Questions to Ask When Considering Hiring an Unemployed Data Scientist

February 26th, 2016

The economic recession has been over for a while now. At the same time, the demand for qualified data scientists continues to be strong. Shouldn’t all the most talented data pros be working?

The answer is: Probably. But for every rule, there is at least one exception. The bottom line for your talent management success is you need to hire the person who will add the most value to your organization. So whether or not a candidate is currently working elsewhere, deep dive and look for any clues about how well they might perform in a future role.


Don’t automatically disregard an unemployed data scientist candidate. Find out:

  • The reason they are not working: Ask them why their last job ended. If they were dismissed for poor performance, this a clear red flag, as opposed to a person whose employer made a decision to downsize or consolidate functions. If a candidate emerges as your top choice, verify their answers by speaking with their former supervisor.
  • What they’ve been doing during their unemployment: A prospective employee who has used their unemployment period to accomplish something meaningful is a stronger candidate. Find out if they have used their free time to upgrade their skills, cultivate their networks, do relevant volunteer work or learn about a new field or industry.

What to Ask

Here’s a sample of interview questions to help you make the right candidate selection:

  • How did you become interested in data science?
  • What was the most recent conference, webinar or other training that you completed?
  • What is the most recent programming skill you acquired?
  • Give a few examples of best practices in data science.
  • What is your favorite programming language? Vendor?
  • What is the biggest data set you processed and how did you do it? What were the results?
  • How do you handle missing data? What imputation techniques would you recommend?
  • How would you turn unstructured data into structured data?
  • When is it better to write your own code than to use a software package?
  • Which tools do you use for visualization?
  • What are the drawbacks of an efficiency curve and how can they be overcome?
  • How does a recommendation engine work?

When strategizing to hire the best data science talent, turn to the experienced recruiters and account managers at the Select Group, Inc. We are extremely selective in the candidates we provide as we unite top companies with premier data pros. Contact us today to learn more.

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