Top 15 learnings from interviewing hundreds of big data professionals

Top 15 learnings from interviewing hundreds of big data professionals for service and consulting organizations for 10 years and having attended a few.

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For Interviewee

  1. Make 2 things explicit in your CV

There are more than 100 big data open-source projects, unfortunately, you have can’t avoid adding as many projects as possible so your CV gets picked (SEO keyword optimization). In service organizations panels would be taking interviews every day so they would hardly spend time reviewing your CV thoroughly, they will probably read the first page of the CV for 10 seconds and then move on,

So make two things very explicit on the first page of your CV

A) What is your core experience or the technology that you worked in the last 3 years, ideally, it should match with the job description,

B) What is the impact you made — the lesser the experience list technical outcomes, the higher the experience list business outcomes.

and go add all other skills or graphics or visualization no one cares really, it’s the 10 seconds and the first page that matters.

2. Have clarity about the role you want to work

Many of the professionals apply for data engineering positions but give responses such as I am certified in Data Science / Machine Learning from XYZ university I am very much interested I have done this PoC and that PoC. I can work on data engineering or I can work on data science I would be interested in data science. this is an absolute no-no. If you want to work as a data scientist don’t apply for data engineering jobs.

Be very clear about the role you applied for.

3. Bring the best version of yourself to the discussion

Interview panels are pressed for time, they spend time away from their family on weekend drives, respect their time, and yours as well. Don’t use them for mock interviews. If you planning to attend interviews make sure you are well prepared on your primary skills or core experience. It will help to brush up on your theoretical knowledge even if you have a lot of work experience.

4. Don’t give long winding answers

This happens more with experience folks, the more experience the more convoluted responses you get. If you don’t know, you don’t know. Not everyone knows everything and a good interviewer doesn’t judge the candidate on one thing. If you don’t know the answer best way would be to say I don’t know but there is another parallel situation where things are done this way. A concrete example would be for the question have you worked on Azure — a better answer would be, No I didn’t but given experience in AWS I would scale up on other clouds faster.

5. No questions are stupid or junior level

Once I have asked a question to an architect that irked him and he shot back at me asking what level of the interview is this, is this role for juniors or architects. From that day whenever I ask basic questions, I start with “pardon me for asking basic questions”. The question that irked the senior professionals was what will happen when you run “hadoop fs -ls” command, majority of the time people had no clue except saying it lists the files. Again this one question will not make or break the interview but if you are an architect you should know this in detail, have clarity on fundamentals more than less experienced engineers.

6. Develop Solutioning skills

The more experienced you are the more you will be asked to give solutions for requirements and no solution is good or bad, these questions are given to look at your thought process. if you are an experienced professionals start developing mental models and thinking in patterns for solving requirements. You do this by reading case studies, reference architectures, and blogs.

For Interviewer

7. You don’t know everything

Don’t pick candidates on just one thing that you implemented in your project, had the highest votes on StackOverflow, and expect every candidate to know that problem and solution. You don’t need to know everything or the candidate, you shouldn’t be judging a candidate on one question alone.

8. Treat the interviewee with respect

Interviewing doesn’t mean you have to disrespect if the candidate doesn’t know something. Don’t be arrogant or show an attitude towards the candidate. It’s no place to show your knowledge or prove that you are the best, it’s to have a mutually respectful discussion to see if the candidate can fit for a role that you have.

9. Test the depth of candidate knowledge

But don’t reject if he/she cant respond at some level, use that to get a sense of how depth can candidate can go that gives away his ability and attitude to know the things and not just copy/paste StackOverflow solution.
Early in my career, I was tested to such a depth, I finally have to say I don’t know the answer to avoid going to the next level and that was one of the best discussions I had. The interviewer knows that I did it on purpose but he selected me anyway.

10. Provide feedback only if the candidate asks

Don’t give general feedback, most of the candidates know what they lack, provide feedback only if asked and be specific.

For Recruiters

11. Ask checklist from the hiring manager

It helps to know the questions and expected answer. Get to know about the technology a bit, Trust me it will help you a ton of time in getting quality profiles. Also, talk to candidates tell them what is expected of them from the interview, what kind of technical questions will be asked, prep them to get prepared to show their best version in the interview.

12. Don’t ignore profiles that don’t have all search criteria Or SEO keywords, on multiple occasions, I have seen the greater clarity in the CV, the more specific it is, the less number of tech stack the better candidate is.

13. Insist on having must have and good to have skills from hiring manager there are hundreds of tools no one will know everything

For hiring managers

14. Have clarity in the job description

Don’t just copy and paste from job boards, yes do use it as a base template but refine it, the more clarity you provide the better profiles recruitment teams can screen for you

15. Don’t expect superheroes who can do everything

We need to have a candidate who knows microservices, worked on all public clouds, knows big data, can talk to stakeholders, and is great at solutioning, develop the best infrastructure and security standards. you will wait forever and even when you find one why would they come and join you. Have clarity on what is a must and what is added advantage and look for learnability in the candidate and go with it.

PS: The longest CV I have seen a CV had 83 pages :-) don’t know if others have similar experience.

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