I have a half day technical interview as a data scientist in the coming week but I was not told what the topics will be. Also the job description is a arch-typical generic data science description involving:

  • Databases
  • Machine Learning
  • Statistics
  • Algorithms
  • Cleaning
  • Map/Reduce

Would you consider it a good idea to reach out to the company and ask what the interview will be focussed on?

  • I don't think HR would be all that useful to you. Often times when I am given phone interviews I can almost hear their eyes glaze over as I give my answers which they generally accept since they sound like they could be right (i.e. I had a good ratio of jargon to understandable words).
    – pi31415
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 22:03
  • @pi31415 Thank you for your comment. I was not very precise: I just mentioned HR because that is the only contact I have from the company and I was hopping that they would ask the technical person and then get back to me...
    – user695652
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 22:08
  • 1
    If you are going for a data science position, then the probability is that you will be asked questions on each of these topics. And if the interviewers are worth their salt, they will ask you questions on how to solve data problems, because they want to see how well you can apply what you know to solve their problems. Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 22:46
  • @Joe Strazzere Yes its my first interview and yes its an entry level position
    – user695652
    Commented Nov 29, 2014 at 1:58
  • Take a look at glassdoor.com/index.htm They have a section where other candidates post about their interview experience. It's also a good resource for how people like their jobs, pay ranges, etc. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 17:02

2 Answers 2


Would you consider it a good idea to reach out to the company and ask what the interview will be focused on?

In general, asking what will be the focus of the interview wouldn't be a good idea.

It's hard to imagine the prospective interviewer responding with anything useful. Basically, they'll be asking you questions to see if you are capable and willing to perform the job they are filling. And they'll try to see if you are a good fit for their company culture.

Asking about the focus will signal to them that you are new to professional work and haven't been on interviews. Of course you are new to work and you haven't been on interviews, so it may not hurt you too much to come across as a newbie.

Still, I wouldn't bother. I can't imagine any reply they would give could help you. It's extremely unlikely for them to give you something with which you could cram ahead of time.

Instead, research the company carefully, read and understand the job posting, and prepare a few great questions to ask during the interview. Then, just be yourself and let your capabilities and your enthusiasm show through.


Absolutely. Call and follow up with a few questions.

Something like:

"I noticed these skills on the app, are these all the topics or will there be any additional I should prep for?"

Employers love to have people with follow up and attention to detail skills. This is an example of what they can expect to get from you. Also- when you do talk to the technical person if you are the only candidate that actually called them and prepared for the interview most likely you are going to be the one they will pick if it is coming down to the wire. "Ohh yeah I remember this person, they called and asked a bunch of questions and really took it seriously. Hire that person".

  • 1
    In your cover letter, you indicated you were an expert in X, Y, and Z. Why does an expert in X, Y, and Z need to prep?
    – emory
    Commented Nov 29, 2014 at 16:48
  • @emory Experts do forget over time when they don't get to practice a topic or, they can do it but they are pretty rusty at it. I am very hard to beat at Linux but I have forgotten almost everything about PAM authentication :) Commented Nov 29, 2014 at 20:18
  • Thats ridiculous - I'm not sure which world you live in but we are not robots. Remember you are talking to HR people not developers. There is nothing wrong with clarifying. Put yourself in the position of being in HR and sifting through people all day. They value when others value the process and take it seriously. Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 3:33
  • @ScottHarrington True, but why ask this of HR? They're clueless when it comes to X, Y, and Z. Find out who you'd be working with and ask them what you'd really be working on. Brush up on that. Might not actually be X, Y, or Z anyway. Job postings rarely tell you what reality is like. Has happened to me. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 0:42

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