How Do I Answer These Business Analyst Job Interview Questions?

A reader asks:

Recently, I attended an interview where the interviewer asked me the questions below… Could you throw some light on how to handle these kinds of questions?

  1. Why do you want to become a BA ?
  2. If given an opportunity, what is the one aspect you wish to change in BA ?
  3. What is the most difficult task in BA?

Michelle’s response:

Interview questions are always a challenge, but there are some standard things you can expect in a business analyst job interview.  Recently, I interviewed for my most recent contract business analyst position.  I was asked to role play with one of the interviewers – which is fine, I can do that but it was unusual for a job interview and actually turned out to be fun – it gave us all a bit of a giggle.

So, why do you want to become a business analyst?  Have you done some work and the field has worked its magic on you?  Have you heard it is a challenging and rewarding job and you wanted to try it?  Have you trained for it and this is your first interview?  What is the right answer?

I have always answered that this role is my passion.  I have loved all the work that I have done but when I was given the opportunity to be a business analyst – I found my passion.  I love the work, the analysis, the thought process, the interaction with people, the negotiation between stakeholders – everything!  Realistically not every day is wonderful but I always find a gem in each day as I am heading home.

The second question you were asked is a usual one – if there is something you could change in yourself as a BA, what would you change?  I am a business process analyst.  My weakness, if you want to call it that, is my lack of experience in IT.  I don’t have a background in Oracle or SQL, so I am honest.

The most difficult task for me is building the trust with my project manager and all the stakeholders.  I usually come into a project as an outsider, as contractors normally do.  You have to move fast and prove yourself quickly or people think you are not delivering.

I will leave you with the one question that was the most challenging for me: What is the difference between project scope and product scope?  The interviewer told me after that I was the only one who got it right, even project managers could not give him an answer.  I got the job :-)

How would you answer this reader’s question?

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Comments

  1. mike Lachapelle says:

    Dear Reader (feels like I am an Dear Abby here)
    Not long ago I was asked to sit in on an interview to hire a business analyst. When given the opportunity to ask a question, I simply asked the candidates if they like to do puzzles, can they leave a puzzle unfinished, do they hate puzzles they can’t solve. A very good career counsellor told me it is important in interviews to get beyond the obvious subject of the question to it’s context and motivation. What I was interested in was this person’s drive to solve problems. A good business analyst is all about finding the path to a solution or the solution itself.

    So when asked why you want to become a BA, think about your own motivations about helping others to solve problems, combined interest in business or how IT can support business.

    Often questions about what you would change, or about your own personal weaknesses, are searching for how you have developed yourself. When faced with this question it is an opportunity to demonstrate your strengths. If you focus on things you have done in the previous year (education, experience, training), invert those to a problem then demonstrate what you have done to improve yourself in that area – shows commitment. For example, having taken a course on BPMN, my answer would be cast in the need for BAs to improve their understanding or process modelling from a ‘business’ perspective, that is why I have expanded my knowledge of the BPMN approach to modelling.

    The ‘most difficult task’ type of question is similar to the ‘change’ question. It is an opportunity for you to link you best skills to an identified strength, or improvement you have made recently.

    Good BAs should always be improving themselves and learning new things. If you commit to that as a BA, then answering questions like these are fairly easy.

    Last piece of advice, interviews are tribal. People are most often likely to hire people like themselves. It pays to learn about the organization and people who may be interviewing you.

    @Michelle – love your question. Project scope is about the boundaries of what can be accomplished within the objectives of the effort. It has to balanced against time, money and resources. Product scope is about the features and capabilities of a solution to meet the requirements of a business.

  2. Michelle Swoboda says:

    Hi Mike, I like your take on the BA role – a puzzle is what we solve daily. You should write for this wonderful site too!

