BI For Beginners

12 business analyst interview questions and how to answer them

During my time building the business performance team at my previous company I had the pleasure of interviewing dozens of business analysts. This experience help me draft a list of interview questions which helped me find world-class analysts for my team.

In my career I've completed 100+ face-to-face interviews for a wide range of roles but the majority of these interviews were with business analysts looking to join my team.

In this post I'm going to share with you my favorite business analyst interview questions and how I'd hope the candidates would answer them.

If you're currently hiring a business analyst then make sure you check out my posts, When Should Your Company Start A Business Intelligence Team and The complete guide to hiring your first business analyst.

A good interview question is designed to test one specific thing. One of the best ways to impress interviewers is to understand the purpose of the question they are asking and then focus on addressing it. In each of the questions below I'll explain the purpose of the question and how you should answer it.

Business analyst interview questions

Interview Question #1 - What do you think about our business / product / website?

As a hiring manager I only wanted to work with people that were passionate about the business and the mission. I also only wanted to work with people that went the extra mile and showed that they were hungry. This question's goal is to test if the candidate spent any time researching the company he or she is applying to. Most interviewees I interviewed hadn't even visited my company's website which was always shocking to me.

If the candidate has little or nothing to say to this question then it may indicate that the candidate is just treating this interview as just another interview.

How to answer this question: Firstly you should do as much homework as you can on the company you are interviewing for. You need to understand that you are competing against the market so you want to stand out. Visit the website, sign up to the service, even contact support. Go on LinkedIn and stroll through the positions in the company. Try and get a sense of the make up of the company. Look at the list of open positions to understand where the company is looking to scale.

You want to give your opinion and be brutally honest. If you think the website needs work then say so. You aren't being hired for your looks. share your opinions but make sure you have solid reasoning behind them so you can push back when you get challenged.

Don't over do it but the worst thing you can do is give a one sentence answer to this question.

Interview Question #2 - Tell me about an interesting project you worked on from beginning to end

The goal of this question is to understand if the candidate was given responsibility in their previous job and actually led projects. Knowing if the analyst worked on complex, company-level projects says a lot about them. The question tests the strength of the analyst and their ability to communicate details to someone who wasn't involved in the project, this on its' own is an important skill to test for.

How to answer this question: If you get asked this question in an interview the best way to approach it is to take 20 seconds to think about it. Once you've got a good example then start by explaining the need / problem / issue that you were tasked with solving. Explain why this was a priority to the company and which manager requested the project.

The next thing you should do is walk the interviewer through your process. Stick to the high-level but include details like who was involved, how long it took you to finish it and how it impacted the company.

You might have a good example which was never used. Go a head and use that example if it makes you shine.

Interview Question #3 - Why are you / did you leave your company?

The goal of this question is to understand the company or personal dynamics which made you leave your previous employer. As a hiring manager I loved this question because it puts the candidate on the spot and you can often get some great insights from this question.

I could often tell if the candidate made up a generic answer to this question and that would raise a flag for me.

How to answer this question: This is a tricky question because you may be bitter towards your previous employer. The last thing you want to do is rant on how they screwed you over. You want to be honest but be smart about it. Avoid bad mouthing any specific individuals.

Some of the common responses that I would hear include:

  • The company downsized and my team and I were cut.
  • I didn't get along with my manager because of X.
  • The company wasn't going anywhere and I felt I wasn't developing.
  • I didn't agree with company policies X and Y.
  • I felt my work wasn't being appreciated.

Interview Question #4 - Do you have experience with tool X?

The goal of this question is quite straight forward. The hiring manager needs to understand how much training will be needed to help the candidate take advantage of the tools the team uses.

How to answer this question: If you paid attention to the job description you should have a decent idea of the main tools that the team uses. More often than not the main tools will be listed in the job description. If the main tools aren't listed in the job description then you should try and find out during the phone interview.

