One question that came up while we interact with a lot of people working in (or wanting to get into) data industry is this: How should I prepare for a data analyst role, and how should I prepare for the interview?
In this post, we’re going to share some of our perspectives on this question. From there, you will be able to better equip yourself with the skills right before your moment.
First off, think about what problems the company are hiring you to solve
Not every data analyst’s role is the same, much as not every CEO’s role is the same. Different companies at various stages will have a different set of data challenges. There is no such thing as a one-way-fits-all-solution to prepare for your interview.
Remember, they're hiring you to solve their problems. So if you can solve them, you're hired. But that begs the question: what problems?
If you have a target company in mind you’re applying for, then first, please do a thorough research about the company:
- What’s their business model, how do they make money?
- In their industry, what are the main/important metrics to track?
- At their stage, what might be their data problems?
- What are their customers like?
Some of the above questions, you can take it to the company when interviewing with them, too.
Second, review your skills in 3 verticals: Business Sense, Data/Numbers Sense and Database Technical Skills
I’ve worked with a few good data analysts, and generally I observe them being good at the below 3 skills. So do review through them and make necessary preparations.
1. Good Business Sense
An analyst is not just a technical role. Just like how our friendly neighbor Spider-man has the spider-sense to detect dangers to aid its fight against villains, an analyst should have a good business sense while equipped with the technical knowledge in the business world.
A good business sense does not come naturally. It requires experience, thinking and plentiful of trials and errors.
- What numbers should I show that best make sense in the data report?
- What kind of KPIs should be a measure of how well the business is doing?
The role of an analyst is dynamic and demanding but nonetheless meaningful as you become part of the solution to the future of the company.
2. Good data/numbers sense
There is no escape from numbers in analytics. Numbers serve as a quantifiable measure that supports decision-making in a company. A good analyst will be required to make sense of the numbers. Having the ability to make sense of numbers in a report allows you to explain and paint a picture of the current situation.
A good numbers sense will be able to ask the following questions:
- Is the conversion rate too low?
- This number looks off, is this calculated wrongly?
- Why are the booking numbers decreasing despite the recent advertisement spending?
You will serve as the go-to-guy when the company is in need for a decision to be made, using numbers.
3. Good technical skills (Database, SQL, Python, R)
Having good technical skills is a requirement for analysts as many tools operate on different programming languages. It will be an advantage to know as many of the languages as possible.
If you do not have time to master all, SQL is the database management language you will need to focus on. SQL is the most important data language in the world of analytics and will only continue to be more prevalent. Learn, practice and repeat!
I put this as the last item, because contrary to popular belief, I think this is the easiest thing to pick up among the 3. Takes a long time to train mindset, but tools it’ll take much less, and can really be done on the job.
Third, attempt practice questions
Before writing this guide, we’ve written the exact opposite guide, guide for employers to interview data analysts. Perhaps you can take some inspiration for yourself and understand what employers want to see in you.
Here are also some example questions for you to think about to prep you:
- If you run an ecommerce site, how to measure the effectiveness of the Search feature of an ecommerce website?
- How would you design a sales funnel, how would you implement some tracking to measure conversions by different source?
- What do you understand about our business, and how would you measure the business’ performance?
A good data analyst is a dynamic individual who possesses both business and numbers sense, being able to bring insights using technical business tools.
To score at a data analyst interview, you will need to be adaptable. Do not be afraid to showcase your qualities to the company you’re applying for!
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Tang Yee Jie
Senior Data Analyst, Grab