QUESTIONS FOR RECRUITERS: My First Job Interview, How Do I Prepare?

Yes, statisticians are in demand, so if you have a degree in statistics your chances are good of finding a job, even in this economy. But, how do you prepare for the interview?

We found three recruiters from three industries and asked them to tell us.

Lyn AdkinsName: Lyn Adkins
Job Title: Talent Acquisition Specialist
Business: R&D

 
 
 

What kind of statistician do you typically hire? Do you hire fresh graduates?

Yes, we do hire recent graduates with a master’s or PhD (mostly PhD). We hire statisticians who have a statistics background combined with a programming background.

What are the job titles you use to attract recent graduates?

Research statistician developer

PROCESS

How do you initially screen applicants?

All applicants have to apply online. They are initially screened by the recruiter.

Does your company use an automated applicant tracking system?

Yes.

What approach do you recommend applicants take to improve their chances of nabbing an interview?

Having their technical skills specifically outlined in their résumé. If the job posting has specific skills listed, make sure they are listed in the résumé. Our positions are specialized, and about 95% of our candidates send in generic résumés and don’t tailor their résumé to that specific job posting; candidates don’t make an effort to bring out their strengths, which sends a message that they aren’t thinking about the position, but just trying to get in the door.

RÉSUMÉ

What do you expect to see on a résumé?

That the experience is clearly outlined. Technical skills are included. Detail of projects—résumé does not have to be one page.

Is a GPA important?

We routinely see very high GPAs. Many of our applicants have a 4.0, but a high GPA doesn’t necessarily translate into a strong candidate; the candidate must have strong communication skills.

What have you seen on résumés that should not be included?

Too much nonrelated personal activities. Also, to note: If you are writing a cover letter, make sure you have the correct employer listed :).

INTERVIEW

What is the best way a candidate can prepare for an interview?

To research the company, ability to articulate his/her responses. Also, the candidate needs to thoroughly read the job description, not just the history of the company. Do not talk too much about the company’s perks/benefits, such as the gym. Focus on the job itself.

Also, one of our managers gives what he calls the “pen test.” He will begin by telling the applicant about the position and who the team members are, where they reside, what they specifically focus on, etc. If the applicant does not pick up a pen and start taking notes, he has concern about this applicant’s interest in the position and the culture. Always take notes. For example, when the applicant is then taken to the next interview down the hall, he can share, “Hi, John Doe, it’s nice to meet you. I understand that your work is mainly focused on XYZ. …”

Can you recall an experience in which a job candidate impressed you during an interview? What was it that impressed you?

When someone begins taking notes, and when someone asks, “What are the characteristics of making an outstanding developer?”

RECRUITING

Where do you go to attract candidates?

Referrals, our career site, LinkedIn

ADVICE

What advice can you offer a first-time job candidate?

They need to be interviewing the company, too :).

    1. Work that is exciting and challenging and will keep them engaged; the nature of the work

    2. The caliber of people they will be working for

When an applicant asks these questions, then I know this candidate is really interested in this opportunity. Also, it is great when applicants ask about what distinguishes top performers from average performers.


 

Jason Bratton
Name: Jason Bratton
Job Title: Recruiting Manager
Business: Financial Services

 
 
 

What kind of statistician do you typically hire? Do you hire fresh graduates?

We hire all levels of statisticians, from fresh graduates through corporate leaders.

What are the job titles you use to attract recent graduates?

Statistician and senior statistician

PROCESS

How do you initially screen applicants?

We conduct a review of the résumé. We then have qualified candidates pass a series of online assessments. Next, candidates are given a phone interview. Finally, candidates are invited to an onsite interview.

Does your company use an automated applicant tracking system?

Yes, we definitely use an applicant tracking system.

What approach do you recommend applicants take to improve their chances of nabbing an interview?

Highlight your academic success and GPA. I would also suggest providing detailed information about internships, research work, teaching assistant roles, and professional work experience.

RÉSUMÉ

What do you expect to see on a résumé?

We like to see clean, concise résumés that clearly outline your experience and qualifications. We like to see bulleted lists that are quick and easy to read.

Is a GPA important?

GPA for our recent graduate candidates is very important. We have a minimum GPA requirement and typically do not consider candidates who withhold their GPA.

What have you seen on résumés that should not be included?

Pictures of themselves are not really necessary. Hobbies are also not of importance. Try to avoid lengthy paragraphs or run-on sentences to describe your experience and qualifications; stick to concise or bulleted statements.

INTERVIEW

What is the best way a candidate can prepare for an interview?

Research the company and its interview process. Work with your recruiter to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for each of the styles of interviews you’re going to have. Have job- and company-specific questions prepared.

Give me an example of a general question you ask during an interview, and tell me why you ask it.

Tell me why you’d like to work for our company. We’d like to understand what about our company interests you and to ensure you’re attracted to us, rather than just looking for a job. It also shows how prepared you are and how much you’ve researched our company.

Can you recall an experience in which a job candidate impressed you during an interview? What was it that impressed you?

Candidates who are prepared and have numerous examples of successes they’ve had, as well as when they’ve had to overcome challenges. This allows us to assess how they handle adversity.

