Employers will add 876,000 business analysis-related positions by 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To score one of them you’ll need a mixture of soft and technical skills, says Nisha Karki, account and technical support manager for the New Jersey-based consulting firm ConsultADD.
“Companies have raised the bar, especially for contractors,” Karki notes. “They still want BAs who have analytical and communications skills but now they expect them to have technical skills like data warehousing and SQL.”
When hiring, Karki’s goal is to separate technical BAs or systems analysts from those who support the functional side. Since communication skills are paramount for both positions, she starts each interview by asking an open ended question like, “Tell me about yourself.”
Once you’ve made it past her communications test, she asks questions like these:
Describe the last project you worked on. Explain the scope, your role and responsibilities, and your business impact.
- What Most People Say: “I worked on an asset management project for a bank. I gathered the requirements, worked on the deliverables, conducted tests and so forth.”
- What You Should Say: Describe the scope in detail, Karki says. “Was it a front office or back office project? Did you collaborate with SMEs and end users? What was your role at every stage of the project and how did your efforts impact the business?”Here’s an example: “I worked on a front office asset management project at ABC Bank. I interfaced with 15 SMEs and end users, performed user acceptance tests and wrote UAT scripts. Based upon the results, I altered the request, which reduced project costs by 10 percent or $30,000.”
- Why You Should Say It: “Tell me the details,” says Karki, adding that a good answer may take five minutes or more. But understanding a BA’s previous roles and responsibilities helps her determine whether he or she possesses the programming and design skills to be a systems analyst.
What’s the difference between inner join and outer join in SQL? When should they be used?
- What Most People Say: “I’m not familiar with inner join and outer join, but I can describe the query process.”
- What You Should Say: “Joins are used to create meaningful data by combining data from two tables to create a temporary table. The temporary table eliminates duplicates and irrelevant matches by using a predicate to specify the condition for a join. Here’s an example of a query where I used inner and outer joins.”
- Why You Should Say It: “Anyone can write a query,” Karki observes. “I want to know if you understand the logic behind the query process and when it’s possible to create efficiencies by using inner and outer joins to return relevant data.”
Have you worked on product backlogs using rational unified process (RUP) methodology?
- What Most People Say: “I’m familiar with product backlogs but I haven’t managed them in RUP.”
- What You Should Say: “It’s my understanding that RUP is an iterative approach that doesn’t include product backlog grooming or refining. Would you like me to explain how I’ve managed product backlogs in Agile?”
- Why You Should Say It: This is a trick question, since product backlogs aren’t part of the RUP methodology. Karki views it as a critical test since contractors need confidence and diplomacy to interface with clients and decline their unreasonable requests.
Tell me about a time when you made a mistake and how you fixed it.
- What Most People Say: “I made a small technical error in building a query, but I fixed it when the client pointed it out.”
- What You Should Say: “The client wanted my analysis immediately but I needed more time. I tend to be detail-oriented and perfectionistic so I worked late to make sure I dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s before giving him my analysis.”
- Why You Should Say It: There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, Karki says, but the best BAs know how to turn a negative into a positive. “I’m looking for someone who can communicate with clients,” she explains. “It’s a definite plus if a BA knows how to put a positive spin on bad news.”