Ace Your Starburst Interview: The Top 15 Questions and Answers You Need to Know

Getting hired at a leading data analytics company like Starburst is no easy feat. With its expertise in harnessing the power of Presto to enable fast SQL queries on data lakes, Starburst only recruits the best talent. As you prepare for your Starburst interview, it’s crucial to understand the types of questions you’re likely to encounter and how to tackle them effectively.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top 15 Starburst interview questions, providing sample answers and tips to ace each one. From technical queries to core competencies, these questions aim to assess your problem-solving skills, communication abilities, product knowledge, and cultural fit.

Let’s get started!

Overview of Starburst’s Hiring Process

Before diving into the questions, it’s helpful to understand Starburst’s overall hiring process so you know what to expect.

  • Initial Recruiter Screen: You’ll likely be approached by a recruiter via LinkedIn who will have an introductory call to discuss your background, skills, and motivations. Be ready to talk about past experiences and showcase your fit.

  • Technical Phone/Video Interviews Next come the technical interviews typically 4-5 rounds focused on databases distributed systems, Java, and Presto. Brush up on your CS fundamentals.

  • Coding Assignments: Many candidates report getting a coding assignment or online platform like PRX to showcase hands-on skills. Know Java and other relevant languages inside out.

  • Culture Interviews: Later rounds assess cultural fit through behavioral and scenario-based questions. Highlight your collaborative spirit and commitment to diversity.

  • Executive Interviews: For senior roles, final rounds involve presentations to executives and engineering leaders. Demonstrate leadership skills and strategic thinking.

The process is rigorous, so prepare thoroughly and be ready to highlight your technical expertise as well as soft skills. Let’s look at some of the most common questions.

1. How do you stay up-to-date on emerging data technologies?

With Starburst operating in the fast-paced big data space, interviewers want to ensure you have a learning mindset and remain abreast of industry trends. In your response:

  • Discuss how you actively learn through channels like publications, blogs, events, and online communities.

  • Provide examples of applying that knowledge to improve products or solve customer problems.

  • Show an eagerness to continuously upskill yourself and bring innovative thinking.

Sample Answer: “Staying up-to-date with emerging data technologies is crucial in this industry. My approach is to regularly read publications like Datanami and TDWI, follow thought leaders on social media, and attend key events like Strata Data Conference. I also participate in online forums like r/bigdata to engage in discussions. Most importantly, I look for opportunities to apply these learnings, whether suggesting a new open source tool to improve ETL or migrating a client to a managed cloud data warehouse. I recently proposed a data lake architecture using Delta Lake to solve a client’s ACID compliance needs – an approach I learned from following Databricks evangelists. Continuous learning is essential to my role, and I’m always looking to expand my knowledge.”

2. How do you approach a complex technical troubleshooting scenario?

Technical troubleshooting ability is highly valued at Starburst. In responding, be sure to:

  • Demonstrate a structured, methodical approach to diagnosing issues.

  • Highlight your use of root cause analysis.

  • Discuss troubleshooting tools and your technical arsenal.

  • Provide an example of successfully resolving a complex production issue.

Sample Answer: “When approaching complex technical issues, I leverage a rigorous troubleshooting process focused on root cause identification. My first step is gathering information – replicating the issue, reviewing logs, stack traces, and relevant metrics. I’ll also engage with users to understand business impact. Next, I isolate components to narrow the scope, often using divide and conquer. I rely heavily on tools like wireshark, JConsole, and JVisualVM during this process. Once I’ve identified the root cause, I work cross-functionally to implement a fix, then conduct thorough regression testing. For example, our Presto cluster recently had stability issues under load. By methodically reviewing metrics and logs, I uncovered a race condition in the resource manager, patched the code, added tests, and monitored closely during staged roll-out. This step-by-step approach ensures problems are solved sustainably.”

3. How do you balance new feature requests from sales/marketing and technical limitations?

This question tests your ability to make tradeoffs and balance business needs with engineering realities. In your response:

  • Demonstrate you solicit input from both business and technical teams.

  • Discuss employing data and frameworks like RICE to score and prioritize features objectively.

  • Provide examples of how you’ve maintained alignment through open communication and transparency.

