Business Intelligence

Nailing An Analytics Interview Case Study: 10 Practical Strategies

10 practical tips/strategies I extracted myself when doing analytics case study as part of job interview process.

Nailing An Analytics Interview Case Study: 10 Practical Strategies

Picture yourself aiming for coveted roles in the data realm, such as Senior Analytics Manager, Head of BI, Director of Analytics, and so on. If you aspire to leadership positions, you should be well versed in case studies - it is rigueur du jour in analytics interviews.

But what exactly makes a case study so vital? It's your stage to showcase how well you grasp a company's heartbeat: its business model. It's where your problem-solving, technical savvy, and ability to communicate like a seasoned team member come under the spotlight.

In this article, I will show you 10 strategies for acing your analytics interview case study.

To supplement this, I'm going to draw from my own real-life experiences. Specifically, I’ll be citing examples from my own experience interviewing for a tech giant in Singapore.

I’ve gone through my fair share of case studies and interviews with tech companies as a data professional with over a decade of experience. While I am by no means an expert, I hope these insights will inspire you to develop a personalized, winning approach to your next interview case study.

Case Study

For this case study, I was asked to propose a method for mapping a large data set of Vietnamese addresses to geo coordinates in a cost-efficient and scalable manner.

  • Input: A set of Vietnamese addresses in text form
  • Output: For each address, their corresponding geo coordinates

I was also supplied with a dataset of 10,000+ Vietnamese addresses. But I can spare you the details here.

Above: Example of a Vietnamese address that needs to be mapped to a set of geocoordinates.

That’s the essence of the problem statement. Now let’s get into the 10 strategies/principles that I operate by.

Strategy 1: Show that you understand the context

Your first priority is to demonstrate that you understand the company’ business goals, its team dynamics, and the specific challenge at hand.

Above: My presentation begins with these slides, titled “The Challenge”, in which I distilled the problem into a clear, succinct statement, to show that I grasped the essence of the issue.

How I applied this strategy in my case study:

To prepare myself for this case study, I watched several videos on the company’s official YouTube channel so that I understood the company’s ambition of expanding into the Vietnamese market.

Next, I downloaded the product and tested it as a user, so that I’d get a firsthand perspective of how this data set would tie to the company’s product development framework.

Last but not least, I looked up the LinkedIn profiles of everyone on the interview panel to get a sense of their personalities and professional history. As the lead interviewer had a long history of working as a management consultant, I decided to craft my presentation as a set of PowerPoint slides, based on the assumption that this is the format that would be comfortable for a seasoned consultant.

This strategy wasn't just about the technicalities of the case study. It was about showing that I could fit into their world, understand their challenges, and speak their language.

Strategy 2: State your assumptions

Regardless of the problem you’ve been tasked to solve, you’re likely to have incomplete information, and will need to make a few reasonable assumptions - be it assumptions about the team’s intentions, the parameters of the problem, the desired solution, and so on.

This is equally true in the day-to-day reality of any professional environment; decision-making is rarely black and white. A good leader, however, is able to anticipate knowledge gaps and exercise good judgment in the face of it. The case study is your opportunity to showcase these crucial skills.

Above: The first of a few slides in which I stated the assumptions I made before tackling the problem.

How I applied this strategy in my case study:

In my case study, I listed assumptions that I’d made regarding the technical details of the problem, the long-term applicability of a desired solution, as well as the expected timeline for solving the problem.

None of these factors were addressed in my assignment. However, given that they’d dramatically restrict the possibilities of a viable solution, I felt that it would be wise to sketch out these areas of uncertainty. By doing so, I was able to apply reasonable conjectures and zoom in on a practical solution.

Strategy 3: Explain your thought process

This is an important point that you must remember: Case studies are less about pinpointing a specific solution, and more about unveiling the narrative of your problem-solving style. Interviewers are keen to dive into your thought process, to see how you navigate a maze of challenges, rather than just where you end up.

Above: The slide in which I not only stated my proposed solution (using HERE Location Services), but also the thought processes that guided my approach.

How I applied this strategy in my case study:

In my case study, I ultimately proposed using HERE Location Services for mapping Vietnamese addresses to geocoordinates.

