Software company VMWare has demonstrated its commitment to enhancing its AI and analytics prowess with a string of acquisitions since 2019. In just one year, the company had acquired nine firms and is set to close the tenth deal soon. Additionally, it also focuses on quality hires in the domain of data science to further strengthen its tech capabilities.
“We try to integrate data-driven decisions even within our interview process for data scientists,” says Ashish Goyal, Director-HR of VMware India. “Additionally, it is designed to give our candidates a good view of how VMware works, allowing them to make educated decisions about joining us,” he adds.
The 5 week-long interview process – which can also go up 7 weeks – may seem arduous and exhausting, but is carefully developed by the company to not only ensure that they onboard the best, but also allow candidates the space to truly understand the company’s ethos and thus, define their mission in the company even before they join.
What, then, does the interview process for data scientists at VMWare look like? Let us find out.
Skills Over Educational Qualifications
Putting an end to an age-old debate on whether or not a strong educational background should be taken as a standard metric to gauge the capabilities of data science candidates, Goyal states the following:
“Lack of a strong educational background is not a barrier when it comes to selecting the right candidate. Candidates with pedigree education and relevant certifications are welcome, but they can always gain relevant knowledge through self-learning and relevant certification programs.”
According to him, it demonstrates their self-initiative and adds that relevant experience in analytics and data science is a strong plus as well. Furthermore, the company clearly prioritises certain skill sets and knowledge over glorifying titles in a resume.
“We consider R or Python to be desirable skills, along with Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing knowledge,” says Goyal. “In addition to this, a deep mathematical understanding of data science techniques is greatly appreciated,” he adds.
The company has some additional requirements for senior individual contributors and those in managerial roles. “They need to have good stakeholder management skills as they are needed to implement projects across our businesses.”
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Hiring Process At VMWare
At VMWare, every interviewer has pre-defined competencies they will speak with the candidate about. This helps them establish a scientific interview process. Elaborates Goyal:
“In the first discussion, we assess a candidate’s analytical ability using case studies, puzzles, situational questions and business problem-solving abilities. The second conversation is about assessing one’s technical ability, while the third discussion focuses on their knowledge of data sciences – bagging versus boosting, cross-validation, last-mile optimisation, etc. The fourth discussion is more about assessing their past work experience, which will give us a window into their understanding of projects. The check for VMware’s cultural fit is woven through all these discussions.”
While the company sources candidates from various sources, including job portals, internal databases, employee referrals, and more, VMWare also participates in hiring events periodically.
“We attempt to expand our talent pool as much as possible,” says Goyal. “Platforms like LinkedIn are relevant to discover great talent. In fact, our open positions are published on multiple social media platforms. Individuals who follow VMware and subscribe to company updates also get to view these positions and can express their interest early on,” he adds.
The company firmly believes in a data-driven and efficient interview process, where it maximises the utilisation of its time with candidates while giving them valuable experience at the same time.
“We try to limit the number of interviews to 4 or 5,” says Goyal. “We believe these are sufficient to give both parties enough data points to make a decision,” he adds.
Challenges In Hiring Data Scientists
Although entry-level and intermediary positions are fairly easy to fill, the company admittedly struggles with hires at more senior levels.
“We find that candidates with 3-7 years experience are easier to identify, and they usually come with great skills and educational backgrounds,” says Goyal. “However, hiring candidates with more than 8 years of experience becomes challenging. This is likely because the pool of skilled candidates in this category is limited,” he adds.
This is why VMWare employs certain non-traditional hiring methods and practices to fill these gaps. Hiring events, especially, provides the company with the opportunity to talk to the best data science candidates.
“We try to expand our talent funnel as much as possible, and make sure our roles are highly visible to relevant professionals,” says Goyal. “We also leverage social media to reach out to prospective candidates. Additionally, our leaders write blogs about our teams, our culture, and the quality of work that we do to attract wider applications,” he adds.
VMWare typically hires candidates into its core research team, as well as for the analytics division. So, candidates are expected to deliver projects as well as work on mainstream research work too as per their expertise.“Our robust hiring process is time-intensive and helps us identify and recruit the best candidate,” says Goyal. “This way, we avoid hiring mistakes. We also try to have an alternate interviewer perspective by bringing in an independent interviewer at times,” he adds.