Bill is an aspiring data scientist. Bill applied online. Bill wasn’t getting any responses. Bill completed some online courses. Bill worked on projects and built a portfolio. Bill reached out to his network. Bill looked for referrals. Bill finally got an interview with a top company.
Bill researched everything about the company. Bill prepared for all sorts of technical questions. Bill aced the interview. Bill’s smart. Bill left no stone unturned. But when asked if he’s got any questions, Bill says he’s got none.
I’ve been on both ends. I have taken interviews as well as attended interviews as a candidate. I have helped students secure data science internships, and I’ve mentored a few aspiring data scientists. And in all of these experiences, I kept seeing this happen quite often and decided to write this down.
Now don’t get me wrong, you won’t get rejected just because you didn’t ask questions. But don’t you want to maximize your chances? You’ve done everything right; why don’t you do this right too? And these are simple things everybody can master.
Never say you’ve got no questions.
Why Ask Questions
They have been evaluating you all along. They asked you for technical questions. Chances are, they might even have handed you a take-home assignment. Shouldn’t you evaluate them too?
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t it the other way round?
Let me explain: interviews are opportunities for potential employers and potential candidates to evaluate each other to see if they’re a good fit to work on the same goals.
As the interview comes to a close, they’ve done their part. Now it’s time to do yours. They would likely ask you if you’ve got any questions. Be prepared with these three questions, and you’ll be well and good.
1. Show Genuine Interest
Don’t just showcase interest, be genuinely interested. An experienced interviewer can see through you. There’s not enough time to go through the interview when you’re not interested in the company anyway.
Question: What are some of the interesting data science problems you guys are currently working on?
Alternative Questions: What is your favorite thing about working for the company? I saw on your website you’ve worked on Reinforcement Learning. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
I don’t know about you, but I am curious to know what my future company is working on. The data science field is broad, and most companies work in certain niches. Many problems are waiting to be solved using data and algorithms; which ones are you getting your hands on?
As an interviewer, we want to hire someone competent enough and someone interested in our work. I want everyone in my team to enjoy the work, and I’m sure it’s the case in most companies.
As I earlier said, you don’t need to stick to the exact question. Start with showing you interest in the work they do. Be curious and let them see through you.
2. Evaluate The Opportunity
Assess the opportunity, how good of a match would they be for you. You’d rather do this now than to be disappointed after you join.
Question: In terms of your data science tech stack, what are the languages, frameworks you guys mostly use?
Alternative Questions: Which Cloud platform do you use the most? How are you adopting work from home practices?
Nobody knows every single framework in machine learning. Not even the experts in the industry know. They have mastered a few over time and stick to them. As you step into a new opportunity, you would want to know which technologies the team uses. This helps you identify if you’d be a good fit or even give you the time to get familiar with these technologies soon.
You’ve already heard about the problems they work on, and now with this question, you’ll know what they use. Sooner or later, these will help you make your mind about the company's compatibility for you.
3. Exhibit Your Confidence
This one’s a game-changer.
They’re going to discuss and make a call right after you leave the room. If you’ve done well in your interview, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be confident. Interviewers love confident candidates all the time. Leave them wow-ed at your confidence.
Question: Suppose I am recruited and joining your team; what would I do on a typical day?
Alternative Question: Suppose I am recruited and joining your team; what problems would I be working on?
“Suppose I am recruited," showcases your confidence, which many won’t have. Trust me on this; very few show this kind of confidence during interviews, which helps you stand out in their minds as they decide the next steps for you. Besides, you also get a better understanding of what is expected of you directly from them before you join. That’s the whole point of questions.
You only need to understand these 3 ideas where the questions are coming from. Don’t script your questions but use this as a framework to find the best questions to suit your style and nature. I recommend keeping the questions to 3, which is just enough.
If you’ve got more questions regarding compensations and whatnot, keep them for your chat with the HR/recruiter. Most technical interviewers can’t give you concrete answers to admin related questions, and you’re better off asking them directly from the HR/recruiter.
In the end, there’s a lot of factors that go into whether you’re offered a role or not. As a candidate, you should only try to perform your best, and then it’s a matter of time till you get the right offer.
This article is a part of my series on Career Guidance for Aspiring Data Scientists:
- Your Data Science Journey Kickstarts Here
- How to Secure Your First Data Science Internship
- How to Get Yourself a Mentor in Data Science
- This 3 Step Approach Can Transform Your Data Science Journey
- 3 Captivating Questions to Ask at End of Your Data Science Interview
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing this for you. I would love to hear your thoughts and what worked for you and what didn’t. Looking forward to connecting with you!