19 Data Science Case Study Interview Questions (with Solutions)

19 Data Science Case Study Interview Questions with Solutions [Updated 2023]

Case studies are often the most challenging aspect of data science interview processes. They are crafted to resemble a company’s existing or previous projects, assessing a candidate’s ability to tackle prompts, convey their insights, and navigate obstacles.

To excel in data science case study interviews, practice is crucial. It will enable you to develop strategies for approaching case studies, asking the right questions to your interviewer, and providing responses that showcase your skills while adhering to time constraints.

The best way of doing this is by using a framework for answering case studies. For example, you could use the product metrics framework and the A/B testing framework to answer most case studies that come up in data science interviews.

There are four main types of data science case studies:

  • Product Case Studies - This type of case study tackles a specific product or feature offering, often tied to the interviewing company. Interviewers are generally looking for a sense of business sense geared towards product metrics.
  • Data Analytics Case Study Questions - Data analytics case studies ask you to propose possible metrics in order to investigate an analytics problem. Additionally, you must write a SQL query to pull your proposed metrics, and then perform analysis using the data you queried, just as you would do in the role.
  • Modeling and Machine Learning Case Studies - Modeling case studies are more varied and focus on assessing your intuition for building models around business problems.
  • Business Case Questions - Similar to product questions, business cases tackle issues or opportunities specific to the organization that is interviewing you. Often, candidates must assess the best option for a certain business plan being proposed, and formulate a process for solving the specific problem.

How Case Study Interviews Are Conducted

Oftentimes as an interviewee, you want to know the setting and format in which to expect the above questions to be asked. Unfortunately, this is company-specific: Some prefer real-time settings, where candidates actively work through a prompt after receiving it, while others offer some period of days (say, a week) before settling in for a presentation of your findings.

It is therefore important to have a system for answering these questions that will accommodate all possible formats, such that you are prepared for any set of circumstances (we provide such a framework below).

Why Are Case Study Questions Asked?

Case studies assess your thought process in answering data science questions. Specifically, interviewers want to see that you have the ability to think on your feet, and to work through real-world problems that likely do not have a right or wrong answer. Real-world case studies that are affecting businesses are not binary; there is no black-and-white, yes-or-no answer. This is why it is important that you can demonstrate decisiveness in your investigations, as well as show your capacity to consider impacts and topics from a variety of angles. Once you are in the role, you will be dealing directly with the ambiguity at the heart of decision-making.

Perhaps most importantly, case interviews assess your ability to effectively communicate your conclusions. On the job, data scientists exchange information across teams and divisions, so a significant part of the interviewer’s focus will be on how you process and explain your answer.

Quick tip: Because case questions in data science interviews tend to be product- and company-focused, it is extremely beneficial to research current projects and developments across different divisions , as these initiatives might end up as the case study topic.

How to Answer Data Science Case Study Questions (The Framework)


There are four main steps to tackling case questions in Data Science interviews, regardless of the type: clarify, make assumptions, gather context, and provide data points and analysis.

Step 1: Clarify

Clarifying is used to gather more information . More often than not, these case studies are designed to be confusing and vague. There will be unorganized data intentionally supplemented with extraneous or omitted information, so it is the candidate’s responsibility to dig deeper, filter out bad information, and fill gaps. Interviewers will be observing how an applicant asks questions and reach their solution.

For example, with a product question, you might take into consideration:

  • What is the product?
  • How does the product work?
  • How does the product align with the business itself?

Step 2: Make Assumptions

When you have made sure that you have evaluated and understand the dataset, start investigating and discarding possible hypotheses. Developing insights on the product at this stage complements your ability to glean information from the dataset, and the exploration of your ideas is paramount to forming a successful hypothesis. You should be communicating your hypotheses with the interviewer, such that they can provide clarifying remarks on how the business views the product, and to help you discard unworkable lines of inquiry. If we continue to think about a product question, some important questions to evaluate and draw conclusions from include:

  • Who uses the product? Why?
  • What are the goals of the product?
  • How does the product interact with other services or goods the company offers?

The goal of this is to reduce the scope of the problem at hand, and ask the interviewer questions upfront that allow you to tackle the meat of the problem instead of focusing on less consequential edge cases.

Step 3: Propose a Solution

Now that a hypothesis is formed that has incorporated the dataset and an understanding of the business-related context, it is time to apply that knowledge in forming a solution. Remember, the hypothesis is simply a refined version of the problem that uses the data on hand as its basis to being solved. The solution you create can target this narrow problem, and you can have full faith that it is addressing the core of the case study question.

Keep in mind that there isn’t a single expected solution, and as such, there is a certain freedom here to determine the exact path for investigation.

Step 4: Provide Data Points and Analysis

Finally, providing data points and analysis in support of your solution involves choosing and prioritizing a main metric. As with all prior factors, this step must be tied back to the hypothesis and the main goal of the problem. From that foundation, it is important to trace through and analyze different examples– from the main metric–in order to validate the hypothesis.

Quick tip: Every case question tends to have multiple solutions. Therefore, you should absolutely consider and communicate any potential trade-offs of your chosen method. Be sure you are communicating the pros and cons of your approach.

Note: In some special cases, solutions will also be assessed on the ability to convey information in layman’s terms. Regardless of the structure, applicants should always be prepared to solve through the framework outlined above in order to answer the prompt.

The Role of Effective Communication

There have been multiple articles and discussions conducted by interviewers behind the Data Science Case Study portion, and they all boil down success in case studies to one main factor: effective communication.

All the analysis in the world will not help if interviewees cannot verbally work through and highlight their thought process within the case study. Again, interviewers are keyed at this stage of the hiring process to look for well-developed “soft-skills” and problem-solving capabilities. Demonstrating those traits is key to succeeding in this round.

To this end, the best advice possible would be to practice actively going through example case studies, such as those available in the Interview Query questions bank . Exploring different topics with a friend in an interview-like setting with cold recall (no Googling in between!) will be uncomfortable and awkward, but it will also help reveal weaknesses in fleshing out the investigation.

Don’t worry if the first few times are terrible! Developing a rhythm will help with gaining self-confidence as you become better at assessing and learning through these sessions.

Product Case Study Questions


With product data science case questions , the interviewer wants to get an idea of your product sense intuition. Specifically, these questions assess your ability to identify which metrics should be proposed in order to understand a product.

1. How would you measure the success of private stories on Instagram, where only certain close friends can see the story?

Start by answering: What is the goal of the private story feature on Instagram? You can’t evaluate “success” without knowing what the initial objective of the product was, to begin with.

One specific goal of this feature would be to drive engagement. A private story could potentially increase interactions between users, and grow awareness of the feature.

Now, what types of metrics might you propose to assess user engagement? For a high-level overview, we could look at:

  • Average stories per user per day
  • Average Close Friends stories per user per day

However, we would also want to further bucket our users to see the effect that Close Friends stories have on user engagement. By bucketing users by age, date joined, or another metric, we could see how engagement is affected within certain populations, giving us insight on success that could be lost if looking at the overall population.

2. How would you measure the success of acquiring new users through a 30-day free trial at Netflix?

More context: Netflix is offering a promotion where users can enroll in a 30-day free trial. After 30 days, customers will automatically be charged based on their selected package. How would you measure acquisition success, and what metrics would you propose to measure the success of the free trial?

One way we can frame the concept specifically to this problem is to think about controllable inputs, external drivers, and then the observable output . Start with the major goals of Netflix:

  • Acquiring new users to their subscription plan.
  • Decreasing churn and increasing retention.

Looking at acquisition output metrics specifically, there are several top-level stats that we can look at, including:

  • Conversion rate percentage
  • Cost per free trial acquisition
  • Daily conversion rate

With these conversion metrics, we would also want to bucket users by cohort. This would help us see the percentage of free users who were acquired, as well as retention by cohort.

3. How would you measure the success of Facebook Groups?

Start by considering the key function of Facebook Groups . You could say that Groups are a way for users to connect with other users through a shared interest or real-life relationship. Therefore, the user’s goal is to experience a sense of community, which will also drive our business goal of increasing user engagement.

What general engagement metrics can we associate with this value? An objective metric like Groups monthly active users would help us see if Facebook Groups user base is increasing or decreasing. Plus, we could monitor metrics like posting, commenting, and sharing rates.

