Data Analyst

There are lots of great roles available for talented data analysts in the UK, but as with just about any career, you'll only get the job if you ace the interview.

When applying for a job in data analysis, you can expect all the usual questions about your biggest weaknesses, where you see yourself in five years' time, etc. But you will also be asked some more specific questions that are unique to this particular field.

Every employer will ask different questions, of course, but here are 5 examples of the sort of question you can generally expect to hear:


In your own words, describe what a data analyst does.

This question may crop up if the employer wants to make sure you actually understand the role that's up for grabs. It can also give them a bit of insight into how you see yourself and what you'll prioritise if you get the job.

Try to go into a bit of detail here, as this will demonstrate that you have a firm grasp of the subject in question. A generic answer that only scratches this surface might make the interviewer suspect that you don't really know what you're talking about.


What software are you proficient with?

Obviously, the interviewer will want to make sure you're familiar with the programs that are necessary to the job. The job description probably specified certain requirements (e.g. 'knowledge of MySQL'), and hopefully, you wouldn't have applied for the job if you didn't meet them!

Of course, you should always be honest with your answers in a job interview, especially when it comes to questions like this. The interviewer will probably be able to tell if you're lying about your ability to use a particular type of software, and even if you manage to convince them, you'll soon be found out when you start work.


Explain how you'd solve this problem...

Data analysis is all about solving problems, and it's quite common for applicants to be given specific examples during a job interview. This will give the interviewer a chance to see you think on your feet.

The point of this exercise isn't to provide the solution right there and then, but to explain the process you would use to find it. You'll get extra points for creativity and clarity, so be sure to think carefully before you respond.


Tell us about a problem you failed to solve, or a deadline you failed to meet.

This is a twist on that old classic: 'tell me your biggest weakness'. Pretending that you've never, ever failed at anything is a bad idea - instead, you should try to talk about a disappointing experience that nevertheless taught you an important lesson. The right response is one that demonstrates your ability to learn from your mistakes while also showing that you're able to cope well with stress and setbacks.

Try to avoid blaming other people when responding to this question. The interviewer wants to know about your failings, not somebody else's, and shifting the blame can make you seem like someone who can't admit when it's their fault - not an attractive quality in a potential employee.


Why did you choose to become a data analyst?

Employers generally prefer to recruit people who are genuinely interested in their work - after all, we tend to try harder when the task is something we care about.

This question is an opportunity to give the interviewer a glimpse of your personality, and again, it tells them more about what the job means to you. Try not to focus too much on the money - instead, explain why you enjoy problem solving, working with data, and using numbers to tell stories and make decisions.

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"Why should we hire you?" is as common a question on the lips of science recruitment professionals as it is among hiring teams in any other sector, and it takes forms that can easily catch out the ill-prepared interviewee. You may be asked what makes you the right fit for the position, why you are the best candidate for the vacancy or what you would bring to the job. Before you go for the interview you need to ask yourself, "why should you hire me?", and come up with an answer. 

Follow these simple steps to ensure you are properly prepared to answer any employer who asks "why should we hire you":

Be employer-focused

One of the first things that any applicant must realise about this question is that they really must answer it from the employer's perspective. It can be easy to effectively only answer why you would like the job - for example, because you have always had an interest in biochemistry or R&D, need the money or would like to move to wherever the role is based. These are not answers to the question of why the employer should hire you.

The frank truth is that a hiring manager does not really care about the benefits to you of getting the job. They're much more concerned about the risk to their position if they make a poor choice of employment, such as someone who leaves the organisation prematurely or does not fit in well with their colleagues or the company philosophy.


They are certainly interested in your ability to do the job to an exceptional standard, get on well with your colleagues and bring skills and experiences that make you stand out from the other candidates.

The information that you must give

Therefore, by setting out an answer that clearly details such factors as your industry experience, relevant past accomplishments, soft skills, technical skills, education/training and/or awards/certifications, you are making the hiring manager's professional life much easier.

When you communicate memorably and confidently that you possess these traits that answer the employer's pain points, whether their field is chemistry, molecular biology, immunology or something completely different, they will be more confident to trust you with the role.

But remember...

With this being only one of the potentially many interview questions, not all of the above parameters necessarily need to be included in your answer. This question is a golden opportunity to sell yourself for your dream clinical, biochemistry or pharmacology role. However, such 'selling' is generally best done with just three or four powerful points - backed up with easy-to-remember descriptions and/or examples - than with a quickly rifled-off list of 12 strengths that you are unable to explain further.

The employer should be left in no doubt as to your unique combination of relevant experience and skills. "Why should we hire you?" will not be your only opportunity during the interview to make that clear - which is all the more reason to provide well-selected highlights rather than the full catalogue of your credentials.

However, it is so often a memorably convincing answer to this or any number of the aforementioned similar questions that separates those who secure sought-after science jobs from those who don't. Good luck!


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