CBIG Recruiting & Staffing, has more than 14 years of national IT recruiting experience. Since 2000, his focus has been on the data warehousing, business intelligence (BI) and customer relationship management (CRM) disciplines. Matt has worked with Deloitte Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Headstrong, Knightsbridge, Hewlett-Packard and other leading companies. He is dedicated to finding the right opportunity for the professionals he works with and finding the right professional for his clients.

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