Preparing for a Data Engineer interview: Questions and more

Preparing for a Data Engineer interview: Questions and more

While pursuing a career as a Data Engineer, one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face is the interview process. You can think of an interview as a verbal skills test in which your interviewer asks questions about your technical knowledge and problem-solving ability.

To do well in your Data Engineer interview, you’ll need to be well-prepared — and we’re here to help. Below, we’ll explore some of the skills and knowledge you’ll need to excel in your new career and some of the most commonly asked Data Engineer interview questions.

Data Engineer skills

Before applying to your new job as a Data Engineer, you’ll need to acquire key skills. The good news is that you don’t need to undertake a traditional degree program. Instead, you can take online courses related to data engineering or data science to fill the gaps in your knowledge.

To become a Data Engineer, you’ll need to be familiar with certain programming languages. Most Data Engineers will have a good grasp of Python. Depending on their specific role, they might also have experience with SQL (to access databases), R, or other languages. Frameworks like Vue.js or Flask are also a plus.

After you’ve learned the technologies and skills you’ll need for the role, you’ll want to practice. Even experienced programmers will often participate in larger open-source coding projects to stay current, learn new skills, and improve their ability to work with someone else’s code.

You can also practice your skills by undertaking projects that’ll help you gain practical experience and brush up on the skills you’ll need to discuss during your interview. If you need help finding data-driven project ideas, check out our Data Scientist Career Path.

Technical Data Engineer interview questions

As we explained earlier, many of your interviewers’ questions will be designed to assess your proficiency with the technical knowledge and skills required for data engineering. You might even be asked a question you weren’t expecting, but it’s important that you don’t panic or guess. Instead, explain that you don’t know the answer and outline how you’d approach finding a solution.

To help you prepare for your upcoming interviews, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common technical Data Engineer interview questions:

  • Do you have any experience with ETL frameworks?
  • Have you designed a data system using Hadoop?
  • Can you describe what Hadoop frameworks are and how to use them?
  • What’s the difference between a NoSQL database and a relational database?
  • Can you define data modeling?
  • What type of data is stored in NameNode?
  • What functions are a part of Secondary NameNode?
  • What command would you use to view the structure of the database in MySQL?
  • How would you use MySQL to search for a string in a particular column?

Scan through the job posting you applied to and see if you can narrow down the questions you’ll use to practice. For example, if a job uses MySQL but doesn’t mention anything about Hadoop, you can skip the Hadoop questions for now.

Conceptual Data Engineer interview questions

Along with the technical questions above, you’ll probably be asked about more general concepts and ideas in your interview. These questions help your interviewer see how good you are at communicating and how well you can work with a team.

The answers to the conceptual questions likely won’t require as much memorization or review as the technical questions. Instead, you can practice these once or twice to make sure you have an appropriate example, process, or fact.

Here are some of the conceptual questions you might be asked in your Data Engineer interview:

  • How would you define data engineering?
  • Have you ever used an existing database for a new and exciting purpose?
  • What programming languages are you comfortable using?
  • Can you name three skills you think are most important for a Data Engineer and why?
  • In your new job as a Data Engineer, where would you start when developing a new product?
  • What qualities do you think make a good Data Engineer?
  • Can you tell us about a time that you used your data engineering skills to solve a problem?
  • How would you bring value to our organization?

Preparing for your Data Engineer interview

Don’t try to cram for your interview the night before. You’ll want to have a few days (at least) to review questions, practice your answers and even brush up on your coding skills. If you know any Data Engineers, ask them to help you rehearse.

You should also spend a little time on the company’s website and do a couple of Google searches to see where they might have appeared in the news recently. You’ll want to know as much as you can about the company so that you can tie your skills back to their products, services, and clients when they ask you questions.

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again — keep practicing. Many interviews involve in-depth questions about specific programming languages as hiring managers need to know you can utilize their tech stacks. To help you prepare, we’ve created a course designed to help you pass the technical interview with Python. Once you finish that, explore our other programming courses to fill in any gaps in your knowledge.