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I am being involved into interviewing master students applying for internships into the team where I work, and I am struggling with where to set the bar of my expectations.

The internships are about investigating application of existing data analysis methods to cases occurred on our machines, for the sake of automating the analysis.

My only experience with local students comes from being previously involved into assessing bachelor students applying for scholarships granted by my employer, but since they were already screened by HR for grades and soft skills, I am pretty sure I have always dealt with the top end of the candidate set, so I am not sure they make a good reference.

Moreover, I have completed my studies in another country from where I work, therefore I am not familiar with the level of preparation which can be expected from a master student.

How can I set realistic expectations on the knowledge and soft skills of candidate students for the internship?

I was thinking of probing:

  • what methods they theoretically know (studied at the university)
  • what methods they practically know and/or have used (applied during previous internships or during exam assignments)
  • soft skills: dealing with resistance and uncertainty, prioritizing, reporting, communication
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    Can you elaborate on the type of work or what kind of questions you were thinking about asking? – Mark C. Jul 11 '18 at 12:40
  • @Jimmy, added in the edit – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jul 11 '18 at 12:49
  • Also, you should specify the country from where those students came from. Another way to know it is to check a well-known-but-not-elitist university in this country, and check their informatic grades programs. EDIT : I see a bit later about master, sorry. – Shad Jul 11 '18 at 12:55
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    what training does your company offer? i would use that as a guide to what i interview for - effectively A. interest in the job and B. ability to get the most out of the training with C. skills that directly complement the training – bharal Jul 11 '18 at 13:02
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    Unless the role shares transferrible skills with the HR role, you cannot rely on "screening by HR" to ensure that you actually have the "top end" of the set - I have interviewed people for technical roles that HR were raving about, who were literally unable to open the screen in an open program to start a practical test with printed instructions in front of them. I have interviewed people perfect for the job that HR wanted to reject because they used technical or vernacular terms instead of the hitting the expected "buzzword bingo". (e.g. talking about "S.Q.L." when HR expected "SEQUEL") – Chronocidal Jul 11 '18 at 15:43
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When interviewing, I find it most fitting to have a purpose or goal for the interview (for you, not them). I think that establishing this will help guide your questions and responses back to this individual. (E.x: I want to know if this person has ever used technology X to find inconsistencies in data, and how they did it.)

So the internship is around ..

investigating application of existing data analysis methods to cases occurred on our machines, for the sake of automating the analysis

Which says to me that these individuals need

  1. Critical Thinking/Problem Solving skills
  2. Troubleshooting and Reporting Skills
  3. Ability to read/comprehend/absorb ambiguous amounts of data (I could be wrong here)
  4. Ability to do a wide analysis between different...systems?
  5. Possibly experience working with a specific technology?

I think it's important to note that there are also different types of interviews:

  1. Strictly Verbal and in Person
  2. Some sort of written/visual/white-boarding test/session
  3. A combination of the 2
  4. Over the phone

When people are coming out of school, it's not always the case that they have ever worked in a professional environment, which does affect the interview in the sense that they might not have solved any "real-world problems." If this person is expected to be somewhat familiar with algorithms/technologies - I'd start there (after getting some background, etc). If this person is supposed to look at two separate data sets and report back inconsistencies - perhaps scale a "real-life" (but solvable) scenario down to interview-scale and let the individual try to "solve" it like they would on the job (setting realistic expectations is key here - and a whiteboard would be optimal).

Consider the person's [possible] experience - this is very important. Expectations should be set based on this and the questions you ask should be a merge between the expectations of the role and what someone coming into the role with very limited experience should be able to do. This is helping set both the company and this person up for success. If the role requires someone working with Excel in an advanced setting, talk through how to create a macro for a realistic problem-solving purpose. If the role requires knowing how to sort data in some form or fashion, ask questions about different optimization algorithms (just ask if they are familiar with any and proceed from there).

