Preparing for data science interviews with a coach

By Rachel Williams on February 4, 2021


Have you recently been invited for a data science interview? If so, congratulations! You’re probably wondering how best to prepare for the interview. We have some tips and ideas below on how to get coaching to maximize your chances of success.

Get feedback from online communities

Communities like the Phase AI discussion board and Reddit’s /r/datascience provide access to people who have already gone through these sorts of interviews.

A good place to start is asking these communities if they have advice around the specific role you’re applying for. Post your questions about the interview process, or ask about questions that may come up, and use the feedback you get to structure your own preparation.

Sometimes, the recruiter or hiring manager guiding you through your interviews can also provide links to resources or feedback. It certainly never hurts to ask them for feedback or even to have them do a mock interview with you; the worst that will happen is they will say “no”.

Finally, Glassdoor might also have examples of interview questions for your specific company and position.

Roleplay with a friend (mock interviews)

I personally consider roleplaying to be the best way to prepare for interviews. You can do this with a professional coach or a friend – this is a great way to focus on specific components of the interview that you are most worried about.

The most important aspect to roleplaying is to practice and think on your feet. If you do not have a technical roleplaying partner, this is okay – quite a few of the people interviewing you won’t be technical either. The most important part is to learn how to present to people concisely, how to think on your feet, and how to deal with surprises. Ensure your roleplaying partner knows this and throws a few curve balls your way.

Here are a few specific tips to make a roleplay work well:

  • Confirm a specific setting with your partner – is this a technical interview, or a general introduction? Pick a specific company and ensure your roleplaying partner is tough on you, challenging you and throwing surprises your way.
  • Give your interviewer a list of questions or ideas to focus on, but make sure there are enough that you don’t know the specific script they will go down. The point is to learn how to think on your feet, so you should not be able to predict what they will ask.
  • Have your partner time how long your responses are. Unless you have a very specific whiteboarding exercise or technical deep dive, try to avoid taking more than 4 minutes per question. Ideally, tell your story in 1 or 2 minutes.

Work with a professional coach

So far, we’ve discussed options that are generally free (though maybe treat your roleplaying partner to a meal!). A new trend in data science interviewing is to work with a professional coach. These come in two flavors: (1) people who have gone through the specific interview you’re going through, or (2) professional coaches to do a full assessment of your skills and help you prepare for an interview.

Working with a professional coach can be expensive, ranging from $200 or $300 per hour of coaching/advice, to significantly more if you work with the coach over multiple sessions.

The benefits of a coaching are that most have deep experience in the subject area they are coaching; they have also seen numerous candidates, so can often benchmark you against what they have seen elsewhere.

If you do work with a coach, we recommend coming to the coach with a clear plan on (a) what you need feedback on, and (b) how to structure the relationship. This will ensure your money is well-spent and the feedback is targeted to the things you need to work on.

We generally recommend using a coach for the following:

  • Resume and LinkedIn profile reviews to ensure you pass early screening filters
  • Technical interviews that require subject matter expertise (which the coach should have)
  • Take-home tests where you can run a full session with the coach to ensure that you can pass
  • Executive presentation to get feedback on your communication style, presentation, and approach

Phase AI coaching for interviews

Phase AI is happy to provide a custom-built coaching plan for you, depending on which part of the interview process you’re looking to improve.

Submit the form below to get a customized coaching quote and plan.

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