10 Interview Questions and Answers You Need to Know to Get a Big Data Job

By Jason Williamson

Know the corporate culture before you interview for a big data job. They’re likely probing for cultural fit as much as they are for competency. There are a few things you can do to get insight into corporate culture:

  • Check out the company’s Careers page.

  • Read the About Us page.

  • Read sites like Vault or Glassdoor, which has former and current employees post what it’s like to work there.

Can you tell me about yourself?

This open-ended question is sometimes used as an icebreaker. It’s your opportunity to set the pace and make a good first impression.

Here are some ways not to respond to this question:

  • Don’t say, “That’s a great question” or “Thanks for asking that.”

  • Don’t start with your life story.

  • Don’t recite your résumé.

Here are some strategies to employ when answering this question:

  • Start strong. Think of a strong opening statement that establishes who you are and the value you can provide.

  • Focus on the attributes and qualities you want them to know about.

What are your goals?

This is the most important question — the one you must have an excellent answer for.

Employers want people who are results oriented. It can be a bonus if your career goals fit the mission of the company you’re applying to. Avoid discussing goals that are only about you and how the job will benefit you. You want to show how you provide value to the company.

Here are a few example answers:

  • I want to be a part of a high-growth company.

  • Within three years, I’d like to help a company IPO.

  • Within five years, I’d like to be leading a team of big data professionals.

Why do you want to work here?

Your answer to this question can quickly show that you know the business and can contribute. Connect why you want to work there with how you’re going to make it successful. Be specific. For example, if you’re working for a big data product company that makes visualization software using Java and Hadoop, connect your programming ability to deliver software quickly and get to sales faster.

Use positive phrases like I can and I will rather than hypothetical phrases like I could or I would.

Why should we hire you?

Show your knowledge of the firm and why you’re the perfect fit.

This question is a great one to insert the answer to the question you wished they would have asked you but didn’t. Mention some of the positives that haven’t come up yet. Make sure you show a real desire to work at the company.

Why do you want to leave your current job?

If you currently have a job or you’re new to the job market, make your answer to this question about personal and professional growth. This is an open-ended question that allows you to reveal positive traits about yourself.

If you don’t have a job, don’t worry! Stay positive, and make it a part of your story. Pivot to how you’ve been preparing for the next stage in life, something beyond just looking for a new position.

Can you give me an example of a time when you had to make a decision with limited information?

This question reveals a lot about how you make choices. This is your chance to tell how you manage the risks and benefits of your choice. Prepare an answer that illustrates your leadership as well as your ability to make the tough choice.

Whenever you get a question with “Tell me about a time . . .” or “Give me an example of . . .”, be very specific about your role in the answer. Our culture promotes teamwork, so answers tend to have a lot of wes. Ditch the use of we.

How do others view you?

This question gives you a chance to focus on one or two strengths about you. You should go for two good attributes that are in high demand for the role and the culture of the firm. Focus on attributes like loyalty, leadership, and dependability. Some interviewers will throw this at you in the beginning with a follow-up question asking for specific references and if your references can be contacted.

Can you tell me about a time when you made a mistake?

Questions like this are not intended to reveal your weaknesses. Instead, they’re designed to see how you react to problems. Are you accountable? How did you fix the problem you created? Can you tell a story that shows how you built additional trust with your client/customer/boss because of the way you handled the situation?

Most of the time, your answers need to be recent to maintain credibility, but this is an example where it’s okay for the mistake to be a long time ago. This shows that even though you’ve made mistakes, it may have been a while ago and you’ve learned from them.

Can you tell me about some of your accomplishments?

Make sure you answer this question with a very recent answer. Candidates who don’t have accomplishments in the past year are suspect. Keep it professional and focus on something that can be tied to a measurable impact.

Don’t underwhelm the interviewer with your response. Do make sure you have supporting data — cost savings, time savings, added revenue, a big client landed, and so on.

Have you ever disagreed with your boss? If so, how did you handle it?

How you handle this question shows how you handle both conflict and differing ideas. Make sure you come up with an example for this question. Don’t say you can’t recall a time of conflict or when you wanted to take a different course from your boss. Instead, come up with an issue that’s quite minor. Focus on the framework you used to come to a resolution.