Keeping track of historical data, analyzing trends, and making predictions is essential for every successful business in the 21st century. And they need you to take care of these tasks. Statisticians are valued in every company. They earn a lot of money (the average annual salary in the US exceeded $80,000 last year), and they bear a lot of responsibility.
And I have more good news for you: You won’t have to outclass dozens of other job applicants in your interview (which is typically the case with jobs that offer similar salary and job conditions). Typically you will compete only with a few other people for the job–which makes it easier. Summarized and underlined, you have chosen a great career. Let’s have a look at what will happen in your interview, and how you can ace it.
Type of questions they will ask you
A common misconception is that you will face a lot of technical questions in your statistician interview, such as “What is Null Hypothesis?”, “List common sampling methods.”, or “How you’d prevent over-fitting?”.
In four out of five cases, you won’t get a single technical question in your interview. Why? The reason is simple:
- A person leading an interview with you won’t be a statistician or expert mathematician or actuary. And since this role is very specific, the HR manager (or anyone else who interviews you for the job) won’t be able to evaluate your answers to technical questions. Therefor it makes no sense to ask the questions–the interviewers would only embarrass themselves.
- You need to have a degree from Statistics, Mathematics, or a related field to apply for this job. Since this is basic job requirement, and corporate sphere has not yet lost trust in our educational system, they won’t doubt your skills in statistical analysis. You have to have them (or at least be ready to learn them quickly, if you forgot since leaving school), when you managed to earn your degree.
If not technical, what questions will you deal with then?
Personal and behavioral questions
They will be interested in your opinions, attitudes, and skills. They will wonder how you’d approach various situations that happen in the workplace, and how you’d deal with various problems that occur in the work of a statistician.
They will try to understand your motivation, goals and plans, to see whether you can stay with them in a long run. Last but not least, they will be interested in your working experience, to see what you have done before, and how it has shaped you as a person, and as a statistician.
Personal and behavioral interview questions will help them with the task. In 4 out of 5 cases, your interview will consist mostly in these questions. Let’s have a look at some of them.
Why did you apply for this job?
Try to address two things in your answer: why you applied for a position of a statistician, and why you applied for the job with them.
To the first one, you should refer to your skills and passion for the work, and the value you can bring to any company as a statistician. Show some self-confidence. Tell them that you believe to bring onboard an interesting analysis and predictions that will help them to stay ahead (or get ahead) of their competitors.
To the second one, you should refer to something that distinguishes the company from their competitors, at least in your eyes. It can be interesting product range, scope of duties/responsibilities of the statisticians, motivating working environment, great reputation of the company, or anything else.
What do you want to achieve as a statistician in our company?
Another test of your attitude. Do you think primarily about yourself, and what you want to gain, or about the employer, and what you want to give? Surely, statistician is neither a process manager nor a salesman. They neither improve the business process, nor bring money to the company by selling the final products. But they still play their vital role in a functioning of most organizations.
Say the interviewers that with your work you want to contribute to right decisions of the management, that you understand the power of data, and how much a good (or bad) analysis of such data can impact the business.
Alternatively you can focus on small everyday achievements—having good relationship with your colleagues, getting better in your job every month and year, helping the others…
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Tell us something about your education and experience
Refer to the practical things. Talk about subjects in school that helped you to get ready for the job. Refer to different statistical methods you learned that will allow you do perform a complex analysis of data (but try to explain this in a simple way).
Talk about your past working experience with enthusiasm. Tell them not only what you did, but also how your duties prepared you for the role in their company.
And if you apply for your very first job, try to stay positive! Everyone has to start somewhere, and the things you did at school, combined with your motivation and right attitude, will suffice for most entry level jobs in the field of statistics.
How do you imagine a typical day in work?
People without a passion for numbers and analyzing them will get bored in this work easily. Statistics is a repetitive work, and you should enjoy such work.
Tell the employer that you expect to sit in front of your computer and work with the given data, using your best abilities to analyze them, and to make predictions. You may also collect data on your own. The key is to show them that you prefer to be busy in work, and are ready to take initiative on your own.
Imagine that you come to work, and there are no tasks assigned to you. What will you do?
This is exactly where the difference between average and excellent employees stands. Average employees will enjoy the easy day. They will drink coffee, chat with colleagues, and check some historical data, pretending to work on something important.
Excellent employees, however, always try to use the time in work to the benefit of the employer. Say that you will either take the initiative and start your own analysis, or that you will study the internet for the latest trends in statistics, trying to learn something new, something you can apply in your work.
Describe a time when you made a bad prediction or analysis. Why did it happen?
Good statisticians are ready to admit making a mistake. Do not pretend to be impeccable. Do not blame someone else for the mistakes you made. Clearly say why you failed, and most importantly, emphasize the lesson you learned during this experience.
Without failing we will hardly progress in our lives. Show the employer that you have the right attitude to work, and consider wrong predictions an inevitable part of the game.
Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to your boss, colleague, or to a customer. How did you manage to get your message over?
Language of a statistician, and a language of a manager, are quite different. Unless you change your language, you will often experience misunderstanding in your work.
Show the hiring managers that you do not mind going an extra mile for your colleagues, preparing charts and illustrated reports, using pictures and demonstration, and basically doing your best to “translate” the technical language of a statistician to a language of a common men.
Other questions you may get in your statistician interview
- What motivates you the most in this job?
- If we hire you for this job, what will be the first thing you do when reaching your office?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Why should we hire you, and not the other job applicant?
- Speaking about doing statistics in a corporate sphere, what do you consider the most difficult task?
- Describe a time when you had to deal with an angry or upset client (colleague).
- Describe a situation when you were under pressure in work. How did you cope with the pressure?
- What do you consider your biggest weakness as a statistician?
Special Tip: To know how to answer a question, and to come up with a great answer on a big day, when facing a panel of interviewers, are two different things. If you find the questions difficult, or experience anxiety, or if you basically want to do the most you can in order to stand out and outclass your competitors in an interview, have a look at the eBook I wrote for you, the Statistician Interview Guide. Multiple premium answers to 20 most common personal and scenario-based interview questions for statisticians will help you stand out, impress the hiring managers, and find the right words in every moment of your interview. Thank you for checking it out!
Conclusion and next steps
You won’t compete with many people in your interview, but you will have to convince the hiring managers of your readiness for the job, and of the right attitude to work and other people.
In most cases, you will deal primarily with personal and behavioral questions. Prepare for the questions from our list, and do a good research about your next place of work. And if you aren’t sure what to do next, have a look at the eBook I describe in the previous paragraph. I hope you will manage to get this great job, and wish you best of luck!
* You can also download the list of questions in a simple one-page long PDF, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:
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