how to: Do BA Interviews
First off, you got invited for an interview! Congratulation. You’re one step closer to your dream position/employer and you just have to be outstanding during the interview. That can’t be so hard to do? Or... can it?
As my way of helping out, I thought to arrange a few tips for you to "interview" better. Having sat on a recruitment panel for BAs, there were a few things I observed and learnt, which I feel could help in your future interviews. These are just suggestions- meaning, I don't expect you to agree with or follow them all. Diverse opinions are always welcomed. I have some answers at the end of this page, so read through.
Before we begin, I’d like to to differentiate between your ‘Story’ and your ‘Answer’. Your Story is the backdrop for your answer (in that, it allows you to describe the situation you were in), while your Answer is the -shockingly- answer to the question that you've been asked.
Below are my observations and suggestions.
You made it to the interview stage, so relax. This must mean something, you have to be good enough, otherwise you wouldn't have received the invite. Even if you don't get picked after the interview, focus on the interview experience. Experience it-- it's crucial to building confidence.
Pre-interview, think about three major projects/situations you must have experienced, that sound great and funny also. Introduce these to the Panellists during the interview, by using them as the containers of your answers.
If you've been given a Scenario, Embody. it. Digest it. Answer the questions based on the information in the Scenario ONLY. If you need to further buttress your point with your personal experience, that's ok. But, key is to answer the Question using the data in the scenario first.
Keep in mind that an interview is a conversation to find out if the company is the right fit for you and if you are for them. It's absolutely normal to have nerves but don't let them overrule the interview. Assess the company, just as they are assessing you.
If you are not prepared-- maybe, just maybe-- you should take a rain check. You should go into an interview cheerful, confident and energized. Also, no one would mock you for not attending the interview.
Interviewers want to see the best of you and they want to give you an opportunity to showcase this. They aren't just there to keep asking you questions until you run out of things to say. They are likely looking for certain answers, to award you more points- so relax.
Keep your introduction SHORT, please! (I also need to fix my intro, so I won't judge you). The essence of this question is not to get to know you (if they are a serious company, they already do). The question is to get you to relax and loosen up a bit (which is weird for me, because I don't like speaking about myself, so I get tense doing so!)
Speak slowly (I need to learn to do this). You want them to hear your story. A lot of the time, most of what you intend to say is lost in communication because of how fast we speak. It makes you have to repeat yourself and that can bring on anxiety, which is not good during an interview.
Do NOT answer a question with "Yes" or "No" only. Include a succinct example after your "Yes" or "No". Otherwise, that would be the shortest interview ever!
No interviewee will win an award for the lengthiest answer. Be precise. Tell a short story of a situation that's loaded with your answer, then give the Panellists time to ask more probing questions. Panellists award loads of bonus points during Probing, because they are asking specific question for an answer they want to hear.
You are allowed to repeat situational examples to answer different questions. No one will score you low for having only one example (unless its a very experienced role).
You are allowed to ask for the question to be re-worded or repeated. Again, the Panelists want to give you every opportunity to win them over.
Don't shoot yourself in the leg by mentioning techniques that you don't know or have never used- lol. BAs love to learn (especially new techniques), so if you come up with this cool-named technique, and a Panellist (likely out of curiosity) asks you to explain the technique, and you fail to, you may disappoint one of the BAs there who may know the technique.
The Panellists do not need you to recommend a Solution to the Problem. They want you to communicate the techniques that you used to reach the solution, and NOT the solution itself.
Pretty obvious but the STAR method is really good. It helps you to tell a story and makes it easy for the Panellists to follow your story. Because of my cloggy brain, I start by saying:
"I was in a SITUATION where..." (put your remarkable story here)
"So the TASK was..." (put the question here)
"The ACTIONS that I took include..." (Put the answer here. Speak only about YOU)
"And as a RESULT..."
"The lesson I learned was..."
Please don't be too honest. Even if you haven't experienced the situation, answer hypothetically. We don't need to know that you haven't experienced it-- don't sell yourself short.
Forget about the myth of asking questions at the end. I seldom ask questions at the end of my interviews. You could ask one, but I think only bad employers mark you down, for not asking questions at the end.
You are allowed to have a note with examples of some of your great project situations. The interview is not to test your memory, it's to explore your experience. I'm not saying have ready answers. I'm saying have ready situations (scroll back to the top for the difference between the two).
When asked a question, pause for a minute to think about how to answer. The silence is allowed and you will never score low for thinking before reacting (I would certainly score interviewees that think before speaking because it shows the ability to assimilate before responding)-- You could take a sip of water to buy more time, if you like.
During the one-minute silence, think only about WHY they are asking that question. Don't think about the backstory first (because you have this written down or memorised), think about WHY they are asking the question. Think about what a BA should do when in that situation. Then phrase your backstory to reflect your answer.
Question: "Can you tell me a time when your stakeholders had differing opinions and what you did to resolve it."
***For starters, really, this question (or variances of it) comes up ALL the time! ***
Now ask yourself, why are they asking this? Its simple.
As a BA, you will manage people- and with humans, there will always be differing opinions (read conflict). No one is asking about your CATWOE skill, they are asking about your humanity and ability to use data to resolve the conflict, or your negotiation and prioritisation skills.
They want to hear about your ability to observe/notice the conflict, the fact that you reached out, your empathy, your documenting the two sides, verifying, validating and communicating the two-sides of the story, to gain consensus or facilitate negotiation.
If the question was about how you resolved conflict with a "stubborn" stakeholder, think about the above, and add how you sourced evidence (Business Objectives, Alignment, Company-wide data) to back your approach.
If you are asked about how you communicated with stakeholders, remember to enlighten the Panellists about your ability to group stakeholders into Business-people (high level information) and Technical-people (low level information).
If you are asked about how you managed stakeholders, RACI should not be your first response. You can't use RACI or Power-Interest when you haven't even Identified the stakeholders (lol!). Answer logically.
Oh and your stakeholders aren't only your Delivery Team or Multi-Disciplinary Team members (QAs, PMs, POs, Devs, etc). What about your users, vendors, partners, senior stakeholders? They are even more important.
I'll stop now. Good luck!