How to Ace a Data Scientist Job Interview With American Express

Applying for an analytics role at Amex? Insiders reveal the questions you’re likely to be asked.

Written by Dawn Kawamoto
Published on Sep. 21, 2022
How to Ace a Data Scientist Job Interview With American Express
Image: Shutterstock / Built In

Despite having over four years of experience as an analytics manager, Tracy Cui spent countless hours preparing for her job interview at American Express for a similar position.

It paid off. Cui was hired as senior manager of advertising measurement for American Express’ enterprise digital and data solutions department at the start of this year.

“The first thing I did to prepare for my interviews was to make sure I would be ready to answer and explain everything on my resume. It’s very important that the interviewer understands your past experience,” Cui told Built In, noting she also heavily researched Amex as part of her job interview strategy.

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What are the Most Common Interview Questions and Answers?

Still freshly familiar with her job interview at American Express, Cui shared some of the questions she was asked during the three-stage interview process. 

AMEX Job Interview Questions

  • How do you handle your relationship with clients?
  • What can you tell me about your past projects and their challenges?
  • When faced with challenges on a project, how do you respond?
  • Why did you select this model or methodology over a different one on your project?
  • What are the latest trends in our industry and what new approaches would you like to take and why?
  • How do you handle collaboration and conflict with stakeholders?
  • How do you prioritize your work with multiple deadlines?
  • How do you approach providing and receiving feedback?

To add perspective on why hiring managers and others involved in the process ask these questions, Vlad Katsva, director of analytics and Cui’s hiring manager, and Mahesh Bharariya, vice president of digital products and CX analytics, shared their insights.

 

Phone Screen Interview Questions 

A recruiter for American Express conducted the first set of interview questions, asking Cui some behavioral questions such as “tell me about yourself.” Those questions were followed up with queries about her past work experience and one that slightly surprised her.

 

How Do You Handle Client Relationships?

Rather than ask Cui if she worked with clients, the recruiter inquired how she handled client relationships. 

“This kind of question I wasn’t expecting from the recruiter, but later on I figured out the question was asked because my role does require communication between different teams and stakeholders,” Cui said. “So, it’s very important for the recruiter to screen out for this kind of skill.”

The response to this question will also help Amex figure out how a job candidate will deal with the potentially thorny issue of stakeholders who are hoping the data will show something that is, or isn’t there. 

How Does American Express Use Analytics Professionals?

The company uses analytics for credit risk management, marketing, how it services card members, personalization, making investment decisions, and improving digital experiences within its experiments.

“A lot of times, analytics folks get into a discussion with stakeholders and really want things to work for them and may end up with data telling the story that people want to hear,” Bharariya told Built In. “But, we are looking for a candidate who can really be authentic with the data and provide objective insights in a way that can help the decision one way or another.” 

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Hiring Manager’s Interview Questions

During the second round of interviews, Cui faced specific questions regarding her past advertising measurement projects, which would be similar to her work at American Express. 

Amex’s advertising measurement efforts require measuring the impact brought on through advertising and marketing activities, such as how many new accounts are acquired through advertising and marketing and determining which media channels have the greatest return on investment.

 

What was Your Biggest Challenge On Your Projects?

The hiring manager, Katsva, asked Cui about her biggest challenge on the project, why she chose one methodology over another, the benefit of using that other approach, what results and impact were achieved and how were those results measured. 

“Achievement, ultimately, is not just measured in simplicity or complexity or ingenuity, but really more by its impact.”

A strong answer covers the work performed, but an even stronger response would be how the work made a difference in someone’s life, Katsva said.

“Achievement, ultimately, is not just measured in simplicity or complexity or ingenuity, but really more by its impact,” Katsva told Built In. 

 

What are the Latest Industry Trends?

Another batch of questions Cui faced during the hiring manager interview covered the latest trends in advertising measurement, some of the new approaches she was aware of, what new approaches she was trying and why.

“I was very lucky that I am constantly attending conferences and looking at articles, so I was able to have an answer for him,” Cui said. “I understand it’s important to always be researching your role. It shows you have an interest in what you’re doing.”

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Interview Questions Leadership Will Ask

Bharariya, the vice president of digital products and CX analytics, also asked specific technical questions about Cui’s resume and projects. For instance, if Cui wanted to measure the results of a media campaign, what model would she use? What kind of data would it require? What would she need to build the model?

 

How Do You Determine Which Model to Use?

“These very specific questions were not just to assess my understanding and knowledge but also how would I apply them,” Cui said.

When Bharariya asks candidates interview questions, his interest is not confined to, for example, the media channel, as one might expect in Cui’s case. It’s much broader.

“There is the media channel, but it’s one of many channels,” Bharariya said. “Can the candidate zoom out a little bit and understand the full context? If you’ve got multiple channels that you’re working with where one can impact the other, will the candidate directly jump into solving a problem from a media standpoint or can they think through how the media channel can impact other channels and what is the bigger problem you are trying to solve?”

His advice? Don’t jump into something straight away. Probe a bit, ask questions around the context of the problem and develop a more holistic view in terms of solving the problem.

 

How Do You Prioritize Your Work?

Interviewers also asked Cui how she prioritized her day with multiple projects and multiple deadlines.

What Amex is looking for in a response to this question goes beyond their role and department when setting their priorities.

“American Express is a heavily data-driven company. Data insights are core to our decision-making abilities.”

“What we are looking for is that understanding of the business goals, what drives those goals and then the ability to evaluate different projects in the context of those drivers and sort them in an objective key result kind of framework,” Bharariya said.

He also added it’s important how an employee communicates those priorities. He said the question is not so much this will be done and not that, but rather asking if this is the right time to do it. 

American Express has a vast and varied need for analytics projects, Bharariya said. As a result, Amex’s demand for IT data professionals is high.

“American Express is a heavily data-driven company. Data insights are core to our decision-making abilities,” Bharariya said. “So, there’s a lot of premium given to the analytics and insights that come out of our data.”

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