How did I arrive at this solution? It began with a careful weighing of goals, like balancing accuracy against cost-efficiency, and taking constraints (such as budgets) into account.

Next, I conducted a comparative analysis between HERE Location Services vs. other possibilities. I highlighted the superior quality of HERE Location Services’s data sources compared to most of its competitors, as well as its attractive pricing model, thereby presenting a compelling case for my choice.

Moreover, I leveraged my past experiences, drawing parallels between this case study and similar projects I had undertaken previously. On another slide, I detailed how these experiences provided a rich backdrop to my current approach, adding depth and credibility to my solution.

Strategy 4: Validate your solution

As you lay out a solution, it is important that it doesn’t just sound good on paper - it needs to stand up to real-world scrutiny and application.

A good solution is one that meets redefined objectives and creates value, be it in terms of cost-efficiency, time savings, improved health outcomes, increased customer satisfaction, or any other metric that’s relevant to the company’s product model.

Try to answer this question: If your approach is a good one, how would its success be measured?

Above: The slide in which I propose a method for validating my own proposed solution, i.e. benchmarking HERE Location Services against Google Maps.

How I applied this strategy in my case study:

In my case study, I proposed using Google Maps Geocoding as the industry gold standard, and the following as a criteria for success: If X service is a reliable solution, then it should be able to mirror Google Maps Geocoding’s results with only a small loss in accuracy.

Next, I created a trial account on HERE Location services and tested a small sample data set of Vietnamese addresses, and demonstrated that it was, indeed, able to replicate Google Maps Geocoding reliably. In doing so, I didn’t just propose a solution, I also proved its viability in the real world.

Strategy 5: Anticipate, adapt, and articulate

The climax of your case study is not how you present your solution, but how you defend it from a barrage of questions from your interviewers. To navigate this smoothly, you can take a pre-emptive approach by anticipating these questions and integrating the answers in your presentation, showcasing not just your solution’s strength, but your foresight as well.

Above: I anticipated several scenarios in which my solution might evolve or require scaling the future. For instance, I anticipated that the company may want to expand into new markets beyond Vietnam, and replicate the same geo-mapping exercise in new markets.

How I applied this strategy in my case study:

So, how did I turn this anticipation into an asset during my case study? I prepared myself for a range of questions, such as:

  1. What are the potential hiccups and roadblocks of your solution?
  2. Let’s say that the business goal / scope of the problem shifted unexpectedly, how would you tailor your plans?
  3. What kind of support would you need from us to implement your solution?

As it turned out, many of these questions did come up during the interview.

But let's be real – no matter how well you prepare, there will always be curveballs. Whenever the panel threw a question I hadn’t foreseen, I stayed grounded. I would respond, "In a real-world scenario, I'd take some time to consult with experts like ABC and delve into research on topics like XYZ to formulate a well-rounded hypothesis."

This approach served a dual purpose. It showed that I could think on my feet and, more importantly, that I understood the value of thorough research and collaboration in tackling unforeseen challenges. This way, even without an immediate answer, I demonstrated a methodical and strategic approach to problem-solving."

Strategy 6: Add depth to your presentation with an appendix

As you draw your presentation to a close, consider the impact of an appendix. This section can be a treasure trove of supplementary details, showcasing the depth and rigor of your preparation. Many interviewers will be impressed by this extra effort, seeing it as a testament to your thoroughness and commitment to providing a comprehensive, informative deck.

Above: I added slides in which I explained how I approached my case study.

How I applied this strategy in my case study:

In my case study, I decided to enrich my presentation with a detailed appendix. Here’s what I included:

  1. A Peek Behind the Curtain: I provided snapshots on how I prepared for the case study, including people from whom I solicited feedback, tools and resources I’d used, etc.
  2. Technical Documentation: I provided the actual Python scripts and calculations that I used to answer technical questions, to serve as concrete evidence of my analytical capabilities.
  3. Notes On the Complexity of Vietnamese Addresses: I dedicated a section to elaborate on the complexities of mapping Vietnamese addresses. This wasn't just about showing the problem; it was about highlighting the nuanced understanding I had developed regarding this specific challenge.

