Questions you are asked

You kind of know what to expect in a data governance interview. 75% of the time they'll ask you questions that you'll have to answer. So that's at least 30 to 45 minutes of that interview time and I'm being conservative with my time estimate. And if you'd like to know more about those questions and how you should answer them, check out the following articles:

Data governance interview questions answers
data governance interview questions part 2

But here's the thing, for the remainder of the time during the data governance interview you should ask 2 or 3 of the following questions and some of these will really impress the interviewer.

After the interviewer will ask questions are done with questions to better assess your skills, knowledge and experience for the data governance role that you're interviewing for, they usually ask you: "Do you have any questions for us?". So here are some of the questions you should ask, in no particular order, but please read until the end and you'll see how some of these questions will really impress your interviewer. 

Questions to ask the interviewer

1. What stage is your data governance program in? 

This could have come up during the interview questions, but if this wasn't brought up until now, you should definitely ask the question. If there's no data governance program in place you should also ask why that is and why starting one now. If there used to be one that didn't work out, or if one started, but hasn't progressed you should also ask why that is. It will give you a better sense of the challenges ahead, and the expectations that they might have from you. And I think that the worst answer that they can give you is that they had one before, or two or three and they failed.

There are many reasons data governance programs fail and one of them could be the people involved. The challenge would be that you need to get buy-in from stakeholders from something that was sold to them before and it failed. With each failure the stakeholders tend to lose hope and confidence in data governance. 

And that's not an easy position for you to be brought in. It could be done, but that's why you should ask this question to understand what your starting point is.

2. What were the main factors for making other programs successful at their company? 

Maybe it was a something around data privacy and security, data visualization, or something different such as a sales or marketing program. You're asking this to learn what you can emulate for your data governance program, to also gauge their organizational culture and what seems to be important for them.

This is a question that will impress the interviewer, and I'll give you a few more, especially the last one which will impress them for sure. But first let me give you a sneak peek on what they could answer the question we're on right now about those main success factors. Some of the factors contributing to the success of a program or a project could be:

  • the higher purpose and why the team wants to give itself everything it has because they believe in that higher purpose like helping kids, and educating people, and saving the environment.
  • collaboration between different teams
  • the funds available that were dedicated to the program
  • sponsorship from the very top
  • the structure of the team 
  • a particular set of skills of those involved.

Their answer would vary, but you can see how it could give you a good peak into their organization.

That being said, if culture is important you can ask:

3. How do you define your company culture?

You should ask to understand the interviewer's perception on what their culture is. And why would you care? Plenty of reasons. And it's all about the fit.

Do you feel that culture resonates with yourself, do you start seeing yourself in some of those values? You can usually expect to hear a lot of positive words to describe the culture, but you could be surprised. I was in this interview once, I asked the question, and I was told something along the lines: "George, as you know, this is a very competitive industry, we're all go getters, and even though there might be some clashing personalities, ambition is highly valued". Let me know, would this culture be a good fit for you? Anyhow, whatever the answer is, it should give you an understanding on your fit with the company's culture.

4. What is your vision for the data governance program?

You asking this will show the interviewer that you are forward thinking. You're not just thinking of those operational needs, you're not just thinking of project based initiatives, but you're thinking of the higher goal, you're thinking of the vision.

Here's the catch: they might not have an answer for it. Maybe you caught them off guard with this question. So they could say "we don't, that's why we're hiring someone for this role". And that's fine, they're giving you with another opportunity for you to shine.

So you can give them your vision, how you want data to be treated as an asset and of course connecting it to the organization's goal. My recommendation, do your research and memorize that organization's vision and goals because it will help you with this question.

For each one of the questions you can have the opportunity to showcase how you are a good fit for the role. So if you had experience coming in when a data governance program failed, but you revived it successfully, mention that, if you evolved one, mention that, if you're thriving in the type of company's culture that they are describing then mention that, too.

5. What resources would be available to support the program? 

Again another good way to assess the playing field. Do they expect you will do everything, will you have access to analysts, will you have the support needed from upper management, will you have funding for particular projects and tools?

It's good for you to know and all of this could help you in your salary negotiation. And for this question they could also fire back and say that would lean on you to tell them what resources are needed - which is a pretty good answer.

Now here's the question that I think will impress them the most:

6. What do you foresee being the biggest challenges for this role?

Do you know why I love this question? Because there are so many potential answers. They could touch on the company's culture, the current state of their data governance program, or if one failed already, it can touch on the availability of resources, sponsorship, external or internal pressures and constraints. It's a beauty.



Now you might have noticed that these questions can overlap at times. That's why you're not going to ask all of them. Just choose a couple of them, maximum 3 of them and fire away. For each one of these questions, the interviewers can be vague with their answers. And that's ok. Because just by asking them, you are positioning yourself as a person who is knowledgeable enough to raise these types of questions. Questions that they maybe never thought of before and people tend to be impressed if that happens.

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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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