The Top 10 Questions For A Data Scientist

Are you interviewing for a data scientist position? Here are the top 10 questions to ask


Many companies are going to use 2015 as the year in which to launch their data science programmes. Many more are moving beyond the one man team that they may have had up until this point.

Below we have earmarked the 10 most important questions to ask, and why: 

1. What do you do outside of work?

2. What hobbies do you have?

3. What do you think is the best way to help a work-mate?

A key to hiring the right person is not just about what skills they have and how they can use them for you, but about how they will fit into your company and how they will work with others already there. This could be anything from having a sense of humour to being able to accept direction and give help when needed.

4. What resources do you use to keep up with the latest data trends?

5. Which trends that we are currently seeing are going to have a lasting impact on how we use data?

Another key aspect to investigate through these questions is how proactive they are in learning around new trends within the industry and how they will adapt to the fast paced evolution of data science and the data landscape.

The best answers to these will require a certain knowledge of the potential answers by the interviewer. These are constantly changing and the best resource for one particular aspect of a role may be less useful for another. Knowing the potential answers in advance and knowing which is the most relevant to the company is what will make the best candidate. 

6. In a perfect world, what would be the ideal data ecosystem for you to use?

7. Do you think that the best results can be attained from Hadoop alone?

8. When does siloing data make sense?

There also needs to be some technical questions that are not simply ‘do you how to use a certain technology’. These questions allow the candidate to elaborate on the skills they have and the breadth of their knowledge around the technological aspects of the role.

They are also important for the company that are recruiting as they can review whether the specifications being set out are achievable or whether they fit with what is already at the company. It is also important to discuss how data is being stored and accessed, as this will undoubtedly be the main activity for most data scientists.

9. You find that company data has been accidentally leaked online, if you report it, it will hurt the company, but you can easily cover up the missing data and nobody will know, which do you do and why?

10. From the research you have done on the company, what do you think your work would contribute towards?

These questions have two purposes, integrity and wider business knowledge.

Part of being a data scientist is always going to be maintaining the integrity of the data you hold and taking the responsibility of its safety seriously.

Through giving a question that poses a moral question as well as a wider business impact, it means that they are forced to consider it from two perspectives. They need to say more than just ‘it is the right thing to report it’, question 9 should also make them respond to the wider business implications on reputation etc, that lost data can create.

In addition to that question 10 looks at how much preparation they have done for the interview and also to look at their overall business acumen. This should give a strong indication of both work ethic and how they would approach the role.

These questions should be used as guide and create the basis of any interview. Each company will be looking for a different type of person who will work best within their team and because of this, those interviewing should be preparing what they want to hear in advance, to make sure that they are looking out for the best answers for them. 


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