I received an email today requesting my availability for an interview next week. This is with regards to an open position of Data Scientist. I was informed that there would be an hour test; likely a technical test prior to the interview

The job description is as follows:

Degree in Computer Science, Economics, Mathematics or Statistics

  1. Postgraduate degree majoring in data analytics or machine learning preferred

  2. Minimum 3 to 4 years of relevant work experience

  3. Experience with statistical and analytical modeling, knowledge of analytic tools and big data technologies. Should be able to work with tools to clean, transform, manipulate, model and visualize large amounts of data.

  4. Minimum skillsets required: Deep experience with languages like R, Python, SQL, Excel Experience in Data Cleaning, Sampling, Balancing, Imputation using R, Python Experience in Statistical modelling techniques like Anova, Hypothesis Testing(t-test, chi-sq), Linear regression, Logistic regression, Decision trees, Neural Networks, Random Forests, Bootstraping, Clustering, Classification , Factor Analysis, K-cross validation Knowledge of Big Data frameworks/ technologies: HIVE, Spark or similar frameworks Data visualization tools: Qlik or Tableau

  5. Ability to communicate complex ideas to technical and non-technical audiences

  6. Ability to analyze numbers, trends and data to derive conclusions.

  7. Effective oral and written communication

Here's a bit of background:

I am a fresh grad with a double major in physics and math who was in the quantum mechanics stream for my physics major and specialising in the pure and applied mathematics for my math major. My exposure to statistic in my academic career spans the basic probability concepts of variances, standard derivative, probability density function and the likes. My proficiency in programming language is Wolfram Mathematica to replace most functions of MS Excel and build "reasonable" computational models.

I am unsure why I was called for an interview despite not having the 3-4 years of relevant experiences. While I have applied and made it clear in my cover that I am currently self-learning intermediate-advanced statistic and picking up Python and relational database, the inclusion of a test indicates to me that more advanced concepts may be test. I am under no illusion that the company uses Wolfram Mathematica.

1) Am I justified in making such an assumption with regards to the level of technical test which may lie outside the domain of my current knowledge?

2) In the experience of recruiters here, should I maintain my agreement to attend the interview?

  • 1
    I don't think the full breakdown of the job is neccesary, it makes the question hard to read/understand. Can you cut out some of those details?
    – Erik
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 12:56
  • 4
    @Erik I think it adds some value as it shows how far away from the job description Physkid is (i.e. this isn't just an "imposter syndrome" problem). I've formatted things a bit to try and make it easier to separate the question from the job description. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 13:02
  • 5
    If you're interested in the position, attend the interview. If not, don't. The worst that can happen from attending an interview is not getting an offer. If they're asking things you clearly showed you have no experience with, that would arguably be more the interviewer's fault (either for inviting you to interview or asking bad questions). Related: Can I ask the company how the interview will work? Appropriate to ask what will be covered in a technical interview? Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 13:05
  • Data scientists are in extremely high demand right now. It may be that you are among the more qualified individuals they can attract at this point. Seriously, people are getting 7 figure offers before they graduate at this point. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 15:04
  • @GlenPierce I appreciate the backhand compliment. If given a time period of 6 months, I am confident of having a good knowledge of intermediate and advance knowledge of statistic with a working knowledge level of python and SQL to cover industry grounds. But I'm not exactly sure how my current level of knowledge and skills would allow me to hack this job description.
    – Physkid
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 15:11

8 Answers 8


The simple answer is as always to pick up the phone and talk to someone. It may be that someone at their end screwed up and didn't read your application and cover letter properly, in which case it's better for everyone that you find this out now rather than turning up for an interview that is pointless for everyone involved.

On the other hand, it may be that they've seen your application and thought "Hey, this person doesn't have the skills we put in the job description, but they look like a bright kid. Let's get them in for an interview, see how smart they are and maybe we can train them up."

But you'll never know which is which unless you talk to someone.

  • 6
    I was actually hired for a position that, on paper, I was not qualified to do, this is good advice. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 16:08
  • @TheSnarkKnight It happened many times for me. Usually because of scarcity of people knowing stuff. Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 10:25
  • I absolutely agree. The only thing I'd emphasize is to be absolutely honest. You don't have to go out of your way to emphasize you don't have the full experience they mention, but, if asked about it, tell them what your actual experience is. Same with the skills: Don't go out of your way to emphasize weakness, but don't claim skills you don't have. If they ask if you if you fulfill all of the skill list, tell them "no" and then show them what you can do. They can then decide if you're a good fit.
    – Mark Meuer
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 23:20

Employers/job adverts usually ask for too many things, for what would be their "ideal" candidate.

