11 Essential Business Analyst Interview Questions *

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How do you gather and analyze data to produce business insights?

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Identifying business insights effectively can help teams more effectively understand the challenges that they may be facing and come up with even better solutions to overcome them. A business analyst will employ various tools and techniques to obtain these business insights:

  • Conducting interviews with clients, stakeholders, and end users;
  • Conducting surveys about product usage or market needs;
  • Consulting with industry experts;
  • Performing qualitative analysis with existing data;
  • Creating A/B tests, MVPs, prototypes, pilots, and trial projects;
  • Reading up on the latest industry news and trends;
  • Analyzing competitor solutions.
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What was your most successful project as a business analyst?

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For this question, you’re looking for the qualitative and quantitative measures that can identify a strong business analyst.

  • What changes did they have an impact on?
  • Over what period?
  • What was the value that they achieved?

A professional business analyst will be able to simplify their achievements in terms that relate to business results.

For example, even for highly complex processes, they should be able to convert the results into business value. Here are a few examples:

“Our team implemented a new order processing system, reducing the time to revenue by 60% and allowing us to reduce sales costs by 20%.”

“My analysis of the new target market has found a business opportunity which generated 30% of the companies revenue the following year.”

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How do you define market opportunity in a business plan?

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An experienced business analyst will be able to describe market opportunity in various ways, including the total dollar value available in the market. This is often referred to as the total addressable market (TAM).

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) represents the speed at which the market is growing, and would often also be referenced when talking about market size. A business analyst should also be able to describe the portion of that whole value that would be available to them, which represents their potential market share. This value might be represented as a percentage of the market, or in a dollar value.

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In the context of business analysis relating to the prioritization of product features, how would you describe a “low-hanging fruit”?

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In the context of product management business analysis, low-hanging fruit often refers to a quick win.

This might refer to a target market that is in dire need of a solution, or maybe a feature/functionality added on that to drive exponential revenues. For example, this could be adding a new integration to the old database system allowing business users to see their data in the analytics platform.

Explore how a business analyst might be attuned to market changes that would suddenly create an opportunity for dramatic changes in results. Ask them if they have ever advocated a change in direction or prioritization based on the analysis they provided for the product manager.

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What are the important elements of competitive analysis?

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An experienced business analyst should break a competitive analysis question into four steps.

  • Defining your competitors and their key strengths and weaknesses
  • Defining your competitive advantage and your weaknesses
  • Carrying out a feature-by-feature comparison between you and competitors
  • Determining where the market is moving and where can you add value.

Listen for your business analyst candidate to have an understanding of both the business and technical aspects of competitive analysis.

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What experience do you have with various business intelligence and product management tools?

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An experienced BA would mention at least one of the following project management tools such as Trello, Jira, Asana, Wrike, or MS Project.

They may also mention Excel and how they used it for data analysis. Tools such as Tableau, Qlik Sense, Microsoft Power BI, etc., are often used for data visualization and presentation.

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How do you monitor performance and success?

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A professional business analyst will have a strong set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that they will monitor in order to understand the position, growth, progress, and success of a product or project. Listen for a solid selection of the KPIs.

Look for an action plan that would include a common sense root cause analysis and some creative thinking to solve for an unexpected KPI performance.

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A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a document showing a breakdown of a project into smaller components and the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team. It breaks down large tasks into smaller ones and displays them in hierarchical levels. A WBS is normally created at the start of a project before other, more detailed project plans and task planning are created.

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What is the role of a business analyst according to Scrum?

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This is a trick question. Scrum does not define the role of a business analyst, yet sometimes they are part of a Scrum team. In some cases, a business analyst is the de facto product owner that represents the client perspective in the team. In other cases, the business analyst works more closely with the team to provide domain expertise to the cross-functional team. This can result in the business analyst researching, detailing, and creating wireframes for user stories provided by the product owner. Lastly, the business analyst can support the product owner by doing research on potential user stories or epics to support the prioritization process.

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How would you steer a stakeholder away from their original ideas to something more suitable to their challenge?

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Firstly, a business analyst should not assume that a stakeholder’s suggestions are inherently wrong. Rather they are assumptions that need to be validated or disqualified. A good business analyst would delve deeper into the underlying challenge that a stakeholder is facing. This can be done by doing further interviewing the stakeholder or end users that the solution to this challenge will affect. Moreover, data analysis should be employed when possible to measure the scope of the problem and the potential impact of suggested solutions. The qualitative and quantitative analysis will provide evidence and support if an alternative course of action is needed to solve the challenge. Most importantly, a business analyst should not present the stakeholder’s suggestions as wrong or not suitable. They should simply provide their suggested course of action as a more desired alternative with better potential results.

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Provide examples of how you used data analysis to support your decision-making process.

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A good business analyst should be able to articulate that making decisions based on guesses and assumptions only is not good practice. Data analysis should be used when possible, to research underlying reasons for a problem or to estimate the potential impact of a suggested solution. You can also follow up by asking the candidate to provide examples of situations where data was not available and how that affected the decision-making process. A balanced view of using data and more qualitative sources of information in tandem is necessary in a world of imperfect information.

* There is more to interviewing than tricky technical questions, so these are intended merely as a guide. Not every “A” candidate worth hiring will be able to answer them all, nor does answering them all guarantee an “A” candidate. At the end of the day, hiring remains an art, a science — and a lot of work.
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Looking for Business Analyst experts? Check out Toptal’s Business Analysts.
Laurie Harvey
United States
Laurie is a leader skilled in turning ideas into unprecedented results with differentiable value. She leverages her two decades of experience to create multi-million-dollar businesses with a focus on high-impact offerings. She has worked with consumer and enterprise offerings — exceeding customer expectations, solving their most pressing challenges, and fulfilling new market opportunities.
Sean Everett
United States
With clients including Walmart, AT&T, ESPN, Goldman Sachs, Verizon, Cisco, Discovery, RadioShack, National City, HPE, Fujitsu, and many others, Sean has nearly 20 years of experience working with startups to F1000 companies on products that include AR, AI, video, blockchain, social, gamification, messaging, and eCommerce for consumers, enterprises, and industrials. He also has an MBA from Chicago Booth and a BS in math and actuarial science.