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The Worst Business Analyst Interview Of All-Time

5 min readView all articles
By John Pauler
Jul 6, 2020

In sports, you hear a lot of debate over who is the GOAT (greatest of all time). This is a story about the WOAT (worst of all time).

While I was working on writing up some pointers on what a great Analyst interview looks like, I was reminded of the worst Analyst interview I ever conducted. This interview was straight up ridiculous. Hearing about it may make you cringe, or it may make you laugh. Hoping you will enjoy it and take away some lessons too.

The interview I will describe to you took place over a decade ago. I was pretty early in my career, and had not conducted many candidate searches. Since then I have personally hired dozens of direct reports, and participated in the interview process for hundreds of candidates across Analytics, Marketing, and Product at companies ranging from large public corporations down to a four person startup. And still, this guy stands firm as by far the worst I have ever seen when it comes to interviewing.

Ready for the plot twist? I hired him. Yes, I hired the WOAT.

He ended up being a solid employee, and a great guy too. Even to this day, he still has a very special place in my heart.

Here we go…

In walks this kid who just graduated from college. He is late, wearing what must have been his father’s suit, and looking like he had never heard of a haircut. I am not making fun of him here. Remember, I love this guy. I am just trying to paint a picture of how little he cared about this interview, and how immediately obvious that was.

Me: Hi there, I’m John. Thanks for coming in. Let’s start off talking about why you think this is a good opportunity for you.

Candidate: Well, to be honest I don’t really want to work here.

In my head: Wait...what...is going on here?

Candidate: My mother is good friends with [John's boss] and she thinks you guys would hire me. But I don’t really want to get a job at all. My mother made me come here today.

In my head: This is a joke right? This must be a joke. Who the heck set up this interview? I feel like I am being punk’ed right now.

Me: Okay, so what do you actually want to do?

Candidate: Well, I don’t feel like I need money. I have video games in my parents basement. I don’t really see any reason why I can’t just stay there and hang out. I have everything I need.

I swear I’m not making this up. I don’t even think you could make this stuff up!

So how on Earth did this guy turn me around and get a job offer?

Was I impressed at his honesty?

No, not really. I thought he was ridiculous, lacking awareness, and even a bit disrespectful of other people’s time. His honesty is not what got him the job.

Was it that we were desperate because two people from our small five person Analytics group both gave their notice in the same week?

Maybe a little bit. But no, that’s not why we hired him. There was something else.

Did my boss put pressure on me to hire him?

No, not really. Maybe there was some implied pressure just because his mother was friends with my boss, but I didn’t really feel much. Nepotism has nothing to do with why he got the job.

Still, this candidate did eventually secure the job offer. So you know there has to be something I haven't mentioned yet. Let’s talk about how the rest of his interview went. At one point, we got to discussing what he liked about his college experience. It was a pretty meandering story he told (did I mention this guy was not good at interviewing?) but two things really stuck out…

“I took an HTML and javascript course that was really fun.”

“...and I really liked using Microsoft Excel”

These are the types of things that make an interviewer perk up.

At the time, in our Analytics group, our Analysts were spending about 90% of our time in Microsoft Excel. And we used tag-based web analytics solutions like Adobe SiteCatalyst and CoreMetrics, which were implemented with HTML and javascript code.

I didn’t just take him at his word when he talked about having these technical skills. This candidate was put to the test.

We did some HTML and simple javascript on the board. He was pretty good there.

I opened up Excel on my laptop and handed it over to walk through some exercises and datasets.

He breezed through basic aggregate functions.

Pivot tables?… he crushed it. The guy was slicing and dicing like a true ninja.

VLOOKUP?… he seemed like he could handle this with his eyes closed.

He was able to quickly spin up graphs to plot out the analyses he was doing too.

I kept pushing him on Excel, and he was good. Like… crazy good, for somebody who had never held a job as an Analyst before.

That was the moment the plot twisted. This candidate might have been the worst interviewer in all of history, but his deep technical ability using Microsoft Excel still landed him the job.

My expectation had been that almost any recent college grad would need substantial training, especially getting up to speed with all the stuff we needed to do in Excel. Instead, this guy was able to do most of the job already, in the interview! So instead of spending weeks training some other college grad, I could hire him, and he would plug right in and start producing for the company right away. Obviously I wanted to hire him, despite his attitudinal shortcomings.

We did end up hiring him. I think his mother may have forced him to take the job. I’m not sure about that part.

Just as I expected, he was able to do the work right away. Like anyone, he needed some training, but his ramp up was a lot faster than most recent college grads. This candidate quickly became a highly effective employee of the company, and he was also a wonderful human being who everyone really liked working with.

So why tell you this story? Well, I hope there are a couple of key things you can take away from hearing it…

  • If you want any kind of an Analytics job, and your technical skills are good enough, you can easily overcome lack of experience. You can overcome being from the wrong industry. You can overcome being too young. Heck, you may even be able to overcome having the worst interviewing skills of all-time.

  • Try to be better at interviewing than my friend was in this story. Hopefully his example can also serve as a guide for what not to do. Be on time, be enthusiastic about the job. Steer the conversation into topics where you’re strong and where you can add value to the business. Definitely don’t tell the person interviewing you that you don’t want the job!

Hope you found this helpful. Keep those skills growing!


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John Pauler

John brings over 15 years of business intelligence experience to the Maven team, having worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early stage startups. As a MySQL expert, he has played leadership roles across analytics, marketing, SaaS and product teams.

John brings over 15 years of business intelligence experience to the Maven team, having worked with companies ranging from Fortune 500 to early stage startups. As a MySQL expert, he has played leadership roles across analytics, marketing, SaaS and product teams.

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