  3. Hi Mike,
    I agree with Michelle — you should write for us too if you are inclined to do so!

    As far as puzzles, this is an interesting concept to me. I can become a bit puzzle-obsessed, but I’ve also been known to leave a tough puzzle unfinished. After a lot of twisting and turning of the pieces (or reviewing and analyzing of the clues in a crossword puzzle) something in me just turns off. It’s like I lose my motivation to finish the puzzle when I see no end in sight.

    I think there are a lot of great parallels between solving problems and puzzles, but the main difference is that the answer to the puzzle is known in advance! Whenever I reach that tough space, just knowing that the solution isn’t going to make any grand impact on the world is part of my justification for stepping back and letting go.

    Also, as analysts, I think we do need to step back sometimes too…sometimes if the puzzle is too difficult it and we find that out through our analysis, it’s not worth solving or at least solving in the perfect way in which we’d finish a difficult crossword for example. Sometimes it’s OK to leave a few blank spaces for another day.

    Would you agree? Does this type of reaction come through in your interview at all and how would you react to it?

  4. Srikanth says:

    Thanks Michelle . That was very informative. Thank you once again for your prompt response.

  5. Mike Lachapelle says:

    Laura & Michelle

    Definitely an enticing suggestion. How would one go about joining the group of contributors?

    Should we take the conversation off-line?

  6. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for your interest. I’ll be in touch with you via email this coming week!
    Laura

  7. Michelle Swoboda says:

    Srikanth, thank you for your feedback. I appreciate it!

  8. Michelle Swoboda says:

    I have found many times that the puzzle or business problem can be resolved in many ways. A challenging business problem will always take time to reason through and weigh the options before making final decisions. I always involve the business owners in this decision – I present them two or three recommendations and provide my number one preferred resolution with reasons to back up my recommendation.
    Resolving a complex problem too quickly can leave you with a solution that is not well thought out and not the best for the business. It will could result in rework and dissatisfaction. Taking the time to breathe, sleep on it and think is not a sign of weakness but a sign of a mature business analyst working through their puzzle.

  9. Duane Banks says:

    Since I have a habit of stealing from Karl Wiegers…

    Product scope – the ultimate solution; or the vision
    Project scope – portion of the vision being addressed by the current release of the ultimate solution

  10. Akarsh MG says:

    @ Michelle – Love the article!! Very much insightful.

    @ Mike – I have puzzled before in interviews answering difference between project and product scope you have put it across in the best way!!

  11. Michelle Swoboda says:

    Akarsh, thank you so much. I am very happy that you enjoyed the article!

  12. Anurag Mishra says:

    Can understand, i am late in this party….

    I believe, estimating the business analysis phase is the toughest. BA having the willingness and experience around it..can make it easier.

    I will use this comment for sharing about my recent effort on preparing a tool (excel based) to get the BAs prepared for the interview as per the BA roles (DA,SA,TBA,FA & PBA). Where the questions will majorly go around BA Knowledge, Behavioral/Communication/Client Interaction, Business Process, Technical skills, Quality, Requirement Analysis, Roles & Responsibilities, Testing
    UC/UML, Software Methodology/SDLC & Knowledge Transfer/Training. Trying to giving answers also for the question which might be the part of interview.

  13. Michelle Swoboda says:

    Anurag, when you say estimating the business analysis phase – do you mean the knowledge of BABOK and the approach to a project? I think you do and it is difficult during an interview. People can give examples but how do you know that they actually were successful. I think we fall back on references to help with that.
    I would be very interested in seeing your prep tool if you are willing to share. It sounds like a good tool that most of us could utilize.

  14. Anurag Mishra says:

    Michelle, I meant, estimation for both the business analysis work and for the entire project. Work plan and good knowledge of BABOK will defiantly help.

  15. I was recently asked in an interview “How do you handle difference in opinion between 2 senior executives on a subject during a walkthrough/facilitation/interview Session? How would you answer that given the issue here is that you do not want to ruffle the feathers of any one of them?

  16. Question 2- What are the various techniques if there is more than one?

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