data governance interview questions part 2

In this article we'll go through the type of questions that you might get in a data governance interview that are meant for the interviewer to better gauge your previous data governance experience.

Similar to the of the article on the Data governance Interview Questions and Answers - Part 1 these questions have been compiled from my own experience and that of other data governance professionals, but also from the community of Glassdoor, Linkedin and Indeed.com

Please take the time to go over all these questions as I'll also address the open ended question meant to best gauge your experience.

Now let's get into this set of 10 data governance interview questions:


Q1. What was your biggest accomplishment in data governance? 

There are many things that you could exemplify here. It could be about that fact that you've implemented an entire program, to the fact that you've had the organization adopt a business glossary, or even how you've turned a major stakeholder around and had them become the biggest supporter of data governance. It's a great question for you to showcase your wins.


Q2. What was your biggest challenge in data governance? 

Yes, the interviewers can flip the first question around and ask what your biggest challenge was.

I'll leave it to you here as I don't know what your challenges have been, but I recommend choosing a challenge that you've overcome and mention how you've done that as well. This is actually one of Elon Musk's favorite questions. Not on data governance, but just for interviewing for any role. He's usually asking “Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.” 

"Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them"

- one of Elon Musk's favorite questions


Photo credit: By Steve Jurvetson - https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/18659265152/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40974345

Those who actually know what they’re talking about are inclined to go into detail (exhaustive detail, sometimes), while those who have to rely on BS will often gloss over the finer points (which they don’t know).

Key takeaway: don't be afraid of going into detail, though if you feel that will take you a long time to provide the full answer, you can ask how much detail do they want you to go into.


Q3. How many data domains were in your data governance program's scope? 

In here they are trying to better gauge the maturity of the program, the complexity of the organization, but even more how relevant to the role that you're interviewing is your experience in working with similar types of data. That's why they might follow-up with "What were those data domains"? 

By the way, on average, an organization would have somewhere between 5 to 10 data domains out of which it prioritizes 2 to 3 in the earlier stages of a data governance program.


Q4. How many data systems/data sources were included in your data governance efforts?

If you want a complete, killer answer, my recommendation is to mention that a data governance program should not be modeled after a particular system or with a particular software application in mind, but its scope should be on the data domains. That way it's technology agnostic, but more importantly it will better address the needs of the business and not the view imposed by the current technology.


Q5. What data governance tools, solutions, software have you used in the past? 

I'm keeping this video software agnostic, but you know what to list here. Just mention the tools that you've used. And if don't have experience with any data governance specific tools, that's fine. Maybe the organization didn't have budget for them. That's understandable so you can mention how you've repurposed some tools, even Excel, for different data governance tasks.


Q6. How effective were these tools?

I think this is a cheeky question because the interviewer might actually learn something from you if they haven't used the tools in question. So sometimes the question is asked more as a curiosity as maybe they are also looking to adopting that tool. But more often it's asked for three other reasons.

  1. First is to gauge your know-how of the tool to see if they could rely on you to onboard that tool or something similar within their environment.
  2. Second is to see what solutions you came up with to address the ineffectiveness of a particular part of the tool. Because when something doesn't work as we would like it to, we tend to make some customizations, or look towards another tool, or augment the process to make it work better. In the end they are trying to gauge your solution finding ability.
  3. Lastly, they want to gauge your involvement with the tool and if you were just an end user, a power user, or if you had an administrator type role and how technical your knowledge and experience is with the software.

If they can't gauge that from your answer, they might ask point blank:


Q7. What was your involvement with these tools?


Yes, I know, this would be the 3rd question about a tool. If you're asked so many questions about the tools it's usually a good indicator that the company has invested or will invest in at least one data governance tool. This also speaks highly of their understanding of the importance of data governance and that they won't expect that you'll manage everything with Excel alone.

This is also your chance to ask about their tools or their plans to invest in these resources. But I'll address more in the article and video about questions YOU should ask in a data governance interview. 


Q8. How did you track progress in your data governance program and how do you measure success?


There are many metrics and different KPIs that you can measure so that you can track the progress of your data governance program. You can track things such as:

  • improvement of data quality dimensions
  • number of certified data stewards
  • % of cost savings
  • number of data policies implemented
  • number of published terms in the business glossary
  • and many more things

Check out this article on how to create a data governance scorecard to get an idea for some of the things you can track progress against.


Q9. Give me an example on how you tried to get someone to be on board with data governance? 

You would have your own story, but in the end I think that to win someone over and get them on board a data governance program is to get them tuned into the WII FM. The famous acronym for "What's In It For Me".

Data governance needs to be relevant to the unit or even the individual that you're trying to get onboard. It needs to address their pain points and their needs. That's the first important thing to the individual, how would data governance solve their pain points. If they can see that path between data governance and a solution to their issues, they will be more likely to be on board. Even if you didn't win them over, you can mention your approach as in the end the interviewer also wants to gauge your style.


Q10. Tell me about your previous experience with data stakeholders and/or data owners?


This is a bit of an open ended question as you can mention a few things here.

If you had a data governance council, I would highlight this first. Mention the frequency of the meetings, the composition of the council (so how many data owners and lead data stewards you had), and their engagement.

If you didn't have a council, that's fine, too. You can talk about the areas of data governance that had you working closer with these data stakeholders and data owners. It could have been around:

  • the development of a policy, or
  • defining some business terms,
  • identifying the root cause of a data quality issue and resolving it,
  • reporting on the progress of data governance,
  • establishing and rolling out a new process for improving the acquisition and creation of data, or
  • even creating the business case for the data governance program. 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of areas where you can draw from so I recommend mentioning it all briefly and ask if they would like you to go into more detail on a particular example. The idea is to signal the breath of your data governance experience.

Did you interview for a data governance or data management role? What questions were you asked? Let me know in the comments below.

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About the author 

George Firican

George Firican is the Director of Data Governance and Business Intelligence at the University of British Columbia, which is ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. His passion for data led him towards award-winning program implementations in the data governance, data quality, and business intelligence fields. Due to his desire for continuous improvement and knowledge sharing, he founded LightsOnData, a website which offers free templates, definitions, best practices, articles and other useful resources to help with data governance and data management questions and challenges. He also has over twelve years of project management and business/technical analysis experience in the higher education, fundraising, software and web development, and e-commerce industries.

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George Firican

11/22/2021

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