How to Show You’re Data-Driven (When You’re Secretly Afraid of Numbers)

English major here to turn in her unconditional surrender. We fought a long, hard, some might say glorious battle to keep the contents of our minds out of spreadsheets and free of numbers. We tried our best, but our best wasn’t enough.

Data, you win.

The world is data-driven. No matter your role, from entry-level to executive, you need to be able to flex your analytical muscle. For some of us, this is daunting. We can’t all be Excel prodigies with a deep, burning love for analysis. But that doesn’t mean we can’t all be data-driven. Because being data-driven is not a skill. It’s a mindset.

So, expand your mindset.

A data-driven mindset means you think outside of yourself and your personal biases, and instead, you focus on what the evidence says. You may still trust your gut, but you don’t act blindly. You challenge your assumptions, collect as much data as you can, and then take action. Some people always think this way. Some people have to work for it. If you’re in the latter category, start practicing. Start thinking about aspects of your work or life where results matter. There’s gotta be some. Maybe you’re working on a fundraising campaign for a club on campus and like tracking how many people open your emails. Now, instead of thinking of those opens as a report card on how you did, look for the stories they tell. Maybe, when you compare every email you’ve sent, you notice that emails sent in the morning consistently have higher open rates than ones sent in the afternoon. Maybe you compare the content of each email and see that emails containing pictures of people get the most clicks. The plan for your next email becomes clear. Find your data, look at the story it tells, and then use it to inform what you do next. That’s being data-driven.

Complement by quantifying.

To show employers that you’re data-driven, practice the art of quantification. Think of it as a necessary addition to everything you do. Your resume and LinkedIn profile are great places to get started on this one. For every job description, think about how you can prove your impact. Your answer is almost always going to be data. For example, if you’re going to list blogging as a skill on your resume, think about how you can quantify it. “Edited a blog and successfully published six times a week, resulting in 24% increase in followers over a three-month period.” This is good because it not only shows you’re capable of performing a task but that you can produce results. If I’m the employer here, I read this and see that you’re creative. More importantly, I see that you also use data to direct and measure the impact of your creativity. And in the workplace, that’s the biggest win-win around.

Craft your data story.

To re-state what I’ve been re-stating, employers care about your ability to think analytically. There’s a good chance, no matter what job you’re interviewing for, you’ll be asked a question designed to assess whether or not you think in a data-driven way. Show you’re data-driven by telling a story about a time you made a decision based on data. It could be anything from a research project to your elaborate fantasy football drafting process. Explain in detail how you decided what to measure and your collection process. Then, explain what story the data told and what you decided to do. Collect, interpret, act. That’s the formula.

Feeling overwhelmed?

Me too. Being data-driven doesn’t come naturally to me, but adopting this mindset has helped me become more effective at everything I do (especially my nine to five). So, don’t be afraid of numbers. Soon enough, they’ll end up being your best friend.

Rigor, or the ability to be data-driven and exhaustive, is one of the top qualities employers look for in new hires. Read more about Rigor and the rest of the Koru7 JobStrengths here.

Leave a Reply