Questions to ask at your Data Scientist Job Interview
Our modern existence is powered by reams and reams of data, as businesses utilise this immeasurably invaluable commodity to glean insights into their consumers and convert them into lifelong clientele. The importance of data equates quite neatly to a demand for Data Scientists whose job it is to analyse and interpret the data to unearth meaning, patterns, insights and trends in order to make well-informed decisions for the business.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise to candidates for Data Scientist jobs that hiring managers will expect a degree of business acumen and knowledge in addition to a foundation of mathematical and technical skills.
So, what are the questions that aspiring Data Scientists should ask when they are called for interview in order to showcase this dual expertise?
How is the data stored?
Perhaps the most obvious line of questioning relates to the data itself. You want to know, on walking into this relatively unknown entity, that the company’s database is well established. Ask how often it’s updated, and at what level and ask about the sources of the data. All this will tell you exactly how your skills will be put to use and how much work is involved.
Will I have the opportunity to collaborate with the departments or teams implementing my insights?
It’s useful to understand who in the organisation will be using your work as well as to identify the specific types of business problems the Data Science team helps to solve. You want to let your potential employer know that you’re there to add real value to the business and come in with a keen interest to get your hands ‘dirty’ to that end.
How does the Data Science team collaborate with other departments?
Not only are you asking this question to further understand the relationship between your team and the rest of the business, you also want to highlight your communication skills. Your job is to convey complex concepts to your non-technical colleagues in order for them to do their job sufficiently.
Who will I be working with?
This is your chance to get some insight into the culture of the company you hope to work for. So following on from that collaboration piece with people across the business, you can further dig into your specific team and what that currently looks like. How do they see you working within that existing hierarchy? How many of the team are contracting compared to those that are permanent? What is the standard tenure of technical people?
What is the management style for my team?
You want to know who your manager is. What their expectation of the team is. Are they chained to their desk to well past working hours? Are they available for regular catch-ups to monitor your career aspirations? Your manager is really the gatekeeper to your ongoing success in a company and a good manager finds opportunities for that success to manifest. If they’re attuned to you and your plans for career progression, they should be the ones that will hand you projects aligned to your interests or that will further your development in some way.
What do you expect from me in the first 6 months to a year?
You want those performance expectations on the table from the outset so that you can go into the job with full awareness of what your managers want to see and how you can guarantee that barometer for success. You also want to understand what the company’s review system is and whether they’ll be evaluating you on a 6-monthly basis or annually.
How will my work align with the goals of the business?
For more senior Data Scientist jobs, it would be wise to ask questions around the goals the business has set for itself and how they see your projects aligning with those. This goes back to that all-important business acumen that demonstrates a candidate is thinking beyond Data Science for the sake of Data Science and understands it has a more pivotal role to play in the mechanics of the overall organisation.
This part of the interview is your chance to show that you are competent, innovative and are really invested in the business and where you fit within it. However, this is also where you turn the tables and find out if this is the right company fit for you.