Tuesday, 13 December 2011 09:01

The One Question to Ask a Business Analyst Candidate

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FEATUREDec13thOne of the hardest things to do in the business analysis profession is find the right candidate for the right job. It is no mystery that in spite of how far we have come, no two business analysis jobs are alike. Recruiters and hiring managers seem to be able to get a sense of a business analyst’s hard skills. They can review their resume and ask direct questions regarding the knowledge and experience with techniques like use cases, user stories, context diagrams, etc. They can quiz them on the types of projects they have worked on and the different methodologies from waterfall to agile and everything in between. I know many companies that have BA candidates present requirements deliverables and have them perform some BA tasks as part of the interview process.

Even with a case study interview process, it is still difficult to get a sense of a candidate’s analytical thinking ability. Although it is difficult to determine in an interview, it is one of the skills that separate good BAs from the great BAs. I’m talking about the ones with the ability to think abstractly, then break down an abstract challenge or opportunity and turn it into a solution. In 2011, most companies can find people with the hard skills. The accepted practices used at many companies have been around long enough, so finding people with the necessary hard-skill experience is easy. What the BA does with the information elicited is the difficult part to judge. How do you know candidate one can help your team better analyze a situation than candidate two? I have the answer. You need to see how well the candidate can guess.

In a recent Time magazine article, Good Guess, Why we shouldn’t underestimate the value of estimating, the author Annie Murphy Paul made me realize I had a valid reason to make candidates take a guess during an interview. The premise of the article is that estimation is the foundation for more analytical thinking and crucial for people searching for jobs in the knowledge-based economy in which we are in.

With the ability to “just Google it,” many people, young and old, no longer take a guess or rarely estimate because many answers are at their fingertips. By not practicing with estimation, you start to lose the ability to think abstractly. In some ways, Google makes us more efficient, while in other ways it makes us lose the necessary skill to be an excellent BA.

Here is a question I ask to see how well a BA candidate can guess. How much revenue per day is made by the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority from cars passing through the Georgia 400 toll plaza? Depending on the answer, I can gauge an individual’s ability to think abstractly and analytically. If a candidate replies with, “Hold on, let me Google it,” I am not impressed. If they take a guess that goes something like, “There are almost 5 million people in the Atlanta area and half the people are adults. Of adults that can drive, 1.5 million own cars. Of the 1.5 million, a third probably live and work in an area that would require them to go through the toll. Of that .5 million, I’ll guess half or 250,000 go through the toll each day. The toll cost per day is $1.00, so they make $250,000 per day.” The actual answer after Googling it is closer to $60,000 per day, but who cares? What you should love about that answer is the thought process.

If you want to see if your BA candidates have the ability to think critically, keep them guessing. What great questions do you ask to determine which candidate to hire? Please share with the group below in the comments.

Abstractly yours,

Kupe

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Kupe Kupersmith

Kupe Kupersmith, President, B2T Training, possesses over 18 years of experience in the business analysis profession. He has served as the lead Business Analyst and Project Manager on projects in the energy, television, sports management and marketing industries. Kupe is a trained improv actor, a mentor for business analysis professionals, a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) and an IIBA Board Member. He is a big believer that we can work and learn while having fun. Kupe is a connector and has a goal in life to meet everyone!

Comments  

+2 # Dan Kasprowicz 2011-12-13 04:47
Great idea Kupe! This is something that has been missing out of the interview process in my own personal experience. I will put it to use and see what results I get. Thanks for sharing!
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+2 # Willem Dijkgraaf 2011-12-13 04:50
Hi Kupe, You got inspired by what at the university is called a Fermi Question, Fermi Problem? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_problem Nice article! Thank , Willem Norbert Dijkgraaf Inter Dual - business analysis consultancy http://www.interdual.com.br
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0 # K 2011-12-13 04:52
great article.... and gave me a good laugh. I hire, manage and coach a lot of BA's and fully agree with you. My last boss reset the bar in my mind for dumb blond with an MBA and she takes her laptop everywhere and googles everything. Her work product is an amalgamation of wikipedia and google cut and paste. I'm amazed people like this exist in the workforce. PS incase you are wondering I am also blonde so I'm allowed to make that remark. Cheers K
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+2 # Faisal 2012-06-12 18:02
I would like to take your opinion in career development. Would you please give me your email or any contact detail. I will be greatful if you do so. Thank you

