The role of a business analyst (BA) is to assess a company's business needs, study how it integrates with technology and facilitate technological solutions for stakeholders. From project management to analyzing business needs and executing quality testing, business analytics requires several soft and technical skills. When interviewing for your next BA position, it is a good idea to prepare answers to common BA interview questions.
In this article, we'll outline 10 common business analyst interview questions with tips and examples for the best ways to answer them.
Top interview questions for business analyst positions
1. How would you work with a difficult stakeholder?
As a business analyst, you will likely deal with many different personalities occupying a variety of positions. Situational questions like this one measure your problem-solving skills, communication skills and ability to resolve difficult situations. This question assesses whether you can successfully navigate interactions with many different stakeholders.
Provide a direct answer and explain a related challenge you faced in past work. You can use the STAR interview response framework to structure your answer by addressing the following:
- Situation: Briefly explain the issue you were dealing with in a positive, constructive way.
- Task: Explain your role in the situation.
- Action: Explain what you did to resolve or address the situation.
- Result: Explain your learnings and how your actions resulted in a positive impact for the business.
During your discussion with the interviewer, you also gain insight into the challenges you might face in the new role, which can be a helpful context to understand before accepting an offer.
Example: “I have found that nearly any issue is solvable with empathy, communication and action. For example, I once had an angry client that felt she had received the wrong data that was useless and unhelpful. My role was to acquire and interpret said data. I decided to schedule a phone call with her and the other project stakeholders immediately to discuss the issue. After taking the time to hear her concerns, we found that she simply did not feel equipped to apply the findings of the data. We established a workshop with our team business consultant to help her feel more prepared and sent weekly updates by email to ensure she felt supported during the remainder of the project. She doubled her spend with us over the next two quarters."
Read more: How to Prepare for a Behavioral Interview
2. Describe a time when you had to advise a client toward a different course of action.
As a business analyst, it is your job to make recommendations both in the interest of the client and the organization. Your perspective should be based on the collected data as you interpret it. Should a client pursue a certain course of action you do not feel is in their best interest, you may be required to present the data in new and interesting ways to convince them otherwise.
In your answer, you should explain the ways you can apply your problem-solving skills to navigate potentially difficult situations with clients and other important stakeholders.
Example: "Once, I had a client who was looking to expand a product line for their store. At the same time, they were already struggling to sell many of the products they already carried. I used a detailed sales analysis to show them why they should focus on selling their current products instead of investing in new ones, and offered both suggestions about how they might increase sales along with areas in which they are already succeeding."
3. What is the most important aspect of analytical reporting?
Analytical reporting is a type of business reporting that offers information, data analysis and recommendations. The recommendations are what set this type of reporting apart from informational reporting. Analytical reporting allows people to use data to make decisions.
As a business analyst, you should understand the importance and limitations of analytical reporting. In your answer, explain the measurable impact you have made with analytical reporting in previous roles. This helps employers understand the value you have to offer at their organization. Formulate your response to demonstrate your critical thinking and analytical skills, showing how you can create recommendations from data sources.
Example: "While data itself cannot solve problems, it can equip you to make the right business decisions when analyzed in context. Even if a certain decision does not produce the results you expected, data allows you to learn from those results to continue improving. The most important aspect of analytical reporting is the ability to solve problems and make decisions based on facts. Attempting to make decisions based on uninformed guesses or assumptions can be problematic—analytical reporting provides tangible information with which to create strategy and direction."
4. Describe your familiarity with SQL queries.
SQL is the standard language for relational database management systems. Since SQL allows you to work with structured data where there are relations between different variables, SQL queries are commonly used in the business analyst role.
Though it is not necessary for a business analyst to demonstrate advanced technical skills, certain skills are incredibly valuable. You may be asked to explain the elements of a SQL Statement during an interview so employers can assess your related technical skills and advanced analysis skills. In addition to providing definitions that demonstrate your knowledge, you might also consider providing an example of how you have used SQL to make an impact in your previous BA work.
Example: “There are four parts to an SQL statement. The DDL, or the Data Definition Language, is used for defining data structure. The DML, or Data Manipulation Language, is used for inserting, deleting and modifying data. The DCL, or Data Control Language, is used to control access to data stored in the database. Finally, the TCL, or Transactional Control Language, is used to organize data adjusted by the DML. I have used SQL statements to determine which of my client's customers are purchasing which products, which has helped them make important decisions about future product lines. This work has made them a repeat customer three years running."
5. What tools do you consider the most important for a business analyst to do their job well?
This question allows an interviewer to test your basic technical skills and familiarity with standard business analytics applications as well as those they may use at the company. BAs commonly use tools like the Microsoft Office Suite, though you may have used other tools or programs in your work. Tailor your answer to highlight your own unique experience and skills.
Example: "I commonly use tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, MS Visio and Rational tools. I also have advanced SQL skills—using SQL is helpful when I need to analyze items like customer purchases that would overwhelm Excel."
6. Describe how you typically approach a project.
Understanding a candidate's workflow can help employers gauge their teamwork, project management and organizational skills. To answer, explain general phases you work through with standard deliverables you typically produce instead of listing specific processes or tasks the interviewer may not be familiar with. Focus on your actual experience to describe your skills and how you use them.
For example, if you worked on the planning stages of a project, you could mention deliverables such as a communication plan, a work breakdown structure (WBS), a requirements management plan and a business analysis approach, including whether it is plan-driven or change-driven.
Speak about how you have customized specific approaches to the needs of a given project. You can follow up by asking about the organization's projects and processes to give yourself a better sense of how you would fit in and to show the interviewer that you are invested in the way they work.
Example: "I first listen to what a client needs, paying attention to what they articulate as their goals for the project. I then take a deeper look into our data to figure out how to guide them toward success or how to change the way they are looking at their goals to move forward in a more productive way. Of course, every project and every client requires something new, so I always make sure to consider the specific situation instead of automatically imposing a one-size-fits-all solution."
7. Name two diagrams you use as a business analyst, and describe how they impact your work.
The interviewer may ask this question to ensure that you are familiar with standard BA documents and how to apply them to a client's case. Even if they do not directly ask about your past experience here, providing examples can validate your ability to bring value to the employer.
Example: "Two diagrams I prefer using are Activity Diagrams and Use Case Diagrams. Activity Diagrams show the diverse activities that take place across various departments. I use Activity Diagrams to show who interacts with a system as well as the primary goals they achieve with it. I find Use Case Diagrams to be very useful when I need to visualize the functional requirements of a given system so I can make smart choices when it comes to design and figuring out development priorities."
Read more: SWOT Analysis Guide (With Examples)
8. What questions do you have?
Asking intelligent questions at the conclusion of your interview shows that you know how to ask the right questions to get the right information—a necessary skill for business analysts. This is your chance to have a thoughtful conversation with your prospective employer or colleague. Make sure to use active listening skills during your interview to inform your questions. The person interviewing you should feel that you are invested and engaged throughout the interview.
Example "I often work with clients who are looking to expand their business, and I am good at guiding them to make intelligent decisions that prioritize their strengths. What does a typical client look like for you?"
These interview tips can help you make a good impression when interviewing for a business analyst position. Make sure to describe your experience and highlight your knowledge during the interview process.