Sample Answer: “Balancing requests from sales/marketing with technical constraints requires open communication and structured prioritization. I solicit detailed requirements from business teams to gauge potential value. Then I collaborate with engineering on feasibility, effort estimation, and current workload. To prioritize, I leverage RICE scoring – assessing business impact, user reach, confidence in outcomes, and implementation effort. I’ll score features using this methodology, then review tradeoffs jointly to align on priority. Throughout the process, I maintain transparency through tools like Jira. For example, when our sales team strongly advocated for a complex real-time dashboard, engineering noted scalability concerns. By scoring it objectively vs. other work, we ultimately decided to postpone it based on high effort and low confidence, opting to deliver alternative high-value features first. This collaborative approach allows both business and technical priorities to shape the roadmap.”

4. How do you typically find candidates and source talent for open roles at Starburst?

To shine here, display your recruiting acumen and creativity, for example:

  • Discuss diverse sourcing channels like LinkedIn recruiting, employee referrals, community events, etc.

  • Demonstrate how you go beyond job boards to tap into passive talent and underrepresented groups.

  • Share innovative approaches like strategic headhunting of domain experts on GitHub and tech publications.

Sample Answer: “Sourcing exceptional talent for Starburst requires creativity and diversity of channels. Of course I leverage LinkedIn Recruiter to identify potential matches and our careers page to allow inbound applications. But I focus heavily on uncovering passive candidates by engaging technical communities like database meetups and posting on niche job boards. I maintain a talent CRM to track high-caliber individuals I’ve met at events or through my network. When I identify an impressive candidate, I’ll reach out directly to nurture that relationship over time. I also search sites like GitHub by relevant skills to discover stand-out engineers, then proactively contact them. Referrals from our diverse employees are another great source. With our technical roles, it’s crucial to take a targeted yet multi-pronged approach to tap into both active and passive candidates.”

5. What strategies have you found effective to foster inclusion and belonging on your team?

With diversity being a core value, interviewers want to assess your commitment to inclusion. In your answer, discuss tactics like:

  • Soliciting input from underrepresented groups when making decisions.

  • Promoting employee resource groups and mentoring programs.

  • Ensuring meetings and team events are welcoming and inclusive.

  • Shutting down non-inclusive language or behavior swiftly.

Sample Answer: “Fostering inclusion requires intentional, ongoing effort. As a leader, I leverage employee engagement surveys to solicit anonymous feedback on areas we can improve. I make sure underrepresented voices are heard when shaping team initiatives. Our mentorship program, which pairs early-career women and URMs with executive mentors, has been tremendously impactful. I also proactively organize activities like volunteering events or offsites that strengthen connections between team members. Day-to-day, I model inclusive language, highlight diverse perspectives in meetings, and create psychological safety for speaking up. If I ever observe non-inclusive behavior, I address it head-on with compassion and clarity. Building an equitable, welcoming team takes constant vigilance, but the collective strength we gain makes it incredibly rewarding.”

6. Tell me about a time you influenced product direction based on customer and market insights.

This behavioral question tests your ability to synthesize insights into product strategy. Share an example highlighting how you:

  • Gathered Voice-of-Customer data through surveys, interviews, user testing, etc.

  • Identified market gaps or opportunities through research and analytics.

  • Influenced prioritization and decision-making with data-driven arguments.

  • Helped drive product enhancements that customers valued.

Sample Answer: *”Recently, our largest customer was experiencing recurring issues with writing data to our S3 connector under peak loads. They were frustrated with the instability. To address this, I conducted intensive user interviews across their organization to diagnose pain points. I also pulled in user analytics and surveyed other customers to check if they faced similar challenges. My research revealed that our S3 write performance severely degraded at scale during concurrent usage. I assembled a business case leveraging the hard data on customer impact and market opportunity if we tackled this gap. I presented this case to our PM with urgency ahead of planning

Answering Behavioral Interview Questions Using the STAR Method


What is the STAR method of interviewing?

The STAR method is a structured manner of responding to a behavioral-based interview question by discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation you are describing.

What is the best answer for the star interview question?

As a reminder, the acronym stands for: S – Situation, T – Task, A – Action, R – Results. The format is quite straightforward to follow. Just make sure your answers are relevant, give proper context, describe your thought process, and finally, include real facts and figures.

What are some behavioral interview questions?

What are typical behavioral interview questions? “Tell me about a time you had to tell someone ‘no,’” “Tell me about a time you experienced a workplace conflict and how you handled it” and “How would you approach and solve this problem?” are a few typical questions asked during behavioral interviews.

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