The 10 Most Common Interview Questions for Business Analysts

A young man attending a job interview with a male hiring manager

You have seen businesses come and go. You have helped businesses survive and thrive. You have even been a part of businesses that have crashed and burned. Now it is your turn to either succeed or fall flat on your face.

Despite businesses analysts having the reputation of being like Harvey Keitel's character Victor the Cleaner from Pulp Fiction, it can be difficult for young graduates and seasoned professionals to land a job because of how intense the competition is.

That said, there is no better time to be a business analyst in the global economy, especially in the age of big data, data science and remote communications.

Of course, the first hurdle to overcome is the interview. The next challenge, which is universal for all jobseekers, is enduring the questions and answers. The final contest is to quit overanalysing your performance – like those old 'Seen on TV' commercials: set it and forget it!

The only thing you can do is to prepare yourself for the dragon behind those closed doors, which can be accomplished by learning the common questions and coming up with answers.

1. 'What are some documents you would use?'

Contrary to popular belief, business analysts use more than just Microsoft Office for their day-to-day tasks. In fact, businesses analysts use a whole host of digital tools to ensure they are doing their job properly.

When you sit down for an interview, you will inevitably be asked what sorts of documents and tools you will utilise in your position. What should you say? Well, here are some examples:

  • use cases
  • user stories
  • Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM)
  • Functional Specifications Document (FSD)
  • System Requirements Specification (SRS)
  • test cases
  • project vision documents.

Of course, all professionals in these fields have their own preferences, but these are the more common ones that will inevitably be used by firms.

2. 'How would you describe the difference between a requirement and a need?'

If you type in 'requirement synonym' in a search engine, one of the words you will get is 'need'. But, in the business world, these are two separate things.

In the interview, one of the questions will be to differentiate between the two terms. There are two answers to give: one that is basic and one that is a bit more advanced.

So, the first: a requirement is a detailed description of what the business must have; a need is a future objective of a business. When you really want to impress, then you can proffer a good quality requirement, which entails the SMART rule:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

3. 'Do you believe a business analyst should partake in testing?'

You will eventually learn in a business analyst interview that every firm is different. What works for others doesn't work for somebody else. What one policy a business institutes, another will do the opposite. The same applies to this question.

What should you do? Be honest.

Do you think this position should participate in testing? Many will contend that a business analyst knows the overall project better than others, so he or she can be essential to the test phase, helping manage it correctly and resolve any issues that arise.

4. 'What is benchmarking?'

You will come across some interview questions that are insulting to your acumen, skills and profession. But elementary questions and answers are important to anything, even just as a gauge of how good you are. So, when you're asked 'What is a benchmark?', you shouldn't take it as an insult.

Indeed, provide a simple answer to a simple question.

By the way, just in case, benchmarking measures the quality of everything integral to the company – products, corporate policies, programmes and standards – against other companies in the same industry. Benchmarking is crucial for the performance of an enterprise's ability to compete in the industry and achieving its goals.

5. 'What do business analysts NOT do?'

Prior to stepping foot inside the office, you might be expecting one of the most common business analyst interview questions, which is: 'What is a business analyst, and what is their role?'. This will typically result in responses that do not offer anything substantive.

So, sometimes, the hiring manager may throw a curveball your way and change up the questions to be somewhat harder: 'What do business analysts not do?' or 'What are the tasks not a part of a business analyst's job?' are two examples.

This is a bit tricky because you need to stimulate your little grey cells for that one.

Ultimately, there are so many ways to reply to this query, including by being a snarky know-it-all, who says something like 'Take out the garbage' or 'Cook everyone lunch'. But if you wish to attain the position, then you should refrain from being that person.

Some ideas? For one thing, business analysts do not organise project team meetings. Another element they do not complete is coding or programming.

6. 'Can you differentiate between a risk and an issue?'

To the average person, risk and issue are interchangeable. To a business analyst, a risk is a potential problem that can be forecasted early on so he or she can initiate improvement plans. An issue, meanwhile, is a risk that has already transpired.

That is an appropriate answer to give the interviewer.

But here is something else to consider adding: businesses analysts are not in charge of solving the issue, but rather only extending a list of suggestions to alleviate the damage or control the fallout.

7. 'How can you deal with uncouth or problematic stakeholders?'

By now, it seems like a business analyst can handle anything put in his or her way. Unfortunately, the hardest part of the job is to deal with rude, incipient or difficult stakeholders. This can oftentimes be a huge problem for any business analyst.

Of course, you cannot concede this to human resources. Instead, you need to be calm, cool and collected, outlining some solutions to pleasing a problematic stakeholder:

  • being patient at all times and listening to their point of view on the subject
  • understanding why they are not comfortable with a project
  • putting forward a list of measures that pleases everyone in a diplomatic effort
  • meeting the stakeholder personally and engaging in a one-on-one conversation
  • speaking with the stakeholders throughout the entire process and requesting their insight.

Wow. Now those are pleasurable answers!

8. 'Do you prefer a waterfall model or a spiral model?'

A waterfall model is a breakdown of project activities into linear sequential phases. A spiral model is a risk-driven developmental process model that depends on unique risk patterns of a specific project.

It comes down to this: which one do you prefer? Everyone has their own choice, but a lot of business analysts note that waterfall models are best for large projects and spiral models are better suited for intricate ones.

In the end, it might depend on a project's objectives, type, terms and conditions, policies, and restrictions.

9. 'Can you define INVEST?'

As previously noted, some hiring managers will toss softballs, like this one: 'What is INVEST?'

The response is simple enough:

  • Independent
  • Negotiable
  • Valuable
  • Estimable
  • Sized appropriately
  • Testable

Rather than just defining INVEST, why not go a step further and explain why it is important? You can explain, for example, that it can aid project managers, technical teams and the overall business to deliver high-quality products at affordable prices.

10. 'What are the five steps of product development?'

This is also a difficult question to answer because every company has its own policies and strategies. However, there is one way to get out of this, especially if you have worked at a few other firms as a business analyst, and that is to say: 'Well, at one company we did it this way…' and 'At my previous employer, we did it that way…'. In the end, you list the steps.

For reference, the five elementary steps of product development are:

  • market assessment
  • strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a company, or SWOT analysis
  • competitor analyst
  • strategic vision
  • prioritising

To ensure these steps are completed successfully, businesses analysts will typically recommend storyboards, monitoring, scalability, use cases and test cases.

It is rare to land a job on your first try. These days, it takes multiple interviews to finally obtain employment. During one appointment, you will make an excellent first impression. The next one, you will likely make at least three or four mistakes. It is only natural. As long as you learn from them, you should never look at your performance as a negative – only a positive. And remember: that is your role as a business analyst, too!

What questions were you asked in an interview for a business analyst job? Join the conversation down below and let us know.