Key things a data scientist should know – a guide to hiring your ideal candidate

By Robert Half on 9 May 2022
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes

Singapore is living in an increasingly data-driven world.

Almost everything – from how Singaporeans wind-down by watching a show on a streaming platform, to how we search for information online – is touched, in some way or another, by data.

This boom of data, which shows no signs of slowing down, has brought with it a demand for data experts and, amongst them, data scientists.

Related: Are data scientists in demand in Singapore?

Why are data scientists so important today?

Data scientists are amongst the most valuable assets for companies today operating in Singapore.

One of the most essential things a data scientist knows and does is manipulate existing data to produce trends and forecasts to eventually help organisations achieve sustainable growth.

What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic made data scientists even more valuable. Their expertise helped countless companies transition to new, predominantly online modes of doing business, and reform and restructure their business models.

Related: Why will data recruitment fuel the road to recovery, post-COVID-19?

Things a data scientist should know (and what to look for when hiring)

Skills and qualifications a data scientist candidate possess include advanced degrees (masters and PhDs) in statistics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering.

Nowadays, however, most universities also offer data science degrees, so depending on the experience level you are hiring at, that might be something you want to keep in mind.

Related: Interview questions for employers to get the ball rolling

In addition to a strong background in mathematics and statistics, technical expertise to keep an eye out for on CVs include (but are by no means limited to):

1. Analytical skills

These include collecting data, working with extensive datasets to prepare data for effective analysis, build models and support business-wide decision making

Ideal candidates’ CVs will feature familiarity with Big Data computational frameworks like Apache Hadoop or Apache Spark and high-level platforms such as Hive or Pig.

2. Data visualisation skills

This refers to the ability to present data in a manner that is best suited to business-wide problem-solving and decision-making

Ideal candidates’ CVs will feature familiarity with data visualisation tools such as ggplot, d3.js and Matplottlib, and Tableau.

Related: Shortlisting the best candidates

3. Programming skills

Data scientists almost exclusively work with systems designed to analyse and process data; it’s imperative they understand the systems’ inner workings to create programs and algorithms suited to their data.

Ideal candidates’ CVs will feature familiarity with Structured Query Language (SQL), Python, R, and C++.

4. Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) skills

One of the most important things a data scientist should know, particularly an experienced data scientist, is when it is appropriate to program and implement ML and AI.

This varies on a case-by-case basis for the business, but using ML and AI generally helps data scientists work faster and more efficiently.

An ideal candidates’ CVs might feature a history of leveraging AI- and ML-based models in past projects for improved forecasting and optimisation.

Transferable skills, particularly as they apply to an organisational setting, are equally important for this role.

For instance, an ideal candidate is someone who can effectively harness and apply their data science knowledge and who can communicate it well.

Related: Planning and conducting a job interview

5. Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking allows data scientists to approach data and their hypotheses from every multiple angles.

The ability to identify and solve problems both when they arise and before they’ve arisen can often save an organisation time and money – or even produce a profit.

6. Intellectual curiosity and the need to know why

Perhaps highest on the list of things a data scientist needs to know and possess is an unquenchable thirst for why.

In data science, most times, one answer isn’t enough – and a strong candidate will persevere to stay curious and answer unasked questions.

In such a dynamic field, where software is cutting edge one day and outdated the next, it’s imperative to have an outlook that encourages persistent learning.

Related: Making your final hiring decision

7. Business savvy and proactive communication

Experienced data scientists are often those who are well-versed in their own niche as well as the bigger business that encompasses their niche.

Of course, it’s a given that a data scientist candidate be able to comb through swathes of data and find trends, but it’s an entirely different advantage for the same candidate to be able to apply these trends as they relate to the industry they’re actually in, for instance.

Lastly, one of the most important things a data scientist needs to know is how to communicate problems, trends, and solutions. Intimate knowledge of data science is one thing; however, it’s the effective communication of data-driven insights that makes a good data scientist a valuable asset in a business environment.

Intimidated by the list of things a data scientist should know? Need more help looking for your ideal data scientist candidate in Singapore? Let us help. With over 300 locations worldwide, Robert Half offers access to expert recruiters and talented candidates.

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