How to Interview a Data Scientist

Business, Case Studies Great America Ballroom J
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Interviewing data scientists is hard. The tech press sporadically publishes “best” interview questions that are cringe-worthy.

At LinkedIn, we put a heavy emphasis on the ability to think through the problems we work on. For example, if someone claims expertise in machine learning, we ask them to apply it to one of our recommendation problems. And, when we test coding and algorithmic problem solving, we do it with real problems that we’ve faced in the course of our day jobs. In general, we try as hard as possible to make the interview process representative of actual work.

In this session, I’ll offer general principles and concrete examples of how to interview data scientists. I’ll also touch on the challenges of sourcing and closing top candidates.

Photo of Daniel Tunkelang

Daniel Tunkelang


Daniel Tunkelang is a data science and engineering executive who has built and led some of the strongest teams in the software industry. He was a founding employee and chief scientist of Endeca, a search pioneer that Oracle acquired for $1.1B. He led a local search team at Google. He was a director of data science and engineering at LinkedIn, and he established their query understanding team. Daniel also advises and consults for companies that can benefit strategically from his expertise. His clients range from early-stage startups to “unicorn” technology companies like Etsy and Flipkart. He helps companies make decisions around algorithms, technology, product strategy, hiring, and organizational structure.

Daniel is a widely recognized writer and speaker. He is frequently invited to speak at academic and industry conferences, particularly in the areas of information retrieval, web science, and data science. He has written the definitive textbook on faceted search (now a standard for ecommerce sites), established an annual symposium on human-computer interaction and information retrieval, and authored 24 US patents. His social media posts have attracted over a million page views. Daniel studied computer science and math at MIT and has a PhD in computer science from CMU.


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