Becoming a business analyst is an excellent career choice if you are a good communicator with demonstrated leadership abilities, keen problem-solving and intrapersonal 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. 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.
The Initial Interview
It starts with acing the initial interview. This means dressing sharply, deploying a firm, confident handshake, and making eye contact with the interviewer when speaking with them. It also means presenting a professional resume that highlights everything you bring to the table in an easy-to-read format.
To perform well during the first interview, it helps to anticipate the questions you'll be asked and to provide answers that your interviewer wants to hear. Below we cite some common job interview questions for business analysts, followed by answers that demonstrate you are the right person for the job.
"Tell Me What You Know About 'XYZ' Terminology"
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," "use case," and "benchmarking are examples of terms you should know backward and forward in this field. You want to prove to your interviewer that you possess the knowledge they need. Sure, there's a learning curve 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 relevant industry terms and be prepared to discuss all of them by the date of your interview. Beyond offering rote definitions, however, you'll want to show your interviewer that you have a keen understanding of the intricacies of business analysis. When relating your knowledge of an industry term, try to think of a specific example in your previous work experience when you applied similar knowledge to solve a problem or complete a project.
"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, interviewers want to gauge your self-awareness and also deduce how capable you are of mitigating your weaknesses on the job.
For example, most would say that being organized 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 being well-organized does not come naturally for you. If staying organized is a weakness, then be honest about it, but spend the majority of your answer emphasizing the steps you have taken to successfully keep your weakness from becoming a hindrance to your work on the job.
"Tell Me About a Time You Led a Project to Completion"
The most successful business analysts evolve into leaders 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. An interviewer's job is not simply to fill an entry-level analyst role; it is more important to identify and hire their 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 will come a point during your interview when it makes sense to work in your leadership story.