What Questions Should a BA Ask in a Job Interview?

Reader question:

For job interview purposes specifically, but also pertaining to those early days on the job, what questions should an entry level BA be asking?

To provide additional context, I am currently interviewing for BA positions that match my experience level. Although I’m hoping for another job opportunity, I don’t want to wake up and find that I’ve talked myself into a position that doesn’t challenge me to grow and where I am not gaining exposure to valuable project experience.

Are there questions I should ask in the interview to expose the company’s commitment to their BA’s, or should I expect those barriers as a common path to the more challenging BA roles? What are the “signs” to look out for that will tell me whether the organization I’m interviewing with will utilize and value their BA’s?

Laura’s response:

This is a great question. There is a delicate balancing act, as you recognize, in terms of asking questions without putting the manager on the defensive. Also, in many business analyst job interview situations, you might have the opportunity to meet with multiple people, so think about what questions you might ask different people. The BAs will probably be more honest and upfront. :-)

Now, if you are hiring for a position and you don’t get to meet with anyone but the hiring manager, that could be a different sign in and of itself — I always gave at least a few members of my team an opportunity to meet candidates. It was good to help build their skills, judge fit for the organization, and also for the candidate to get a real flavor for the position. I would sit in on these conversations and just listen and watch for rapport (or not). But I digress.

I think for the most part you want to understand the business analysis role and the business analysis methodology. By understanding the manager’s approach to roles and process, you’ll indirectly be able to see support for BAs.

Ask questions such as:

  • What different roles are there within the organization? How do they interact with business analysts?
  • When it comes to process, do you have a big process or an informal one?
  • What are your expectations for someone filling the business analyst role? t
  • Another good one is “What makes a person successful here?” or “What kinds of challenges will I be able to help with?”

If you are feeling comfortable, you can ask questions about professional development opportunities. I would think about asking a BA something like, what do you do as a team to improve your process? What sort of support do you get to grow your skills? Or, have there been any recent improvements to how you do requirements? How were those received?

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Comments

  1. Great question! And I agree, Laura, that there are different questions you would ask of the hiring manager vs. other BAs. I look at interviews as a way to check for the right fit for myself (interviewing the company) as much as they are interviewing me. I’ve also participated in many peer interviews, which gives me a sense of what it’s like on the receiving end of those questions.

    With that in mind, here are some questions that I think are valuable:

    1) What processes/methodologies are in place? (No matter how much experience you have, get an understanding of how they operate.)

    2) What is the biggest challenge currently facing BAs in the organization?

    3) How frequently do BAs come together to share information? Is there a BA Center of Excellence or similar group?

    4) (Especially when interviewing with actual BA’s…) What one thing do you wish you knew before you took the position.

    Really get a sense of the environment you’re walking in to. This also shows your interest in finding the right fit and not just “a job”. And questions like #3 above can show that you have an interest in contributing to the profession as whole within the organization, and not just your own projects. Be a team player right up front.

    • Hi Karie, You are very smart to be looking for a fit within the organization. Interviews should definitely be a two-way street and this is a great list of questions to help discover more about the environment without putting anyone on the defensive. Have you ever received any surprising answers that turned you away from a position? For example, I could see how if there was little to no process or information sharing, that might be a strong indicator that BAs are not actually valued within the organization.

  2. Great question! I would suggest that you ask about the areas of weakness that the BA manager is working to address within the organization. If the manager cannot identify one, they may not have a strong roadmap for their team.

    I would also suggest asking a hiring manager and even the team of BAs about where they look for insights to new analysis techniques. If they are not seeking diversity in techniques or tools, then I would wonder about how serious they are about being a strong contributor within their company. Business is always changing – if you aren’t finding new ways of doing analysis, you are likely to be missing something.

  3. Jenni, great point about seeing how open they are to recognizing an area of weakness. A manager may not want to show their hand and admit they have a problem, but I do agree that it’s worth trying to get an idea of how aware they are.

    Laura, I don’t know if I’d say I’ve been surprised by any answers to my question about the process and environment. I seem to have a good knack of finding places that don’t have them and want them. :-) But at least I knew what I was walking in to and it was an interest I had. If you are looking for an environment that has well-established processes, it’s important to get an idea of that up front.

    I will say that I usually have more questions lined up than the interviewer does – which gets them talking as much, if not more, than I do. I’ve actually heard that this gives interviewers the perception that the interview went well (because they felt more engaged in the discussion) which is just a nice benefit.

    Of all positions, a BA should have questions. When I interview candidates and they don’t have questions, it actually find that slightly concerning. Our nature is to be inquisitive and to want to know more.

  4. One thing I found notable while interviewing for positions was the vibe from the interviewer(s) about why they were hiring a BA. Do they see a hole that needs filling, or value they are not currently getting, or do they just have a prescribed process that says they should have a BA in the mix somewhere?
    Even if the process/methodologies are lacking, if there is a percievable value for the role then they will provide better support, and usually more challenging/enjoyable work.

  5. This is such a great question! I agree with the comments above, and I certainly view an interview as a two way process. I think the key to answering the question above is to establish how mature the organisations change capability is (including the BA team), and also how they manage change in the organisation

    I find this quite difficult to establish in an interview, but it’s worth asking about the role itself, as well as the structure of the change team. You can then get a level of comfort that you will be gaining experience that is valuable to you. There is no “wrong” or “right” answer to these questions, it will just expose how the organisation views the BA role. You’ll then need to think about how you fit into this!

    Here are some examples:

    1. “Can you tell me which project phases BAs are involved with?”. If they answer that BAs are only ever involved in requirements, then this suggests that they are looking for a specialist Requirements Analyst. This might not suit a BA who is looking to experience the breadth of the BA role, so it’s best to know this up front.

    2. “How is systems analysis handled, do you have dedicated systems analysts?”. Some employers advertise for a BA when they are really looking for a combined BA/Systems Analyst. This suits some people but not others, and asking this question will help to uncover this.

    3. “Do BAs in your organisation get involved in business change/process improvement projects? Or just IT change projects”. This question helps to uncover the breadth of the BA remit. Some organisations use BAs only on IT projects, whereas others will utilise their skills on all projects.

    4. “Is the BA team part of IT, part of the Business, or part of a separate Change function?”

    5. “Is there a central BA team (a centre of excellence) or do all functions have their own BA team?”. Having a central team allows pooling of knowledge, and this can be incredibly beneficial.

    Whilst there are no “right” or “wrong” answers to these questions, my personal view is that a BA will get exposure to more varied projects if the breadth of the role is wider. I would be looking for an organisation that utilises it’s BA capability throughout the project lifecycle, for IT and Business projects. I’d also be looking for an organisation that has a central BA function, or a matrix BA function with strong links across the departments to allow sharing of knowledge. However, whether this is right for you will depend on your current career aspirations!