So to start off 2018 I’m in the position again of interviewing people, or at least being part of the process. Previously I was interviewing for interns for a statistics based role (maybe a data scientist?), and that was quite an interesting experience. From interviewing and meeting students, to going through the internship period where I was the mentor and basically in charge of an intern, I learned a lot. Mostly that interns really don’t know much and 3 months isn’t really enough time to make use of them.
So once again I found myself preparing an interview process for a Data Scientist role. In my current role I do quite a bit of what people would call Data Science, but I also don’t have a solid foundation on which my experience is built. I’ve done quite a decent amount of maths, but mostly focused on calculus, as that is the tool engineers use most. But I did take a pure maths probability class, along with a statistics class which gave me an inkling of education in that realm.
What sort of skills are you looking for?
Problem solving For me, one of the most important skills is to look for somebody who can learn and figure stuff out on their own. This will involve setting up own laptop, to reading papers and implementing algorithms. I’m always optimistic that this is a skill taught in university degrees. From a STEM background, this boils down to being the scientific process.
Knowing the balance This skill is a bit trickier, knowing when to stop and move on is really difficult to gauge. In academia it’s the opposite mindset, you spend as long as you want to dig deep into something and present your results. Whereas in industry, digging not so deep and having something that is 80% usable within a short time frame is very valuable. This is all part of the iteration process.
Communication The technical task I give involves completing the task, and then presenting it. I don’t specifically state how to present it as a quick test to see how each candidate normally does it. There really is no right or wrong answer, it’s just to see if people reach for a formatted pdf, or just straight up raw code in a text document. Communication within a small company is very important because of how quickly ideas move around, and everybody has a different level of comfortable communication.
These are the main things I think of when designing a task, usually something that mirrors a day to day task, but quite open ended to see how the process works out. The task is usually quite simple, and I tell them to take no longer than 2h on it.
But for me, this time around it’s much more difficult to assess which is the right candidate. That’ll be another blog post.