Bridge the Skills Gap: 3 Talent Strategies for CDOs to Recruit Top-Tier Graduates

Community Blog
Written by Amanda Baldwin

SEPTEMBER 27, 2022

The skills gap is straining businesses across industries, and data and technology leaders are feeling the brunt. There simply are not enough qualified job seekers to fill the expanding needs of organizations. In fact, a recent Evanta survey found that C-level executives believe the talent shortage is due to supply and demand for workers being out of balance.

With many job postings for mid- and senior level positions going unfilled, Chief Data Officers are rethinking their talent strategies and evaluating how they can utilize entry-level and graduate development programs to train promising candidates to grow with the business.

David Dietrich, VP, Advanced Analytics & Governance at Fidelity Investments led a highly-rated session at Evanta’s Boston CDO Executive Summit on this topic entitled, “Bridging the Skill Gap — a Data Talent Q&A.” In this candid discussion, he spoke with Dev Das and James Hennessy, students from MIT’s Sloan Master of Business Analytics program, about the trials and tribulations both parties face during the recruitment process to better understand each other's point of view.

We caught up with David, Dev and James to continue the conversation and identify talent strategies CDOs can use to hire top-tier graduates. Here are 3 key takeaways:

1. Focus on Soft Skills

To address the needs of both organizations and graduates, leading organizations are starting to address emerging skills gaps before hiring, increasing their focus on universal soft skills, building flexibility and choice into graduate development and helping graduates visualize a future within the organization.”

 - Gartner

With the advancement of digitization, recent graduates likely will not have the technical skills to meet businesses’ current needs. To counter this, David emphasized the criticality for recent graduates not to ignore developing their soft skills, as that can be critical in landing a role they are happy with and navigating a good culture fit. Change management is a big component of building a data-driven culture, making interpersonal skills ever more important for data and analytics professionals.

2.  Be More Involved in the Recruitment Strategy

The recruitment process can make or break your ability to hire top candidates, and David explains how CDOs need to think outside the box and be more involved in recruiting efforts.

Right now, it’s a stand-off of companies posting jobs online, and jobseekers just applying for jobs online.”

David Dietrich,
VP, Advanced Analytics & Governance at Fidelity Investments


David says this approach is leading to a matchmaking problem. Job postings are not fully representative of company culture and what the position entails, and top applicants may be too rigid in their searches and more likely to scroll past postings that are unfamiliar. At the same time, job seekers can get to know people from different companies to get a better sense of the company’s culture and situation, beyond a simple job posting. Companies can gain a leg up on competitors by going beyond the job posting and providing candidates with more insight into the values and culture of an organization from the onset.

James shared, “The recruitment process is extremely important. A positive, inviting recruiter can turn a stressful or nerve-wracking experience into one that makes people want to come on board. While I acknowledge that it may be difficult for scheduling reasons, a member of the actual department of the position is a big plus. Knowing that I am talking to someone who is facing experiences that I likely would in the role is very reassuring and would give a better representation of life in the organization.”

David also highlighted how employers need to be more creative in their recruitment strategies - such as hosting local meetups in markets that are hiring. Dev added how attending career fairs could be a good opportunity for technical staff. He mentioned, “A standard recruiter provides us insight on what the timeline and process of an interview looks like which is valuable information. What really stands out, is when a company sends an employee who is currently in a data science and analytics role who can help us understand what a day in the life is, and the specific skills that are needed for the job.”

3. Emphasize Data-Driven Culture

Instilling a data-driven culture is a top priority for CDOs this year, and evidently, it is also a huge driver for data and analytics graduates. However, many organizations and legacy institutions have not modernized their image sufficiently or publicly shared their transformation journey, and this can be a deterrent for top graduates who are looking to work for cutting-edge companies. David acknowledged that many larger companies can find themselves facing this challenge, mentioning that “It can be challenging to change a company’s perception. There was discussion that new hires may want to hop on a moving train, rather than help a company build the tracks.” 

David added how these perceptions are intensifying the matchmaking problem, stating, “This can be double-edged. Companies feel they are competing with digital natives for top tech talent, and job seekers may be limiting themselves by looking only at those big-name tech firms, rather than realizing many established companies are doing innovative things with data and AI. As such, job seekers may struggle finding entry level roles and companies may struggle finding young talent, simply due to different perceptions and expectations of each side.”

To combat this, it is essential for organizations to embrace and promote their data-driven cultures or intentions (if it is a work in progress). James expressed, “Specifically for data science and analytics roles, companies should make it well known that they are committed to a modern data-driven culture. Sometimes as students, we tend to look over legacy companies because we think the work will be too slow and the company will be too stuck in their ways. If a company is dedicated to data science and analytics, there should be a concerted effort to change their image to reflect that.”

Dev commented, “Students gravitate towards these large tech companies since they are familiar with who they are and what they are getting into. Smaller companies seem a bit ‘riskier’ in the eyes of students since they do not know exactly what the role or product of the company is.”

Closing the Skills Gap

The skills gap, unfortunately, is not going anywhere anytime soon, but putting effort into developing entry-level talent is a step forward in closing this gap for the future. These are just a few tips on how you can attract top-tier candidates, and as Dev says, “How companies handle the recruiting process plays a huge role for students. Timely responses for application updates, ghosting applicants, and sending knowledgeable recruiters, influence our decision to apply since we all talk to our classmates and peers.”

This is a continuation of a conversation from Evanta’s Boston CDO Executive Summit in June 2022. Find your local CDO community, and connect with like-minded C-level executives on mission critical topics, such as this, at one of our upcoming summits or programs.

Amanda Baldwin headshot

Amanda Baldwin

Content Marketing Manager at Evanta, a Gartner Company

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