There are other products that Groups impact, however, specifically the Newsfeed. We need to consider Newsfeed quality and examine if updates from Groups clog up the content pipeline and if users prioritize those updates over other Newsfeed items. This evaluation will give us a better sense of if Groups actually contribute to higher engagement levels.

4. How would you analyze the effectiveness of a new LinkedIn chat feature that shows a “green dot” for active users?

Note: Given engineering constraints, the new feature is impossible to A/B test before release. When you approach case study questions, remember always to clarify any vague terms. In this case, “effectiveness” is very vague. To help you define that term, you would want first to consider what the goal is of adding a green dot to LinkedIn chat.

Data Science Product Case Study (LinkedIn InMail, Facebook Chat)

5. How would you diagnose why weekly active users are up 5%, but email notification open rates are down 2%?

What assumptions can you make about the relationship between weekly active users and email open rates? With a case question like this, you would want to first answer that line of inquiry before proceeding.

Hint: Open rate can decrease when its numerator decreases (fewer people open emails) or its denominator increases (more emails are sent overall). Taking these two factors into account, what are some hypotheses we can make about our decrease in the open rate compared to our increase in weekly active users?

Data Analytics Case Study Questions

Data analytics case studies ask you to dive into analytics problems. Typically these questions ask you to examine metrics trade-offs or investigate changes in metrics. In addition to proposing metrics, you also have to write SQL queries to generate the metrics, which is why they are sometimes referred to as SQL case study questions .

6. Using the provided data, generate some specific recommendations on how DoorDash can improve.

In this DoorDash analytics case study take-home question you are provided with the following dataset:

  • Customer order time
  • Restaurant order time
  • Driver arrives at restaurant time
  • Order delivered time
  • Customer ID
  • Amount of discount
  • Amount of tip

With a dataset like this, there are numerous recommendations you can make. A good place to start is by thinking about the DoorDash marketplace, which includes drivers, riders and merchants. How could you analyze the data to increase revenue, driver/user retention and engagement in that marketplace?

7. After implementing a notification change, the total number of unsubscribes increases. Write a SQL query to show how unsubscribes are affecting login rates over time.

This is a Twitter data science interview question , and let’s say you implemented this new feature using an A/B test. You are provided with two tables: events (which includes login, nologin and unsubscribe ) and variants (which includes control or variant ).

We are tasked with comparing multiple different variables at play here. There is the new notification system, along with its effect of creating more unsubscribes. We can also see how login rates compare for unsubscribes for each bucket of the A/B test.

Given that we want to measure two different changes, we know we have to use GROUP BY for the two variables: date and bucket variant. What comes next?

8. Write a query to disprove the hypothesis: Data scientists who switch jobs more often end up getting promoted faster.

More context: You are provided with a table of user experiences representing each person’s past work experiences and timelines.

This question requires a bit of creative problem-solving to understand how we can prove or disprove the hypothesis. The hypothesis is that a data scientist that ends up switching jobs more often gets promoted faster.

Therefore, in analyzing this dataset, we can prove this hypothesis by separating the data scientists into specific segments on how often they jump in their careers.

For example, if we looked at the number of job switches for data scientists that have been in their field for five years, we could prove the hypothesis that the number of data science managers increased as the number of career jumps also rose.

  • Never switched jobs: 10% are managers
  • Switched jobs once: 20% are managers
  • Switched jobs twice: 30% are managers
  • Switched jobs three times: 40% are managers

9. Write a SQL query to investigate the hypothesis: Click-through rate is dependent on search result rating.

More context: You are given a table with search results on Facebook, which includes query (search term), position (the search position), and rating (human rating from 1 to 5). Each row represents a single search and includes a column has_clicked that represents whether a user clicked or not.

This question requires us to formulaically do two things: create a metric that can analyze a problem that we face and then actually compute that metric.

Think about the data we want to display to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Our output metric is CTR (clickthrough rate). If CTR is high when search result ratings are high and CTR is low when the search result ratings are low, then our hypothesis is proven. However, if the opposite is true, CTR is low when the search result ratings are high, or there is no proven correlation between the two, then our hypothesis is not proven.

With that structure in mind, we can then look at the results split into different search rating buckets. If we measure the CTR for queries that all have results rated at 1 and then measure CTR for queries that have results rated at lower than 2, etc., we can measure to see if the increase in rating is correlated with an increase in CTR.

Modeling and Machine Learning Case Questions

Machine learning case questions assess your ability to build models to solve business problems. These questions can range from applying machine learning to solve a specific case scenario to assessing the validity of a hypothetical existing model . The modeling case study requires a candidate to evaluate and explain any certain part of the model building process.

10. Describe how you would build a model to predict Uber ETAs after a rider requests a ride.

Common machine learning case study problems like this are designed to explain how you would build a model. Many times this can be scoped down to specific parts of the model building process. Examining the example above, we could break it up into:

How would you evaluate the predictions of an Uber ETA model?

What features would you use to predict the Uber ETA for ride requests?

Our recommended framework breaks down a modeling and machine learning case study to individual steps in order to tackle each one thoroughly. In each full modeling case study, you will want to go over:

  • Data processing
  • Feature Selection
  • Model Selection
  • Cross Validation
  • Evaluation Metrics
  • Testing and Roll Out

11. How would you build a model that sends bank customers a text message when fraudulent transactions are detected?

Additionally, the customer can approve or deny the transaction via text response.

Let’s start out by understanding what kind of model would need to be built. We know that since we are working with fraud, there has to be a case where either a fraudulent transaction is or is not present .

Hint: This problem is a binary classification problem. Given the problem scenario, what considerations do we have to think about when first building this model? What would the bank fraud data look like?

12. How would you design the inputs and outputs for a model that detects potential bombs at a border crossing?

Additional questions. How would you test the model and measure its accuracy? Remember the equation for precision:


Because we can not have high TrueNegatives, recall should be high when assessing the model.

13. Which model would you choose to predict Airbnb booking prices: Linear regression or random forest regression?

Start by answering this question: What are the main differences between linear regression and random forest?

Random forest regression is based on the ensemble machine learning technique of bagging . The two key concepts of random forests are:

  • Random sampling of training observations when building trees.
  • Random subsets of features for splitting nodes.

Random forest regressions also discretize continuous variables, since they are based on decision trees and can split categorical and continuous variables.

Linear regression, on the other hand, is the standard regression technique in which relationships are modeled using a linear predictor function, the most common example represented as y = Ax + B.

Let’s see how each model is applicable to Airbnb’s bookings. One thing we need to do in the interview is to understand more context around the problem of predicting bookings. To do so, we need to understand which features are present in our dataset.

We can assume the dataset will have features like:

  • Location features.
  • Seasonality.
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Private room, shared, entire home, etc.
  • External demand (conferences, festivals, sporting events).

Which model would be the best fit for this feature set?

14. Using a binary classification model that pre-approves candidates for a loan, how would you give each rejected application a rejection reason?

More context: You do not have access to the feature weights. Start by thinking about the problem like this: How would the problem change if we had ten, one thousand, or ten thousand applicants that had gone through the loan qualification program?

Pretend that we have three people: Alice, Bob, and Candace that have all applied for a loan. Simplifying the financial lending loan model, let us assume the only features are the total number of credit cards , the dollar amount of current debt , and credit age . Here is a scenario:

  • Alice: 10 credit cards, 5 years of credit age, 20 K i n d e b t < / l i > < l i > < s t r o n g > B o b : < / s t r o n g > 10 c r e d i t c a r d s , 5 y e a r s o f c r e d i t a g e , 20K in debt</li> <li><strong>Bob:</strong> 10 credit cards, 5 years of credit age, 20 K in d e b t < / l i >< l i >< s t ro n g > B o b :< / s t ro n g > 10 cre d i t c a r d s , 5 ye a rso f cre d i t a g e , 15K in debt

If the sample size analyzed was instead thousands of people who had the same number of credit cards and credit age with varying levels of debt, we could figure out the model’s average loan acceptance rate for each numerical amount of current debt. Then we could plot these on a graph to model the y-value (average loan acceptance) versus the x-value (dollar amount of current debt). These graphs are called partial dependence plots.

