The 5 Common mistakes of Junior Data Scientists Applications

Junior Data Scientists often feel lost when hitting the job market. There are plenty of offers they seem underqualified for and they were generally poorly trained for job hunting, which is a skill per se. As a result, when screening applications, there are some common mistakes we can observe. Here we detail five of them and give you some resources to overcome them.

Having a non-targeted CV

Job hunting as a Junior Data Scientist isn’t easy these days. There is extreme competition and it is hard to make it without a first relevant experience. For this reason, many go for the “spray and pray” approach. They send the same CV to any job application they are even remotely interested in and just hope someone call them back.

Listing Python, R, Pandas and Keras will only make you one additional member of a huge crowd.

As a result, these CVs are usually generic and not targeted to the actual offer. And this has multiple consequences:

  • You can send the wrong message. If I screen CVs for a Data Analyst role and the first thing I see in your CV is “Actively looking for a Machine Learning Engineer position”, I only need 2 seconds to know you are not a good fit for the position. It is like sending an airplane pilot CV for an architect opening.
  • Your most relevant skills are not visible. A generic CV usually list all the skills you have (or any tech you studied for more than 1 hour). As a recruiting manager, I am usually interested in 2 or 3 main technical skills. If you list 30 skills in a random order I might miss the skills I’m looking for or not know which of these skills you master the most (versus which you only studied for a couple of hours).
  • Your profile is too generic. If you just list the technologies you have worked with, you have to keep in mind that most other candidates will list pretty much the same skillset. Having a CV similar to dozens of other candidates is the best way to NOT stand out from the crowd.

You can read our advice on writing a noticeable CV.

Focusing on tools, not results

Junior Data Scientists tend to focus a lot on tools and this is usually reflected on their CVs. The main reason is that they don’t have yet first-hand experience working on actual business problems. As a result, they usually list a wide range of technologies they supposedly know and convey no understanding of how it can be applied to solve any problem.

It is normal to have a limited business understanding if you haven’t started working yet. However, not trying to understand how you could help your target company with your skills is the best way for your CV to go unnoticed.

When they screen your CV, recruiters or managers want to see something you have and others don’t. Listing Python, R, Pandas and Keras will only make you one additional member of a huge crowd.

Zebras on herd

There is extreme competition and it is hard to make it without a first relevant experience. For this reason, many go for the “spray and pray” approach.

In addition to listing your most relevant skills, it is key to also indicate how you have used them successfully in the past. Here are some examples:

  • Pandas: Processed and aggregated 1 Gb of data for an execution time under 5 seconds.
  • scikitlearn: Created a random forest model to predict recurring customers with a 95% accuracy.
  • AWS: deployed an API on AWS lambda to serve predictions from a pickled gradient boosting model.

This will show that you have some skills and know-how to use it. It seems trivial, but doing so, you will already differentiate yourself from a huge bulk of the applications.

Not having a cover letter

A CV focuses on your past achievements and overall qualifications. But it tells nothing about how this will help the company recruit you. If the CV is a way to say “Hey, this is who I am”, the cover letter ends the sentence with “and this is what I can do for you”. Without a cover letter, you lose the possibility to give more information to your reader and a clear opportunity to shine.

This is why it is extremely important to have a cover letter. In a world where a vast majority of the applications are just a simple CV, taking the time to connect more deeply with the recruiter is a strong statement of interest.

However, you should make sure your cover letter actually brings something to your application.

Job hunting is a skill per se and there are many ways you can undermine your applications without even realising it.

Having a generic cover letter

Many cover letters (even from senior professionals) are just used as a different way for the candidate to introduce themselves. It is important to take into account that:

  • Your cover letter should not be a CV written in plain text.
  • Your cover letter should not be generic.

There is nothing more disappointing than a cover letter where you feel that could replace the name of your company with any other one and the message wouldn’t change. This just shows that the candidate wrote a generic letter and just changed a few words. And as with generic CVs, this doesn’t work as it does not bring any relevant information.

Copy of your cover letter, nothing special. Photo by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash

A cover letter should not be about you and what you’ve done (at least not entirely). This is the role of your CV. It should be about what you can bring to the company. In a cover letter, you should convey how well you understand the challenges they are facing, how you have already solved similar problems and how you can help them concretely.

If you need more help to write an outstanding cover letter, read our dedicated article “How to write a kickass Cover Letter

Having nothing special to show

Ultimately, your application will always be reviewed by a human. And humans aren’t flawless. Even a decent CV can sometimes be passed over because of the recruiter being tired or being overwhelmed by too many similar CVs.

To avoid such risks, make sure your CV has something special, something no one else has and that will create a “that’s cool” moment in the head of the recruiter. This can be anything but has to be something distinctive enough so that the reviewer gets to think “this person has something unique”. When you screen hundreds of CVs a day, finding a hidden gem will generate a lot of positiveness and your CV will be much more likely to be picked up.

You’ll ask what is this special thing I can list? It can be very diverse!

  • It can be a cool project showing how you solved a problem out of pure personal interest. I once had a candidate explaining in his CV how he wrote a script to estimate a fair price for packs of random second-hand Pokemon cards so that he could resell them individually for a profit. It was a fun project and showed he could identify a problem and solved it using a creative solution. He got an interview mostly based on this project.
  • It can be a project you carried on, even if totally disconnected from the job requirement. If you were part of a 5 person committee that organised an event gathering 2000 persons, that’s a major achievement and demonstration of team work. It will definitely bring some attention to your profile.
  • It can be being bold and taking initiative. Directly emailing Steve Jobs because your laptop died and get a free replacement as a result is a story that will directly place you under the “driven person worth talking to” category

Job hunting is a skill per se and there are many ways you can undermine your applications without even realising it. Make sure you follow those tips to create an application that will stand out and increase your odds to get an interview!

Post Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash