Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to be part of the recruiting process for hiring Business Analysts for a few companies I’ve worked for. Most recently, I have spent the last 3-4 weeks up to my eyebrows trying to find senior BAs to join our quickly growing team. Having screened what feels like hundreds of resumes, and conducting the initial phone screen for dozens of candidates, I’ve gotten better at quickly determining whether or not to pass the candidate through the for additional interviews.
So, here are my top 5 tips for making it past the initial phone screen.
*I should start off by saying – all of the below assumes that you actually have the right qualifications for the job. No matter how well you address the following, you will not make it through if you don’t have the experience a company is looking for.
1. Know What the Company Does
I’ve been amazed at how many candidates I’ve interviewed that barely know what we do, other than what the recruiter may have told them. The really sad part is that it is SO easy to do.
- Check out the company website. Read their press releases. Learn about their product. You don’t have to be an expert, but at least be aware what industry the company is in.
- Google search the company. In addition to the company’s own site, see who else is talking about them.
- See if you know anyone who has worked with/for them. LinkedIn is a great way to do this!
2. Fine-Tune Your Resume
Your resume is your very first deliverable to a prospective employer. It is a reflection of your written communication skills, and we all know that business analysts tend to write a lot.
- Please check for spelling and grammar.
- Tell me what I need to know without drowning me in words. Be clear, concise and specific. If I have to go to page 2 to see your actual skills, I’m probably not going to waste my time; and I’m going to be deathly afraid of what your requirements and specification documents will look like.
- Customize your resume to the job you’re applying for. Every company defines the role of the BA slightly differently. If you have seen a job description, tailor your resume to the job description as best as you can. This takes extra time – but if the job description is the requirements…could you trace your experience back to match up with whether you meet those requirements or not?
3. Build a Relationship
Phone screens can typically last 15 minutes to an hour depending on who you’re talking to and whether this is your first, second, or third interview. But a good business analyst needs to quickly build relationships with their clients. If you can’t build a rapport with the interviewer in the first 5 minutes, how are you going to win over the client I need to put you in front of? Don’t overdo it. I mean, be yourself. But if all I can get out of you is one-word answers, and you don’t come across as “likeable”, you probably won’t make it through.
4. Be Prepared to Give Specifics
Be prepared to give very specific answers to the questions being asked of you, especially when they are related to the tasks that you’re attempting to prove you are knowledgeable about. If you can’t explain the information that will go in the Requirements or Specification documents to me, how are you going to help your stakeholders understand the information you’re trying to get. And how do I REALLY know that you know your stuff. Just because I am also a BA, please don’t give me answers like “you know”. Yes, I do know. But I’m trying to figure if YOU do.
5. Have Questions
Business analysts, by their nature, are inquisitive. It’s our job to ask questions and want to know more, right? So, please have questions prepared to ask during the interview. I always allot time for questions at the end – and tell candidates that right up front – so when I get to the end and I ask “What questions do you have?”, please have some. Why do I care?
I want to know that you care about your next job. How do you know if this is the right fit for you if you’re not asking any questions to better understand it. Ask me about the work environment. Ask me about the challenges. Ask me what my favorite part is. Just please ask me something that lets me know you’ve been around the block a little and you know what you like and don’t like, and that you’re looking for a place that’s a right fit for you.
I also want to know that you don’t just take the information handed to you, and that you can think of questions on your feet. You’re going to need to do this a lot in your day-to-day job, and if you took all the information as it was presented to you and didn’t ask any clarifying questions, how will you know you have the whole picture.
What else would you recommend to your fellow BA’s on the job-hunt? Have you peer-interviewed BAs? What do you look for?
I’m also working on a post about the Top 10 Things Never to Say (or Do) to the Person Interviewing You. I’m honestly amazed at some of the things I’ve heard. I’m trying to get to a place where it can be some comic relief before I share though – right now I’m too close to the pain and disappointment of hearing them that it would just come out as a rant. LOL