A business analyst is an excellent career choice if you are a good communicator with demonstrated leadership abilities and keen problem-solving skills. The pay is higher than average, the hours are usually reasonable, and there are many different career paths from which you can choose – all with plenty of advancement potential.
Today, landing a career as a business analyst almost always requires at least a bachelor's degree, and from there, you must successfully navigate the interview process. The competition is strong, and most companies want the best of the best, but with some due diligence and preparation, you can distinguish yourself in the field.
It starts with acing the initial interview. This means dressing sharply, deploying a firm, confident handshake and looking the interviewer in the eye when speaking to him or her. It means presenting a resume that looks professional and highlights in an easy-to-read layout everything you bring to the table. It also means anticipating the questions you will be asked and offering the answers your interviewer wants to hear. The following are some common business analyst job interview questions, followed by answers that demonstrate you are the right person for the job.
"Tell Me What You Know About ..."
At some point, your interviewer is going to throw out an esoteric industry term and ask you to define it and tell him what you know about it. "Data dictionary," "business process" and "use case" are examples of terms you should know frontward and backward in this field. You want to prove to your interviewer you possess the knowledge they need. Sure, a learning curve exists for even the most knowledgeable candidates, but no company wants to spend an inordinate amount of training time on remedial stuff.
Make a list of industry terms and by the date of your interview, be prepared to discuss all of them. Beyond offering rote definitions, you want to show your interviewer you have a keen understanding of the intricacies of business analysis. When relating your knowledge of an industry term, try to think of a time during your previous work experience when you applied similar knowledge to get a job done. (For related reading, see "What Is a Business Analyst and How Much Do They Make?")
"What Are Your Biggest Weaknesses?"
This question scares interviewees to death, but it shouldn't. The interviewer is not cross-referencing your answers with a list of deal breakers that eliminate you from consideration. Rather, he wants to gauge your self-awareness and also deduce how capable you are of mitigating your weaknesses on the job.
For example, most would say organization is an important skill for a business analyst. Projects tend to have many moving pieces, and someone who has difficulty keeping them straight could get lost quickly when things get stressful. This does not mean, however, you can't be an excellent business analyst if organization does not come naturally for you. If staying organized is a weakness, be honest about it, but spend the majority of your answer emphasizing the steps you have successfully taken to keep your weakness from becoming a hindrance on the job.
"Tell Me About a Time You Led a Project to Completion"
The most successful business analysts evolve into leadership roles as their careers progress. The top companies in the field try to identify these candidates during the interview process and get them on board early. Your interviewer's job is not simply to fill an entry-level analyst role; it is more important to locate his next superstar.
Come prepared to talk about more than numbers, flow charts and processes. Craft a concise but powerful narrative about a time you demonstrated leadership, and use it to wow your interviewer. Even if this specific question does not come up, there invariably comes a point during your interview when it makes sense to work in your leadership story.
(For related reading, see "A Career as Financial Analyst or Business Analyst?")