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Analytics & Data Science Interview Tips: Phone and In-Person

September 17, 2018

This post is contributed by Burtch Works’ early career analytics recruiting experts.As a follow-up to our popular post on resume tips for analytics professionals, for our next post we thought it might be helpful to cover some advice on both phone and in-person interviews. Whether you’re finishing up your quantitative degree program or early in your analytics or data science career, it’s always wise to prepare for interviews!For all your interviews, be prepared to answer behavioral questions as well as technical questions. Technical questions will measure your skillset and experience (such as work projects, internships, or academic projects), and behavioral questions will assess areas such as how you approach problems, how you handle stress, or what your interests are.Questions may vary, but make sure you are prepared to answer questions about your work experience or education/internships, certifications you may have received (such as SAS or from MOOCs you’ve completed), and technical ability.Here are some more tips to keep in mind for phone and in-person or on-site interviews:

Phone Interviews

The process typically begins with a phone interview that will cover your background, the company, and the position for which you’re applying.

  • Make sure you’re in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Have a copy of your resume handy.
  • Prepare at least three specific, job or company related questions.
  • Practice running through a summary of your background/experience in about 3-4 minutes (don’t just read your resume out loud!).
  • Practice explaining your quantitative projects, and know that you may be explaining technical projects to a human resources professional or an internal recruiter, who may not be looking for as much technical depth as your direct manager.
  • Ideally, have your computer available in case you need to reference analysis projects you’ve done or look up anything else during the interview.
  • Give your interviewer 5-10 minutes to call you from the scheduled start time, in case they’re coming from back-to-back meetings.
  • Speak clearly, and make sure not to speak too fast.
  • Be prepared to give specific examples when answering questions.
  • Don’t speak negatively about previous employers, or if you must, make sure to follow a negative statement with a positive one, for example: “I didn’t enjoy the job but I learned a lot about my strengths and preferences, and gained valuable knowledge and experience.”

Phone interviews can be extensive, as companies will want to cover a lot of ground before deciding to schedule your on-site interview, so make sure you block enough time to complete them and are well-prepared.

In-Person or On-Site Interviews

The next key step in the process is usually the on-site interview. Though some companies may complete this step through video calls, such as Skype or Google Hangouts (we’ve covered what to keep in mind for video interviews in more depth here), many of the tips below still apply.

What to Bring

  • A nice folder with multiple printed copies of your resume.
  • Pen and paper for taking notes as you’re talking to different interviewers.
  • Samples of your work, such as analysis or extracurricular data projects that can showcase your quantitative experience – this is especially crucial if any of your skills are self-taught!

What to Wear

Although preferred interview attire will vary from company to company, here are some general guidelines to help you determine what to choose:

  • Ask someone! You can ask your recruiter or company contact what would be best.
  • In general, it’s better to dress up than to be underdressed.
  • In rare instances, such as some startups, attire may be casual, but it is usually formal unless otherwise stated.

What to Research

  • Make sure you have up-to-date information on anything new happening with the company, such as press, news, or product launches.
  • If you know who you’ll be meeting with, look up your interviewers on the company website or on LinkedIn so that you’re familiar with who they are.
  • Using your research on the company and the role you’re applying, make sure to prepare questions for each of your interviewers.

During the Interview

  • Presentations are becoming a common part of the interview process for analytics professionals and data scientists. Since that would be a lot of information to cover here, check out this post for more information on how to be prepared for interview presentations.
  • Don’t bring up salary unless you are directly asked about it.
  • However, in case your interviewers do want to discuss salary or benefits, make sure you have thought about what you’re looking for (salary, vacation time, potential start date etc.).
  • Make sure you’re able to speak to methodologies, formulas, or models that were used in your projects, and explain why they were chosen for the analysis, such as…
  • How much data was analyzed?
  • Why did you choose R over Python?
  • How did you eliminate duplicates from the analysis?
  • Why did you choose this method instead of another method?
  • What was the outcome of the analysis?
  • What were the insights or outcome your analysis had for the company?
  • Stay excited! On-site interviews can be long and repetitive, so be mindful that you’re communicating the same enthusiasm throughout your interviews.
  • Know your audience (for instance, HR vs. your PhD hiring manager), and tailor the technical depth of your answers or explanations appropriately.

Interviews can be tricky, but preparation and practice can help you prepare for almost anything! If you’re looking for more analytics career information, be sure to check out our other posts on how to be proactive about career growth and learning, as well as how to use your analytical skills to improve strategic outcomes for your company. Best of luck in your interviews!Want to know if we have roles that might fit your experience? You’re welcome to connect with us.

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