Succeeding as a business analyst requires experience, domain knowledge and sometimes certifications, but it helps if you develop several general skills, as well. It’s valuable to recognize them because they’ll help you thrive in a role that often comes with lots of autonomy, constantly evolving demands and priorities, and tons of ambiguity.
These skills don’t necessarily determine whether you’ll be a competent business analyst. But if you’re aware of them, you’ll have a leg up in selling yourself as someone who will be able to work effectively in any organization.
Let’s take a look at each one, and how you can use them to your advantage during job interviews.
Many times, BAs find themselves trying to convince people to work on activities that may not be their top priority. It’s a rare thing for a BA to actually have a project with stakeholders who can commit their full time to requirement elicitation and validation. They often need to cajole, coerce, beg and otherwise convince stakeholders to help them accomplish their tasks. This process can be a whole lot easier if you’re engaging. So when you’re interviewing, make sure that you demonstrate your communication and persuasion skills, because often you’ll be relying on them to rally people around your project.
Have a Thick Skin
Great business analysts realize that they can’t control most of their environment, even though they’re frequently held responsible for things beyond their scope. After all, BAs often have to balance between stubborn stakeholders, crazy timelines, corporate politics and shifts in scope. To that, add trying to get project members to return your calls and emails, helping evaluate the few hundred business rules in the current software, and fighting with the new requirements management tool. It’s a surprise more BAs don’t have frayed nerves.
When preparing for your interview, ask yourself how you approach difficult or politically charged situations. Be ready with real examples, too. How have you settled conflicts? Being diplomatic is key, as is keeping things fair, realistic and equal in terms of timelines or requests. It’s also important to manage the expectations of stakeholders. Be sure to include all of your experience with these things in your answers.
Generally, BAs are more able capture information, interact with stakeholders and identify opportunities if they’ve worked in many industries. Additionally, multidisciplined BAs can leverage their knowledge of other industries to take information and apply it to their current project or duties.
Veteran BAs realize that all their activities and methods need to be adapted to the specific environment and situation at hand. Multidisciplined BAs often find innovative ways to deliver value to their projects because they have a wide range of experience to draw from. During your interview, be sure to share all of the great, out-of-the-box solutions you’ve come up with. This usually means you offered several options to a problem and then presented them to management and stakeholders so they could decide which one to take, with you offering the pros and cons of each. Additionally, talking about how technically savvy you are and what applications you know can help your chances greatly.
As a BA, one of your primary jobs is to ask questions. If you’re not doing that, you run the risk of becoming a mere “order taker,” someone who merely writes down what stakeholders say without a critical analysis.
You’ve probably run into this type of analyst at some point. Seasoned BAs realize that they are a conduit of information and are always asking stakeholders to help elicit, refine, validate and implement requirements. You should always be thinking “what, why, how, where, when, who” whenever you analyze solutions and communicate with stakeholders.
During your interview, elaborate on how you go about eliciting requirements and the methodology you follow. Is it based on some planned checklist or is it more ad hoc? The interviewer wants to make sure that you won’t simply write down requirement statements, but that you’ll conduct some analysis as well in terms of costs, benefits, impacts and other issues.
Prudent business analysts always need to evaluate the value of their work and articulate it to stakeholders. Great BAs understand the organization’s needs and goals and can find ways to efficiently realize its objectives. Finding options, alternatives and solutions are key. You should know how to communicate the value in making recommendations to superiors.
Be ready to describe to the interviewer how you strategically helped previous employers get to their next level. As before, communication and presenting options are keys here. The interviewer wants to know how you’ll be able to solve their problems.
Details, Details and More Details
Another critical trait is attention to detail. Great business analysts understand the importance of having precise and clear documentation and communication. Moreover, they’re skilled at balancing large amounts of information. You must be able to scale your message and thought processes, and be compelling.
So, when talking to a prospective employer you need to come across as highly organized and able to create clear documentation. Be ready: They may ask for some samples of your work. Sharing examples of projects where you’ve taken large amounts of information and documented it concisely into requirement statements or developed options can really help you stand out.
As I said, there’s more to being a business analysts than having these skills. But if you pursue them, and refine them, you’ll go a long way to being more effective – and proving to interviewers that you can handle any project they throw at you.
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