Strategy 7: Elevate your presentation with good visual design

While it's the content that truly matters, never underestimate the power of a visually captivating presentation. It's the icing on the cake that can set you apart from other candidates.

Above: I like to enhance my presentation with beautiful images and photos from royalty-free sources such as Unsplash.

How I applied this strategy in my case study:

The following are some of the stylistic practices that I personally use in almost all of my interview presentations:

  1. Embrace the Company’s Visual Identity: I love to align my presentation with the company's branding. Using their official fonts and color palette not only shows that I've done my homework but also helps my presentation resonate with the company's ethos.
  2. Legibility is Key: Dense paragraphs are a no-go. I keep my text concise, aiming for a maximum of 2-3 sentences per paragraph. If the text starts to get lengthy, I break it up over multiple slides. It's all about making the content digestible and easy on the eyes.
  3. Consistency is Crucial: From font sizes to text box positions and paragraph styles, I ensure every visual element tells a unified story. This consistency underscores the narrative of my presentation, making it more compelling and professional.
  4. Strategic Use of Images: To break the monotony of text, I sprinkle in high-resolution, royalty-free images from sources like Unsplash. These images aren't just fillers; they're carefully selected to enhance the narrative and add a visual punch.
  5. Smart URL Customization: When I use browser-based presentation tools like Google Slides or Miro, I create custom URLs for easy access. For instance, transforming a lengthy link into something sleek like not only makes it more memorable but also adds a layer of professionalism.

Through these subtle yet impactful design choices, I aim to convey meticulousness, consistency, and a work ethic that values thoughtfulness and rigor.

Strategy 8: Refine and rehearse

After drafting your presentation, it's time to elevate it from good to great:

Seek insightful feedback: Share a duplicate of your presentation with trusted friends or mentors. Their fresh perspectives can provide invaluable insights on how to enhance your presentation.

Master the delivery: Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse some more. Whether it's with a partner or recording yourself, this step is crucial. You've invested hours in the content; now, focus on how you deliver it. Aim for clarity, structure, and a compelling narrative that keeps your audience hooked.

One more tip: Always start with a brief introduction about yourself; don’t assume that all your interviewers know who you are. It helps to set the stage before you dive into your presentation.

Strategy 9: Mind the clock

On the big day, keep an eye on the clock. Even with the most meticulous preparation, you might face unexpected technical hiccups and delays. A good rule of thumb is to aim to complete your presentation within 80% of the allotted time. For instance, if you have 30 minutes, try wrapping up around the 24-25 minute mark.

During the Q&A session, if given the option, always choose to address questions at the end. This keeps your presentation flow uninterrupted and ensures that your audience hears your complete thoughts before they jump into questions.

Strategy 10: Treat the interview as a two-way street

Remember, the case study is as much about you evaluating the company as it is about them evaluating you. Use this opportunity to ask insightful questions about the team, upcoming projects, and the rationale behind the case study. This dialogue will give you a clear picture of the company's values and work culture.

Post-interview reflections are just as crucial. Ask yourself: Can you see yourself thriving in this environment?

Interviewers from an organization with good work culture will always ask questions in a respectful manner, and provide constructive feedback. The nature of your interactions can provide valuable insight into the kind of support, mentorship, and collaboration you can expect if you join the company.

End Note

Full disclosure: Despite my efforts, I didn’t land the job for which I crafted the attached case study. Nevertheless, I still had fun and learned something new in the process of doing research. Case studies, while demanding, have always been the highlight of my interviews.

Regardless of the outcome, treat every case study as a learning experience - as a way to learn more about different companies, product problems, and business strategies, and get better at interviewing. The hours that you spend chipping away at challenges like these are a vital part of your career development. Maybe the real treasure is the insights we gain along the way. ;)

p/s: You can find the complete slides here (company name removed for obvious reasons).

For more practical blog posts like this one, check out:

Gabriel Zhang

Gabriel Zhang

10 years' experience in data analytics. I've worked in startups and big tech spanning e-commerce, med tech, music, travel, and real estate in Berlin, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.

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