How to do well in a business analyst interview

productfernMay 30, 2020

I’ve been lucky enough now to do several different business analyst roles in the last few years. This means I’ve had the opportunity to take part in business analyst interviews for a range of organisations. But how do you do well in a business analyst interview?

Alongside interviewing for roles myself, I also now conduct business analyst interviews to recruit for my team. I’ve done this for permanent in house, consulting and contracting roles. The interviews themselves can be nervewracking no matter how experienced you are. By learning a bit more about them you will go in prepared and get the role you are working towards.

So let’s walk through the process of a business analyst interview.

Know what to expect

In the UK, business analyst interviews generally have several stages.

First stage – phone

The first stage is usually a phone interview. The aim of this is to understand a bit more about you, your experience and check how you communicate. It’s always hard to gauge someone on their CV, as everyone is looking for something different. By conducting a short phone interview, it means that the quality of candidates coming for face to face interviews is higher.

I’d usually expect someone more junior in the team to conduct your phone interview. It will consist of more high level questions about your skills and dive into your motivation for the role. Phone interviews are usually around 30 minutes.

Second stage – face to face / video

The second stage business analyst interview is usually face to face. However, in the times of Covid-19, it is more common for these to be conducted by video. At the second stage I would usually expect some type of test or presentation, this could include:

  • Reviewing requirements. You could be asked to review and improve a set of requirements. Another option is giving you a short scenario and asking you to extract some requirements or further questions you could ask.
  • Creating a process map. Again, you may be given a process map which you can review and improve. I’ve seen several examples of giving a generic scenario and then being asked to map it out, e.g. preparing a pizza.
  • Preparing a presentation. This is more common in consulting based business analyst interviews. The presentation might be about how you would deliver a project. In some interviews you might have time before the interview to
  • Completing a standardised test. Some organisations use standard english / maths / comprehension tests but this is becoming less common.

Alongside the activity, the interview will be more in depth. It will cover your skills, experience and how you approach different types of work. It’s also common for this stage to have more than one interviewer.

In some organisations, you may have a third stage. This is usually because of one of two reasons. Firstly, they really like you but have a formal process for the head of the area to meet all new hires. Or secondly, they are still on the fence and want a second opinion. You can usually figure out which one based on the role of the person doing your third interview.

Image of two women on either side of a table in discussion to represent a business analyst interview.

Prepare for the interview

Now you know what to expect, put some time in to prepare for the interview. Cover both the review and research phases:

Review

  • Review the key areas of business analysis and check you can evidence them. If you haven’t had experience in a specific area, that can be fine. Make sure you prep an answer of what training or other activities you’ve done to strengthen that space. If you’re unsure of these skills then check out my ‘what is business analysis‘ article.
  • Review the job spec. Chances are if you’re job hunting then you’ve got a heap of job specs hanging around! Make sure you’re familiar with the one you have. Keep it up on screen or in your notebook so you can refer back to it. Make sure you can speak about everything which is on there.
  • Prepare your questions. One of the most important aspects on the interview is your questions back to the interviewer. This job is something which can potentially take up the majority of your working hours, have some questions to ask! I am always worried if you don’t have any questions prepared. Even seemingly basic questions like ‘what’s your typical working day’ or ‘what’s your approach to requirements’ are great as they show you are interested.

Research

  • Research your interviewer. It’s common to find out who your interviewer is beforehand. Have a look online to find out more about them. Reference what you learnt in your questions at the end, ‘I saw you have been at the company for a long time, what has kept you here’ is a great way of showing your interest.
  • Research the company. When you research an organisation, it’s more than just learning the key phrases like the values or motto. Research into different areas the company prioritises, check out their social media, review glassdoor and the reviews on there. Be prepared to answer the question ‘why do you want a job at this company’ and give specific examples.
  • Check your logistics. If you are doing your interview by video then make sure you have an appropriate location and background. Check the software and if you haven’t used it before then trial it out before the day. If your interview is in person then check your routes, there is nothing worse than being late and then feeling flustered for the entire interview!

Typical business analyst interview questions

It’s important to prepare for a wide range of questions which might be asked in the interview. Review them yourself or get a friend to ask them. In addition, you should also prep a way of giving yourself more time to think if you aren’t ready for the question. If you ask for the question to be rephrased then it will give you more time to think.

The questions below will give you an idea of what may be asked:

Questions on method / techniques

  • Requirements: Describe your approach to requirements. How would you elicit requirements from a difficult stakeholder? Explain how you prioritise requirements? Provide an example of how you work with developers to improve your requirements?
  • Processes: How would you document a business process? What modelling tools have you used? Explain how you would show data flows in a business process? Describe what you would use process models for.
  • Scope: How would you start a new project in a new area? Describe how you’d contribute to a business case. Explain how you would manage unclear scope or vision.
  • Other areas: How do you manage change within the business? How would you approach training or communication of your work? How do you manage benefits?

Questions on ways of working

  • Delivery methods: What delivery methods have you used? What is your role in an agile team? How would you help a team adopt agile?
  • Stakeholders: How do you manage difficult stakeholders? Describe your strengths in relation to working in a team or working individually. Explain how you will conduct analysis remotely.
  • Sector specific questions: You will likely have questions about the industry which you are applying. For example, in consulting you might be asked about how you manage scope and contractual delivery. Another example might be if you are applying for a role in utilities then you can have questions about industry standards.

Questions about you

  • Motivation: Why do you want to leave your current role? What are you hoping to get out of this role? Does this role meet your expectations? What does success look like in this role?
  • Role: Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Logistics: For example if the role involves travel or security clearance then these will be considered.

The 3 most important tips for a business analyst interview

Keeping all your preparation and questions in mind, what are the three most important tips to consider?

  • Be yourself. One the most important traits of a business analyst is people skills. Show your personality and how you would build relationships with the team once you got the role.
  • Admit when you don’t know something or have experience. Often for most business analyst roles, having the right attitude is the most important aspect. If you aren’t familiar with a specific tool or method but you show that you are willing to learn then that is what matters. Admit when this is the case and what you would do to remedy it.
  • Know what role is right for you. The job market for business analysts has been very hot in recent years. Getting people who will stay in the role is important. Make sure the role is right for you so that you can show passion when you’re speaking.

What next?

It can be a case of trial and error to get used to interviewing and to secure the role you want. Always try and ask for specific feedback after an interview to help you improve. You can always consider additional certifications which I cover in the ‘business analysis training‘ section.

Is this an accurate representation of interviews you have done or held before? Share your experience in the comments.

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Comments (1)

  • What is business analysis? – Business Analysis Collective

    June 5, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    […] Finally, what a business analyst does is very closely linked to product owners and user experience professionals. Check out our posts on ‘what is product ownership‘ and ‘what is user experience’ to compare and contrast. If you’re taking the next steps in becoming a business analyst then check out ‘how to do well in a business analyst interview‘. […]

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