Business Case Questions

In data science interviews, business case study questions task you with addressing problems as they relate to the business. You might be asked about topics like estimation and calculation, as well as applying problem-solving to a larger case. One tip: Be sure to read up on the company’s products and ventures before your interview to expose yourself to possible topics.

15. How would you estimate the average lifetime value of customers at a business that has existed for just over one year?

More context: You know that the product costs 100 p e r m o n t h , a v e r a g e s 10 < p > R e m e m b e r t h a t l i f e t i m e v a l u e i s d e f i n e d b y t h e p r e d i c t i o n o f t h e n e t r e v e n u e a t t r i b u t e d t o t h e e n t i r e f u t u r e r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h a l l c u s t o m e r s a v e r a g e d . T h e r e f o r e , 100 per month, averages 10% in monthly churn, and the average customer stays for 3.5 months.</p> <p>Remember that lifetime value is defined by the prediction of the net revenue attributed to the entire future relationship with all customers averaged. Therefore, 100 p er m o n t h , a v er a g es 10 < p > R e m e mb er t ha tl i f e t im e v a l u e i s d e f in e d b y t h e p re d i c t i o n o f t h e n e t re v e n u e a tt r ib u t e d t o t h ee n t i re f u t u rere l a t i o n s hi pw i t ha ll c u s t o m ers a v er a g e d . T h ere f ore , 100 * 3.5 = $350… But is it that simple?

Because this company is so new, our average customer length (3.5 months) is biased from the short possible length of time that anyone could have been a customer (one year maximum). How would you then model out LTV knowing the churn rate and product cost?

16. How would you go about removing duplicate product names (e.g. iPhone X vs. Apple iPhone 10) in a massive database?

See the full solution for this Amazon business case question on YouTube:

case study data science interview

17. What metrics would you monitor to know if a 50% discount promotion is a good idea for a ride-sharing company?

This question has no correct answer and is rather designed to test your reasoning and communication skills related to product/business cases. First, start by stating your assumptions. What are the goals of this promotion? It is likely that the goal of the discount is to grow revenue and increase retention. A few other assumptions you might make include:

  • The promotion will be applied uniformly across all users.
  • The 50% discount can only be used for a single ride.

How would we be able to evaluate this pricing strategy? An A/B test between the control group (no discount) and test group (discount) would allow us to evaluate Long-term revenue vs average cost of the promotion. Using these two metrics how could we measure if the promotion is a good idea?

18. A bank wants to create a new partner card, e.g. Whole Foods Chase credit card). How would you determine what the next partner card should be?

More context: Say you have access to all customer spending data. With this question, there are several approaches you can take. As your first step, think about the business reason for credit card partnerships: they help increase acquisition and customer retention.

One of the simplest solutions would be to sum all transactions grouped by merchants. This would identify the merchants who see the highest spending amounts. However, the one issue might be that some merchants have a high-spend value but low volume. How could we counteract this potential pitfall? Is the volume of transactions even an important factor in our credit card business? The more questions you ask, the more may spring to mind.

19. How would you assess the value of keeping a TV show on a streaming platform like Netflix?

Say that Netflix is working on a deal to renew the streaming rights for a show like The Office , which has been on Netflix for one year. Your job is to value the benefit of keeping the show on Netflix.

Start by trying to understand the reasons why Netflix would want to renew the show. Netflix mainly has three goals for what their content should help achieve:

  • Acquisition: To increase the number of subscribers.
  • Retention: To increase the retention of active subscribers and keep them on as paying members.
  • Revenue: To increase overall revenue.

One solution to value the benefit would be to estimate a lower and upper bound to understand the percentage of users that would be affected by The Office being removed. You could then run these percentages against your known acquisition and retention rates.

Learn More About Feature Changes

This course is designed teach you everything you need to know about feature changes:

More Data Science Interview Resources

Case studies are one of the most common types of data science interview questions . Practice with the data science course from Interview Query, which includes product and machine learning modules.

Data science case interviews (what to expect & how to prepare)

Data science case study

Data science case studies are tough to crack: they’re open-ended, technical, and specific to the company. Interviewers use them to test your ability to break down complex problems and your use of analytical thinking to address business concerns.

So we’ve put together this guide to help you familiarize yourself with case studies at companies like Amazon, Google, and Meta (Facebook), as well as how to prepare for them, using practice questions and a repeatable answer framework.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about tackling data science case studies: always start by asking clarifying questions, before jumping in to your plan.

Let’s get started.

  • What to expect in data science case study interviews
  • How to approach data science case studies
  • Sample cases from FAANG data science interviews
  • How to prepare for data science case interviews

Click here to practice 1-on-1 with ex-FAANG interviewers

1. what to expect in data science case study interviews.

Before we get into an answer method and practice questions for data science case studies, let’s take a look at what you can expect in this type of interview.

Of course, the exact interview process for data scientist candidates will depend on the company you’re applying to, but case studies generally appear in both the pre-onsite phone screens and during the final onsite or virtual loop.

These questions may take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes to answer, depending on the depth and complexity that the interviewer is looking for. During the initial phone screens, the case studies are typically shorter and interspersed with other technical and/or behavioral questions. During the final rounds, they will likely take longer to answer and require a more detailed analysis.

While some candidates may have the opportunity to prepare in advance and present their conclusions during an interview round, most candidates work with the information the interviewer offers on the spot.

1.1 The types of data science case studies

Generally, there are two types of case studies:

  • Analysis cases , which focus on how you translate user behavior into ideas and insights using data. These typically center around a product, feature, or business concern that’s unique to the company you’re interviewing with.
  • Modeling cases , which are more overtly technical and focus on how you build and use machine learning and statistical models to address business problems.

The number of case studies that you’ll receive in each category will depend on the company and the position that you’ve applied for. Facebook , for instance, typically doesn’t give many machine learning modeling cases, whereas Amazon does.

Also, some companies break these larger groups into smaller subcategories. For example, Facebook divides its analysis cases into two types: product interpretation and applied data . 

You may also receive in-depth questions similar to case studies, which test your technical capabilities (e.g. coding, SQL), so if you’d like to learn more about how to answer coding interview questions, take a look here .

We’ll give you a step-by-step method that can be used to answer analysis and modeling cases in section 2 . But first, let’s look at how interviewers will assess your answers.

1.2 What interviewers are looking for

We’ve researched accounts from ex-interviewers and data scientists to pinpoint the main criteria that interviewers look for in your answers. While the exact grading rubric will vary per company, this list from an ex-Google data scientist is a good overview of the biggest assessment areas:

  • Structure : candidate can break down an ambiguous problem into clear steps
  • Completeness : candidate is able to fully answer the question
  • Soundness : candidate’s solution is feasible and logical
  • Clarity : candidate’s explanations and methodology are easy to understand
  • Speed : candidate manages time well and is able to come up with solutions quickly

You’ll be able to improve your skills in each of these categories by practicing data science case studies on your own, and by working with an answer framework. We’ll get into that next.

2. How to approach data science case studies

Approaching data science cases with a repeatable framework will not only add structure to your answer, but also help you manage your time and think clearly under the stress of interview conditions.

Let’s go over a framework that you can use in your interviews, then break it down with an example answer.

2.1 Data science case framework: CAPER

We've researched popular frameworks used by real data scientists, and consolidated them to be as memorable and useful in an interview setting as possible.

Try using the framework below to structure your thinking during the interview. 

  • Clarify : Start by asking questions. Case questions are ambiguous, so you’ll need to gather more information from the interviewer, while eliminating irrelevant data. The types of questions you’ll ask will depend on the case, but consider: what is the business objective? What data can I access? Should I focus on all customers or just in X region?
  • Assume : Narrow the problem down by making assumptions and stating them to the interviewer for confirmation. (E.g. the statistical significance is X%, users are segmented based on XYZ, etc.) By the end of this step you should have constrained the problem into a clear goal.
  • Plan : Now, begin to craft your solution. Take time to outline a plan, breaking it into manageable tasks. Once you’ve made your plan, explain each step that you will take to the interviewer, and ask if it sounds good to them.
  • Execute : Carry out your plan, walking through each step with the interviewer. Depending on the type of case, you may have to prepare and engineer data, code, apply statistical algorithms, build a model, etc. In the majority of cases, you will need to end with business analysis.
  • Review : Finally, tie your final solution back to the business objectives you and the interviewer had initially identified. Evaluate your solution, and whether there are any steps you could have added or removed to improve it. 

