When looking for your next position as a business analyst, you’ll naturally seek something challenging and rewarding that also supports your professional growth.
This isn’t always straightforward.
Business analyst job ads are often written by people that don’t understand the BA world – recruitment agents, HR teams, or managers with limited experience of business analysis. Separating good roles from bad can require some analysis and reading between the lines.
Here are ten useful signs you can look out for when considering a vacancy.
1. The customer is in the foreground
It’s a good sign if the job description talks at length about the customer and how the organisation serves them. It’s an indicator that business analysis activity will be seen through the lens of customer value.
This is likely to be a key driver in the prioritisation of the change portfolio – and therefore the initiatives you are tasked to work on. Knowing your work is delivering better outcomes for customers will ensure your efforts feel truly worthwhile.
2. The job description emphasises stakeholder engagement
Some job descriptions seem to be over-reliant on extensive domain experience or use of some specific software. Prior knowledge certainly helps you ask the right questions, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for building strong stakeholder relationships to reach the answers you need.
Look for vacancies that describe who you’ll be working with and that promise good access to them.
3. The role sits in the right part of the organisation
There are many service delivery models for business analysis. You’ll see roles within IT departments, in dedicated change teams, and federated across an organisation.
There are challenges with every model. You want to see that the organisation has addressed these topics:
- How do BAs stay up to date with technology trends?
- How do BAs get enough exposure to business operations?
- Can BAs share knowledge effectively?
- How are practices standardised?
- Is the role overseen by someone who understands business analysis?
Wherever the role sits, it should be clear you’ll be in a good place to perform the full range of BA activities, with support and best practice guidance available.
4. It’s about more than just technology
Organisations that simply use business analysts for requirements engineering are wasting potential. BAs bring a wide range of capabilities supporting pre-project activities and strategic analysis.
When examining the list of key responsibilities, check to make sure it goes beyond use case descriptions, SCRUM, data and systems.
The best roles will have you involved in defining problems and evaluating solutions of all kinds.
5. It’s clear how you fit with other roles
It should be clear how you’ll work with other change roles such as project managers, product owners, developers and sponsors. Look for interactions and hand-offs with other roles.
Agile software development is a particular minefield for BA roles. Many organisations use hybrid project and development methodologies, and the involvement of a business analyst isn’t always well defined.
A good job description will be really clear about your responsibilities and accountabilities.
6. Somebody will care how well you’re doing
You want to be sure that the organisation knows what success in a BA role looks like, and that someone who really understands business analysis will be reviewing your performance. Look for any clues around how objectives are set or who will be conducting appraisals.
It’s vital you know how you’re doing in your job, and it’s also great for your self-esteem if your employer recognises your performance.
7. There’s a real commitment to your professional development
This might be the ideal job for you today, but in a couple of years, you’ll want to have grown your skills and be dealing with new challenges.
Look for information about how your professional development as a BA will be supported. This could include:
- Will training be available?
- Is there someone who can mentor you?
- Is time made available for learning?
- Is there a defined career path?
The best organisations will tell you how they’ll support your development.
8. No random additional duties
Job ads for BA roles are frequently littered with requests for competencies that have little to do with being a business analyst. You could find yourself providing system support, compiling reports, or training new starters. Time spent doing these is time not doing business analysis.
BAs already come armed with many skills – look for roles that focus on letting you use them!
9. The salary reflects your value
The title “business analyst” can cover roles across a huge salary range, so you want to be clear the role pays an appropriate amount for what you bring and for the market you’re in. Some adverts are quite coy about what’s on offer, which can inevitably lead to time being wasted.
Money cannot buy happiness - but knowing your employer values its people and sees the worth in good business analysis can make a huge difference to how you feel in a job.
10. The organisation seeks to improve its BA practices
Any organisation that believes it has nothing to learn is both kidding itself and missing out!
Look for evidence that the organisation is keen to learn from mistakes and build on successes, and that you’ll be given a voice and platform for feedback and ideas.
An improvement mindset also suggests the organisation’s wider culture is likely to be more open and supportive.
When exploring a potential vacancy, it’s important to look at the whole picture. Job ads for even the best roles may not tick every box, so don’t let a poor choice of words or an accidental omission by a recruiter put you off straight away.
Instead, ask questions – both of yourself and of the recruiter. Establish your own priorities and boundaries to determine what’s a deal-breaker and what you can live without.
Understanding what you value most means you’ll be more likely to find an employer whose values match your own, and much happier as a result!