Forrester analyst Reineke Reitsma has posted an interesting blog on the qualities that companies look for when hiring researchers.
She notes how aside from a rigorous understanding of the intricacies of research, researchers are now by and large expected to be excellent communicators, able to distill insights and business recommendations from reams of data and present them in sparky and captivating ways.
“One would assume that when communication skills have become such an important element of the job, market researchers would change their hiring requirements. However, a study conducted early 2009 in Forrester’s market research panel shows that the majority of market researchers don’t care much about applicants’ writing, story telling or presentation skills.”
Sure enough, writing and presentation skills come way down the list, behind research knowledge, an understanding of business issues and sector knowledge.
Reitsma asks whether one year on the situation has changed – but should it have? Of course, communication skills are an important attribute for any good researcher, but surely they should be secondary to the knowledge you need to have to assess, analyse and understand consumers, sectors and society.
Besides, can any researcher embody all that is required of the job. As in journalism, where you have writers and editors – one to do the leg work, the other to maximise the impact of the written word – should the research role not be split between ‘insight gatherers’ and ‘insight communicators’.
Both jobs would require a mix of research knowledge, business nous and communications abilities, but while the ‘gatherers’ skill set is more weighted to the research end of things, the ‘communicators’ excel at, well, the communicating part.
As a professional ‘communicator’, I hope I’ve managed to get my point across.