Now that you’ve seen the framework, let’s take a look at how to implement it.

2.2 Sample answer using the CAPER framework

Below you’ll find an answer to a Facebook data science interview question from the Applied Data loop. This is an example that comes from Facebook’s data science interview prep materials, which you can find here .

Try this question:

Imagine that Facebook is building a product around high schools, starting with about 300 million users who have filled out a field with the name of their current high school. How would you find out how much of this data is real?

First, we need to clarify the question, eliminating irrelevant data and pinpointing what is the most important. For example:

  • What exactly does “real” mean in this context?
  • Should we focus on whether the high school itself is real, or whether the user actually attended the high school they’ve named?

After discussing with the interviewer, we’ve decided to focus on whether the high school itself is real first, followed by whether the user actually attended the high school they’ve named.

Next, we’ll narrow the problem down and state our assumptions to the interviewer for confirmation. Here are some assumptions we could make in the context of this problem:

  • The 300 million users are likely teenagers, given that they’re listing their current high school
  • We can assume that a high school that is listed too few times is likely fake
  • We can assume that a high school that is listed too many times (e.g. 10,000+ students) is likely fake

The interviewer has agreed with each of these assumptions, so we can now move on to the plan.

Next, it’s time to make a list of actionable steps and lay them out for the interviewer before moving on.

First, there are two approaches that we can identify:

  • A high precision approach, which provides a list of people who definitely went to a confirmed high school
  • A high recall approach, more similar to market sizing, which would provide a ballpark figure of people who went to a confirmed high school

As this is for a product that Facebook is currently building, the product use case likely calls for an estimate that is as accurate as possible. So we can go for the first approach, which will provide a more precise estimate of confirmed users listing a real high school. 

Now, we list the steps that make up this approach:

  • To find whether a high school is real: Draw a distribution with the number of students on the X axis, and the number of high schools on the Y axis, in order to find and eliminate the lower and upper bounds
  • To find whether a student really went to a high school: use a user’s friend graph and location to determine the plausibility of the high school they’ve named

The interviewer has approved the plan, which means that it’s time to execute.

4. Execute 

Step 1: Determining whether a high school is real

Going off of our plan, we’ll first start with the distribution.

We can use x1 to denote the lower bound, below which the number of times a high school is listed would be too small for a plausible school. x2 then denotes the upper bound, above which the high school has been listed too many times for a plausible school.

Here is what that would look like:

Data science case study illustration

Be prepared to answer follow up questions. In this case, the interviewer may ask, “looking at this graph, what do you think x1 and x2 would be?”

Based on this distribution, we could say that x1 is approximately the 5th percentile, or somewhere around 100 students. So, out of 300 million students, if fewer than 100 students list “Applebee” high school, then this is most likely not a real high school.

x2 is likely around the 95th percentile, or potentially as high as the 99th percentile. Based on intuition, we could estimate that number around 10,000. So, if more than 10,000 students list “Applebee” high school, then this is most likely not real. Here is how that looks on the distribution:

Data science case study illustration 2

At this point, the interviewer may ask more follow-up questions, such as “how do we account for different high schools that share the same name?”

In this case, we could group by the schools’ name and location, rather than name alone. If the high school does not have a dedicated page that lists its location, we could deduce its location based on the city of the user that lists it. 

Step 2: Determining whether a user went to the high school

A strong signal as to whether a user attended a specific high school would be their friend graph: a set number of friends would have to have listed the same current high school. For now, we’ll set that number at five friends.

Don’t forget to call out trade-offs and edge cases as you go. In this case, there could be a student who has recently moved, and so the high school they’ve listed does not reflect their actual current high school. 

To solve this, we could rely on users to update their location to reflect the change. If users do not update their location and high school, this would present an edge case that we would need to work out later.

To conclude, we could use the data from both the friend graph and the initial distribution to confirm the two signifiers: a high school is real, and the user really went there.

If enough users in the same location list the same high school, then it is likely that the high school is real, and that the users really attend it. If there are not enough users in the same location that list the same high school, then it is likely that the high school is not real, and the users do not actually attend it.

3. Sample cases from FAANG data science interviews

Having worked through the sample problem above, try out the different kinds of case studies that have been asked in data science interviews at FAANG companies. We’ve divided the questions into types of cases, as well as by company.

For more information about each of these companies’ data science interviews, take a look at these guides:

  • Facebook data scientist interview guide
  • Amazon data scientist interview guide
  • Google data scientist interview guide

Now let’s get into the questions. This is a selection of real data scientist interview questions, according to data from Glassdoor.

Data science case studies

Facebook - Analysis (product interpretation)

  • How would you measure the success of a product?
  • What KPIs would you use to measure the success of the newsfeed?
  • Friends acceptance rate decreases 15% after a new notifications system is launched - how would you investigate?

Facebook - Analysis (applied data)

  • How would you evaluate the impact for teenagers when their parents join Facebook?
  • How would you decide to launch or not if engagement within a specific cohort decreased while all the rest increased?
  • How would you set up an experiment to understand feature change in Instagram stories?

Amazon - modeling

  • How would you improve a classification model that suffers from low precision?
  • When you have time series data by month, and it has large data records, how will you find significant differences between this month and previous month?

Google - Analysis

  • You have a google app and you make a change. How do you test if a metric has increased or not?
  • How do you detect viruses or inappropriate content on YouTube?
  • How would you compare if upgrading the android system produces more searches?

4. How to prepare for data science case interviews

Understanding the process and learning a method for data science cases will go a long way in helping you prepare. But this information is not enough to land you a data science job offer. 

To succeed in your data scientist case interviews, you're also going to need to practice under realistic interview conditions so that you'll be ready to perform when it counts. 

For more information on how to prepare for data science interviews as a whole, take a look at our guide on data science interview prep .

4.1 Practice on your own

Start by answering practice questions alone. You can use the list in section 3 , and interview yourself out loud. This may sound strange, but it will significantly improve the way you communicate your answers during an interview. 

Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview. This will help you get used to the answer framework and get used to answering data science cases in a structured way.

4.2 Practice with peers

Once you’re used to answering questions on your own , then a great next step is to do mock interviews with friends or peers. This will help you adapt your approach to accommodate for follow-ups and answer questions you haven’t already worked through.

This can be especially helpful if your friend has experience with data scientist interviews, or is at least familiar with the process.

4.3 Practice with ex-interviewers

Finally, you should also try to practice data science mock interviews with expert ex-interviewers, as they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends and peers.

If you know a data scientist or someone who has experience running interviews at a big tech company, then that's fantastic. But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading tech companies. Learn more and start scheduling sessions today .

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Top 10 Data Science Case Study Interview Questions for 2023

Data Science Case Study Interview Questions and Answers to Crack Your next Data Science Interview. Last Updated: 12 Sep 2023

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According to Harvard business review, data scientist jobs have been termed “The Sexist job of the 21st century” by Harvard business review . Data science has gained widespread importance due to the availability of data in abundance. As per the below statistics, worldwide data is expected to reach 181 zettabytes by 2025

case study interview questions for data scientists

Source: statists 2021


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“Data is the new oil. It’s valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc. to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analyzed for it to have value.” — Clive Humby, 2006

Table of Contents

What is a data science case study, why are data scientists tested on case study-based interview questions, research about the company, ask questions, discuss assumptions and hypothesis, explaining the data science workflow, 10 data science case study interview questions and answers.

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A data science case study is an in-depth, detailed examination of a particular case (or cases) within a real-world context. A data science case study is a real-world business problem that you would have worked on as a data scientist to build a machine learning or deep learning algorithm and programs to construct an optimal solution to your business problem.This would be a portfolio project for aspiring data professionals where they would have to spend at least 10-16 weeks solving real-world data science problems. Data science use cases can be found in almost every industry out there e-commerce , music streaming, stock market,.etc. The possibilities are endless. 

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Data Science Interview Preparation

A case study evaluation allows the interviewer to understand your thought process. Questions on case studies can be open-ended; hence you should be flexible enough to accept and appreciate approaches you might not have taken to solve the business problem. All interviews are different, but the below framework is applicable for most data science interviews. It can be a good starting point that will allow you to make a solid first impression in your next data science job interview. In a data science interview, you are expected to explain your data science project lifecycle , and you must choose an approach that would broadly cover all the data science lifecycle activities. The below seven steps would help you get started in the right direction. 

data scientist case study interview questions and answers

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Business Understanding — Explain the business problem and the objectives for the problem you solved.

