Business analysts use tools, skills, and their own intuition to glean insights from massive amounts of company and industry data. It’s a complex job, and the business analyst job interview process is often complex, as well; you have to demonstrate a range of technical and “soft” skills (such as communication and empathy).
When preparing for a business analyst job interview, Josh Drew, regional manager at Robert Half Technology, said it’s critical to do research on the company before the meeting and gain some insights into the organization’s needs, as well as its history and recent projects and developments.
“We could never emphasize enough—get on the company’s website, know what the company’s product is and what their business model is,” he said.
At the start of an interview, candidates are likely to field questions about their previous experience, including their past employers. There could also be industry- or even department-specific questions about the processes you’ve used, the end partners you’ve collaborated with, and your specific role on a business analyst team.
“Perhaps there was one or multiple business analysts, so they’ll want to know where you fit in within that group and what documentation tools you used,” Drew added. “As you get into larger enterprise-level clients, there’s certain tools that are a little more common, like developed use cases.”
Expect questions regarding the platforms you’ve worked on, the processes you used and the deadlines you had to meet. Frank Recruitment Group president Zoë Morris points out how different organizations and professionals can have a different understanding of a role, so it’s not unusual to be asked for your own interpretation of what a business analyst does.
“That question may come in the form of explaining how it differs from a data analyst, or perhaps what you believe a good business analyst looks like,” she said. “No matter how it’s framed, they’re usually just trying to understand how you see the job, while ensuring you have a grasp of your own responsibilities.”
Ultimately, a business analyst should be able to make good business decisions based on analytics and know how that data influences an organization or industry, as well as the business processes around it. “Being able to articulate that properly, and differentiate it from a data analyst role, which is more focused on problem-solving and data analysis, will help get your interview off to a good start,” Morris said.
Sample Questions: Your Past Projects
- “Was it a single project or was the project tied into a larger scale initiative?”
- “How you report on your daily and weekly prize progress?”
- “Are you doing scrum meetings and daily updates? Is it an Agile environment where everybody’s collaborating?”
- “Are you sharing workloads and updates on projects using like Jira or Microsoft Teams?”
- “How are you communicating within your groups in your project on progress?”
Before you enter the interview, re-examine the job posting. Note the requirements, such as skills and tools knowledge, and figure out how those align with your own background. Based on the prospective employers’ needs, you can also make a pretty good guess about which of your previous experiences will interest them the most.
“Very rarely are you going to interview for a job that you don’t really know too much about it,” Drew said. “In theory, the job descriptions are kind of the answers to the test—you want to use the job description to pick out the key needs the client has, and be prepared to give specific examples of how you’ve done that particular piece.”
Sample Questions: BRD and SRS
How would you differentiate between at BRD and an SRS?
You may be asked about the analytics tools or systems you’ve worked with as a starting point on your technical proficiency. Beyond that, being asked to differentiate between a Business Requirements Document (BRD) and System Requirements Specification (SRS) can often come up.
“The main difference is that the key elements of the BRD will come directly from the client, whereas the SRS is what’s created in response to that, having spoken to the client for any further information,” Morris explained. “So, your BRD will contain the functionality required from the client, with the answers that you create as a business analyst in response.”
She said an SRS will be created by systems architects with more technical prowess, using the actual capability of any software—but based on the requirements you have identified in conjunction with the customer.
Sample Questions: Attention to Detail
- Are you detail-oriented?
- Do you like to take extensive notes?
Drew said that, from a soft skills standpoint, candidates can expect questions about their methods for ensuring efficiency and strengthening business processes.
“When we’re interviewing candidates to work internally at Robert Half, I’m volunteering the typical day to day, explaining what the job entails,” he said. “The idea is to offer the candidate the opportunity to infuse their own personal touch of why they want the role and within this particular company.”
Sample Question: Cultural Fit
- “Why would you be a good fit here and what value would you add to the organization?”
Morris said a common question that can trip people up is “What’s your biggest weakness?” It’s tempting to wonder about the best-case answer (i.e., one that doesn’t make you off-putting as a candidate).
“The reality is that most interviewers will see through answers such as ‘I work too hard’ or ‘I can’t switch off,’” she said. “The truth is that being able to identify areas that need improvement, and being able to admit to that, is a strength in itself.”
It also gives an employer confidence that you’re comfortable with working on your weaknesses. “So, look at your soft skills that you’ve worked to improve on,” she said. “Talk about identifying them as a weakness, the impact they had on either you, your colleagues or your work, and the steps you took to rectify them.”
It’s important to realize the aim of any question is to understand how you’ve applied your knowledge in a working environment, in a way that’s transferable to your potential employer. “After all, understanding something on paper is different to being able to apply that in a working environment,” Morris said.
That means making sure you demonstrate the entire process, from identifying a problem and how you did that, to the analytics and research that went into helping create a solution, and the subsequent impact on the organization. “Identifying both positives and negatives during any given scenario will also help you stand out as someone has an analytical eye not just within the role, but on your own performance, too,” Morris said.