It’s in companies’ financial interest to have their employees passionate about their jobs. They want to make sure that your interests align. Some example questions are:

  • Why are you interested in ML?
  • What interests you about this position?
  • What do you hope to learn in your next job?
  • In your current role, for what types of problems are you the go-to person? If I asked others on your team this question, what would they say?

Joshua Levy, a founding engineer at the AI-power SaaS company BloomReach, said his go-to interest question is: “Think of a period when you were thrilled and excited to go to work. What made you excited?” Was it the problem you were trying to solve, the impact you could make, the technologies you had access to, the people you worked with, your learning curve, or something else?

One pet question for many interviewers is “explain a paper that you really like.” This answer shows not only the kind of problems you’re interested in, but also how far you’re willing to go to understand a problem, and how well you communicate technical concepts. It doesn’t matter what paper you pick, as long as you understand it enough to talk about it. Before your interviews, choose any paper, read it inside out and implement it yourself to understand all the subtleties.

My personal favorite is: “What have you done that you’re most proud of?” The answer to this question doesn’t even have to be technical. I once told an interviewer that I’m most proud of the non-profit organization I started in high-school to encourage young people to explore outside their comfort zone. I got an offer.

Interviewers want to get a sense of who you are: what motivates you to do your best work, how you handle obstacles. Employers want you to overcome obstacles and do your best work at their companies. Companies want passionate people, so talk about things that can bring out the fire in your eyes.

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