Data Mining — How did you scrape the required data ? Here you can talk about the connections(can be database connections like oracle, SAP…etc.) you set up to source your data.

Data Cleaning — Explaining the data inconsistencies and how did you handle them.

Data Exploration — Talk about the exploratory data analysis you performed for the initial investigation of your data to spot patterns and anomalies.

Feature Engineering — Talk about the approach you took to select the essential features and how you derived new ones by adding more meaning to the dataset flow.

Predictive Modeling — Explain the machine learning model you trained, how did you finalized your machine learning algorithm, and talk about the evaluation techniques you performed on your accuracy score.

Data Visualization — Communicate the findings through visualization and what feedback you received.

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How to Answer Case Study-Based Data Science Interview Questions?

During the interview, you can also be asked to solve and explain open-ended, real-world case studies. This case study can be relevant to the organization you are interviewing for. The key to answering this is to have a well-defined framework in your mind that you can implement in any case study, and we uncover that framework here.

Ensure that you read about the company and its work on its official website before appearing for the data science job interview . Also, research the position you are interviewing for and understand the JD (Job description). Read about the domain and businesses they are associated with. This will give you a good idea of what questions to expect.

As case study interviews are usually open-ended, you can solve the problem in many ways. A general mistake is jumping to the answer straight away.

Try to understand the context of the business case and the key objective. Uncover the details kept intentionally hidden by the interviewer. Here is a list of questions you might ask if you are being interviewed for a financial institution -

Does the dataset include all transactions from Bank or transactions from some specific department like loans, insurance, etc.?

Is the customer data provided pre-processed, or do I need to run a statistical test to check data quality?

Which segment of borrower’s your business is targeting/focusing on? Which parameter can be used to avoid biases during loan dispersion?

Make informed or well-thought assumptions to simplify the problem. Talk about your assumption with the interviewer and explain why you would want to make such an assumption. Try to narrow down to key objectives which you can solve. Here is a list of a few instances — 

As car sales increase consistently over time with no significant spikes, I assume seasonal changes do not impact your car sales. Hence I would prefer the modeling excluding the seasonality component.

As confirmed by you, the incoming data does not require any preprocessing. Hence I will skip the part of running statistical tests to check data quality and perform feature selection.

As IoT devices are capturing temperature data at every minute, I am required to predict weather daily. I would prefer averaging out the minute data to a day to have data daily.

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Now that you have a clear and focused objective to solve the business case. You can start leveraging the 7-step framework we briefed upon above. Think of the mining and cleaning activities that you are required to perform. Talk about feature selection and why you would prefer some features over others, and lastly, how you would select the right machine learning model for the business problem. Here is an example for car purchase prediction from auctions -

First, Prepare the relevant data by accessing the data available from various auctions. I will selectively choose the data from those auctions which are completed. At the same time, when selecting the data, I need to ensure that the data is not imbalanced.

Now I will implement feature engineering and selection to create and select relevant features like a car manufacturer, year of purchase, automatic or manual transmission…etc. I will continue this process if the results are not good on the test set.

Since this is a classification problem, I will check the prediction using the Decision trees and Random forest as this algorithm tends to do better for classification problems. If the results score is unsatisfactory, I can perform hyper parameterization to fine-tune the model and achieve better accuracy scores.

In the end, summarise the answer and explain how your solution is best suited for this business case. How the team can leverage this solution to gain more customers. For instance, building on the car sales prediction analogy, your response can be

For the car predicted as a good car during an auction, the dealers can purchase those cars and minimize the overall losses they incur upon buying a bad car. 

Data Science Case Study Interview Questions and Answers

Often, the company you are being interviewed for would select case study questions based on a business problem they are trying to solve or have already solved. Here we list down a few case study-based data science interview questions and the approach to answering those in the interviews. Note that these case studies are often open-ended, so there is no one specific way to approach the problem statement.

1. How would you improve the bank's existing state-of-the-art credit scoring of borrowers? How will you predict someone can face financial distress in the next couple of years?

Consider the interviewer has given you access to the dataset. As explained earlier, you can think of taking the following approach. 

Ask Questions — 

Q: What parameter does the bank consider the borrowers while calculating the credit scores? Do these parameters vary among borrowers of different categories based on age group, income level, etc.?

Q: How do you define financial distress? What features are taken into consideration?

Q: Banks can lend different types of loans like car loans, personal loans, bike loans, etc.  Do you want me to focus on any one loan category?

Discuss the Assumptions  — 

As debt ratio is proportional to monthly income, we assume that people with a high debt ratio(i.e., their loan value is much higher than the monthly income) will be an outlier.

Monthly income tends to vary (mainly on the upside) over two years. Cases, where the monthly income is constant can be considered data entry issues and should not be considered for analysis. I will choose the regression model to fill up the missing values.

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Firstly, I will carefully select the relevant data for my analysis. I will deselect records with insane values like people with high debt ratios or inconsistent monthly income.

Identifying essential features and ensuring they do not contain missing values. If they do, fill them up. For instance, Age seems to be a necessary feature for accepting or denying a mortgage. Also, ensuring data is not imbalanced as a meager percentage of borrowers will be defaulter when compared to the complete dataset.

As this is a binary classification problem, I will start with logistic regression and slowly progress towards complex models like decision trees and random forests.

Conclude — 

Banks play a crucial role in country economies. They decide who can get finance and on what terms and can make or break investment decisions. Individuals and companies need access to credit for markets and society to function.

You can leverage this credit scoring algorithm to determine whether or not a loan should be granted by predicting the probability that somebody will experience financial distress in the next two years.

2. At an e-commerce platform, how would you classify fruits and vegetables from the image data?

Q: Do the images in the dataset contain multiple fruits and vegetables, or would each image have a single fruit or a vegetable?

Q: Can you help me understand the number of estimated classes for this classification problem?

Q: What would be an ideal dimension of an image? Do the images vary within the dataset? Are these color images or grey images?

Upon asking the above questions, let us assume the interviewer confirms that each image would contain either one fruit or one vegetable. Hence there won't be multiple classes in a single image, and our website has roughly 100 different varieties of fruits and vegetables. For simplicity, the dataset contains 50,000 images each the dimensions are 100 X 100 pixels.

Assumptions and Preprocessing—

I need to evaluate the training and testing sets. Hence I will check for any imbalance within the dataset. The number of training images for each class should be consistent. So, if there are n number of images for class A, then class B should also have n number of training images (or a variance of 5 to 10 %). Hence if we have 100 classes, the number of training images under each class should be consistent. The dataset contains 50,000 images average image per class is close to 500 images.

I will then divide the training and testing sets into 80: 20 ratios (or 70:30, whichever suits you best). I assume that the images provided might not cover all possible angles of fruits and vegetables; hence such a dataset can cause overfitting issues once the training gets completed. I will keep techniques like Data augmentation handy in case I face overfitting issues while training the model.

End to End Data Science Workflow — 

As this is a larger dataset, I would first check the availability of GPUs as processing 50,000 images would require high computation. I will use the Cuda library to move the training set to GPU for training.

I choose to develop a convolution neural network (CNN) as these networks tend to extract better features from the images when compared to the feed-forward neural network. Feature extraction is quite essential while building the deep neural network. Also, CNN requires way less computation requirement when compared to the feed-forward neural networks.

I will also consider techniques like Batch normalization and learning rate scheduling to improve the accuracy of the model and improve the overall performance of the model. If I face the overfitting issue on the validation set, I will choose techniques like dropout and color normalization to over those.

Once the model is trained, I will test it on sample test images to see its behavior. It is quite common to model that doing well on training sets does not perform well on test sets. Hence, testing the test set model is an important part of the evaluation.

The fruit classification model can be helpful to the e-commerce industry as this would help them classify the images and tag the fruit and vegetables belonging to their category.The fruit and vegetable processing industries can use the model to organize the fruits to the correct categories and accordingly instruct the device to place them on the cover belts involved in packaging and shipping to customers.

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3. How would you determine whether Netflix focuses more on TV shows or Movies?

