The truth is that great researchers come from anywhere — so you can’t always use past experience or degree specialty as a quality filter (personally, I studied biology in university). So what can you do to identify talent?
Here are the 3 things I think really matter when hiring researchers.
1) Look outside of the ‘researcher title’
If you limit your search to just folks with multiple years of experience as a ‘researcher’, you’re going to miss out on some amazing people.
There are many folks who work in customer success/support, account management, design, product strategy, and other fields who are already experts and talking to users and distilling insights.
If a candidate has spent lots of time talking to people, distilling insights, and reading about the latest UX research trends/methods, that counts as research experience in my book.
2) Filter by these 3 core characteristics of research talent
- Excellent Communication — as a researcher you’re going to have to explain a lot of concepts to people who don’t understand your craft. If a candidate is a great communicator that makes it 💯 times more easy to integrate them into a team
- Critical Thinking — as researchers we’re answering big, ambiguous questions all the time. Often there is no obvious answer and being able to think through and argue for various explanations to quantitative and qualitative information is really important.
- Rapport Building—did you feel a personal connection with a candidate building during the interview? Is the candidate able to get people to open up about anything? Being able to quickly build trust with team members and research participants makes the insights that matter and make research process hum.
3) Give candidates a research challenge early on
I can’t emphasize this enough — giving candidates a research case study early on in the hiring process is the best way to evaluate whether or not their a good fit for your team. You’ll be able to:
- See how they prioritize different projects in a given context
- Talk to them about why they chose one method over another
- See how well they are able to communicate a complex research plan
- Find out how well they handle critical feedback on their work
- And more!