What Is Your Greatest Strength: Interview Guidance for Data Science Folk (Part 5)

career advice data job interviews Dec 04, 2023
Data science robots preparing for a job interview.

Welcome to the fifth article in our twelve-part series exploring the essential interview question, "What is your greatest strength?" If you're an established professional moving into data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, or advanced analytics, this series is designed for you. Today, we will recap our previous four installments and offer additional advice to help you answer this question effectively, regardless of your professional background.

In previous articles, we provided examples of how to respond to this question based on different professional backgrounds:

  1. General Data Science Candidate: I discussed the value of emphasizing your unique blend of technical skill and strategic foresight.
  2. Sales Background: I explored how a candidate with a sales background might leverage their relationship-building abilities and results-driven focus.
  3. Engineering Background: I highlighted the benefits of being able to understand and contribute to different aspects of a project, from strategic planning to engineering.
  4. Education or Teaching Background: I outlined how your ability to simplify complex ideas and strategically plan can translate to the data science field.

Now let's dive into some general advice applicable to all candidates:

Staying Humble

In answering this question, the challenge is to convey your strengths without appearing arrogant. A humble approach, coupled with a clear demonstration of your abilities, can leave a positive impression. Remember, the goal is to showcase your capabilities, not to overshadow others.

  • Instead of: "I am an outstanding data analyst who has increased revenues for my past employers by over 50%."
  • Try this: "In my previous role as a data analyst, I had the opportunity to work on several impactful projects. One of them involved creating a predictive model that contributed to a 50% increase in revenues."
  • Instead of: "I'm unmatched in my ability to code and debug. No one can do it better."

  • Try this: "Coding and debugging are strengths of mine. I've spent a considerable amount of time honing these skills, and I enjoy the challenges they present."

Relevance and Specificity

When you talk about your strengths, frame them in the context of a relevant experience. This helps interviewers see the applicability of your skills. For example, if you're applying for a data science role with a heavy emphasis on client interaction, you might share an instance when you used your analytical skills to help a client solve a significant problem.

The key is in the details. The more specific you can be about what you've accomplished, the more your interviewers can visualize your effectiveness. Don't shy away from providing numbers or percentages to quantify your achievements.

  • Instead of: "I'm an excellent communicator."
  • Try this: "As a sales professional, I've honed my communication skills over the years. I once facilitated a difficult conversation between two key stakeholders, which resulted in a successful compromise and a long-term business partnership."

Showing a Well-Rounded Persona

Demonstrate your versatility by sharing examples of different types of skills in action. For instance, you might first recount a time when you used a "soft" skill like communication or teamwork effectively. Follow that with a story showcasing your use of a technical skill directly related to the job description.

  • Instead of: "I'm a seasoned project manager."
  • Try this: "As a project manager, I’ve guided numerous projects to successful completion, often ahead of schedule. But managing timelines and tasks is just one aspect of my role. I also place great emphasis on fostering an inclusive team culture where everyone feels valued and heard."

By blending stories that demonstrate both your interpersonal abilities and your technical expertise, you present yourself as a well-rounded candidate capable of contributing to various aspects of the role.

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