Q: Should I include animation series and movies while doing this analysis?

Q: What is the business objective? Do you want me to analyze a particular genre like action, thriller, etc.?

Q: What is the targeted audience? Is this focus on children below a certain age or for adults?

Let us assume the interview responds by confirming that you must perform the analysis on both movies and animation data. The business intends to perform this analysis over all the genres, and the targeted audience includes both adults and children.

Assumptions — 

It would be convenient to do this analysis over geographies. As US and India are the highest content generator globally, I would prefer to restrict the initial analysis over these countries. Once the initial hypothesis is established, you can scale the model to other countries.

While analyzing movies in India, understanding the movie release over other months can be an important metric. For example, there tend to be many releases in and around the holiday season (Diwali and Christmas) around November and December which should be considered. 

End to End  Data Science Workflow — 

Firstly, we need to select only the relevant data related to movies and TV shows among the entire dataset. I would also need to ensure the completeness of the data like this has a relevant year of release, month-wise release data, Country-wise data, etc.

After preprocessing the dataset, I will do feature engineering to select the data for only those countries/geographies I am interested in. Now you can perform EDA to understand the correlation of Movies and TV shows with ratings, Categories (drama, comedies…etc.), actors…etc.

Lastly, I would focus on Recommendation clicks and revenues to understand which of the two generate the most revenues. The company would likely prefer the categories generating the highest revenue ( TV Shows vs. Movies) over others.

This analysis would help the company invest in the right venture and generate more revenue based on their customer preference. This analysis would also help understand the best or preferred categories, time in the year to release, movie directors, and actors that their customers would like to see.

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4. How would you detect fake news on social media?

Q: When you say social media, does it mean all the apps available on the internet like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTub, etc.?

Q: Does the analysis include news titles? Does the news description carry significance?

Q: As these platforms contain content from multiple languages? Should the analysis be multilingual?

Let us assume the interviewer responds by confirming that the news feeds are available only from Facebook. The new title and the news details are available in the same block and are not segregated. For simplicity, we would prefer to categorize the news available in the English language.

Assumptions and Data Preprocessing — 

I would first prefer to segregate the news title and description. The news title usually contains the key phrases and the intent behind the news. Also, it would be better to process news titles as that would require low computing than processing the whole text as a data scientist. This will lead to an efficient solution.

Also, I would also check for data imbalance. An imbalanced dataset can cause the model to be biased to a particular class. 

I would also like to take a subset of news that may focus on a specific category like sports, finance , etc. Gradually, I will increase the model scope, and this news subset would help me set up my baseline model, which can be tweaked later based on the requirement.

Firstly, it would be essential to select the data based on the chosen category. I take up sports as a category I want to start my analysis with.

I will first clean the dataset by checking for null records. Once this check is done, data formatting is required before you can feed to a natural network. I will write a function to remove characters like !”#$%&’()*+,-./:;<=>?@[]^_`{|}~ as their character does not add any value for deep neural network learning. I will also implement stopwords to remove words like ‘and’, ‘is”, etc. from the vocabulary. 

Then I will employ the NLP techniques like Bag of words or TFIDF based on the significance. The bag of words can be faster, but TF IDF can be more accurate and slower. Selecting the technique would also depend upon the business inputs.

I will now split the data in training and testing, train a machine learning model, and check the performance. Since the data set is heavy on text models like naive bayes tends to perform better in these situations.

Conclude  — 

Social media and news outlets publish fake news to increase readership or as part of psychological warfare. In general, the goal is profiting through clickbait. Clickbaits lure users and entice curiosity with flashy headlines or designs to click links to increase advertisements revenues. The trained model will help curb such news and add value to the reader's time.

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5. How would you forecast the price of a nifty 50 stock?

Q: Do you want me to forecast the nifty 50 indexes/tracker or stock price of a specific stock within nifty 50?

Q: What do you want me to forecast? Is it the opening price, closing price, VWAP, highest of the day, etc.?

Q: Do you want me to forecast daily prices /weekly/monthly prices?

Q: Can you tell me more about the historical data available? Do we have ten years or 15 years of recorded data?

With all these questions asked to the interviewer, let us assume the interviewer responds by saying that you should pick one stock among nifty 50 stocks and forecast their average price daily. The company has historical data for the last 20 years.

Assumptions and Data preprocessing — 

As we forecast the average price daily, I would consider VWAP my target or predictor value. VWAP stands for Volume Weighted Average Price, and it is a ratio of the cumulative share price to the cumulative volume traded over a given time.

Solving this data science case study requires tracking the average price over a period, and it is a classical time series problem. Hence I would refrain from using the classical regression model on the time series data as we have a separate set of machine learning models (like ARIMA , AUTO ARIMA, SARIMA…etc.) to work with such datasets.

Like any other dataset, I will first check for null and understand the % of null values. If they are significantly less, I would prefer to drop those records.

Now I will perform the exploratory data analysis to understand the average price variation from the last 20 years. This would also help me understand the tread and seasonality component of the time series data. Alternatively, I will use techniques like the Dickey-Fuller test to know if the time series is stationary or not. 

Usually, such time series is not stationary, and then I can now decompose the time series to understand the additive or multiplicative nature of time series. Now I can use the existing techniques like differencing, rolling stats, or transformation to make the time series non-stationary.

Lastly, once the time series is non-stationary, I will separate train and test data based on the dates and implement techniques like ARIMA or Facebook prophet to train the machine learning model .

Some of the major applications of such time series prediction can occur in stocks and financial trading, analyzing online and offline retail sales, and medical records such as heart rate, EKG, MRI, and ECG.

Time series datasets invoke a lot of enthusiasm between data scientists . They are many different ways to approach a Time series problem, and the process mentioned above is only one of the know techniques.

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6. How would you forecast the weekly sales of Walmart? Which department impacted most during the holidays?

Q: Walmart usually operates three different stores - supermarkets, discount stores, and neighborhood stores. Which store data shall I pick to get started with my analysis? Are the sales tracked in US dollars?

Q: How would I identify holidays in the historical data provided? Is the store closed on Black Friday week, super bowl week, or Christmas week?

Q: What are the evaluation or the loss criteria? How many departments are present across all store types?

Let us assume the interviewer responds by saying you must forecast weekly sales department-wise and not store type-wise in US dollars. You would be provided with a flag within the dataset to inform weeks having holidays. There are over 80 departments across three types of stores.

As we predict the weekly sales, I would assume weekly sales to be the target or the predictor for our data model before training.

We are tracking sales price weekly, We will use a regression model to predict our target variable, “Weekly_Sales,” a grouped/hierarchical time series. We will explore the following categories of models, engineer features, and hyper-tune parameters to choose a model with the best fit.

- Linear models

- Tree models

- Ensemble models

I will consider MEA, RMSE, and R2 as evaluation criteria.

End to End Data Science Workflow-

The foremost step is to figure out essential features within the dataset. I would explore store information regarding their size, type, and the total number of stores present within the historical dataset.

The next step would be to perform feature engineering; as we have weekly sales data available, I would prefer to extract features like ‘WeekofYear’, ‘Month’, ‘Year’, and ‘Day’. This would help the model to learn general trends.

Now I will create store and dept rank features as this is one of the end goals of the given problem. I would create these features by calculating the average weekly sales.

Now I will perform the exploratory data analysis (a.k.a EDA) to understand what story does the data has to say? I will analyze the stores and weekly dept sales for the historical data to foresee the seasonality and trends. Weekly sales against the store and weekly sales against the department to understand their significance and whether these features must be retained that will be passed to the machine learning models.

After feature engineering and selection, I will set up a baseline model and run the evaluation considering MAE, RMSE and R2. As this is a regression problem, I will begin with simple models like linear regression and SGD regressor. Later, I will move towards complex models, like Decision Trees Regressor, if the need arises. LGBM Regressor and SGB regressor.

Sales forecasting can play a significant role in the company’s success. Accurate sales forecasts allow salespeople and business leaders to make smarter decisions when setting goals, hiring, budgeting, prospecting, and other revenue-impacting factors. The solution mentioned above is one of the many ways to approach this problem statement.

With this, we come to the end of the post. But let us do a quick summary of the techniques we learned and how they can be implemented. We would also like to provide you with some practice case studies questions to help you build up your thought process for the interview.

