Prepping to interview a candidate for your Business Analyst position, but unsure of what questions to ask to ensure you’re finding someone who can bring that “extra something” to your company? We’ve got what you need. Use these sample questions to help you determine which candidate is more than merely skilled and experienced in the basics—someone who will bring the acumen that can help elevate your company and support its needs above and beyond the usual. Not only will that help make the interview process easier, it will also help you uncover the tech professionals who are deep-thinkers, high-performers, and all-around true standouts.
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Question: What’s your approach for handling or working with difficult stakeholders?
Why you should ask: Working with lots of different personalities tends to be an important component to any job, but none more so than a Business Analyst—especially when they’re expected to work in conjunction with stakeholders who can make or break a project. Your Business Analyst candidate’s answer will help you gauge their capability to effectively interface with higher ups, learn more about how they’re able to handle pressure, and determine how they navigate difficult situations.
An answer you’d hear from a stand-out candidate: “Even though I do my best to try and circumvent shareholder issues from the onset of a project by ensuring we really nail down what their needs and expectations are, I recognize that sometimes things change over the course of a project, and those needs have to be addressed for the project to move forward. As a Business Analyst, my first instinct is to listen—listen to what the shareholder has issues with, and determine what they would ultimately like to achieve that they don’t feel is being achieved.
From there, I circle back to the team to see what’s realistic, and then communicate that back to the shareholder. Hopefully we’re able to address those issues in a meaningful way rather swiftly, but if not, I just continue to whittle away and find compromises where I can so that our shareholders feel supported in their vision, but the team also feels supported in their execution of that vision. And if there are things they’re asking for that just can’t be accomplished, I make sure I have a strong explanation as to why so they know we’re not pushing back just for the sake of pushing back. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder that we’re working toward a common goal and working together makes it easier to achieve it.”
Question: How do you handle pointing a client in a direction that’s different from the one they initially wanted to take?
Why you should ask: Part of the job of a Business Analyst is to make sure the client, or the company, is making decisions that are in the highest good of their business—and sometimes that means saying things that people don’t want to hear. When you ask your candidate this question, you’ll want to listen for how they come to these kinds of decisions and the tactics they use to make the client or company shareholders understand why their initial course of action may have to change.
An answer you’d hear from a stand-out candidate: “For the most part, I do my best to work with all departments to help make a client’s or the company’s plans come to fruition, so one of the instances where I would advise against a particular course of action is if the data didn’t support it. For example, if a client’s expansion plans are in danger of going upside down because they can’t actually support them, I’d explain to them exactly why those plans were unfeasible and use data to back up my explanation. Then, as a Business Analyst, I’d work with them to choose another course of action that may not be as ambitious as they had initially intended—but again, using data, I would show them the difference it would make in their business to follow the alternate route, and hopefully they would heed my guidance and we would work toward the new goal.
But if worse came to worse and they insisted on continuing down the ill-advised path, I’d do what I could to mitigate the fallout and attempt to work with the client, or the company, to offer as much support as I could to help them move forward.”
Question: What tools and reporting do you use as a part of your process?
Why you should ask: Any good Business Analyst has a multitude of tools they rely on to effectively manage their workload, and reporting is an important aspect of their role. When you ask your candidate this question, you’re not only listening for the programs, languages and tools that they’re familiar with, you’re also listening for their experience with them, their understanding of the minor technical aspects of their role, and their familiarity with the tools and programs that you use at your company.
An answer you’d hear from a stand-out candidate: “I use all the pertinent aspects of MS Office, mostly Word and Excel, but also PowerPoint when necessary. I also work with Blueprint, QlikView, Tableau and Axure, and I have some experience with Python, R and SQL. When it comes to reporting, I rely on analytical reporting for information management and data analysis. Though there are some aspects of analytical reporting that are limiting, overall I find it makes it more efficient to use the data to make critical decisions and solve problems, and ultimately build a business strategy that is rooted in solid information and facts. “
Question: What’s your approach to a new project?
Why you should ask: As one of the important linchpins of your company or client projects, your Business Analyst needs to be able to effectively manage their workflow while liaising with other teammates. It requires planning, communication, organization, and—of course—analysis to ensure the project’s success. Asking your client about their approach will help you understand how effectively your candidate executes a project, both as part of a team, and on an individual level.
An answer you’d hear from a stand-out candidate: “I start by getting as much information as I can about the project objectives, so that I have as clear a vision of the end goal as the client or company does. Part of this means getting clear on the business objective, which helps to inform my work as a Business Analyst. This way, I know what I’m looking for in the data to either support or redirect the project in a direction that’s more in line with what it is we’re looking to accomplish.
I also make sure I know who the key stakeholders are, so that I know whose vision we’re ultimately executing, and the people I need to communicate with most on deliverables. Once I’ve determined the options that are available to us, I work on defining the scope and building a delivery plan based on the project’s requirements. Then it’s all about execution, working in conjunction with the team to ensure we’re on track with deliveries, and supporting one another to do our best work. Granted, this is a general overview and it could change based on what the project is and what its requirements are, but this is my basic approach.”
Question: What is your understanding of and experience with SQL series?
Why you should ask: While it’s true that Business Analysts don’t need to be fluent in SQL the same way a developer or engineer needs to be, it helps for them to have an understanding of it, and of relational database technology because it offers the opportunity to work with unstructured data where there are relations between different variables. When you ask your Business Analyst candidate about their SQL experience, it gives you a window into their advanced analysis skills.
An answer you’d hear from a stand-out candidate: “I know the components of a SQL statement. The Data Definition Language defines data structure, while the Data Manipulation Language inserts, deletes and modifies the data. Then there’s the Data Control Language, which controls access to data that lives in a database, and lastly, the Transactional Control Language organizes data adjusted by the Data Manipulation Language. I don’t always work with SQL, but I’ve used it in the past to work with data that may otherwise be too complicated to analyze without it. When working with larger amounts of data, SQL can be a valuable tool to make quick work of creating more digestible data, which ultimately makes it easier for me to analyze.”
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