Business Analyst–Another fancy job title designed to attract young talent. Business is a proven buzzword, and analyst doesn’t sound bad either. Or does it? Big corporations love the job title. The truth is that you can’t tell what you’d do in your new job with them, until you start working on day one. For this exact reason, it is difficult to predict the exact questions you will get in your interview.
But forget about consulting company executives and giving suggestions on how to improve the business process. This may happen one day, when you’ll be promoted, when you will specialize. Then you will focus on one specific area of business operations, and get chance to have some impact on the actual results the business will achieve.
You may become a financial analyst, or information security analyst, or budget analyst, or any other analyst–the options are endless, and just then it will become clear what you will do, and what you won’t do in the job.
In this article, however, we’ll have a look at interview questions for an entry level “Business Analyst” job, which tend to be more more generalized, testing rather your attitude and predispositions for the job then actual skills needed for all kinds of analysis. Let’s go!
Why do you want to work as a business analyst?
In my opinion, there are two good answers to this question. One is citing the specialization you want to achieve later on, such as a management analyst, or system analyst, and say that you consider this job as an ideal starting position for you, to be able to get your “dream job” one day–of course with their corporation.
The second good answer is saying that you aren’t really sure what you want to do in your professional career, and considering the wide range of working duties business analyst may have, the plenitude of career paths you can take later on, and a general understanding of business you will gain in this role, business analyst seems like a perfect choice for you.
Why do you want to work for us?
Any given day of a year, in any big city, you will find dozens of job openings for business analysts advertised on online job boards. And while in economic expansion companies do not question your choice (they are happy to see you in an interview, and you may well be the only candidate), in times of recession (and this article is written for both good and bad times :)), they will want to know. Because there will be ten or twenty other people competing for the job with you.
Do some research about their company. Perhaps you like the services the company offers, their particular field of business is close to your heart. Or several college friends and pals work for the company, and you’ve heard great things about the training program and working environment.
Perhaps you like their vision, the mission statement on their website. Or maybes you live just five minutes walk (or drive) from the building where the company resides. Any reason is better than no reason–so give them at least one.
What do you imagine you will do in this job?
This is a tricky question. You should not show excessively high expectations. During the first year of the job, you will likely only help other, more senior employees, with their jobs. You will do simple analysis for them, and collect data, and create simple reports.
In big corporations one can not skip this step, especially when we speak about financial and management jobs. So set your expectations low. Say that first and foremost you are eager to learn, and to cooperate with other people, trying to help the business to meet their goals.
Of course, if a job description gives an extensive list of clearly formulated duties, you can list them. But do not repeat the buzzwords that mean nothing, and promise you doing things which you eventually won’t do anyway, at least not during your first year in the job…
Why do you think you are ready for this role?
Here you can refer to two things. First one is your education. Do not hesitate to list the courses that relate the most to the job (management, accounting, financial analysis, time rows analysis, any IT subjects, databases, etc).
Second are your skills and attitudes, that make from you a good fit for the job. You can say that you love analyzing data, that you love to be a part of a hard working team. You can also say that your math and computer skills are strong, that you are a quick learner, responsible, and strong in communication with the others.
Of course if you had a similar job in the past, or did your internship in the same/another corporation, you should mention it. Anything you relate to, try to show confidence. Unless you believe to have what it takes to be a great analyst, other people will find it hard to believe the same thing.
* Do not forget to read also: Simple guide on how to overcome interview nerves.
Tell us about your technical knowledge relevant for business analysis
This is again a tricky question. First of all, unless you interview with a senior analyst from the company, the interviewer may not even understand what you are talking about. HR managers and generalists know little about SWOT analysis, Gantt Chart, Agile methodology, or product life cycle…
On the other hand, saying that you can work with MS Word and PowerPoint would sound rather ridiculous, since everyone can work with them nowadays. Even a ten year old kid.
I suggest you to mention any advanced software program you can work with, and say that you are proficient with MS Excel and the entire functionality it offers for business and financial analysis.
Special Tip: Want to practice your interview answers later? Download the full list of questions in a one-page long PDF, print it, and practice later on:
Describe a conflict you had with someone.
Behavioral (or situational) questions will play a big role in most interviews for business analyst jobs. They will ask you about some situations from the past, and how you reacted in them, trying to understand more about your attitude to work, problems, successes and failures, people, and so on.
The most important rule to remember is this one: Narrate a situation that had a happy ending, and do not get carried away by your emotions.
Happy ending in this case does not mean winning a conflict–that wouldn’t show the things the interviewers want to see in a good applicant for the job. It means rather a conflict when you came to a compromise, or even one when you realized you made a mistake, and learned from the conflict…
Tell us about a time when you had to meet a tight deadline
It is a tough word out there. Competition is enormous, managers ruthless, and people in corporations must try their very best, in order to maintain a competitive edge. Or to simply survive on the economic battlefield.
You will face pressure. You will have to meet tight deadline. And it won’t always be easy–or even possible. Show the interviewers that you are ready for the challenge. Speak about a situation from the past (can be also from school), when you successfully managed to prioritize your tasks, when you found the way, and eventually met a deadline.
Once again, the attitude you present it more important than the particular situation you narrate in your answer…
Other questions you may face in your business analyst interview
- Describe a situation when you reached a goal and tell us how you achieved it.
- Tell us about a time when you used persuasion to convince someone.
- Have you ever worked on a project that was a failure? Describe it to us.
- Describe a time when you struggled with motivation in job (it was repetitive, you did not enjoy your duties, there was no work to do, etc). How did you overcome the crisis?
- Tell us about a time when you felt overwhelmed with work.
- Tell me about a time you had to comply with a policy or procedure that you did not agree with.
- Describe the biggest failure of your professional career.
- Describe a time when you did not know how to solve a problem. What did you do?
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Interview for a business analyst job belongs to difficult and tricky interviews. One can’t really tell in advance what is meant by the job title, and so it is hard to judge the exact questions you will hear from the hiring managers.
What’s more, companies also do not always know what they want, or need, and will use this fancy job title for a single reason: to attract young talent. For this reason, especially when we talk about entry level business analyst job, you should not waste your time preparing for technical or IT questions. You won’t have to answer any such questions in your interview.
You will deal with personal and behavioral (scenario-based) questions. Learn how to answer these questions, and show the right attitude to work in your interview. If you manage to do that, in four out of five cases you will get a chance.
I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck in this tricky interview!
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