BBVA ignores interview route in new approach to talent discovery

Datathon replaces interviews as Spanish bank takes a fresh approach to discovering the next generation of data scientists


Spanish banking giant BBVA is attempting to sort the rough from the smooth in respect to analytics talent by replacing traditional interview processes with datathons, through which the best young applicants will be offered places on BBVA's Young Data Professionals program.

The Young Data Professionals program targets both science and engineering undergraduate students, as well as graduate students pursuing a master's degree in big data or AI.

Approximate 1,000 applications were received for the most recent datathon, which was whittled down to 60 candidates via a preliminary screening process. The datathon, which was held in Spain and lasted for a full working day, tested the technical knowledge of the candidates, as well as their communication, teamwork and leadership skills.

Candidates performed a data analysis, defining an analytical model to solve a specific problem, connecting their workings to a practical business use case that could be extrapolated to the bank.

Ophélie Richard, head of the talent acquisition at BBVA, explained: "The purpose of the datathon is to identify candidates capable of translating business questions into analytical problems, to come up with data-based solutions using programming and visualization software."

The bank has been attempting to fill 2,000 advanced analyst roles, 800 of which will be data scientists, by the end of 2021. Along with its Young Data Professionals program, BBVA will also look for talent through in-house training programs and acquisitions.

"By replacing traditional interviews with a datathon, we are able to make the whole process more appealing for candidates, while offering them a glimpse of the kind of work they would be doing at BBVA," Richard added. "This format also allows recruiters to judge how candidates behave when taking on challenges that force them to step out of their comfort zone and work as part of a team."

Marco Bonilla, who is responsible for BBVA Advanced Analytics Community of Practice, explained that successful candidates would collaborate with different business areas over a one-year period, as they work in "the implementation of advanced analytics models in real-life use cases".

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