Recruiting a Business Analyst can be a tough task. The Business Analyst quite often will be the catalyst for defining change in an organisation. They need to be that rare beast, a people person, but also evidence and data-driven.
They also need a good business mind, be able to ‘helicopter’ from strategic to tactical tasks, be a great communicator and have the ability to dive into detail. If you are looking to hire a BA, then the following questions might help you get the right person!
Note - we are focusing mainly on the questions to ask around the more functional elements of the role. We assume you will also include the more generic ones around their soft skills such as ‘tell me about yourself’ ‘what are your strengths’ etc.
You might also want to arrange a complimentary session where the candidate is asked to present a business case for improvements given some key business metrics from a fictitious company. A ‘whiteboard’ session (yes - available on-line!) will demonstrate business, analytics, reasoning, communication and presentation skills.
1/ What do you think are the top skills required for a good Business Analyst?
By asking the candidate this question, you are expecting them to reflect back on the qualities they think are important, which you can reference to your needs. You would expect them to include: Good business acumen and experience, the ability to ‘helicopter’ between strategic and tactical activities, excellent technical analysis, good communication and team working skills, financial and risk awareness, a focus on quality, delivery, and perhaps reporting and presenting to senior ‘C’ level stakeholders. Also, the best BA's adopt a leadership role within the organisation - if they play this back to you, it is a good sign.
2/ What other departments would a BA typically interface to within the wider business?
The BA will need to liaise with many other departments to discover areas for opportunity within the business. Product, finance, IT, software development, sales, operations, customer success and support and many other departments will need to be approached to understand existing processes and practices in order to probe and identify improvements.
3/ Tell me how you have developed relationships across the business?
Linked to the above question, in many instances, the BA will be taking the time of stakeholders who may not see the benefit. Critical to their success will be how they develop good working relationships and interface with other people in the business at all levels. Another factor is that the team will be constantly changing, how do they manage these factors?
4/ Why are technical and analytical skills so important to this role?
In addition to good communication, these skills are inherent to the success of any BA. A data-driven mind will enable the data to be derived from any existing methods and be the basis for planned improvements. Analytics is the core basis for defining and choosing options and for adding metrics to the desired benefits. The ability to distill complex information and translate it into ‘easy to understand’ goals and also a detailed, documented terms of reference, is also a rare, but desirable skill.
5/ Can you give me some examples where you have challenged the status quo?
Ask them for examples when they have challenged ideas, programs, and plans. A curious and challenging nature needs to be inherent in their makeup. Accepting existing processes and practices does not show the ‘restless’ nature of a true BA.
6/ What techniques have you used to discover and capture opportunities across the business?
In this question, you are probing to find out what tools they used to uncover opportunities for improvement across the business. A great response might be that they have organised discovery and facilitation sessions with key line of business owners and used white-board techniques to brainstorm, stimulate and capture the key areas to evaluate.
7/ Tell me about how you handle cultural sensitivity within the role.
Global projects have always required cultural sensitivity to get the best out of a team. Now more than ever, we live in a more multicultural and inclusive society and an appreciation of culture has never been more important. Ask for specific examples of how different cultures and styles have been accommodated.
8/ How do you measure success?
This is a good question as it relates to implementation, measurement and ROI. If the deployment or project manager is a separate role, asking how the roles differ and how they work together will give good insights into how the BA will handle the role. It is critical for ROI to be included here and how the reporting of progress and metrics is gathered and managed. Asking for specific examples will illustrate the types of initiates they have worked on, how they defined the goals and how they measured the business benefits gained.
9/ What techniques do you use to communicate to the team?
Once the ‘As is’ and the ‘To be’ states have been defined, it is important to communicate to the wider group to inform them and get buy-in. Ask how the BA would typically communicate this. Internal emails? Inclusion in the monthly ‘Townhall’? use the existing monthly marketing newsletter? stand-ups? regular monthly update webinars? Communication is important - you are looking for innovative but practical methods. If they also talk about defining who you need to communicate to, what are their needs, and the frequency of different communication at different levels - you know the candidate is offering the next level of insight into the role.
10/ How do think the BA role has changed due to working remotely?
We have all moved to remote working during Covid-19, ask for how the BA role has changed to remote working. What has been easier? What has been a little more tricky? What areas are important to focus on and how have they achieved success when working virtually?
We hope these questions will help you to get your best BA ever!