7. Considering an organization has a high attrition rate, how would you predict if an employee is likely to leave the organization?

8. How would you identify the best cities and countries for startups in the world?

9. How would you estimate the impact on Air Quality across geographies during Covid 19?

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10. A Company often faces machine failures at its factory. How would you develop a model for predictive maintenance?

Do not get intimated by the problem statement; focus on your approach -

Ask questions to get clarity

Discuss assumptions, don't assume things. Let the data tell the story or get it verified by the interviewer.

Build Workflows — Take a few minutes to put together your thoughts; start with a more straightforward approach.

Conclude — Summarize your answer and explain how it best suits the use case provided.

We hope these case study-based data scientist interview questions will give you more confidence to crack your next data science interview.

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Data science case study interview

Many accomplished students and newly minted AI professionals ask us$:$ How can I prepare for interviews? Good recruiters try setting up job applicants for success in interviews, but it may not be obvious how to prepare for them. We interviewed over 100 leaders in machine learning and data science to understand what AI interviews are and how to prepare for them.


  • I What to expect in the data science case study interview
  • II Recommended framework
  • III Interview tips
  • IV Resources

AI organizations divide their work into data engineering, modeling, deployment, business analysis, and AI infrastructure. The necessary skills to carry out these tasks are a combination of technical, behavioral, and decision making skills. The data science case study interview focuses on technical and decision making skills, and you’ll encounter it during an onsite round for a Data Scientist (DS), Data Analyst (DA), Machine Learning Engineer (MLE) or Machine Learning Researcher (MLR). You can learn more about these roles in our AI Career Pathways report and about other types of interviews in The Skills Boost .

I   What to expect in the data science case study interview

The interviewer is evaluating your approach to a real-world data science problem. The interview revolves around a technical question which can be open-ended. There is no exact solution to the question; it’s your thought process that the interviewer is evaluating. Here’s a list of interview questions you might be asked:

  • How many cashiers should be at a Walmart store at a given time?
  • You notice a spike in the number of user-uploaded videos on your platform in June. What do you think is the cause, and how would you test it?
  • Your company is thinking of changing its logo. Is it a good idea? How would you test it?
  • Could you tell if a coin is biased?
  • In a given day, how many birthday posts occur on Facebook?
  • What are the different performance metrics for evaluating ride sharing services?
  • How will you test if a chosen credit scoring model works or not? What dataset(s) do you need?
  • Given a user’s history of purchases, how do you predict their next purchase?

II   Recommended framework

All interviews are different, but the ASPER framework is applicable to a variety of case studies:

  • Ask . Ask questions to uncover details that were kept hidden by the interviewer. Specifically, you want to answer the following questions: “what are the product requirements and evaluation metrics?”, “what data do I have access to?”, ”how much time and computational resources do I have to run experiments?”.
  • Suppose . Make justified assumptions to simplify the problem. Examples of assumptions are: “we are in small data regime”, “events are independent”, “the statistical significance level is 5%”, “the data distribution won’t change over time”, “we have three weeks”, etc.
  • Plan . Break down the problem into tasks. A common task sequence in the data science case study interview is: (i) data engineering, (ii) modeling, and (iii) business analysis.
  • Execute . Announce your plan, and tackle the tasks one by one. In this step, the interviewer might ask you to write code or explain the maths behind your proposed method.
  • Recap . At the end of the interview, summarize your answer and mention the tools and frameworks you would use to perform the work. It is also a good time to express your ideas on how the problem can be extended.

III   Interview tips

Every interview is an opportunity to show your skills and motivation for the role. Thus, it is important to prepare in advance. Here are useful rules of thumb to follow:

Articulate your thoughts in a compelling narrative.

Data scientists often need to convert data into actionable business insights, create presentations, and convince business leaders. Thus, their communication skills are evaluated in interviews and can be the reason of a rejection. Your interviewer will judge the clarity of your thought process, your scientific rigor, and how comfortable you are using technical vocabulary.

Example 1: Your interviewer will notice if you say “correlation matrix” when you actually meant “covariance matrix”.
Example 2: Mispronouncing a widely used technical word or acronym such as Poisson, ICA, or AUC can affect your credibility. For instance, ICA is pronounced aɪ-siː-eɪ (i.e., “I see A”) rather than “Ika”.
Example 3: Show your ability to strategize by drawing the AI project development life cycle on the whiteboard.

Tie your task to the business logic.

Example 1: If you are asked to improve Instagram’s news feed, identify what’s the goal of the product. Is it to have users spend more time on the app, users click on more ads, or drive interactions between users?
Example 2: You present graphs to show the number of salesperson needed in a retail store at a given time. It is a good idea to also discuss the savings your insight can lead to.

Alternatively, your interviewer might give you the business goal, such as improving retention, engagement or reducing employee churn, but expect you to come up with a metric to optimize.

Example: If the goal is to improve user engagement, you might use daily active users as a proxy and track it using their clicks (shares, likes, etc.).

Brush up your data science foundations before the interview.

You have to leverage concepts from probability and statistics such as correlation vs. causation or statistical significance. You should also be able to read a test table.

Example: You’re a professor currently evaluating students with a final exam, but considering switching to a project-based evaluation. A rumor says that the majority of your students are opposed to the switch. Before making the switch, what would you like to test? In this question, you should introduce notation to state your hypothesis and leverage tools such as confidence intervals, p-values, distributions, and tables. Your interviewer might then give you more information. For instance, you have polled a random sample of 300 students in your class and observed that 60% of them were against the switch.

Avoid clear-cut statements.

Because case studies are often open-ended and can have multiple valid solutions, avoid making categorical statements such as “the correct approach is …” You might offend the interviewer if the approach they are using is different from what you describe. It’s also better to show your flexibility with and understanding of the pros and cons of different approaches.

Study topics relevant to the company.

Data science case studies are often inspired by in-house projects. If the team is working on a domain-specific application, explore the literature.

Example 1: If the team is working on time series forecasting, you can expect questions about ARIMA, and follow-ups on how to test whether a coefficient of your model should be zero.
Example 2: If the team is building a recommender system, you might want to read about the types of recommender systems such as collaborative filtering or content-based recommendation. You may also learn about evaluation metrics for recommender systems ( Shani and Gunawardana, 2017 ).

Listen to the hints given by your interviewer.

Example: The interviewer gives you a spreadsheet in which one of the columns has more than 20% missing values, and asks you what you would do about it. You say that you’d discard incomplete records. Your interviewer follows up with “Does the dataset size matter?”. In this scenario, the interviewer expects you to request more information about the dataset and adapt your answer. For instance, if the dataset is small, you might want to replace the missing values with a good estimate (such as the mean of the variable).

Show your motivation.

In data science case study interviews, the interviewer will evaluate your excitement for the company’s product. Make sure to show your curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm.

When you are not sure of your answer, be honest and say so.

Interviewers value honesty and penalize bluffing far more than lack of knowledge.

When out of ideas or stuck, think out loud rather than staying silent.

Talking through your thought process will help the interviewer correct you and point you in the right direction.

IV   Resources

You can build decision making skills by reading data science war stories and exposing yourself to projects . Here’s a list of useful resources to prepare for the data science case study interview.

  • In Your Client Engagement Program Isn’t Doing What You Think It Is , Stitch Fix scientists (Glynn and Prabhakar) argue that “optimal” client engagement tactics change over time and companies must be fluid and adaptable to accommodate ever-changing client needs and business strategies. They present a contextual bandit framework to personalize an engagement strategy for each individual client.
  • For many Airbnb prospective guests, planning a trip starts at the search engine. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps make Airbnb painless to find for past guests and easy to discover for new ones. In Experimentation & Measurement for Search Engine Optimization , Airbnb data scientist De Luna explains how you can measure the effectiveness of product changes in terms of search engine rankings.
  • Coordinating ad campaigns to acquire new users at scale is time-consuming, leading Lyft’s growth team to take on the challenge of automation. In Building Lyft’s Marketing Automation Platform , Sampat shares how Lyft uses algorithms to make thousands of marketing decisions each day such as choosing bids, budgets, creatives, incentives, and audiences; running tests; and more.
  • In this Flower Species Identification Case Study , Olson goes over a basic Python data analysis pipeline from start to finish to illustrate what a typical data science workflow looks like.
  • Before producing a movie, producers and executives are tasked with critical decisions such as: do we shoot in Georgia or in Gibraltar? Do we keep a 10-hour workday or a 12-hour workday? In Data Science and the Art of Producing Entertainment at Netflix , Netflix scientists and engineers (Kumar et al.) show how data science can help answer these questions and transform a century-old industry with data science.

case study data science interview

  • Kian Katanforoosh - Founder at Workera, Lecturer at Stanford University - Department of Computer Science, Founding member at deeplearning.ai


  • The layout for this article was originally designed and implemented by Jingru Guo , Daniel Kunin , and Kian Katanforoosh for the deeplearning.ai AI Notes , and inspired by Distill .


