I can’t speak to the challenges of being an international applicant or the specifics of data science, but here is the advice section from my rant about my own recent job hunt:
Attitude is so important
My personal tagline is “You’d be surprised how far stubbornness and enthusiasm can get you.” So much of job-hunting comes down to the impression you make. I know how hard it is to stay positive, but you gotta fake it. Don’t complain or trash-talk (including yourself), even jokingly. Physically smile when you’re on the phone. Smile during your interviews. Chose phasing like “I look forward to hearing from you soon” and “Hopefully I made a good impression, because I’m excited to move forward.” There’s a line between anticipating success and sounding cocky (I’ve crossed it), but people are attracted to happiness and are really very suggestible.
Get human contact
If a job posting includes any contact information (even a stock company signature block), use it. Submit your application through the website, sure, but then also send an email or call the recruiter who posted it. Talk about specifics of the job posting (“I was excited to see that this is for the education sector. I would love to be part of improving online learning tools. I actually am part of an amazing open source education platform called Free Code Camp”). Ask for more information. Include your resume but also hit the high points in your email (or conversation).
Dealing with those skills you don't have
Acknowledge your nerves and concerns
I always make a point of admitting my nervousness, especially since I am also working so hard not to act like I’m nervous. When the interviewer asks me how I am I say something like “Oh, you know, super nervous but excited to be here.” If there are specific weaknesses that worry me, I try to address those too. “I’m a little concerned that you’re looking for someone with a lot of C++ experience. While I’m confident in my ability to learn it quickly, I have to admit that I’ve barely touched it so far.”
Say "I don't know" with a smile
You won’t know how to answer every question. Don’t get hung up on it. If you get hung up on it, they’ll get hung up on it. If you think you can guess the answer, tell them that it’s an inference. If you are sure you used to know it and you brain-fart admit that. If you just don’t know, say that. Acknowledge it with a smile and act like it’s a little embarrassing but perfectly understandable that you don’t have an answer, because it is.
When you're whiteboarding, just keep talking
There’s lots of good advice out there on how to approach live coding challenges (the jargon for this is “whiteboarding” because traditionally they give you a challenge and ask you to solve it for them on a whiteboard without a computer). The only thing I’ll emphasize here is my own major “lesson learned”: silence is your enemy. I lead with “I’m going to say a lot of garbage, because I’m just trying to talk out my thought process” and then I do. Pretend you’re talking to yourself. Propose and reject ideas. Ask yourself questions and answer them.
Interview the job
Don’t walk into an interview with less than 20 intelligent questions to ask. There’s lots of reasons for this.
- You genuinely want to know if the job is right for you.
- It demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about.
- It shows that you are interested in the work, the company, and the people. If you have any interest in the job, always make that very clear.
- It changes the tone to more of a conversation. Interviews can feel like being put on the witness stand in Law & Order. Really, you and the job should be getting to know each other.
- It communicates confidence and an expectation of success.
Headhunters and recruiters are great, but don't rely on them
A “headhunter” is a professional recruiter who is hired by a company to find and vet qualified applicants. You may end up talking to some as a first communication for a specific job, or you can reach out to one directly. One thing that’s great for you is that these people get paid based on a successful placement (usually a percentage of the salary you are offered). This means that they want you to succeed. They can often offer you more information and advice about the interview. I even had one make sure I knew what to wear to the interview. If they choose to work with you, they will let you know about other jobs you might not have found on your own and going through them skips the step of throwing your resume into a pile of hundreds. This can be a nice boost on your job search, but continue to look and advocate for yourself as if they aren’t there.