Business Analyst interview preparation
To succeed in your interviews and employment conversations, it is important you thoroughly understand the functions, expectations and qualities of a Business Analyst.
When you have a thorough understanding of your role as a business analyst and the value you offer, then not only will you have meaningful conversations in interviews, you will also be applying for the correct positions.
So, who are you? What type of business analyst are you? What do you stand for? Why is this important to you? What is your value proposition?
Rules for interview preparation
Do these things:
- Read and review the job description and align your experience with each point in the description.
- Consider the types of questions that you might be asked against each point in the job description and write down your answers. See “Typical questions you might be asked at an interview” below for more information. Use the behavioural interview question format Context, Action and Result (CAR) where possible.
- Research the organisation and ensure that you can make some meaningful observations about who they are, what product or services they provide and where they are positioned in their respective market.
- Look sharp and dress appropriately. This goes without saying but make sure that you present yourself according to the expectations of the organisation and general interviewing standards.
- Ensure that you know your way to the interview and that you give yourself plenty of time to get there. If find yourself running late (don’t do this!), make sure that you call ahead and let the interviewer know your expected time of arrival.
- If your interview is by phone or video, make sure that you can sit the interview somewhere quiet and that you will not be disturbed. Also, ensure that you are familiar with the technology that you will need to use.
- Show enthusiasm with a firm handshake. Even though you may feel shaky, use good eye contact demonstrate confidence and speak clearly and distinctly in a confident voice.
- One of the most neglected interview skills is listening. Make sure you are not only listening, but also reading between the lines. Sometimes what is not said is just as important as what is said. Also, the interviewers will be telling you about the requirements of the role, and the tasks and projects you will be involved in. Understanding this will give you an opportunity to ask questions in the interview which will give you more opportunities to offer useful information about how you can add value to the organisation.
- Ask questions. Don’t miss the opportunity to find out valuable information. The questions you ask indicate your interest in the company or job.
- Answer the question asked. This is something I worry about a lot! Make sure you understand what is being asked and get further clarification if you are unsure. If you are unfamiliar with any terminology be sure to ask questions. Not understanding a question does not mean you do not know the answer.
- As already mentioned, prepare your stories before the interview and give specific examples using the CAR method. Give examples that highlight your successes and uniqueness and how you approach your work, as your past behaviour can indicate your future performance. Ensure that you incorporate your values and observations in your answers.
- Follow up. The interview follow-up is one more chance to remind the interviewer of all the valuable traits you bring to the job and organisation.
Don’t do these things:
- Turn up late to the interview. As already mentioned, let the interviewer know if you are running late, but try to avoid this at all costs as it puts you on the back foot before even meeting for the interview.
- Smoke before your interview. The smell will be noticeable and unpleasant for your interviewer.
- Volunteer your weaknesses. There is no need to volunteer your shortfalls unless asked directly. The trick to discussing your weaknesses is to name them, and to discuss why they also strengths.
- Criticise your current or previous employer. Doing so could give your interviewer the impression you’re difficult to work with.
Tips for dealing with nerves and improving confidence
Unfortunately, interviews can be an unnatural and uncomfortable experience for many people. Me included. I have had several interview experiences that were less than favourable and I either wish I never had them, or I wish I could have done them differently.
As a result of those experiences I hold these following principles when applying for roles and sitting interviews:
- Interviews are a two-way conversation whereby I am also deciding whether I want to work for the organisation. It is important that if I am offered a role that I can accept it knowing that I will be able to give my best. If I accept a role that is not suited to me, it may damage my reputation and affect my confidence when trying to move to my next position. The position must also be in line with my career roadmap and my personal preferences.
- I get nervous, and I know that the interviewer(s) will understand this. If I try to fight my nerves, I am not able to listen or respond to questions as effectively as I like. I know it is easier to say than to do but I try to accept that I am nervous and find a way to move forward with the interview anyway. It is most likely that after the first minute or so, I will calm down. If my heart is pounding or I am choked, I take a pause and a deep breath before launching into the answers. The breath sends a message to my heart to slow down, and the pause gives me a moment to collect my thoughts.
- Treat job applications like a numbers game. I apply for multiple roles and try to sit as many interviews as possible. This way I am not putting all of my energy, focus, expectations, hopes and dreams on the one role. It disperses my energy across multiple opportunities, and I am not so attached to the outcome. It helps me relax in interviews and allows more interview practice. The more interviews the better!
- I thoroughly prepare for an employment conversation even if it is just a coffee chat with a hiring manager in a nearby café. Not all interviews are held in a formal setting with a panel or interviewers and a list of questions. Some interviews might be a just chat and a handshake. These more informal conversations have potential for surprises. For instance, other interviewers or interested parties might be invited along at the last minute and they might ask some unexpected questions. Also, casual conversation can be quite informative or misleading to an interviewer. I may find myself revealing things about my life or current circumstances that – though in reality are harmless – may be misunderstood or detrimental to my chances of winning the role if they are left unqualified.
