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.
Case study exercises
The case study exercise is a realistic simulation of the type of business or strategic problem you are likely to encounter in your new role (if you get the job!). Typical competencies assessed in the case study are:
The case study presents the candidate with a series of fictional documents such as company reports, a consultant’s report, results from new product research etc. (i.e. similar to the in-tray exercise except these documents will be longer). You will then be asked to make business decisions based on the information. This can be done as an individual exercise, or more likely done in a group discussion so that assessors can also score your teamworking ability.
After analysing the documents and deciding on a way forward, you (or the team) will be required to present your proposal in the form of a brief report or presentation. With individual case studies, you will probably present your recommendations at an interview with an assessor. The exercise is assessing your approach to solving the problem as much as the solution you arrive at. In fact, case study exercises are usually designed not to have one ‘correct’ answer. As long as you logically justify your recommendations, and these stand up to interrogation from the assessor, you are likely to score marks.
Skills You Will Need
Skills you will require for the case study exercise include:
- 1. Interpreting lots of data in varying formats and from various sources.
- 2. Analytical and strategic analysis of problems
- 3. Formulating and committing to a decision.
- 4. Commercial and entrepreneurial insight into a problem.
- 5. Oral communication skills for discussing your recommendations
Employers like to use case study exercises because they can easily be bespoke to the company and offer an accurate test of how you might get on in the real job.
The sort of questions you will have to make recommendations on, in the form of a brief report or an interview with an assessor are topics such as:
Information from the case study exercise lends itself to be used as scene-setting for other exercises at the assessment centre. It is common to have the same fictional setting running through the assessment centre, to save time on having to describe a new scenario for each task. You will be told in each exercise if you are expected to remember the information from a previous exercise, but this is rarely the case. Usually the only information common to multiple exercises is the fictional scenario; all data to be used in each exercise will be part of that exercise.
- Analytical Thinking
- Assimilation of Information
- Commercial Awareness
- Which of the three proposals from the consultant should be implemented, and why?
- Should the business invest in product X, and why?
- Is the joint venture a good idea, and why?
- Is the way forward online presence or increased high street outlets?
- Which market has the largest revenue potential and why?