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My team is in the process of hiring a data scientist. We are a small team and have very limited prior experience in conducting on-site technical interviews.

Our current plan is to provide candidates with a workstation, a prompt, and a data set. Then, we want to ask them to do some machine learning tasks.

The prompt will be fairly open-ended, and the goal is to see what they can do with the data as well as assess their coding skills.

However, since we don't have much technical interview/hiring experience, we don't know if it is typical or makes sense to allow interviewees to use the internet to potentially look for solutions. Allowing them to use the Internet can potentially assess how candidates use a variety of resources to solve problems under time pressure (and in real work situations, they will use the internet to find solutions anyway). Not allowing for internet access on the other hand, I suppose, can test how candidates solve problems with limited resources.

Any suggestion/advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  • "I am not sure if this is an off-topic question" - as of now I think it is. Giving access to internet is up to what you want them to be able to do; answering this may be completely opinion based. Can you try rephrase your question? – DarkCygnus Jun 11 '18 at 15:51
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    A question I asked sometime ago would be helpful: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/70288/… – Sandra K Jun 11 '18 at 15:51
  • @SandraK: Thank you for the link! For some reason, I didn't find your question when I was searching. – Alex Jun 11 '18 at 15:54
  • A compromise might be to open up only certain sites. Like if it is .NET give them access to MSDN.Microsoft.com. – paparazzo Jun 11 '18 at 16:00
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    No problem, hope that helps! So short answer: It DEPENDS -> If you require them to solve your problems withOUT access to internet, then test them withOUT access to the internet. Else, give them the access. Your test's goal is to simulate a normal routine (day at work) and see how they do, right? – Sandra K Jun 11 '18 at 16:06
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It DEPENDS.

If you require and expect the future employee to solve your problems withOUT access to internet, then test them withOUT access to the internet. Else, give them the access.

However, we should be taking into consideration the complexity of the test you are giving and the seniority of the position they are applying for. A normal day at work could be sitting all day on the internet, but for some tasks you require the employee to know how to answer/solve them right away off of his head without the need to research. (Think of a surgery doctor and something very bad happens during the surgery - he won't say hold on I need to refresh my mind and reread chapter 4 of book HowToStopABleeding).

Your test's goal is to simulate a normal routine (day at work) and see how they do, right? So, depending on your day-at-work routine, test the candidates.

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Give them an assignment that they can complete from home in a limited amount of time of around 30 minutes. Let them use their own computer, Internet access, whatever resources they want to.

Yes, some people might cheat. You'll be able to catch them in the first 2 minutes of a face-to-face interview when you ask them about how they approached the assignment and what their thought process was.

Also, run your own team though this exercise, to make certain you know that it's reasonable to execute in the allotted time.

  • I agree with this answer. Any reasonable person could probably spend hours researching the problem. If you give them a limited time, you're testing whether they know what the solution is and is investigating it, vs trying to understand the entire problem then arriving to a solution based on that finding. – Dan Dec 6 '18 at 19:24

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