Business Analyst Interview Questions

In this module we will go over some Business Analyst Interview questions that you will be asked during your interview. By now you already have an idea of the core characteristics that the business analyst interviewer is looking for. If not please take a look at one of the earlier workshop videos.

Being a Business Analyst can be a very rewarding career option, however getting the job can be a difficult process. This problem is a lot worse if you don’t know where to begin, or if you don’t know what questions you are going to be asked and what exactly the interviewer is looking for.

In this workshop, I will be walking through some Business Analyst interview questions that you will be asked. All of these questions, discussions and sample answers are taken from my business analyst prep course, cracking the Business Analyst Interview and more detailed information can be found there.

Before we get to the first question, let me just tell you how I like to structure these. I will first tell you the business analyst interview question, followed by a discussion clearly explaining what the interviewer is looking and finally I will provide you with an actual answer to the interview question. This should really allow you to grasp an understanding of the interview question you will be asked.

 One thing I absolutely hated when I was trying to prepare for my interviews was when so called experts said “do this, and do that” but they never showed you the “how”. It drove me absolutely insane. It’s like telling a starving person the importance of fishing, and why eating fish will help his hunger problems. But not showing the poor guy how to fish. You will see in my book, my business analyst prep-course and my training videos, I provide you the complete information. In this case, the interview question, a discussion of what the interviewer is looking for and an example of what to say to ensure that you are hitting the interviewers checkmarks across the board.

 Okay let’s get to the first question, one of the most important questions asked in a Business Analyst Interview, and one I ask every single candidate I interview is:

Tell me about a time you worked towards a certain goal, but you failed to achieve it. What did you do about it?

Discussion: This is a failure based question. Here, the interviewer is trying to determine how you handle setbacks. As a Business Analyst you will work on certain aspects of a project that just don’t work out for whatever reason, you must be able to overcome these failures and not let it faze you.  It is extremely important that you provide a structured response. A great business analyst will learn from their failure and move on. In your answer make sure you don’t go into detail about your failure. Choose an example that focuses on your contributions, touches on the failure and explains what you learned from that experience.

Sample Answer:

“Well, on occasion I have set deadlines for projects that were too aggressive, or I over-promised what I could deliver within the time-frame. FOR EXAMPLE in my previous role I worked on a project to implement a new technology solution to speed up a company’s accounts payable system. After going through a thorough elicitation and enterprise analysis we discovered that this involved updating their invoice scanning process, with a new software that could scan an invoice and automatically update the payee name and amount of payment into the companies system. I was very excited about the project and we were ahead of schedule by two weeks, when my manager asked when the project would be completed I gave him a date that took account of the fact that we were ahead by two weeks. Shortly after, the project suffered a setback when we realized that we had to upgrade our company’s operating system in order for it to be compatible with the new software. This led the project to be delayed by 2 weeks and my manager was not very happy as I had promised him a date without taking into consideration that things could go wrong. However, in the end, my contributions led to an improved efficiency of 33% and saved the company over $1.2 million dollars a year. So you see, from that I learned that I should build in “contingency time “into my schedules in case something goes wrong, AND I should carefully consider the work that needs to be done before I commit to a due date.”

Take a look at page 52 in the Cracking the Business Analyst Interview guide where I go in much more detail.

The next question we are going to cover is:

What would you consider an ideal work environment?

Discussion:  In answering this question, try to describe an environment as close as possible to the environment you are trying to get hired into. Make statements that align with the corporate culture. Also, you should mention some general characteristics about a healthy working environment to point out the type of company standards that will bring out the best in you. In this case you want to highlight that you like working in a fast paced environment that requires continuously learning new things. More importantly, state that you are comfortable in environments that have a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty. Take a look at page 47 of the Cracking the Business Analyst Interview book for a more in depth answer, however this is how I would answer it.

Sample Answer: “Well Allan, I think an ideal environment would be one where everybody works hard toward clearly defined goals. Also, I value a place where there is competitive spirit, but one based on a “win-win” attitude. Based on my previous experiences I find that I thrive in fast paced environments where there can be a certain degree of ambiguity and uncertainty. I think a good environment is where everyone is treated as a competent professional, and is respected – no matter their tenure or level of experience. I want to work in an environment that brings out the best in me and gives me the opportunity to succeed and advance.

