This post was developed with input from Bill Franks, internationally recognized thought leader, speaker, and author focused on data science & analytics.
When a graduate begins looking for their first professional role, they often don’t know what to do or how to go about the job search process. It can be tough to know where to start, so we wanted to put together a quick guide with our advice on how to successfully navigate first job interviews in the data science and analytics space.
Perfect your Resume
Your resume describes your qualifications and explains what makes you unique. To stand out among other applicants, you need a resume that markets your strengths and qualifications for the job. So how can you go about perfecting your resume? The biggest suggestion we can give is reaching out to any HR professionals in your network – as they are most knowledgeable when it comes to constructing a powerful resume and have direct experience with hiring.
For early-career data scientists still attending university, it can be immensely helpful to work with professors and classmates, along with your university’s career resource center to gain feedback on resume improvements in relation to all your educational endeavors and projects. Remember that employers will care more about things you have done to successfully apply your coursework, such as internships, than they will about your coursework itself.
We encourage students and early-career professionals to really think through what you are looking for, and what you can bring to the table depending on how the target company is defining the role. Your resume should be catered to the job you are applying for and should be adjusted slightly when applying to different positions. For example, if you are applying for a role where a company is seeking someone who is advanced in predictive modeling, you should enhance and adequately express your proficiency in SAS, Alteryx and other modeling and data visualization tools.
Don’t be Afraid to Follow Up
Due to the hectic nature of the current hiring market, many candidates end up getting “ghosted” after the first or second round interviews. We heavily encourage you to take action and follow up with the hiring manager or HR personnel at the company. A first step is to ask for a clear explanation of the process steps and timing that you can expect. Although there is no reason to be a pest or to be too aggressive, it is very important to be assertive and to get status updates on where you stand in the process as expected timing milestones are reached. You should be consistently following up as things can get lost in inboxes – we suggest that you follow up weekly. If you still do not hear back after multiple weeks, then it may be time to move on, but we suggest that you give it at least 3-4 tries. Also, it is very important to send Thank-You notes after each interview because thanking the hiring managers and interviewers for their time and acknowledging their efforts is crucial.
Compensation is a Two-Way Street
If compensation is an important factor to you when considering a new opportunity, it can be advisable to ask for a general ballpark or range of the hiring company’s compensation model. It is important to keep in mind, however, that this conversation is a two-way street. If you ask first, the hiring manager will often reverse the question back to you and ask for you to share your target compensation. In this situation, it is always beneficial to share a range rather than a firm figure. Ultimately, it is better to be kept in the candidate pool for as long as possible if you are interested in the opportunity. If salary does end up killing the deal, then at least you’ve learned a about the potential opportunity and gotten to brush up on your interviewing skills. If the company finds you to be a great fit despite differences in salary, there is a chance the company will try to find a way to make things work.
It is also important to keep in mind that a salary range reflects the responsibility and depth of understanding that you will be expected to portray. It is always encouraged that you take a look at a variety of different data science and analytics roles to get a feel for the workload, hourly commitment, and knowledge of various tools that is required for various levels of compensation. Researching different job descriptions and looking into what companies are seeking is also a great way for you to gauge your capabilities and priorities when it comes to your work life.
Prioritize your Soft Skills
The importance of interviews cannot be overstated – interviews are a candidate’s chance to fully showcase themselves and their abilities to accomplish the responsibilities of the role. In addition to that, an interview is your first impression and a great opportunity to showcase your professionalism and etiquette in front of the hiring manager. These soft skills are some of the most difficult competencies for people to understand, demonstrate, and define– and interviews are a great way to practice and to demonstrate them.
Interviewing with many different organizations can be an excellent way to not only gain more experience with answering standard interview questions, but can also lead to more exposure, which can be tremendously beneficial for a candidate just starting out in their career. Some candidates believe that interviewing is not the best use of their time – especially if it is a role that they are not fully interested in – but the small amount of time you spend in an interview process is ultimately an investment in yourself. Speaking with different HR professionals and hiring managers can lead to a greater understanding of how the hiring process works, along with learning about what skillsets are currently valued in the data science and analytics market.
After graduating with your degree, getting a job is undoubtedly the most important thing you will do – and it takes a lot of time and dedication. The extra effort you put into finding the right opportunity for you is the biggest investment you can make towards yourself and your data science and analytics career. Although the market is hot and there are many different avenues you can take, finding the right fit can be challenging and the Burtch Works team is always here to help!