5 Key Data Engineer Interview Tips

Data engineering is a fantastic, growing field with many opportunities. Because it's new, there aren't as many interview resources available. This list of tips is not meant to be a comprehensive guide or a steadfast list of commandments. These suggestions are meant to be things to consider and at least think about. If you disagree and have a rationale behind your decision, more power to you!

1. Don’t bring up data science as one of your interests

One mistake we often see during data engineering candidate interviews is when they start to enthusiastically talk about data science and/or machine learning after discussing data engineering pipelines in a boring way. While skills from data science or data analytics certainly carry over to data engineering, make sure you at least appear excited to do data engineering. Whoever is interviewing you certainly does not want to hire someone who would quit if a data science opportunity came up.

2. Read the job description carefully so you know what data engineering means to the company you’re applying to

I’m sure you’re more than confident you can define what a data engineer is. The problem is that some companies may not be as confident. As a result of being a newer role, “data engineers” can be anything from sys admins to data scientists to business intelligence developers. While some people would not call someone who creates tableau dashboards a data engineer, other companies might disagree. Make sure you know what the company you are applying for is actually looking for!

3. Be flexible and be able to adapt during the interview

Just because you have a good idea of what you want to do in your data engineering career, or have an idea of what makes a good data engineer, don’t force your ideals on your interviewer (especially if they are non-technical). Many data engineering positions emerge from either a software engineer or a data scientist scaling up a data process purely due to necessity. That person is highly likely to be part of the hiring committee, perhaps even the person who is interviewing you! By calling an idea “bad” or “unacceptable”, you run the risk of insulting your interviewer. Feel free to critique ideas or implementations by all means, but offer constructive criticism gently.

4. Search through LinkedIn to read through profiles of previous data engineers at the company

Because data engineering can be so broad, by looking through what data engineers at the company are already doing, you can have a better idea of what the job description is actually looking for in a candidate. If you’re stuck on what to look for or the company is too small to have any data engineers, check out the profiles of software engineers or data scientists and see how they got into their positions.

5. Keep interviewing and ask for feedback

Data engineering is a quickly changing field. By interviewing once a year at reputable companies, you learn which trends are fads, and which technologies are rising in legitimacy. Always ask for feedback from companies on things to improve from, and inquire about current technologies and practices that are treated as gospel.

Interviewing for a data engineering job can be stressful and confusing because of how broad the role requirements can be. Keep these tips in mind to keep as many variables constant as you can in a rapidly developing field.