How To Be Successful in BA Interviews

Jun 04, 2023

How To Be Successful in BA Interviews
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A job interview is the most crucial and stressful step on the path to a new job. Very few people can “wing” it. Usually, these are experienced professionals who have done it many times. They would have practiced so much that they’ve become interview athletes.

How to become an expert at winning job interviews, in particular for jobs in business analysis? Follow these steps to prepare, practice, analyze your performance, and improve with every interview.

Prepare for the interview

#1. It may sound obvious, but make sure you know what jobs you are interested in. Even within the business analysis job family, you will encounter many variations: business, process, and system analysts; process and digital transformation consultants; or roles that specialize in data warehousing, analytics, user experience, workflow automation or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products.

#2. Another aspect is the industry you are targeting. Some business analysts prefer to be generalists and explore new industries, and some become domain experts. Once you have deep expertise in a specific industry, capitalizing on this knowledge can be part of your career development strategy.

A similar approach works for professionals that want to pivot to business analysis from another career. Changing careers is much more realistic when staying in the same industry, taking the reskilling and secondment route.

#3. Your resume: not only must it be up to date, but it must also be an excellent artifact. A professional BA knows the value and power of a high-quality product, and your resume certainly counts as one.

No less important is your LinkedIn profile. It serves as your business identity, both validating your resume and reflecting your position in the professional community.

More than that, a LinkedIn profile is also data – fields that capture your career objective, education, certifications, skills, and experiences. Many recruitment tools are designed to use this data to filter through job candidates. Make sure your LinkedIn data is accurate, complete, filled with keywords and highlights your strengths.

#4. Finally, the description of the job you are interviewing for. You must study it as a business analyst.

Highlight all the keywords and ensure that you understand each point. Of course, job descriptions can sometimes be filled with meaningless phrases – do not worry about these. Find essential points that indicate what is required, the job responsibilities, and what you may be asked about in an interview. Research the terms and the activities, the company itself, and the products and functions mentioned.

Imagine you are doing a discovery for a new project. The more you discover in advance, the more you are prepared to meet the stakeholders.

Be ready for remote interviews

After the COVID pandemic, many job interviews will continue to be conducted remotely, at least during the initial rounds.

You will need a few things:

  1. Create a place with sufficient light, a pleasant and professional background, and minimal distractions and noises.
  2. Practice using your video and audio equipment to perfection. This includes the camera angle, distance, and positioning. Your audio should be clear.
  3. Assess how you look and sound on camera.

Start by recording yourself – try a test question. Then watch the recording.

Do you look confident? Relaxed? Friendly?

Are you looking into the camera? Smiling a little?

Enlist a partner, a friend or a mentor to help you with this. Once these basics look good, you will be assessing the quality of your answers.

Prepare for frequently asked questions

There is a category of questions that you will almost invariably get in interviews, starting with “Tell me about yourself.” You should always be ready to deliver your “elevator pitch.”

Write a small script and practice your answer. Don’t memorize it, vary how you say it depending on the situation, but remember the main points you want to get across.

Don’t rattle off your whole resume – rather, try to summarize who you are as a person and professional.

Choose whether to focus on your strengths, one or two highlights of your career, or why have you decided to become a business analyst. You don’t have to include everything – be brief and leave room for questions.

Practice for other typical questions:

  • What is special about you? What are your strengths?
  • Why do you want to change jobs (or careers), and why you are interested in this job?
  • What attracted you to business analysis? How did you become a business analyst?

How to practice? Consider what you want to highlight in your answers, make cue cards or jot down bullet points, then prepare and practice a few times. Don’t memorize the script – say each a bit differently each time, and it will start to come out more naturally.

As a word of caution, don’t fall into the trap of using interview platitudes that have long since become meaningless. Some examples:

  • I’m a team player.
  • I’m very hardworking.
  • I work well under pressure.
  • I always get the job done.

These make you sound like any other forgettable candidate – nothing about you will stand out.

Instead, focus on your unique combination of skill and experience. Provide specifics and offer a meaningful answer.

Evaluate your answers

As you practice the questions, record your answers on video, and evaluate the recording as if you were hiring.

What parts did you like? What inspired confidence? And what sounded rehearsed or insincere?

What was the strength of your voice (from meek to confident) and the pace (slow, deliberate, normal, or too fast and overflowing with words?)

How well prepared were you to answer each question? Did you sound persuasive?

Were your answers clear?

Were you able to articulate your point?

Do you talk for a long time when answering a single question? Were your sentences very long? Did it sound like you don’t quite know when to finish speaking?

Be aware of overexplaining. This professional tendency of BAs can be a shortcoming during an interview. Watch for body language and signs that your interviewer wants to move on.

Communicating well is important for anyone being interviewed, but as a business analyst, you should demonstrate that you are a master communicator. If you can’t articulate a point well during your interview, what does it say about your professional competencies?

Prepare for business analysis interview questions

These could be questions that evaluate your BA knowledge, your skills and competencies, your project experience, and your understanding of different methodologies. 

If you are relatively new to business analysis or attempting a career change, the best preparation is learning from a variety of sources: videos, articles, courses and books. 

For seasoned professionals, keep up with the industry and work on expanding your knowledge. Sometimes we are so used to how we’ve always done it that we become somewhat close-minded (yes, even business analysts!). The Modern Analyst blog is a fantastic place for that.

Consider watching a few new videos or attending webinars and conferences to broaden your horizons. You never know when you will get a chance to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge at the next interview.

