According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 100,000 new management analysts are entering the workforce between 2014 and 2024. Business and management analysts provide critical consulting support and services to businesses in every industry. However, hiring the right business analyst is difficult because there are so many different people calling themselves legitimate and experienced business consultants. Here is what you should specifically look for when screening and interviewing business analysts.
Competent business analysts will all share the same core competencies. First, they will have strong analytical skills that allow them to quickly assess and deconstruct business problems into logical components involving people, processes and equipment. The true mark of an expert business analyst is that they are able to concisely cut through the excuses and histories to get right to the real heart of business problems. The ideal business analyst will be able to naturally model and diagram abstract concepts, such as a production workflow, to get holistic views of the overall problem and find applicable solutions.
Second, business analysts will need strong technical knowledge and business acumen in their target field or industry. When HR departments screen candidates, such knowledge should be a mandatory requirement of the recruiting process. The best way to test industry and business knowledge is to give job candidates case scenarios that are similar to internal problems. As the business analyst verbally explores the circumstances, they should demonstrate their analytical skills and their experiential knowledge. Third, business analysts will need strong communication skills that go beyond asking questions, listening carefully and identifying misunderstandings. Instead, they must be confident and comfortable dealing with presentations, negotiations and conflict resolutions.
The Right Skills
The ideal business analyst will also have the right combination of skills that combine the best of creative and critical thinking as well as left-brain and right-brain processing. For example, business analysts need the logic and the objectivity of a scientist, but the intuitiveness and interpersonal skills of a business professional. The actual skills will depend on the industry, but all business analysts should be diplomatic enough to ask hard questions and curious enough to gently dig further. Through this process, business analysts will gather business information, understand internal processes and identify vulnerabilities.
Business analysts must be able to conceptually compare contrasting facts in order to accurately analyze information and determine what must sequentially be done to reach goals. All of this will require strong planning, organizational and project management skills. This will require the ability to build trustworthy and productive work relationships with employees and management. Being able to troubleshoot problems without blaming others and quickly recommending solutions is essential. Business analysts must be masters of strategic planning, change management and brand architecture. Finally, they must excel at promoting employee buy-in and engagement during meetings.
The Right Questions to Ask
The first question to ask a potential business analyst is regarding their specialty because the answer should reveal their areas of expertise that will provide the experience and knowledge needed to achieve business objectives. Any business analyst who cannot precisely articulate their specialty with examples of past business achievements should not be hired. This is because talented business consultants know how to translate the value they contribute in ways that increase the overall ROI. The ideal business analyst will share real client examples of how the ROI was defined and achieved.
Next, ask what kind of support they provide before, during and after the project is completed. This is important because the best business analysts will demonstrate how they will transfer knowledge and competencies to employees. Alternatively, ask about their reputation and how they are viewed within their industry and by their clients. This will provide great references, but be sure to ask about clients who weren’t too happy or projects that didn’t work out as expected. This should illustrate their maturity as well as their problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Business analysts who claim to have 100 percent satisfied clients should be cautiously considered.
As a final note, business analysts should be comfortable with ambiguous situations, unexpected changes and impartial decision making.
Dennis Hung is an entrepreneur and product analyst specializing in mobile technology, IoT and healthcare.