Do you want to improve your effectiveness as a hiring manager? Choose the best candidates for business analysis positions? Get the most out of the job interviews?
Ask them to draw something.
It could be a whiteboard, a virtual collaboration board, or any visual tool.
You can do this during a virtual or in-person interview.
You can assess right away their critical thinking and visual communication skills, and their ability to think on their feet and adapt to the situation.
One can write “quick thinker” and “good facilitator” on their resume and cover letter. But whether it’s really so, it will be much easier to assess when you see the person in action.
When you put someone on the spot like that, you get a glimpse into how this person will act in a situation that requires initiative and quick analysis of the situation.
Do they ask clarifying questions?
Do they check back with you (their audience) whether their drawing or explanation makes sense and provides the information you were looking for?
Are they articulate?
Do they sound like they really understand the subject?
If you are wondering, what to ask the candidate to draw, let’s consider a few examples.
1. Draw a context model.
If you ask a business analyst claiming they had a lead BA role, to draw a context diagram of the solution, they should not stumble on this question.
If a business analyst played a lead role on a project, they should have a thorough understanding of the solution — such as what were the main components and data flows.
A good BA will participate in the solution design reviews, test strategy planning, as well as user acceptance testing and implementation activities.
If they have done that, they should be able to explain the main parts of the solution in a couple of minutes.
Here is an example of a simple context model that can be drawn fairly quickly. See the full commentary in my video on the topic (the first bookmark).
Image by author
2. Draw a skeleton of a customer journey.
When a business analyst works on any customer-centric initiative, understanding the customer journey is fundamental to the solution.
How does an interaction with a customer start? How does someone get involved with the company or solution in the first place?
What do they want?
How will a customer progress from having wants to having them satisfied e.g. by purchasing and receiving a product or a service?
What steps are involved?
When does the customer journey end?
A well-developed customer journey may contain multiple layers such as customer activities, goals, experiences, emotions, and touch points. The full depiction of a journey can get quite detailed.
However, a customer journey skeleton — the main stages — should be easy to recall or articulate for an involved business analyst. These stages should have a logical order, use business terminology, and include important events of the journey.
An example like the one shown below can be drawn in a couple of minutes — it only requires a few boxes and arrows with simple labels. For more commentary, refer to the same video (the second bookmark).
Image by author
3. Draw a starter conceptual data model.
Conceptual modelling is a fundamental skill. A business analyst familiar with conceptual and data modelling is an asset to any digital transformation, data science or analytics project.
If you know how to create these models, you should be able to pick any topic on Earth and draw a simple model in a couple of minutes.
Watch the video for a demonstration of a third example:
Image by author
Depending on the specifics of the job you are hiring for, you can come up with your own ideas of what to ask the candidates to draw.
The main test is behavioral — as an interviewer, you will be able to observe:
- Did the person interviewing for the job understand your request?
- Did they get flustered, acted surprised or as if you made an unreasonable request, or did they just get on with the task?
- Did they ask for clarification? Checked whether the response satisfied your expectations? Offered to answer questions?
- What is their drawing style? Is it clear and logical, or muddled and confused?
- Did you actually understand the diagram offered by the candidate? Did it help you understand the topic better?
The answers to these questions could be quite revealing, and the behavior of the candidate while working on the tasks can give you a glimpse into how they may operate in a real business situation.
After you use this technique a few times, you will come up with your own tricks and criteria to make this mini-test effective and suited to your objectives.v
If you are a job candidate looking for a business analyst position, the smartest thing you can do after reading this article is to go ahead and get prepared for just such a scenario.
Look at your resume and consider what diagrams you could create as a quick test.
Better yet, practice creating them, and add them to your professional portfolio.