Faisal Latif
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-7 # Concerned Employer 2013-01-07 17:00
Does anyone here know how to spell?
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+10 # beebs 2013-09-02 16:30
English probably is not his first language! Lets applaud the effort and the motivation.
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0 # arun 2013-12-24 04:31
absolutely i gree with you,
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0 # M 2014-07-22 18:46
Funny anecdote K. I'd love to get your advice on developing my career as a BA. What's the best way to reach you?
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0 # Jon B 2011-12-13 04:57
I have often asked interviewees to describe a complex project situation and how he or she handled it. But abstracting this to a question that they most likely did not prepare for, is a great idea! Get them away from their elevator speech.
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0 # Greg B 2011-12-13 05:13
The thought process you describe Kupe seems intuitive for analysts. It appears some BA's are so concerned about the accuracy of the details that they've become wired to not think in the abstract.
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+1 # Janis Sue Cerasani 2011-12-13 05:16
How many pingpong balls would it take to fill an empty 747? This was an actual question posed to my son in an interview a few years ago.
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+2 # C. Patterson 2011-12-13 05:22
One of my favorite "random" interview questions is based on estimating something that the candidates can't see. A professional hockey arena is in view of our interview rooms. The question is "how could you estimate the weight of water in the hockey rink in that arena"? Answefrs have involved melting all the ice, taking a core sample, and measuring the dimensions of the rink Only one candidate (of dozens) suggested using Google. The process, not the answer was the point.
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+1 # Keiran 2011-12-13 05:35
Great article, A common one I often use is how would you go about finding a needle in a hay stack? You get some very different answer varying from strand by strand checking to getting a metal detector.
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+1 # misuu 2014-05-18 15:14
if the goal is to find the needle then.... burn the stack :)
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0 # Vikas 2015-05-29 07:39
I will use magnet instead of burning that all.
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0 # Panda 2017-01-08 16:53
Quoting misuu:
if the goal is to find the needle then.... burn the stack :)


my first thought was whaat? then i thought i'd set fire to the entire thing, i thought it was crazy till i read your answer, yay! not crazy... or we both are.
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+14 # Leslie 2011-12-13 05:35
Wrong! (Just my opinion), But, as a business analyst here's my answers to the Toll, Tuners and Ice Rink questions. (Answers are the same for all 3 questions.) 1) Why do you need to know? 2) Who is the Subject Matter Expert and how to I contact them? 3) How long do I have and to what measure of quality do you want the answer? BTW: The piano tuner question has popped up before in Seattle. I wonder what company around here would ask such a thing during an interview!
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+3 # Cindy 2012-06-12 13:39
Leslie - by saying "just my opinion" before giving your opinion you put it down before you even start! I think your response was excellent. A good response for an interviewee under pressure, and for a BA in a job situation.
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0 # B 2012-06-13 12:53
This sounds like a cop out and, as a BA manager, exactly the attitude I want to avoid hiring. "Just ask the SME" instead of attempting to use logic to resolve a problem...
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+3 # Leslie 2012-06-13 16:05
Maybe you should be hiring designers and developers, not BAs. If I'm interviewing someone for a job I want to see them exercise a thought process which helps them do the job of a BA, not someone else's.
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-1 # C_BA 2013-08-16 06:37
I really hope we will never meet in an interview
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+2 # misuu 2014-05-18 15:57
I don't think that this is the goal of the question... so I would say that you are wrong. Asking "why" is a legitimate BA question but.... your next question are telling me that you are using "the book" in order to make your job. For this situation and this topic it's not the case. I also consider that BA should also take responsibilitie s not only delegate the tasks to the Subject Matter Expert. I worked with SMEs that provided me wrong answers and I went back to them with available documentation.. . and they changed the "expertise". Please also consider that your approach will triple the required budget each and every time. If for any questions where you have the available documentation you go to the Subject Matter Expert...