You might even get a direct question such as, “How do you stay current and continue learning about business analysis?” Make sure you have a good answer prepared.

Practice talking about your resume

You may get questions about your resume, from “Tell me about your experience at company X” to questions about specific bullet points.

I once interviewed a BA who said on their resume that they were able to reduce the requirements-related defects by 9%. Of course, I had to ask how exactly this was measured! And before you ask, yes, that particular candidate provided a good answer and eventually got an offer.

When you work on your resume, be as specific as you can about your responsibilities and the projects you worked on. Not only it will give you greater keyword coverage, it will also help the interviewer come up with interesting questions.

If you are authentic and truthful on your resume (which is what you should always be), this will invite specific interview questions that are easy for you to answer.

What can you include? Be specific about the nature of the projects, the types of solutions, and the techniques you used to analyze and capture requirements.

Mention types of meetings, diagrams, and product features. Refer to a variety of business analysis deliverables. Then, practice explaining how you did it, what the challenges were and what BA tools and techniques worked best.

Get ready for tricky questions

What don’t you like about your current job?
How do you deal with difficult stakeholders?
How will you compensate for the lack of BA experience?
Can you tell me about a time when you failed?
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a business analyst and how you approached it?
What would you do if your manager gave you an unreasonable task?
What makes you think you can succeed at this job?

These questions are not necessarily meant to trip you up. Often, the hiring manager uses the same question list for all candidates as it makes comparing their performance easier.

Here are a few tips:

  • Remember that there is no one right answer. Be reasonable, sound genuine, and give an answer that makes sense.
  • It’s OK to ask for clarification or for the time to think.
  • Prepare a few stories from your actual job (or student) experience and be ready to tweak and use them to answer a variety of questions.
  • When talking about difficulties and failures, always end on a positive note: highlight what you’ve learned and how the experience made you wiser or more resilient.

Asking your questions

Be well prepared, and approach this as a business analyst by doing your research:

  • Don’s ask basic questions about facts you can learn from the company website.
  • Skip a prepared question if your interviewer already answered it (because you were listening!) Sometimes, you can think of a follow-up question – referring to the information that was previously shared.
  • Don’t ask trite questions such as whether their company “values teamwork.”

Use what you learned during an interview and complement it with questions that will give you new information about the job.

The purpose of asking questions is not only to show that you prepared at least a few questions. The main goal is for you to gather intelligence that could help you negotiate or make a decision if you receive an offer.

Difficult situations and interview failures

Some mistakes are universal and will hurt you regardless of the job you interview for – for example, being late or answering your phone. What about special situations where you can use your BA competencies to get out of an uncomfortable spot?

For example, did you ever get a feeling that the interviewer ran out of questions? It happens. Show off your facilitation skills by using your prepared questions, telling a relevant story, or offering another example for a previous question.

Sometimes, when you are being interviewed by a panel, you may notice tension or disagreement between the panel members. Navigate the situation using your people skills, treat all panel members fairly and be careful with humour if you don’t understand the undercurrents.

What if your interviewer clearly doesn’t know much about business analysis? Treat them as valuable executive stakeholders: with respect. Offer an explanation or example, and ask if they need more information, but don’t slip into technical jargon or sound condescending.

Avoid meaningless corporate speak and long-winded answers. If this is your stress reaction, practice twice as hard. A business analyst who talks a lot without saying much is going to lose points fast.

Look for opportunities to be memorable

A memorable candidate has an edge. By becoming memorable, you can swing the hiring manager’s decision-making in your favour.

So put your BA hat back on. Consider the hiring manager as a persona. What do they need? What does value mean for them? Analyze their business requirements.

Then consider how you can become part of the solution to their problem – and articulate it well during the interview. Use your BA competencies to present it in a way that suits the audience. Here are some ideas:

  1. Create a professional portfolio of BA artifacts and diagrams and bring it to interviews. Include interesting or unusual artifacts, and make sure they are of the highest quality. Use your portfolio to illustrate a point or demonstrate your capabilities.
  2. Offer to draw models and illustrations on a whiteboard (real or virtual).
  3. Demonstrate your skills if asked during the interview.
  4. Demonstrate what would you do in a tricky situation.
  5. Show off your facilitation skills by making the interviewer's job easier. If they seem stuck or unsure how to proceed, offer an example or refer to a previous question. Turn around an interesting question and use it as an opportunity to ask a question of your own (works best at the end of the interview.)
  6. Show off your facilitation skills when being interviewed by a panel.
  7. Tell them a memorable story.

Final tips

In conclusion, remember this:

  • Adjust your answers and behaviour based on how the interview progresses.
  • Expect surprises. Don’t panic, stay calm, and ask for more time if needed.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate the skills you put on your resume. “Show & Tell” is more efficient and memorable than just talking.
  • Use every opportunity to demonstrate your business analysis competencies.
  • Use the interview to learn more about the job and decide whether it’s a good fit for you.
  • Don't let any setback derail you. Even if you fail an interview, take something positive from the experience. Remember the 12th principle of the BA Mindset: Learn, adapt, and thrive.

For more interview prep resources, check Yulia’s video course Job Interview Clinic (with BA extras) and her Career playlist on the Why Change channel.

Author: Yulia Kosarenko is the owner of Why Change Consulting, offering corporate training and consulting in business analysis and architecture. She is the author of the books "Business Analyst: a Profession and a Mindset", "Business Analysis Mindset Digital Toolkit", creates business analysis courses, and teaches business analytics at the Humber College in Toronto.

Connect with Yulia on LinkedIn or at [email protected].



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