I recently left my position as an Analytics Consultant in one of the more traditional, well known consulting firms. I knew data science was my biggest passion and wanted to jump ship for the tech world. The interview process can be tiring and frustrating, so hopefully these tips will help ease the pain for someone!
Tailor your CV
The interview is a multistage process beginning (and potentially ending) with the CV. You have to get in the door first before being invited to stay for dinner. With that being said, I made abrupt changes to my CV after being initially unsuccessful.
Tailor your CV to the exact role you’re applying to.Certain CVs suit certain roles better even though the candidate would suit both roles. Try and see it from the companies point of view. Although 80% of the CV will be the same, what is that final 20% that the specific company will want/need to see?
Make your skills pop. This can be done by moving skills higher up your CV or by using bold/underline/CAPS LOCK or a combination of all of those tools. It is going to be the first thing hiring managers/recruiters are drawn to for a DS position. I used both bullet points and bold on my skills such as:
Keep your CV short. Let’s be honest, it won’t be read in depth. Keep it to 1.5 pages max, particularly if you’ve under 10 years experience working. There’s nothing more off putting than a mini-novel for an application. And this tip applies on a micro level for every section. No long paragraphs, no long sentences.
Short + simple = eye-catching.
2. Be Open to Multiple Opportunities
Throw enough darts at the dartboard and one will stick. Unfortunately, during an interview process there is so much that you as a candidate can not control.
To try and mitigate those factors and increase the likelihood of landing a position, don’t limit yourself to only a few opportunities. Dedicate time to apply to as many jobs as possible as tiring as it can get.
Not only that, but don’t limit yourself to the definitions of the job spec. Many roles will differ significantly to what they are selling at the front of the store. The reason for this is because tech companies move at an alarming rate and so what is down on paper now may be entirely irrelevant in six months time.
With this being said it’s important to avoid avoiding roles just because the job spec doesn’t meet your skill set or interests to a 100% match. If you don’t have every single skill they request, apply anyways! Good candidates will learn on the job and show a willingness to learn on the job. Companies know this and prioritise this.
Try and recognise that these roles are ever changing and prioritise getting a 50–60% match in your opinion and be open to the role being fluid. Companies value candidates that are quick learners.
On a more macro level, also don’t limit yourself to large tech companies or alternatively small start ups. They are totally different experiences but if you want to be involved with core data science work, that can be found in both so prioritise the role over the company.
3. Prepare SQL, Function Creation Questions
So the interview process. What’s it like? How many rounds? Technical or Competency?
I interviewed at many companies both small and large for their data science roles. There were many technical interviews and/or technical take home tasks. The processes were alarmingly similar!
SQL questions. These are part of the furniture in interviews so get familiar with them. If you currently use SQL in your daily job then these will be no problem but if you don’t and need to revise, focus on the following:
- Partitions (Window functions)
- Aggregated functions
Most companies will provide 2/3 SQL problems revolving around the above.
The next most common type of question I encountered was the request to write a function to do …
This can be written in pseudo code but I mainly used Python.
This could be “Define a function that takes in a sentence, and outputs the reverse of this sentence”
The key thing to remember here is that most of these answers are 4/5 lines of code. If you are writing more lines than you feel is reasonable, you probably are.
Keep it simple, think through step by step. It helps me to think about the basic steps in English such as “split the sentence”. Ok now, I need a line to split the sentence.
If you pass the technical round, you’re on the home stretch!
4. Prepare Soft Skills/Cross Collab Questions
After the technical round, there tends to be 2/3 competency based interviews. These tend to revolve around “Tell me a time when” style questions.
The key to answering these is to have S.T.A.R ready to go
SITUATION — Provide the state of play for the initial problem. The initial situation
TASK — What lay in front of you because of the problem? What were the necessary tasks that needed to be completed?
ACTION — What actions did you take to navigate the situation?
RESULT — What was the result of those actions? How did the story conclude?
Have experience aligned to every question the interviewer will ask. If you haven’t encountered the situation before don’t panic and speak to what you would do, but ideally spend time before the interview preparing your previous experience to the above format. Practice speaking through it
Bonus tip — It’s also ok and even encouraged to ask questions. This can buy you time but also provide you clarity on what’s being asked. It can also show the interviewer that you view a problem from many angles.
5. Maintain an Optimistic Mindset
Finally, one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself is maintain an optimistic mindset. Remember, it only takes one company to take a chance on you. You only need one offer!
It can be disheartening hearing NO at any point in the process, but always back yourself and tell yourself that the company has made a mistake.
You sometimes need that killer instinct to get motivated for the next application, the next interview.
In truth, there are many excellent candidates for every role and it’s becoming a very competitive market but you always must have the inner belief that you are perfect for the role.
You don’t have to be the finished article (nobody ever is) but if you know you are determined, willing to learn and a good team player then display that in your interviews and maintain the belief that you are the best fit for the job.
Trial and error from the above tips eventually landed me a role as a Data Scientist with a well known tech company. The reward is worth the effort so try and take the above to reduce the total time it takes to land your dream role.
Best of luck :D