If you have some experience with web analytics you could even go the extra mile and check the resources section in Chrome's Inspect Tool. Below is a screenshot of the resources section in the Inspect tool for TypeForm's website. If I was interviewing with TypeForm I could know a head of time that they use Segment and Google Analytics.

How to find which analytics tools companies are using?

Let's now address the situation where you don't actually have experience with the main tools.

In this situation you should ask the recruiter during the phone interview if not having experience with that tool is a deal breaker. Mention you have experience with a direct competitor, if this is the actual case, and that you are a quick learner. This will help get you around this issue.

During the interview be honest and tell the interviewer that you don't have experience with the tool but a quick learner and that you have experience with tools A, B, C and D. This will help to lower the risk in hiring you because it's clear that you're capable of filling in the knowledge gaps.

If you do actually have experience with the tool then spend 2 minutes explaining why you like it, how you used it, and some of its' shortcomings. Don't over do it.

Interview Question #5 - Would you like to be a team leader / manager in the future?

One of the toughest parts about being a manager is to find a way to keep employees motivated. Some employees are very ambitious and want to climb the corporate ladder as aggressively as possible. Some employees are happy being where they are as long as they are around good people and doing interesting work.

This question is to help gauge the ambitions of the candidate and help the hiring manager understand if he will need to make certain moves in the future to keep this potential hire happy.

How to answer this question: If you have the desire to lead a team in the future then the best way to answer this question is to say something on the lines of "Yes, I'd love to manage my own team in the future but right now I'm looking to learn and grow by being in a good environment. This includes being part of a great company and surrounded by people I can learn from."

This response communicates your ambition (ambition is a good trait) but doesn't hold a gun to the managers head.

Interview Question #6 - Assume you joined the company tomorrow, which areas of the business or data silos would you check first, if I asked you to find the one insight which could have the biggest impact on the business.

This question is one of my favorites because it tests a wide range of things from the analysts experience with businesses similar to mine, to their logical reasoning skills.

How to answer this question: I'll be honest, this is a tough question, especially if you're trying to get experience with a new type of business. If you're fortunate enough to have had experience in the same type of organization then you should be much more likely to be able to give a solid answer. It is important to know that the way you approach the question is way more important than the answer.

Take your time and think it through out loud. The interviewer wants to understand how you think through the question. The biggest tip I can give you is to put yourself in the shoes of the CEO. Ask yourself, where is the company in it's life cycle and what is the main focus of the organization currently?

If this is a very early stage company than maybe the focus is on getting to product-market fit and therefore the focus of the company will be on building a great product and in providing value to users. If this is the case then I'd dive into the core funnel of the product and determine if a) we are measuring everything that is needed and b) where the funnel is leaking.

If the company is more mature I'd want to understand sales's numbers and other high-level KPIs like user growth, lead gen growth, average sales amount, retention and NPS.

Another big tip would be to try and work out the "machine" that this business is trying to build and then focus on the pieces of the machine that are mission critical. In a typical B2B SaaS business this would be lead gen, sales, and retention.

Interview Question #7 - Do you have any questions for me?

A good hiring manager will leave some time towards the end of the interview for the candidate to ask questions.

How to answer this question: If the interviewer has done a good job and shared with you a lot of info on the company, role, team and responsibilities, and you've paid attention, then you should have one or two questions to ask the interviewer.

Don't feel that you have to ask a question if this question comes up but if it does and you do have questions then use the opportunity. Depending on the interview process you may receive an offer the very next day and you'll want to think through the opportunity. Without fully understanding the role and responsibilities you may be stuck and struggle to make a decision. If you find yourself in this position then try and get someone on the phone so you can ask your questions.

Some smart questions to consider asking if the opportunity arises:

  • What are the plans for the team in the short and long term?
  • Which departments does the team interact with the most?
  • What's the biggest challenge for the company right now?
  • I noticed you guys did X, have you considered doing Y?