Best regards,
Mihai
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+1 # Leslie 2011-12-13 05:36
Oops missed the ping pong ball question to which the answer is .. the same.
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+1 # Jon B 2011-12-13 06:04
PS - You cannot become a brain surgeon by Googling it.
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0 # boss 2016-06-15 08:53
there goes my career...
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+2 # DAve H 2011-12-13 06:08
I think it is a great question to ask just to hear the response. Working in a technical field, I have always been amazed at how otherwise intelligent people cannot make or be happy with an estimate given certain assumptions. I agree with Leslie on the quality of info...what level of certainty is required at this phase of a project? Preparing a preliminary business case requires creative thinking, assumption making and estimates. If you have to wait for the final 2% of information to make a decision, you're in the wrong business.
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0 # Christine Haggarty 2011-12-13 06:09
I often get similarly revealing results by asking candidates what it is about being a business analyst that they really like. It's a wide open question and as with your guesstimate question it's more likely to tell you a bit about how they think and what makes them tick. I've also had candidates that I immediately was uninterested in because of their answers.
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0 # Abdoulaye B 2011-12-13 08:42
Good question, but to make good guess you need good info. Statistics are based on guesses using the best available data. If a candidate doesn't know how much people live in the Atlanta metro area and how much they charge per car, this question make no sense when it comes to critical thinking. Good day sir.
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+1 # Cindy 2012-06-12 13:43
I think the suggestion implied here is to use the same idea in context with what the person would relate to. You would choose a city where you live, for example.
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+1 # Jonathan Babcock 2011-12-13 09:01
I like it, Kupe. I like to present a candidate with hypothetical examples of projects or business problems to draw out the thought process re: the analysis approach, and, more specifically, for witnessing first hand the types of questions the candidate will use to elicit useful information needed to get to the answer. I like to hear what types of questions the BA will ask and in what sequence. I'm thinking as I type, here, but I think to get the best of both, I might start out with a problem for which I already know the "right" solution/answer . I'd allow for "x" number of questions to inform the estimate, and then let them alone to estimate. If they were good questions, the estimate would be more solid.. That way you get a feel for their analytical/reas oning approach, and also a feel for maturity as an effective "elicitor" of requirements. Anyway, thanks for another thought-provoki ng article! Good stuff! Best, J B
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+1 # Mohsin 2011-12-13 13:28
A very thought provoking article. However, ain't estimation/ guess work is more related to project management profession in real life scenarios whereas business analysts are expected to provide information with high level of accuracy as business analyst's work is critical for decision making? Just a thought!
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0 # Eddie Ade 2011-12-13 15:04
A great thought provoking article. I agree that their is a relationship with logical reasoning and the elicitation for information job activities.
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0 # Mathanga Dissanayake 2011-12-13 16:59
This is a great way to evaluate a BA. I have never practise this before, let me try this new method and share the feedback. I like is very much. A BA can make or break a system, therefore it is very important that you have the right BA for the right job, I strongly believe in this theory. Thanks Kupe for sharing and it added more value in to me
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-6 # PollyPage 2011-12-13 17:03
.. i find critcial thinking and the ability to apply sceince and reason can be gleaned through the pastoral questioning ... if the candidate lets slip they are religious I have to doubt their ability to seek evidence and apply logic
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+1 # Really... 2013-11-25 13:47
trolls gotta troll
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+1 # Kal 2014-07-22 09:24
Quoting PollyPage:
.. i find critcial thinking and the ability to apply sceince and reason can be gleaned through the pastoral questioning ... if the candidate lets slip they are religious I have to doubt their ability to seek evidence and apply logic


Utter rubbish am afraid, sorry!
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+1 # Kupe 2011-12-13 20:16
Great comments...keep them coming! For those that don't necessarily agree with the type question or the answer I am looking for I ask you this. At the beginning of a project there is a large abstract idea or need that has to be broken down into a solution. How do you get started? Do you make assumptions, do you use your experience to make decision? Have you ever had to discuss solution feasibility without all the answers? What do you do? You make some assumptions, right? The project we work on are not exact science. I want to make sure candidates can think and make decisions without all the information.
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+1 # Thomas Swan 2011-12-13 22:04
Great article Kupe. Another variation on this is to ask for a range rather than a single number. In other words, the candidate should be, for example, 90% certain that their range includes the actual correct value. There was an interesting study not too long ago (sorry, can't find the link just now). In the study, you would ask someone 10 such questions, and you would expect them to be able to provide a range that includes the actual value 9 times out of 10. However, the results show accuracy rates of less than half of that. The study's conclusion: people are highly overconfident in their abilities to estimate accurately.
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+1 # Musa Duma 2012-05-02 01:52
Quoting Thomas Swan:
Great article Kupe. Another variation on this is to ask for a range rather than a single number. In other words, the candidate should be, for example, 90% certain that their range includes the actual correct value. There was an interesting study not too long ago (sorry, can't find the link just now). In the study, you would ask someone 10 such questions, and you would expect them to be able to provide a range that includes the actual value 9 times out of 10. However, the results show accuracy rates of less than half of that. The study's conclusion: people are highly overconfident in their abilities to estimate accurately.