  • Job applicants are subject to anywhere from 3 to 8 interviews depending on the company, team, and role. You can learn more about the types of AI interviews in The Skills Boost . This includes the machine learning algorithms interview , the deep learning algorithms interview , the machine learning case study interview , the deep learning case study interview , the data science case study interview , and more coming soon.
  • It takes time and effort to acquire acumen in a particular domain. You can develop your acumen by regularly reading research papers, articles, and tutorials. Twitter, Medium, and websites of data science and machine learning conferences (e.g., KDD, NeurIPS, ICML, and the like) are good places to read the latest releases. You can also find a list of hundreds of Stanford students' projects on the Stanford CS230 website .

To reference this article, please use:

Workera, "Data Science Case Study Interview".

case study data science interview

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Top Data Scientist Interview Questions and Tips

Explore this guide discussing what you can expect during a data science interview and example data science interview questions. You'll also learn how best to prepare for a data science interview, including tips on practice and job research.

[Featured image] Woman in an interview

You've landed an interview for your dream job as a data scientist and are ready to show off your knowledge and expertise to the hiring manager. But, as a data-oriented professional, you know that the best way to improve your chances of success is by preparing in advance with practice questions and answers.

To help you put your best foot forward in your next interview, in this article you'll explore some of the most common questions posed to data scientists in job interviews and find tips for answering them. At the end, you'll also learn about some cost-effective, online courses that can that can help you ace your next interview.

Top data science interview questions

Preparation is key to ensuring you enter your next data science interview with confidence. Below, you'll find a list of some of the most common types of data scientist interview question on everything from coding and data modeling to algorithms and statistics.

Coding and programming questions

Coding is an essential skill for data science roles, regardless of the company in which you're working. As a result, interviewers are likely to ask you about your priori experience with such common programming languages as Python, R , and SQL . Typically, these questions will involve data manipulation using code devised to test your programming, problem-solving, and innovation skills. During the interview, you'll likely be required to use a computer or whiteboard to complete the questions, or you may asked to talk through the problem verbally and to explain your thought process. Here are some potential coding and programming questions you could be asked:

"What would you do if a categorization, an aggregation, and a ratio came up in the same query?"

"Calculate the Jaccard similarity between two sets: the size of the intersection divided by the size of the union."

"Write a program that prints numbers from one through to 50 in a language of your choice."

"List all orders, including customer information, using a basic SQL query."

Data modeling techniques questions

After coding, questions on data modeling techniques are ones you'll be most likely asked during your job interview. In particular, interviewers will likely want to know how familiar you are with different data models and their uses. Interviewers ask questions of this type in order to test your knowledge of building statistical models and implementing machine learning models , such as linear regression models, logistic regression models, and decision tree models. During your interview, here are some questions that you might encounter:

"How should you maintain a deployed model?"

"Can you name a disadvantage of using the linear model?"

"What is regularization in regression?"

"What is a confusion matrix?"

Questions on algorithms

Algorithms undergird much of the work that you'll be doing as a data scientist. Questions on algorithms are primarily designed to test how you think about a problem and demonstrate your knowledge. During your interview, consequently, you'll likely be asked to explain the purposes for different algorithms, how they might help solve different problems, and to demonstrate your knowledge of different machine learning algorithms . As a result, you should make sure to brush up on your knowledge of such common algorithms as linear regression and logistic regression. While the exact questions you'll be asked will vary from one interview to another, here are some of the most common forms they may take:

"How would you reverse a linked list?"

"The recommendations, “People who bought this also bought…” seen on many e-commerce sites, result from which algorithm?"

"If we are looking to predict the probability of death from heart disease based on three risk factors: age, gender, and high levels of cholesterol, what is the most appropriate algorithm to use?"

"How often should an algorithm be updated?"

Statistics and probability questions

Statistics are a cornerstone concept in data science. Unsurprisingly, then, interviewers ask questions about statistics in a data science interview in order to test your knowledge of statistical theory and associated principles. This is your chance to showcase your knowledge of common statistical analysis methods and concepts, so make sure to refresh your knowledge before the big day. Some common topics to review include random sampling, systematic sampling, and probability distribution. During your interview, questions of this type may take the following forms:

"What is the law of large numbers?"

"What is selection bias?"

"What is the process of working towards a random forest?"

"What is an example of a data type with a non-Gaussian distribution?"  

Questions on product sense and business applications.

At the end of the day, most employers are more interested in the impact that effective data scientists will have on their bottom line than they are in exploring the field academically. In effect, you should expect to be asked how your work might contribute to the growth of the business and the development of the goods or services it sells. These questions are specific to the business and how you would use data science. Answering them effectively can demonstrate your ability to apply your data science knowledge to a business capacity, rather than just understanding theory. Questions will likely be particular to the role, but use the following as a guide:

"We are looking to improve a new feature for our product. What metrics would you track to make sure it’s a good idea?"

"If we were looking to grow X metric on X feature, how might we achieve that?"

"Tell me about a time you set about aligning data projects with company goals."

"When measuring the impact of a search toolbar change, which metric would you use?"

Tips for preparing for your data science interview.

Thoroughly practicing for your interview is perhaps the best way to ensure its success. To help you get ready for the big day, here are some ways to ensure that you are ready for whatever comes up.

1. Research the position and the company.

If you want to know what may be asked in your data science interview, the best place to start is by researching the role to which you are applying, and the company itself.

Check out company websites, social media pages, and reviews, and even try speaking to people who already work there, if you can. The more you can glean about the work culture, the company’s values, and the methods and systems they use, the better you can tailor your answers and demonstrate that you are fully aligned with their goals.

By researching your role, you can also better predict some of the questions you may encounter. Go through the job description and see what is expected, as this will likely be what you are evaluated on. Make sure you have an example prepared for each point and have a good bank of potential answers to any question. 

2. Understand the job description roles and responsibilities.

As you go through the job description and responsibilities for the position, try to get a clear sense of what will be expected of you. If there is anything in the job description that you don’t understand, search the internet, look up the terms, or call the company and ask for clarification.

If you fully understand expectations, then it will be easier to tailor your answers and give highly relevant examples. By demonstrating the value you will add to the business with clear responses and concrete examples, you'll not only highlight your qualifications for the position but also the real world effects of your work.

3. Practice answering commonly asked questions.

After finishing the research, and with some help from questions in this article, you should have some idea of what to expect in the interview. Write these questions down and practice your answers. It might feel strange, but the best way to do this is to speak out loud as if you are talking to the interviewer in person. Doing it aloud means you can really hear how your answers will sound and help you practice your volume, speed, and body language. The more you practice, the easier the answers will come to you and the more prepared you will be to recall the information during the interview itself.

Read more: Practice Interview Questions: How to Tell Your Story

Have your questions ready

While it’s important to be thinking about the questions you’ll have to answer, it’s also essential to have some questions ready that you will ask at the end of the interview.

Many overlook this, but it is an excellent way for you to find out more about the role and decide whether it is definitely for you and show your interest in the position and company. Some examples of questions include:

• What is the metric on which my performance will be evaluated?

• How will the projects I work on align with key business goals?

• What are the top three reasons you like working here?

• What are the most immediate projects that need to be addressed?

Read more: Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview

Further support

Regardless of your experience level, interviews can be nerve-wracking undertakings that have the potential to shake your self-confidence. Through preparation, though, you can enter you next interview with your head held high.

As you're looking for your next data science job, you might consider taking a cost-effective, online course through Coursera to get ready for your next interview. Big Interview’s The Art of the Job Interview , for example, will teach proven techniques in five beginner-friendly classes that can help you turn your job interviews into job offers.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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