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How to Prepare for Data Scientist Interview Presentations

February 20, 2017

This post is contributed by Burtch Works’ analytics recruiting team.

As the use of analytics in business continues to expand, there is an increasing demand for professionals who can bridge the gap between hands-on statistics and business strategy. It is becoming more important that quantitative experts are adept at explaining their findings to a non-technical audience, framing them in a way that addresses business concerns.Employers want to hire analytics professionals that can not only be directly involved with the data, but who can also explain to senior leadership or the marketing team why the latest business initiative is underperforming without the need for a technical jargon liaison. Strong analytical chops are still crucial to getting your resume in front of the right people, but being a whiz at presentations and descriptions in addition to technical skill will get you noticed during the interview phase.What does this mean for you? With many companies incorporating some form of presentation as part of their interview process, here is our advice for how to dazzle your interviewers with your knowledge:

Before the presentation:

  1. Ask for guidelines and timeframe – Who will you be presenting to? How long is the presentation expected to be? Knowing who you’ll be presenting to can help you judge which data and insights to include, and incorporate specific examples tailored to your audience. Having a timeframe will help you plan your presentation length, as well as allocate time to answer questions at the end.
  1. Practice your presentation – Sounds self-explanatory, right? However, if you’re in the middle of a big work project or juggling multiple interviews it can be tempting to eschew practice. While you don’t want to sound like a script-spouting robot, setting aside an hour to organize what you’d like to say can make a big difference.
  1. Anticipate & prepare for questions – Another benefit to practicing your presentation is that it allows you to anticipate areas where your audience might have further questions, and to prepare further details and data that you can provide. Make sure you are familiar with the company you’re presenting to and what type of analytics they use, and present insights that are relevant to their business.

During/after the presentation:

  1. Balancing technical and non-technical is key – Try to strike a balance between technical, statistical details and more business-focused insights. Obviously you want to demonstrate that you know your R from your SQL, but try not to get so deep into the technical aspects that you miss the bigger picture.Focus your presentation on what the insights you’re providing mean to the business, and offer a suggested course of action based on those insights. While you should aim to be relatively concise, it’s important to address any questions along the way so that you can further clarify if necessary.
  1. Be aware of your audience – It can be easy to get caught up in the details of statistical methodologies, techniques, tools, etc., since this is what your day-to-day work encompasses, but it’s important to be in touch with who you’re speaking with, and to tailor your presentation accordingly. Are you presenting to your manager? Or to non-technical business stakeholders? If you seem to be losing your audience, you may need to adjust your approach.
  1. Ask for feedback – If you don’t end up getting a job offer, ask your interviewers for feedback so that you can improve your approach for next time. It can be tough to hear critical feedback, but your future presentations will be that much stronger for it!

Also worth mentioning, though it’s not quite presentation related, is the importance of sending thank you notes after interviews. Sending a personalized email to each person that you speak with gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the position, and is an expected courtesy.With analytics moving from the back room to the board room, most of the job seekers we work with will have to give some form of presentation during their interviews. Business acumen, or the ability to apply your analytical knowledge to business questions, is the most in-demand skill we hear employers ask about.What do your findings mean for the business? What should the company do next? These are the questions that companies want answered, and if you can demonstrate an ability to come to the table with explanations and solutions, then you’re sure to stand out.

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