Interview Question #8 - Design a dashboard that would contain only 5 widgets but would be powerful enough to make major decisions on the future of the company.

I used this question with all the analysts that impressed in during the conversation phase of the interview. I'd give them a piece of paper and ask them to draw a dashboard with only 5 widgets. I told them that the dashboard was for the CEO and he would need to be able to understand the trajectory of the company within a minute of looking at the dashboard.

How to answer this question: The key with this question is to do your homework and to listen closely during the interview. By this stage you should understand the type and main departments of the company. If you are making a horizontal move in your career and have never worked for a company like the one you are interviewing for then make sure you research the company thoroughly before the interview.

In a typical B2B SaaS company the main drivers of the business are marketing (lead gen in particular), sales and retention. The KPIs you should cover should be lead gen, new business, recurring revenue, and churn. Others to consider would be traffic (top of funnel), average sales size, upselling rate,NPS and "wow" moment rate.

Interview Question #9 - Where do you see yourself in the company in 12 / 24 months from now?

The goal of this question is to see if the interviewee has actually thought about their career and what they hope to achieve in the near term.

How to answer this question: This is one of those questions you don't want to give a poor reply. Come prepared with a solid answer to this question so it just rolls off your tongue. If you're a strong candidate you should have a good idea where you want to be in the next year or 2.

If you're making a big change in your career then be honest about that. I'd say something on the lines of "my personal goals over the next 12 months are to join a company which will help me grow. Since this is quite a big change for me I first want to get established and learn as much as I can before deciding which direction to take".

If you have a good idea of where you want to be in the future then be open about it but don't be surprised if you get some push back. You might indicate that you hope to be leading a team within a year and the manager might tell you straight that the chances are low or that he plans to promote someone else to team lead. Don't get discouraged because things change all the time and that potential team lead might jump ship all of a sudden, leaving a gap that, if you play your cards right, could be given to you.

Interview Question #10 - Describe your ideal work day.

I use to ask this question to hear how the interviewee envisioned their day. You'd be surprised how often I heard something like work on the product, or write data scripts in Python. These needless to say were not part of the job description.

As a hiring manager this question is great to weed out candidates that are looking to work on things you simply can't provide them.

How to answer this question: This can be a tricky question but in short you want to give a generic response related to the role. I'd say something like "my ideal day would involve working with the data and helping people get smarter in their areas of focus. I'd love to spend some time learning new areas of the business and building dashboards."

If there was something really lacking from your previous job which you really hope you can get from the new job then bring it up. If you get some push back then you know that the role isn't for you and you can move on.

Interview Question #11 - What's one practice in your previous company which was so positive you'd want to implement it at our company?

A good hiring manager doesn't just hire people to fill a gap. The goal should be to hire candidates that bring with them experience and knowledge that can help push everyone forward.

How to answer this question: This should be easy to answer. Just pick the one thing which worked really well in your previous organization in terms of process.

If nothing worked well at your previous company then say that but then recommend how you would of changed something specific which was broken. Mention that if the same issue exists at the new company that you'd implement this idea to solve it. If you're lucky the new company has the same issue and the manager likes the idea.

Interview Question #12 - Which tools / skills would you like to learn while working here?

It's a bit of a red flag if a candidate has no ambitions to learn anything new. The desire for mastery and passion are strongly connected. This question is great for understanding if the candidate wants to take their skills and knowledge to another level.

How to answer this question: Let me start by saying that if you don't have a tool or set of skills you want to develop then you're either very junior or probably in the wrong position.

I've got many years of experience with dozens of tools and technologies and I still have a long list of things I want to learn.

If you're a passionate analyst and have a list of things you want to learn, pick 2 and mention those.

Python, dashboard design, more advanced statistics and "big data" were the most common answers I got to this question.

I hope you found my business analyst interview questions and answers helpful. If you have questions that I should add to my list, let me know in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.

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