A job interview is work for both sides – the interviewee and the interviewer.
Not all interviewers are experienced. Sometimes, they also want to take an easy road. They may ask lazy or straightforward questions, such as testing a candidate’s professional knowledge.
Most frequently, these will be used when the candidate has limited experience or is switching careers.
What should you expect from such questions, in particular, if you are pivoting from another job family into business analysis?
Your interviewers will want to understand how much you know about business analysis.
Be prepared for a few flavours of questions.
Basics: terms and definitions
You may be asked a very simple question such as:
What is business analysis?
What is a requirement?
What is a business rule?
When would you use swim lanes?
What does a scenario mean?
What is the difference between a user story and a use case?
Don’t get caught – you should not look like you are winging it when you answer questions about business analysis fundamentals. You need to understand each concept, be able to explain it and talk about it with fluency.
It is important because it is the first sign showing that you have done your research and are prepared.
A wealth of resources is available, many of them free – books, courses, online articles, and YouTube videos.
There are several authoritative glossaries of business analysis terms. Every business analysis book will have an index of key terms and their definitions. If in doubt, refer to BABOK(R).
Make sure you understand the terms. If confused, research some more, ask experienced business analysts, and look for answers online, in forums and discussion boards.
Discover, learn, review, and organize your knowledge. There is no excuse for not doing your homework.
Understanding the job
The next group of questions will test whether you are familiar with the duties and responsibilities of a business analyst.
Do you realize what this job entails?
Do you have at least foundational skills?
Do you, literally, know what to do?
You need to convince them that yes, you know what to do.
Do your research and learn as much as you can. Collecting and analyzing information are key business analysis competencies.
You must learn about business analysis activities and the role of analysis in product development.
Learn about software development methodologies: at least become familiar with waterfall and agile methodologies.
Explore what is an iteration, a retrospective, a backlog; what is the sequencing of project phases in waterfall.
Discover what are all the different roles on a project for each methodology. Who is a product owner, a scrum master? What do we mean by “three amigos”?
Learn frequent abbreviations:
- Software Development Life Cycle (SLDC)
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
- Business Verification Testing (BVT)
- Project Manager (PM)
- Quality Assurance (QA)
- Business Requirements Document (BRD)
- Software Requirements Specification (SRS)
- Software Design Document (SDD)
Be prepared that these abbreviations will be used in an interview. It’s best if you know what they mean and don’t need to ask for a spelled-out version too frequently.
This knowledge is useful not only for an aspiring business analyst, but for anyone involved in managing change, projects, and product development.
Supplement your theoretical knowledge from different sources.
Read examples of good documentation.
Watch videos about business analysis, and really hear the words, the terms, the expressions, and the meaning behind them.
Be prepared to discuss what is going on in a typical requirements session.
What will everyone talk about? What will a business analyst do?
Again, you can watch videos even if you didn’t have a chance to attend one.
Find a mentor – an experienced business analyst, and ask them questions, listen to them when they talk to stakeholders and facilitate meetings.
Find an opportunity to attend requirements sessions as a subject matter expert, a guest, or an understudy.
Listen to what business analysts say and do, and ask them to explain why they choose a specific activity or ask a certain question.
One of the best ways to understand the job better is to give it a try.
You can do that through a secondment, apprenticeship or reskilling opportunities with your current employer.
Business analysis tools and techniques
Next, make sure you know about the most frequently used tools and techniques.
For example, what is process analysis or user story mapping?
When would you use data analysis?
What does “business modelling” mean?
When do analysts use different techniques and why?
Business modelling is especially important. Have you created any business models before, even if you didn’t realize that it is relevant to business analysis?
Read about different diagrams, find examples, see what they look like and learn to recognize them.
Learn the meaning of different diagram elements and practice interpreting diagrams.
Try to create your own – it’s always a good practice.
Then, if you are asked what your favourite business analysis technique is, use an example of one of the business models and explain when to use it and how.
Every single step you take to gain more business analysis knowledge is going to make you more confident during the interview.
Demonstrating your knowledge
Acquiring the knowledge of business analysis concepts, tools and techniques is half of the battle. The other half is your ability to convey this expertise during an interview. You must convince others of your knowledge, and show that you know what you are talking about.
Let’s break it down.
One aspect is knowing the terminology and using the right terms in the conversation. You want to sound professional.
Another aspect is your ability to answer questions clearly and articulately. You want to sound convincing.
So practice talking about business analysis.
Tell your friend or your partner about business analysis, and explain to them what business analysts do.
Test yourself – try talking about different business analysis concepts.
Record yourself on video – do you sound convincing or confusing? Clear or muddled?
Do your thoughts come out logically? Do you make sense?
If not, practice some more, and then practice again.
Practice with mentors and colleagues.
Try to explain some of the concepts to your parents, grandparents, your neighbour, or a friend that chose a very different career direction.
This is also an excellent practice for the job itself – you will frequently have to explain difficult concepts to non-experts.
If you find it tedious, tiring, or irritating, you may want to consider a different line of work.
Read the description of the job you are applying for – do you understand all the terms on that job description? If not, you must research them before you come for the interview.
Each company may have their own interpretation of business analysis responsibilities, so it’s better to be prepared.
If there is something mysterious in the job description, you may also ask for clarification during the interview when it’s your turn to ask questions.
All this learning and preparation is necessary for several reasons:
- So that you can show in your interview that you already have a foundation, know a lot about business analysis, and understand what the job entails.
- So that you can demonstrate that you are an independent learner, which is especially important if you are applying for an entry-level position.
- So that you are better prepared and more confident if you get the job.
Being a business analyst is about lifelong learning.
Each new project will require new knowledge and will offer unexpected challenges.
Follow the principles of the BA Mindset – learn, adapt, and you will thrive!
Best of success at your next interview, and always strive to learn something new!