10 Data Scientist Job Interview Questions

July 1st, 2014

As a data scientist, your contributions as a strategy expert are invaluable regardless of your business or industry. Data science enables companies to plan and operate more intelligently and thus, more successfully.

What can you expect from your next data scientist interview and what types of questions will you be asked?

How to Prepare

Research both the company and the position before you set foot in an interview room. Since the field of data science is so broad, be sure you understand the type of work you may be expected to do and what kind of data you’d be working with.

  • Familiarize yourself with the product. Interviewers will likely ask you data-related questions about projects they are currently working on or plan to embark upon in the near future.
  • Study the job description. The specific type of position will heavily influence what kind of questions you’ll get. If you’ll be designing and interpreting experiments to test product variants, expect questions on A/B testing, metrics, and how to best evaluate results. If the job involves deep diving to understand how consumers use products, anticipate interviewers testing your ability to carry a project from start to finish and effectively communicate your findings. If you’ll be developing product features, you may get a traditional software engineering interview with an emphasis on processing large amounts of data, or you may be asked about your previous experience solving large-scale, difficult and custom data problems.

Sample Questions

After you better understand the role, you can think about the various types of questions that you may be asked during your interview. Expect them to be open ended and based on intuition, specialized experience and past behavior.

Here are 10 possibilities to kick start your thought process:

  1. What is the biggest data set that you’ve processed, how did you process it and what were the results?
  2. Tell me about an analytic or computer science project that you successfully led. How was lift measured?
  3. What is your favorite programming language (or vendor)? Why?
  4. Tell me three things positive and three things negative about your favorite statistical software.
  5. You’re about to send one million emails for a marketing campaign. How do you optimize delivery? Response? Can you optimize both separately? (Hint: Not really!)
  6. Is it better to have 100 small hash tables or one big hash table, in memory, in terms of access speed? What do you think about in-database analytics?
  7. Do you think 50 small decision trees are better than a single large one? Why or why not?
  8. How would you build non parametric confidence intervals, for instance, for scores?
  9. When is it better to write your own code than use a data science software package?
  10. Are you a lone coder, a production developer or a designer/architect?

By working with a niche recruiting firm, you can partner with a career coach who will take you through your data science job search and interviews step by step – and work with you as you make your final decision and negotiate the best offer. Read our related posts or contact the data scientist recruiting team at Select Group, Inc., to learn more.

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