If you are having a confidence crisis, try these things:
- As business analyst, write down what value you have to offer an organisation, what outcomes you can deliver for them and why it is important to them. Keep writing it down repeatedly until you know your value and worth as a business analyst.
- This is similar to the above but write down as many times as needed until you understand your qualities, strengths and talents as a person. What are the great things about you? Why should you be hired? This will further consolidate your understanding of yourself and what you have to offer. Keep doing these exercises until you feel a genuine appreciation for yourself. Make sure you know what you stand for and why.
- If you have had a bad experience, don’t let that get in the way of what you want to do right now. It is unlikely that it will happen again unless you are looking for it, so please don’t look for it. Put it down as an isolated experience that may or may not happen again, but if it does you will be better equipped with understanding that you are a worthy human being deserving of being in that interview room and making a contribution. Just keep your focus on the interview.
- Take a different perspective of the interview. Expect that this interview experience will be different, and it will be. Expect a positive outcome. Most of time what I want out of an interview is my dignity intact and hopefully a good impression – this to me is a positive outcome. I don’t go in there desperately hoping for a job offer. Something I want from an interview is a good conversation, so they get to know me (I am able to answer their questions reasonably well) and I get to know them (I have questions for them). The interview goes both ways where I am also assessing whether I want to work for them. If you go in there wanting to just do the best you can – and remove any other expectations of a job offer, etc – you will perform better. If you get an offer that is fantastic, but if you don’t then you know you have done a good job and it will give you experience and confidence for the next interview.
Remember, this is a numbers game. The more interviews you can get to, the better your chances. Each interview will give you experience and ideas about how you can handle the next one.
Business Analyst interview questions
Behavioural interview questions and the “Tell me about a time when . . .” questions where the interviewer is looking for a real situation in your past and what you did in that situation.
To answer behavioural questions, use the Context, Action and Result (CAR) approach. There is also the Situation, Task, Analysis and Result method (STAR) which is equally effective.
To use CAR, tell the interviewer about the situation that matches their question, explain what action you took because of that situation, and what the result was. Keep your response to five minutes or less and be prepared for follow-up questions.
Examples of behavioural interview questions include:
- Tell me about a similar project you have worked on
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a challenging stakeholder
- Tell me about a time when you had to put the goals of the team above your own
- Tell me about a time when you solved a difficult problem
- Have you experienced a time when there were competing priorities on a project?
- Tell me about a time when you had to manage unrealistic expectations
To prepare for this interview, review the job description and come up with three or four situations that will likely relate to common questions.
Other questions that you might be asked
- What are the common deliverables of a business analyst?
- How much experience have you had with ___ (e.g. techniques such as workshop facilitation, business process mapping, user story mapping, etc. Also, many possible technologies can be asked here).
- What do you see as the key strengths of a business analyst?
- What attracted you to our organisation?
- Tell me about yourself
- What do others say about you as a business analyst?
- Tell me your strengths
- What are your weaknesses? (yes, this question still gets asked)
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- Do you have any questions for me?
Questions you can ask at the job interview
Asking questions is more than just a science for a Business Analyst. There is a way of asking the “what, how, who, where and why” of a situation without putting your client, or in this case, a hiring manager on the defensive.
As an interviewee, asking questions at a job interview is a good opportunity to position yourself and show your capabilities as a BA. After all, a job interview must be a two-way conversation so that you are also playing a part in deciding your future.
By asking questions, you can follow up with at least one example of how your experience aligns. This way you are value adding to the discussion and further demonstrating experience that may not have come to light during from the interview. It also gives you a better picture of what is required of you.
When I sit an interview, I like to ask questions during the course of the discussion. But there is usually an opportunity at the end of the session for any questions – and your elevator pitch!
I also ask questions when I need to clarify the question asked of me. It’s better being clear on what the interviewer wants than to give the wrong answer (I know this from experience). In this context, asking questions also helps me refine my responses and give me a little time to think.
Here are some questions that you could leverage to further highlight your experience and capabilities.
- What is required of me on a day-to-day basis? (just in case it’s still not clear)
- What do you need me to deliver? (if ongoing or if project based)
- Do you have an outcome in mind already? (if it’s a specific initiative)
- Who else will be working with? Who do I need to engage with?
- When do you expect me start? Where will I be based? Where is the project?
- What are the expected deliverables? What format? When?
- What methodologies and approaches should I use? What tools will I use?
- What technology will I be using or need to know about?
- Is there any existing documentation for the project? (if the role is for a specific project)
The interviewers may have covered these questions, but not always as they can get caught up with asking and scoring pre-set requirements. Also, you could use the “5 Ws” against pertinent points in the conversation. Try to demonstrate how you behave in certain situations, solve problems and add value (especially when dealing with stakeholders).
There’s a fine line between not asking enough questions and too many. So be mindful of this and use your questioning to your greatest benefit – not just for the sake of asking questions. Keep your questions clear and basic, and be mindful of looking like someone who sucks time and energy. Don’t be a show-off. Communicate as someone who listens and reflects.