Top 5 Questions to Spot Exceptional Data Analysts

Clare Anderson
01st July 2020

You don’t need us to tell you why Data Analysts are an invaluable resource - or why every business should have them. Data on its own is merely facts and figures. Data Analysts organise, interpret, structure and present this data in meaningful and useful ways that add value to your business. You know that the numbers and figures they present enable you to make decisions on customer trends and behaviour prediction, increase business productivity and profitability, drive effective decision making and help you reach your organisational goals.

 

But what are the game-changing, out-the-box, extraordinary questions you should ask candidates in an interview to ensure you snag the best talent? What areas are going to shed light on exceptional skills and reveal something beyond the bog-standard ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses?’ or ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ 

 

Here’s our Top Five Questions to ask in an interview:

 

1. TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO EXPLAIN HOW YOU WOULD ESTIMATE HOW MANY SHOES COULD POTENTIALLY BE SOLD IN SYDNEY EACH JUNE.

This question will allow you to see a Data Analyst’s thought processes without the aid of a computer or data sets.  After all, technology is only as good and reliable as the people behind it. And it will immediately highlight their instinctive problem-solving abilities.

What to look for in an answer:

  • ability to identify variables/data segments 
  • ability to communicate thought process
  • creativity 

Example answer: "First, I would gather data on how many people live in Sydney, how many tourists visit in June and the average length of stay. I'd break down the numbers by age, gender and income, and find the numbers on how many shoes they may already have. I'd also figure out why they might need new shoes and what would motivate them to buy."

 

2. WHAT ARE YOUR COMMUNICATION STRENGTHS?

OK, this may sound like one of the more run-of-the-mill interview questions - everyone wants good communicators on their team - right? However effective communication is particularly important in a Data Analyst role as they need to successfully present their findings and collaborate with teams. 

 

   What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to break-down and present unfamiliar and complex information in an easy-to-understand format
  • Emotional intelligence and social skills

Example answer: "My greatest communication strength would have to be my ability to relay information. I'm good at speaking in a simple, yet effective manner so that even people who aren't familiar with the terms can grasp the overall concepts. I think communication is extremely valuable in a role like this, specifically when presenting my findings. This is even more important when those findings could be beneficial or detrimental to other departments within the company and you need to make sure that everyone understands the overall message."

 

3. TELL ME ABOUT A TIME WHEN YOU WERE INNOVATIVE?

If the Data Analyst can demonstrate they’re innovative you can be pretty sure they’ll be a valuable and lasting asset to your business. Graduates won’t have much in the way of work experience so drawing on extracurricular activities, university studies, etc is fine. 

 

What to look for in an answer:

  • Confidence and initiative
  • Motivation to identify where things can be improved and then acted on
  • Working successfully with a team

Example answer: "In my final year at uni I had a part-time job in our student canteen. I noticed that very few people visited during the week - it was only ever really busy over weekends. I went to the Manager and suggested we introduce a new student-only weekday meal deal, alongside a loyalty card scheme. He loved the idea and asked me to work with the other canteen staff to market and promote the deal across campus. It lead to a 50% increase in repeat custom."

 

4. PLEASE TALK ABOUT A TIME WHEN YOU COULD NOT MEET A DEADLINE.

How stressful situations are handled is key. You’re looking for a Data Analyst who can anticipate when a deadline is not going to work - and - importantly - find a solution. Past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour.

 

What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to see the big picture
  • Decisiveness and proactiveness
  • Answers that do not blame others

Example answer: "At X Company, my team was having a hard time finding data from certain sources to do an environmental impact study. I contacted the client and explained why we were struggling and what we were doing to remedy the problem. It was still relatively early in the process, so I was able to get a one-week extension."

 

5. WHY DID YOU GO INTO DATA ANALYSIS?

This question is a good way to get to know candidates as people. It can serve as an icebreaker at the beginning of an interview or, if it comes at the end, as a gentle way to bring your questioning to a close.

 

What to look for in an answer:

  • Focused replies
  • Personality
  • Specifics

Example answer: "When I was 10, I wanted to do a paper route to get money for a class trip. My dad said no. I took it upon myself to give him a report on how much I would earn, how long it would take and why the trade-offs such as not being able to sleep in were worth it. That process led me to fall in love with data analysis."

 

Are you sold on the idea of having an offshore Data Analyst working in your business? Well, now's the time to download our eBook '30 Essential Questions to Ask a Provider Before You Outsource’. It will ensure you're informed and armed with the right questions to ask prospective outsourcing providers.

 

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