Finally, the thing to consider here is that everyone was once in their position. If they are sitting in front of you, it's more than probable they already want the job - it's up to you to determine if they have the critical thinking skills/personality/tactfulness/professionalism that you are going to expect and want to work with. At the end, ask yourself, if I were to hire this person right now, are they going to be successful or do they have the tools to grow into a successful person with some appropriate guidance?

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I always found the best method for any candidate is to give them a realistic scenario with parameters and a team and role play out their solution and figuring it out. This takes more prep on your part to develop the environment and know the other team parts, but it really allows the interviewee free reign to show you their thought processes and showcase their knowledge as well as see where their strengths and weaknesses are and also what they believe about their own strengths and weaknesses.

I usually find personality, team dynamics and peer approach, conflict resolution and problem solving, technical knowledge and practical application in a real world scenario, self assessment with accuracy or hubris or low self view, and also the way they view others in a team environment.

The rest is analysis of what you and your company want. This way you can also take your results back to peers and get second opinions if you feel your bar may be too high. In general though the interviewees set the bar. If they are all students then there should be a general level of capability that you pick up on after 6 or so interviews.

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So, I'm going to start an answer as being myself a typical engineer just-graduated student. Based on my experienced, and ONLY for UE related student, you can assume the following points if they have a technical formation in Computer Science :

  • They have a global knowledge about best-practice, pattern, template, models, etc... They know at least 2 or 3 modeling language, and know how to handle documentation, planning, organization in project, SCRUM, etc... But they have a little or none technical experienced about.
  • They known at least C, C++ or Java (often the focus is set on one or the other as OOP-based language), Javascript, more or less every web modern language, few framework (Angular I will assume, Node.js...). They have few knowledge about basic computer level, if they are not specialized in this field. No one will known a usefull level of Assembly if they are not from a Hardware or Sys level specialized degree.
  • You can assume that they know one or two SQL DBMS, maybe one NoSQL (Mongo mainly), and know how to treat Database entry, database access, parser, data structure and format such json and XML.
  • They have a little experience with Adnro├»d dev (maybe Iphone too, but I'm not sure) and know the basic about.
  • Have a common high-graduate knowledge about economy, mathematic (statistic and algorythm mainly).
  • Soft skills : As random as a RNG. It's purely personal experience and skill that will be displayed in this field, and AFAIK, no degree provide integrated soft skill formation. You have to learn from scratch in the workplace.

I'm sure I miss some point, but on those one you can be pretty sure that if one of your candidate don't match this basics point, they don't have the require level. After, everything is about what did you expect, and personal skill that can differ a lot between two student of same level.

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  • What is a SGBD? – Mark Rotteveel Jul 11 '18 at 13:47
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    SGBD is the french abreviation for DBMS, sorry it was a typo. I edited it. – Shad Jul 11 '18 at 14:16
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    I'm not sure why this is upvoted. The question is about Data Analysis, which is not Computer Science. Even so, SCRUM is a Software Engineering process, and not necessarily known to Computer Science students. While a good answer might be specific to Data Analysis or cover a broad range of studies, this answer is specifically about the wrong skillset. – MSalters Jul 11 '18 at 14:18
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    I also think this might be the answer accurate only to students and graduates from France (?), not from entire EU, especially when it comes to tech stack - it really may vary between the countries (EU to date does not have unified education system). I work with graduates from different EU countries - only some of them would fall into the description (and it does not mean they are better graduates that the others - they just have a different tech stack knowledge). Also, since we are talking technicalities - Node.js is not a framework. – Raf M. Jul 11 '18 at 14:33
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    I've been interviewing a lot of UK graduates with computer science or related fields masters degrees, and I know a lot of German ones too. I would be happy if most of them had even heard about half of the things you say they should know. If you find one that has all of that, by all means don't let them leave the interview room without a signed contract. But good luck with that. – simbabque Jul 11 '18 at 15:56

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