Can you recall when a candidate made a horrible blunder during an interview?

Candidates have cursed on occasion, which is very unprofessional. We also have had candidates who have given up on our problemsolving interviews, which is not a good approach. We also don’t recommend speaking badly about a former employer, colleague, professor, or adviser.

Are there questions a candidate should be sure to ask during an interview?

Ask insightful questions that show you’re interested in the role and the company. Always have prepared questions. Ask job-specific questions.

Describe your ideal candidate, one you would consider hiring right away.

Our ideal candidate is well-rounded. We obviously want candidates who are great at statistics, model-building, and problemsolving, but we also want candidates who are great communicators, are great people and will mesh well with our corporate culture.

RECRUITING

Where do you go to attract candidates?

For our more senior candidates, we leverage networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn), job boards, and recruiting sites. For our more junior candidates, we recruit specifically from colleges and universities, as well as the Joint Statistical Meetings through the ASA. We also advertise in Amstat News.

ADVICE

What advice can you offer a first-time job candidate?

Be prepared. Know the company. Know the interview process. Ask great questions. Be enthusiastic. Be a great and clear communicator.

Anything else you would like first-time job candidates to know?

As much of an emphasis as we place on one’s statistical and problemsolving ability, we place an equal amount of emphasis on one’s ability to be able to convey statistical analysis and terminology to someone with no statistical background. Our statisticians work with our associates out in the business who may be an analyst or a project manager with no statistical education or background.

 

Logan MarshName: Logan Marsh
Job Title: Recruiter
Business: .com

 
 
 

What kind of statistician do you typically hire? Do you hire fresh graduates?

Probably 60% of statisticians/research/BI engineer candidates we hire in my group are fresh PhD graduates.

What are the job titles you use to attract recent graduates?

Research scientist, business intelligence engineer, analytics manager, machine learning scientist, principal research scientist

PROCESS

How do you initially screen applicants?

As the recruiter, I screen for relocation, compensation, and basic technical skills/statistics package knowledge. Then, the hiring team dives in to very in-depth technical phone screens and onsite interviews.

Does your company use an automated applicant tracking system?

We have an automated ATS, but 99% of these types of candidates are found via active/passive searches and networking.

What approach do you recommend applicants take to improve their chances of nabbing an interview?

Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, and if you have a résumé online, update it every 30–60 days to keep it fresh for searches.

RÉSUMÉ

What do you expect to see on a résumé?

Top schools, eCommerce experience, statistics/math educational background

Is a GPA important?

I look at it, but almost all of these candidates have very high GPAs, so it’s not as an important indicator for my teams. It’s more about their ability to apply the knowledge they have learned in school and industry.

What have you seen on résumés that should not be included?

Long summaries at the top of the résumé, and also some candidates put in at the bottom of their résumés every technology they have ever seen or touched. Only include technologies that are relevant to your line of work and you are very proficient in. If I see a technology listed on your résumé, it’s free game for me to test you on it, so you better know it well.

INTERVIEW

What is the best way a candidate can prepare for an interview?

For my team/company, make sure your fundamentals are studied up and spot on. Study the company principles as we eat, sleep, and breathe them. Finally, don’t overthink, just be who you are and let your education and industry experience guide you through the interview.

Give me an example of a general question you ask during an interview, and tell me why you ask it.

As the recruiter, I don’t get into technical questions, but the first question I typically ask a candidate is, “Why do you want to work for this company?” This question quickly allows me to see who really wants to work here and who is trying to sell me as to why they want to work here. People, who give answers like “you guys called me” typically don’t do well in their interviews. We are a company who hires intelligent individuals who are passionate about their work.

Can you recall an experience in which a job candidate impressed you during an interview? What was it that impressed you?

I can usually read candidates in the first 10 minutes of my interview with them to see what their comfort level is, how confident they are in themselves and their work, and how bad they want to work for the company. By observing these few aspects of my interview, I can usually tell how successful someone will be in their interview. Obviously, I’m not always right, but after hundreds of interviews, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Can you recall when a candidate made a horrible blunder during an interview?

Specifically, I had a candidate show up with very casual attire to his interview, with sunglasses on his head, his iPad in his lap during the interview, and holy jeans on with a chain hanging out of his pocket. We are a casual environment, but this was way too casual and the interview didn’t go well.

Are there questions a candidate should be sure to ask during an interview?

Ask the recruiter about compensation, company culture, team culture, and what to expect during the interview. For the team interviews, ask a lot of clarifying questions if unsure about a question someone is asking to avoid going off on a tangent about something that wasn’t asked.

Describe your ideal candidate, one you would consider hiring right away.

Someone who is technically savvy, has a good education, is excited about their work, has a lot to offer to the team they are interviewing with, and can explain themselves well.

RECRUITING

Where do you go to attract candidates?

Wherever the talent is. LinkedIn, networking events, hiring events in specific locations, etc.

ADVICE

What advice can you offer a first-time job candidate?

Have someone look over your résumé for errors before posting it. Prepare for your interview. Know what is in your résumé, have good examples from previous work or school experience, and, finally, be who you are and don’t lie.

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