How to Write a Data-Oriented Job Description

December 14, 2017 7:29 am PST | Open Data

Hiring in the public sector has its challenges. Given that the average age of state and local government workers is around 49 years old, hiring and retaining talent is becoming an even more pressing issue. And on top of all of that, hiring managers are now being asked to ensure their new hires are “data savvy.”

So how does a hiring manager write a job description that ensures they will attract and inspire top talent that also has the right data skills? We sat down with Rusty Lacy, IT Manager for the Metro Nashville Fire Department, to find out how he’s been able to successfully do that for a new position he’s hiring for within the IT department.

Socrata: What is the role you’re hiring for? What do you believe the impact of this future employee’s work will be?

Rusty Lacy: First and foremost, the priority of every member of the Nashville Fire Department is safety. Whether it’s the folks in the IT department or the firefighters actually out in the field, everyone is dedicated to keeping our community safe. With that in mind, we’ve opened up a new position for an individual to figure out how to use data to help us achieve our goal of keeping the community safe as well as driving operational efficiency across the entire department.

Socrata: With so many different directions to go, how did you figure out what hard skills should be included in the job description?

Lacy: We started with the foundational skills: Excel and descriptive statistics. These are baseline skills that we know from experience are crucial to successfully working with data. We intentionally left the hard skills section of the job description somewhat generalized. Even though we have certain business intelligence software now, we know that someone adept with other tools can learn what we have. We wanted to just see they have successfully worked with a more advanced tool such as Tableau, PowerBI, or Qlik.

Socrata: What soft skills did you decide to include to complement those hard skills?

Lacy: Being a good team member is essential. We can teach someone to use a software tool, but if they’re not a good team member then it’s not going to work out.

 

“We can teach someone to use a software tool, but if they’re not a good team member then it’s not going to work out.”  —Rusty Lacy, IT Manager for the Metro Nashville Fire Department

 

Other critical soft skills we were looking for include:

  • Project management
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Online and in-person research
  • Training and enablement

It’s important for us that even though this individual will know how to use data, they can’t leave other folks in the department scratching their head after a conversation. They need to be able to communicate complex technical information in an easy to understand and consumable way.

 

“Even though this individual will know how to use data, they can’t leave other folks in the department scratching their head after a conversation.” —Rusty Lacy, IT Manager for the Metro Nashville Fire Department

 

Socrata: What pieces of the job description were most challenging to get right?

Lacy: The individual that will take on this role needs to be flexible enough to work across the entire department on a variety of different projects and subject matter areas. Our city is exploding in population and there’s enough data to help solve some of the problems associated with that. But figuring out how to work in flexibility around the subject matter was certainly a challenge.

Socrata: What final advice do you have for someone who’s new to writing a data-oriented job description?

Lacy: In any government organization, there is so much data available to inform the tough decisions that are presented to us every day. Even though it may seem easy to focus on the hard skills, take time to really figure out what the right complementary soft skills are for this role. It’s most important that the person is a good fit on the team so they’ll be engaged with their work and stay for the long haul.


Looking to grow your team’s data skills? Explore the courses available through the Socrata Data Academy


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