So you finally landed the Business Analyst interview you’ve worked so hard for? Lucky you. This post contains some tips to help you prepare for the big day. I've also included some tips you can apply if you find yourself in an assessment centre-like setting.
1. Think through all the Business Analyst competencies, as specified by IIBA, and prepare scenarios where you have exhibited these competencies. In answering competency-based questions, don't forget to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) technique to compose your response.
- Analytical thinking & Problem-solving - Interviewers may look for scenarios where you have demonstrated creative thinking, decision-making, learning, problem solving and systems thinking. In particular, prepare to answer competency-based questions such as: Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision, Tell me about a time when you suggested something innovative, Describe a time you solved a difficult problem or describe a time you faced a difficult challenge and what you learnt from it.
- Behavioural Characteristics - You may be assessed based on your ethics, trustworthiness and personal organization. Be able to define what ethics means to you and identify a scenario from your experience when you did something ethical or made a decision based on your ethics.
- Business Knowledge - The interviewer may assess your knowledge of business principles and practices, industry knowledge, organization knowledge and solution knowledge. Take the time to do some initial research on the industry you've applied to as well as the organization itself. Doing this research will help you understand some of the business problems they face, and help you think of possible solutions and a business strategy that could apply to them (especially when you're presented with a case study). Also, learn about the typical technological solutions/software that may help the organization in performing its day-to-day operations.
- Software Knowledge - The interviewer may assess your understanding of general purpose software applications and specialized software applications (modelling/diagramming tools). Business analysts should be able to draw UML diagrams and business process models with relative ease. Get some practice in this area for when you're presented with a case study that requires modelling.
- Interaction - The interviewer may examine your facilitation, negotiation, leadership and teamwork skills. If you find yourself in an assessment centre, these are some of the skills that are typically assessed. Be prepared to show these skills as the assessors will be on the look-out for them.
- Communication - You may also be assessed based on your proficiency in oral communication, teaching and written communication. Some organizations require that you deliver a presentation. This is your chance to show how good your communication skills are. If you're asked to present the findings of your case study, here's 6 Practical Tips for Giving a Great Presentation.
In addition to thinking up scenarios from your background, think of relevant BA techniques you can use to prove one or more of these competencies, where applicable. These techniques will help you demonstrate some of the above competencies if you're presented with a case study.
2. Prepare to answer case study questions and present your findings - Case studies are usually designed to examine your problem-solving and analytical skills. So, prepare to draw diagrams or mockups (if the case study is based on analysis tasks), and use relevant techniques to show the interviewer how proficient you are in the art of analysis.
While presenting your case study results, the interviewer may press for more information. He may do this to challenge you, alter your thinking or test your position. You'll need to decipher which one is happening and respond accordingly.
In some cases, you might be presented with a case study that requires you to come up with strategy recommendations or solutions to business problems. Case study analysis in this case, can become a breeze if you have a framework to draw on. Popular analysis frameworks like SWOT, BCG Matrix and the like can come in handy.
3. If you don’t remember anything else, remember to be confident – I know it’s easier said than done, given the overwhelming anxiety you may experience on the day. Confidence is, however, one of the guaranteed ways to get your interviewer's attention and respect. However, remember there’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance so don't cross that line.
4. Know when not to speak - Sometimes you see candidates trying to fill up every silent moment with words or overemphasize a point they've already made. There’s nothing wrong with having some comfortable silence during an interview while your interviewer scribbles away.
5. Tell a good story – this means you need to pick your words and engage your audience. Find an opportunity to state something that will resonate with your interviewer. If you tell a good story, you’re more than likely to leave a lasting impression. So, be interesting.
6. Understand the question - You’ll be surprised at just how many candidates answer the question they think the interviewer asked instead of what the interviewer actually asked. If there’s the slightest doubt in your mind you heard the interviewer right, ask for clarification. There’s no crime in asking the interviewer to repeat the question. Most times, they'll be more than happy to. You may start by rephrasing the initial question and then asking, “Is that what you meant?” or start by stating, “If I understand the question correctly…” Statements like this can be extremely useful when you're in danger of appearing ridiculous.
7. Always look for opportunities during the interview to highlight your business analysis work experience. It’s ok to throw out carefully selected terminologies but don’t overdo the professional jargon.
8. If you do not know the answer to the question, say you do not know, but that you’d very much like the opportunity to find out. There’s no shame in admitting this because no one is expected to know everything. If you end up not getting the job, it may not be because you didn’t answer every question correctly.