It is fairly common hiring people that do not fill in all the points, for several different reasons (cheaper, they like the candidate, they think the candidate has the potential to be a good fit, the requirements are exaggerated, many more).

If you have got the (free) time to attend the interview, you have not got anything to lose, quite by the contrary, an interview is always another learning experience.

Unless you feel the headhunter really screwed up, I would attend it.

  • In the past I had a fallout with a recruiter which clearly was not taking in attention my best interests, asked him to lose my contacts, and nevertheless interviewed with the client. I liked the guys actually, and enjoyed a lot going through the recruitment process. Ultimately, we only did not reach on an agreement on the salary package. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 13:19
  • 1
    Also, the better the economy, the looser those requirements become. In a bad job market, the requirements are practically set in stone, in a good one, they're more 'suggestions' than requirements. Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 13:42
  • Hi, Rui. In your second paragraph, do you mean "It is not unusual" as in "It is fairly common"?
    – bxk21
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 14:31
  • @bxk21 I though that, and wrote something else... Commented Mar 20, 2023 at 16:23

Good answers from others, but I'd like to point out something else that seems important to me : passing interviews is a skill.

Which means that even if you have no chance to get the job(and that's not even sure right now), go anyways, and practice your interview passing skills. Try to convince, watch for the reactions, and check your level of stress. The more interviews you'll do, the better you'll manage your stress, and other tricky questions.

Remember that opportunities to train this skill are scarce. Therefore, enjoy the opportunity you have. And you might maybe even get the job as a superbonus. Not likely, from what you say, but not impossible either.

  • 1
    can't double up this enough. I don't think enough people remember that 70% of the interview (imo) is your interview passing skills. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 13:37

Years of experience may be one of the most ambiguous "requirements" in job descriptions. You may not be the best candidate. Let them know you want to interview, but not at the expense of wasting their time. Point out the discrepancies and see what they say.

They may have selected you just to have enough candidates and already have someone else in mind. Although I don't really think this practice is very transparent, at least you'll get some good interviewing experience.

You may also learn something from the type of test they give you, so you'll be better prepared the next time.


For my current job I had a call from a recruiter who was covering for my recruiter at the agency for that week. She had a job position as a Business Project Manager (I was working in application support). During that call she asked me what VBA was and other things as she wasn't really sure what the job entailed. After some brief explanations I felt I was wasting my time as she simply had no clue what she was calling me for, but apparently thought I was a good fit....fastforward a couple of weeks and I have an interview booked at this company, I attend the interview just to improve my interview passing skills as I was seriously looking to change jobs.

During that interview I learned that the "requirements" they had used in the job were a match for the previous person working on that role, but very different to what they wanted/needed.

I was offered the job with a substantial bonus and given the opportunity to be working as a Business Analyst/Developer/Project Manager/Tester...I love my job and was given the opportunity to learn more coding languages than I knew before as I self manage my own time...

I had none of the written requirements for the job...but I showed I was what they needed...

Go for it, worst case scenario you got some experience out of it!


Oftentimes, a company will post a job with a utopian view of everything they could possibly want in a candidate. IF that candidate comes along that can fulfill it all, great! But realistically, they won't find that guy, and they'll settle for the guy that is closest to ideal.

Recently I agreed to an interview for a developer position. I had many of the skills requested, but clearly had no experience in many of the others. The skills I did have, I haven't used for years. But they gave me an interview, and I went. I was completely open and up front, telling the team of interviewers that I did not have all the skills requested, but I had some and was willing to work to get up to speed.

The interview went very well, although they ended up choosing a different candidate. But if nothing else, it gave me experience interviewing, and I was likely a comparison candidate for them to use to judge the guy they DID hire.


I find that job ads are based on the existing qualifications and competencies within the team. These have often been documented (and overstated) to justify a job grade during a regrading exercise or just to record the capabilities of the current staff for the HR Department. They often contain things that are no longer relevant and pitched at the level they hope you reach after a few years, not the level they expect when you start.

As others have said, the real skill is to interview well.


Recruiters are basically spammers nowadays. They probably got your email address (together with a thousand more) from Linkedin or some other database, and sent the same automated message to everyone. I wouldn't give it too much thought.

Out of all the emails they sent, a few (or a lot of them) will actually reach candidates that match what they're looking for. If you think you might have a shot at the job, reply and apply. Otherwise, just flag this as the 100th uninteresting email you received today and move on.

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