Tell me about a time when you had to gain the cooperation of others over which you had little or no authority. What did you do? How effective were you?

Discussion: This question tests your ability to get things done when working with other people. As you already know a Business Analyst position comes with a lot of responsibility but little or no authority. This means you have to convince others to assist you in what you are trying to accomplish. Moreover, you may often need to gain the cooperation of co-workers from other departments, the technology side or even your boss. This could be because you need complete a traceability matrix to ensure that you have minimized any outstanding gaps from your requirements analysis. You want to show that you understand that different things motivate different people, and that you can persuade them by indicating what the benefit to THEM is if they do things your way.

Sample Answer: “That’s a tough situation, but one that has been pretty common in my experience. I’ve often had to convince others to get them to see my end of things. One thing I try to do is to communicate my ideas in ways that are, most importantly, easy to understand. I also try to outline the benefits in a logical way. But of course I also try to make an emotional appeal to people’s own self-interest. I LISTEN CAREFULLY to determine where the real objection is, and then I try to overcome that objection. I am usually pretty effective with that. Also, I always try to compromise when I think it will benefit the group or the project. FOR EXAMPLE in my previous role as a Business Systems Analyst my team and I were implementing a new technology solution that would upgrade the existing software through customizations to better meet business needs. As we were about to enter planning stages of the project I realized that we should begin gathering requirements for taxation earlier because technology would have to perform a large amount of customizations for the tax department. If we began early we could save a lot of time in the long run. Right out of the outset, taxation was against the idea because they wanted to gather requirements at the same time the other departments did and not start earlier. To convince them, I prepared a detailed email to the taxation manager explaining all the benefits of beginning early, for example, if we began early the excruciatingly painful tax1003 report would no longer have to be done manually because we could incorporate it into our technology upgrade. I talked about their problems, their pains and how beginning early would solve these problems. Soon after taxation was on board and we completed the project under budget and 3 weeks early.”

Being a Business Analyst is a very rewarding career path, you get to work on projects with different types of people. The best part is that you get to see the results of your hard work at the end. I remember when I worked on a project to implement a new technology solution at our inbound call centers. In the end, I could see the new technology we had worked so hard to put in place work seamlessly from when the customer called right through being transferred to another department and finally leaving a positive rating. Executives, managers and even call center employees would send my team and I thank you emails for making their lives so much easier. Making a difference like that is extremely satisfying. 

Additional Resources

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Comments (3)

  • Jason

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    Thank you very much for this Andy, I have been looking everywhere for some real business analyst interview questions! These questions and answers really put things in perspective. Just one question though, above you mentioned a failure based question – I have been asked this before in previous business analyst interviews.

    I always feel like I need to explain the failure, why it happened, and how it wasn’t entirely my fault and that several other people were responsible as well….can you give me a better idea on how to handle this?

    Thanks,
    Jason

    Reply

    • Andy Hart

      Andy Hart

      |

      Not a problem at all, as for your question. Failure based questions are asked not to determine what your failure was, but to determine how you handle them.

      Remember this, this is key and I’ll explain why.

      As you know I was rejected from 11 business analyst interviews and one question that kept stumping me was this one precisely. I did exactly what you described, I would go into why I failed, how it happened, who was involved, then I would explain that it wasn’t entirely my fault and that there were other factors beyond my control that contributed.

      In the end, I would spend so long talking about my failure and defending myself that the interviewer would inevitably get convinced that I do not know how to handle failures. This is why it is imperative that you understand how to approach these interview questions.

      That being said, the best way to answer a failure based question is not to focus on talking about the failure itself. Instead, briefly describe what went wrong and emphasize what you did to overcome the failure, how you contributed to right a wrong and what you learned from that experience. Take a look at the example I provided above, the sample answer does exactly what I described here.

      best of luck on your interview,
      Andy

      Reply

  • Roobin Massri

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    Thanks!

    Reply

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