Advice from Sandy Steiger, Director of the Center for Analytics and Data Science
Who would encounter this type of interview?
Anyone interested in a career in analytics or data science should sign up for a mock interview. If you like data and numbers and pulling out meaning from those numbers, this session is for you.
I’ve worked with so many different backgrounds in my career (for reference, I’ve been in the analytics/data science field for over 15 years), it seems like I’ve hired analysts across a wide range of majors. They traditional Statistics, Mathematics, Data Science, Analytics, and Economic majors should definitely sign up, but if you are a Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, Computer Science, Software Engineer major – you could benefit from this experience too!
Why is it beneficial to do a mock interview before heading into the real thing?
PRACTICE! You can never do too much preparing. Mock interviews are a great way to get rid of the nerves, to be thrown some curve ball questions and learn to think on your feet. They provide you an opportunity to practice answering technical questions with someone who understands the answers and can coach you on how to answer more simply (should you need that help). Plus, maybe you’ll be asked a few zingers that leave you with something new to research/learn.
What interviewing skills have you seen (or do you think) students struggle with the most?
When you are applying to a technical job, be prepared to give technical answers. A lot of students prepare for behavioral interviews, and when they are asked a more technical question in an interview they freeze and don’t know how to respond. Practice talking about technical concepts in layman’s terms. Frankly, when I was interviewing for open data science roles if a candidate wasn’t able to succinctly answer my questions in an easy to understand way, I often passed on them.
What specific advice do you have for students who encounter a data/analytics component in their interview?
Be prepared to go into detail about EVERYTHING on your resume. If you mention Bayesian Statistics you need to have a real concise, clear way of explaining it to an interviewer. Also, it’s okay to say you don’t know something. But, follow up an “Unfortunately I’m not familiar with that” with something like “In the past when I’ve been asked to use a technique I’ve never used before, I approach the problem by…” and go into detail on how you take initiative to learn new things. Interviewers want to know what you know, and what you don’t know – be honest about your skills but don’t sell yourself short. If you are a quick learning, someone who is always curious, share this with the interviewer through anecdotes.