Interview Questions for Business Analysts and Systems Analysts

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What do you do when asked the wrong interview question?

Posted by Chris Adams

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Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, General


This isn’t a question that an interviewer will ask you.  But rather it’s one you need to know how to answer.  This is intended to be a thought provoking question.  Have you ever noticed how interviewers can often ask the wrong questions? Or, sometimes they ask a question in such a way that they dramatically increase the likelihood of the candidate providing a less than ideal answer? The short answer to this problem is to recast the question and provide the necessary context for you to communicate what the interviewer should actually know about you, rather than the specific question they have asked.

Here’s one such example of a very common question asked during Business Analysis or Product Management interviews and how you can come out looking like a star.

Interviewer: Choose a common application that you use every day and tell me what features you would add or change.

Let’s use a fairly common application for our example: Instagram (please note, the features offered by the Instagram app may have been different when this was written). There are a lot of unseen pitfalls lurking in this question.  The most common response is for the candidate to jump right in, consider their own usage of the application including common pain points, and then address these pain points.  Are your ideas that amazing?  Is this going to impress the interviewer?  Will it tell the interviewer anything worthwhile?

When preparing for an interview, you should identify these problem questions ahead of time and be prepared to take control of the the direction of the interview when they come up.

In reality, your pain points might be very different from those of the interviewer.  While the interviewer might like your feature suggestions, they also may not.  But is this really what the interviewer was hoping to learn from their question?  Here’s one way you could answer this question using a Product Manager example.

“Let’s consider Instragram. I have some ideas about the features I would change or add, but I feel these would be best understood with a little more context. 

The role of product manager varies a bit from company to company.  But within most organizations a product manager’s role has some common aspects. 

Above all, it’s the role of the product manager to ensure the application creates value for it’s users and for the business.  User value is created by fulfilling the needs (requirements) of the various user groups.  So before jumping to features, we need to focus user groups and requirements. Business value, for Instagram, is created by properly monetizing the application given the dynamics of the marketplace.  Since products/application don’t exist in isolation, this means doing market analysis, understanding the market conditions that affect the applications price elasticity and generating a proper pricing strategy, which for apps can be at the application level, feature level, on a tiered subscription basis, etc.

A product manager also needs to consider how features fit into a multi-generational product plan.  Not all feature can or should be delivered at once. Understanding how a feature delivers value over the long-term is key.

In the case of Instagram, there are at least two main user groups.  The casual user who creates personal posts, and the business user that posts to promote a brand or message.  One clear need of the business user is to be able to create a post with a hyperlink to allow users to redeem an offer or just redirect them to a platform wear a goal or conversion can take place.  Instagram currently doesn’t support hyperlinks in posts.  This could easily be a paid feature.  By placing the sale close to the user need the feature demonstrates its value.  The business user has a requirement to place a hyperlink in a post.  A business user will gladly pay to be able to add a hyperlink to the post at the time of creation.  Then the product manager just needs to consider whether the feature is provided for a flat fee or whether the business user should pay based on reach, such as the number of likes a post gets.  Pricing based on reach has the ability to generate far more income for Instagram.  And if priced properly still demonstrates clear value to the business user.”

Obviously you would want to comment on several additional features, but I’ll leave that for you to think about.

By answering the question in this way you have given the interviewer much more context and information about your knowledge of, and experience in, a product manager role.  You’ve spoken more to the process of how you would identify customer needs that ultimately lead to accurate identification of features and monetization of the application.  And through the conversation you’ve likely guided the interviewer to the same end conclusion about what features to change or add.

Chris Adams
LinkedIn Profile



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Do your homework prior to the business analysis interview!

Having an idea of the type of questions you might be asked during a business analyst interview will not only give you confidence but it will also help you to formulate your thoughts and to be better prepared to answer the interview questions you might get during the interview for a business analyst position.  Of course, just memorizing a list of business analyst interview questions will not make you a great business analyst but it might just help you get that next job.



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