If you are preparing for your first business analyst job interview or if it’s been awhile since you’ve interviewed, you are probably wondering what to expect. Interviewing for a business analyst job is very different than interviewing for a more technical or domain-focused role.
In particular, what’s different is how you position your skills to a potential employer. I’ve been on both sides of the business analyst job interview process multiple times – I’ve hired several BAs and, while I was contracting, I interviewed for several BA positions.
In this video, I share my insider tips on how to prove or show your business analysis skills in an interview.
For those who like to read instead of watch, here’s the full text of the video:
Today we’re going to talk about job interviews, specifically, how do you sell your skills in a business analyst job interview?
Let’s jump right in.
Two Types of BA Job Interview Questions
In my experience, there are two kinds of questions where employers are looking to understand your skills and the competencies that you bring to the table. The first is a knowledge-based question, which would be along the lines of,
“Can you tell me what a business process is?”
“Can you tell me what a use case is?”
These are general questions about a specific skill that feels like they’re asking you to tell them what you know about that skill.
The second is a behavioral interview question, which is, “Tell me about a time when…”
“Tell me about a time when you used a use case.”
“Tell me about a time when you analyzed a business process.”
This is a different kind of question because they’re asking for you to talk about your experience.
Now, here’s the catch. I really think that for both kinds of questions, what employers are really looking for or what an individual is really looking for is to understand that you can do the things that they need you to do to be successful in that job role. That means, they want to hear about your experience.
You could simply answer,
“Oh, a business process. That’s a step-by-step workflow of how a business user completes a task.”
Great. You could have learned that out of a textbook. If you answer the question, “Can you tell me what a business process is?” with a textbook answer, no matter how correct it is, it’s not going to feel nearly so awesome and validating and confidence-building as,
“You know, a business process, that’s a step-by-step workflow of how a business user completes a process or adds value to the organization. One time I had this project where we had to analyze five different business processes and they were all related and it was in the accounting department. We looked at their accounts receivable processes and we discovered all these issues about why we weren’t receiving as much money as we should be.”
And now you start talking about how you improved the process and engaged stakeholders in the process and analyzed the process. Who is going to stand apart? The person who has the perfect textbook answer? Which is why nobody else can give you an answer to a job interview question because that textbook answer isn’t what people are looking for.
They ’re going to be like, what I really want to know is that this person can do business process analysis or do use case modeling or do whatever it is that I’m asking them about. That experience, that sharing of a specific example is going to build that rapport, is going to build that confidence that they have in you and your skill set.
Be thinking about how you can share those examples in an interview.
This Also Works for Questions about “Soft” Skills
This approach works for all kinds of topics too. Another typical interview question that a business analyst might face is,
“Tell me how you handle difficult stakeholders.” or
“What do you do if nobody shows up to your meeting?”
Again, you can give that theoretical hypothetical answer like,
“Oh, if I have a difficult stakeholder, I’m going to try to build a relationship. I’m going to work with them 1:1.”
That’s all good stuff, all things that you want to be saying in a certain way, but what’s going to be more powerful is,
“There’s this project where I had this really challenging stakeholder and I didn’t think I was going to be able to break through it. Here are some of the reasons that they were challenging to work with. Here are some of the problems that caused and the requirements process. Here’s what I did and here is what our end result is.”
Just that flavor of how that shifts the conversation from what you hypothetically would do, to what you’ve actually done.
As much as possible in a job interview, I think, especially if you’re having issues getting to the second interview or getting the job offer once you get a second interview, be thinking about how can you share those experiences and how can you demonstrate that you have those skills that the employer is looking for. This is going to make a difference in terms of how they come away from the interview and their experience with you as a potential candidate.
One Last Tip – Do Your Research
I knew there was one more important thing I wanted to cover, and that is how to figure out what job interview questions they might ask.
You want to start with a job description. Most people do this, but there have been times when I’ve heard people say, “Yeah, it was the job posting, but I just didn’t think they’d ask about it.” No, if it’s in the job posting, make sure you know all the terms in the job posting, what they mean, what the alternative variations of those terms are. Do the research on the terminology so that you can say, “Yes.”
Adam Haesler has a great case study about saying “Yes” in a job interview instead of, “No, I don’t know how to do that.” How can I say yes? And to what degree can I say yes? That starts with knowing the terminology so when they ask you a question and use that term, you can say, “Yes.”
For example: “Yes, I have done a wireframe. We actually call them prototypes, and here is the kind of user interface model I created.”
You want to say yes, and that requires knowing the terminology.
The second place, though, to get the terminology is in the LinkedIn descriptions or the LinkedIn profiles of other business analysts, or whoever has that job title that you’re interviewing for, inside their LinkedIn profiles, what words do they use to talk about their responsibilities, and what they contribute to the organization?
It’s another area to research. Not all the time do job postings have the most current information. Sometimes they’re old. Sometimes they’re created by somebody that’s not actually doing the hiring. There are a lot of reasons they can have outdated information. LinkedIn would just be another resource. Not, necessarily, a more definitive resource, because sometimes people don’t always update their profiles either, but another resource to understand the terminology that is being used by the business analyst inside that organization. Just a quick insider tip for you.
Get the Interview Prep Guide
I do have an interview prep guide, completely free. If you want to go through our process at Bridging the Gap of how to prepare for a job interview, be sure to download the interview prep guide. It will walk you step-by-step through how to put together your stories, how to think about the research that you do, what steps you need to go through to walk into that interview with confidence and ability to handle the unexpected.
That’s the final piece I’ll tell you. No matter how much preparation you do, no matter how well researched you are, you’re going to have unexpected things come up in a business analyst job interview, and you’re going to have unexpected things come up in a business analyst job role. Showing that you can handle that with grace and ease and confidence is part of the battle of being successful in a business analyst job interview.
I hope these tips help you. Share your successes. Let us know how this goes. I hope your next business analyst job interview goes absolutely awesome and that you get that position and it’s what you were hoping it would be.