There is no question that the job market has changed. While 2020 brought about uncertainty and hiring freezes in many industries, for many businesses, 2021 has ushered in a renewed intertest in data and analytics, and with it, an urgency to hire data and analytics consultants.This is good news for those in the job market—especially those with qualified skills and experience. The bad news is that competition is steep, and some businesses don’t know exactly the type or level talent they need to accomplish their goals.As you map out your career path and plan your next move, there are ways to cancel out the noise in the job market and hone in on finding the right job match for you.Here are 5 things you should be asking yourself and your recruiter: 1) What are my goals and what is motivating my job search? Take time to clearly identify your reason(s) for looking for a new opportunity. This will help clarify what is and isn’t negotiable for you in your next position.Start with ranking what matters most to you in order of importance. Are you leaving your current job because you want more money? Are you looking for better growth opportunities? Do you not like your current company culture? Are flexible hours and remote working a must have? Whatever your reason(s), jot them down and ask whether you have done your due diligence at your current place of employment.If you think it’s possible that your issues could be solved with a conversation, then do that before you begin a new job search. If no, then at least you have the information to start your search with clear requirements. Searching with intention saves time for everyone involved.2) What is the identity or culture of the company I am interviewing with? Company culture has a large impact on the way individuals get their job done. You need to make sure the environment you work in is compatible with your work style. Understand the expectation of you—when are you expected to be in the office or available via email, how many work hours per week is normal, are expectations for new hires different than seasoned employees, and what is the path for growth? Business models come in all sorts of flavors, but it is incumbent of you to find out how it fits (or doesn’t) with what you are looking for.Outside of work style, figure out if the company’s social and cultural identity aligns with your goals. Does the company behave in the way they say they do?3) Can I find evidence of what I am being told? Companies sell you on their company culture and why they are the best company to work for, but can you find evidence? Prepare questions in your interview, and research from other sources.Here are some things to look out for:Consistency. Are you hearing the same message from different people? Make sure responses aren’t verbatim or rehearsed. Ideally, it should come across as a shared experience of what it’s like to work for this organization no matter who you talk to. Look at other sources, too. Search LinkedIn to see what current employees are saying about the company. Look at the trajectory of people’s careers—have they been there several years-if so, what does their career growth look like? Are most employees new—if so, is it because of turnover or company growth? This kind of investigation will inform questions you’ll want to ask in the interview process.Honesty and authenticity. Is what you’re hearing in your conversations and finding through your online search aligned with the culture the company claims? Glassdoor and similar sites can be used to gauge culture but be cautious because those reviews are anonymous and sometimes unverified. Look to other sources too, such as LinkedIn, where you can see what current employees are saying.Alignment with your goals. Is what you’re being told touching on the goals you have for your next career move? If it’s not, dig deeper and make sure you want to proceed.Gathering evidence is an exploratory process, so make sure you are thorough. Be inquisitive, take notes, and don’t be afraid to reassess.4) Have I asked the right questions and are they being answered? This is just as much of an interview of the organization as it is of you. It is the recruiter/interviewer’s job to allow you to ask questions so that you can make an informed decision on whether you want the job. This is your opportunity to tie up any loose ends from your own research and ask very specific questions about the position.Expect transparency and accuracy from the recruiter and interviewer. Make sure you have conversations about processes, salary, and benefits (even if awkward, they are necessary) and that the interviewer is not speaking in vague terms about what’s expected of you. If your questions are not being answered, then this should raise a red flag for you.Download our guide and get some key questions you should ask. 5) Am I being responsive? Are they being responsive? No one wants to be ghosted. We’ve all heard the stories of going through an entire interview process and then never hearing back. Both parties involved should be responsive—it is not only professional, but also a necessity to move the interview process along. For your part, communicate openly (and in a timely manner) about any hesitations, requirements, or even your excitement about the opportunity.Communicate your expectations and help manage theirs. At the end of an interview, ask what the next steps are and when you should expect to hear back. If they have asked you for more information, let them know when you intend to complete the task. If you are interviewing elsewhere, be open about it. If you are on a timeline, be open about that, too. Often, organizations get caught in processes and paperwork and don’t know that you have just been made an offer elsewhere, or that you are even looking at other options. There are ways to communicate that professionally. If the organization is interested in you, they will likely expedite the process, or at the very least, explain why they can’t. Either way, communication needs to be open and clear.State your interest, or disinterest. No one wants their time wasted. If you are interested in the job, say so. The company already knows you’re somewhat interested if you applied for the position, but if after an interview, you’re still intrigued, tell them. This won’t weaken your negotiating ability—it may actually strengthen it. If you’re wavering, tell them that, too. If you’re both not interested, there is no reason to go on with the process. But if they want to hire you, they might come back with alternatives or more detail that is interesting. This shouldn’t be a game of chess, but rather a meeting of minds.Accept or decline quickly. If you’ve been made an offer, the expectation is that you’ve done your due diligence about the company, you’ve had your questions answered, and you’re ready to decide. Make it with urgency. That doesn’t mean that you surrender any ability to negotiate. You can show excitement about the offer and ask to see it in writing to review. If you choose to decline, however, do so quickly and professionally so that the organization can move on to other prospects. Plus, this avoids burning any bridges if you decide to seek employment from the same company in the future.It is a competitive market for data and analytics consultants. The job market is saturated with entry-level applicants competing with senior level consultants, and organizations are offering more and more just to get the right talent through the door. Do your due diligence, ask the right questions, and find the right fit to grow your career.Download our guide and learn how to make your resume standout and how to make sure you’ve considered all the details before accepting a job offer.