I remember a few months back I was asked something very similar:

We are thinking of a number between 0 and 100. We want you to tell us what the number is.

These were the rules/ instructions:

1. You are allowed to ask a max of 5 questions, to which we can only respond yes or no;

2, We're not really interested in the exact number, but we want to assess if you are able to get very close to the number.

--After 3 questions the interviewers seemed to have assessed my thinking abilities because they asked me for the range, I gave them the range, and it would have been easy for me to get the number with 5 questions.

--It's only after the interview that they were testing my six sigma skills/ knowledge in a very practical way.

So great article Kupe!
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0 # Anurag Mishra 2011-12-13 22:58
When a candidate explains a topic that he/she has been involved in, ask him/her to provide an example, and then drill down the example; so better to drill down rather than concentrate on breadth. Ques. Take me through the last 2-3 projects you have been involved in and you would have done in different circumstances and out of box?
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+4 # Ambarish 2011-12-14 00:10
In an interview i was asked this question, Q - The dev team has missed a feature that is standard for the product. During testing it was identified and reported, do you think its requirement error or coding error? My reply - Will check the requirements doc and history of the documents. Will check all minutes of meeting if the feature was discussed. If its discussed and minuted and not available in signed off doc, then its requirement miss. and then the bomb answer - well you say its a standard feature, so, the dev team should be aware of it, if they have missed, then its a coding bug. SO - i explained how i do requirement, how do i trace requirements and how i analyze the defects attributed to requirement. Th e interviewer was impressed, stumped and no more questions.
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-1 # Abhishek 2011-12-14 00:31
Great article Kupe. I am a frequent visitor to your articles and blogs. A great way to evaluate a BA. I am sure most of them will think it is a weird question. I have interviewed several BAs and one of the question I used to ask was " What is the purpose of a Business Context Diagram"?. Not all of them were able to answer that.
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+1 # Cecilie Hoffman 2011-12-14 02:04
Once again, Kupe, you have hit a home run. We recently interviewed a business architect. I asked her if she knew anything about restaurant management (to make sure she knew nothing about the domain), and asked her how she would go about identifying the business pain points for a coffee shop owner who is dreaming of taking his business to the next level. I just wanted to listen to her thought process. She gave a response that told me she would make an excellent project manager, but not a good business analyst/archite ct.
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0 # Marat Avetisyan 2011-12-14 21:41
Kupe, your method of one questions is really a method of an exact and excellent question to be asked to a BA candidate. It is really important to be able to "guess" and make it form the right place because it is the start point that will condition and drive your further actions, planning and techniques. Re ally cool, need to employ this one question for interview. Than ks
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+1 # Mark Buckley 2011-12-15 05:27
I'm sorry. Please consider that this type of word scenario question is a poorly considered idea. I once had an interviewer ask me a question like this in the interview. After I gave him a similar break down to the 250,000.00 amount, the interviewer started to pick and be critical of my assumptions. He wanted me to change each assumption until I got down to the 60,000.00 amount. The whole process in the interview missed the point. He seemed to be a mensa expert and was trying to impress me with how smart he was.
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0 # Kate McGoey 2011-12-15 12:31
I was asked this question a looong time ago: There is a room with 3 lights. There are no windows in the room, only one door - again, no windows. There are 3 light switches outside the room, next to the door. Each switch operates one of the 3 lights. You may flip any and all of the switches, and once you've done that, you may open the door and evaluate the lights. Tell me which switch operates which light.... :-) Still my favorite question.
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+3 # Kupe 2011-12-15 22:21
@Mark Buckley - Is the question bad or was it the interviewer. Your scenario screams the interviewer was bad. I don't ask the question to then tell the person why they are wrong. I really don't care how close they are. I care about the thought process. @Kate - I would turn on two switches. Let the light bulbs heat up, then turn one off. Go in the room and feel the lights that are turned off and see which light bulb is warm. The one switch that is on, is the light that is still on. The light I turned on then off is the light bulb that is off, but warm. The one left is the one never turned on. Is that how you would do it?
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+1 # Brett 2011-12-16 00:31
This is the Microsoft way of interviewing... see the book "How Would You Move Mount Fuji" MS and lot's of financial firms ask these types of questions in the quest for quick and resourceful thinkers. The problem can arise when you end of with a team with very clever people who can't work well with each other, I've seen it many times.
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0 # Nishant 2011-12-17 16:53
Lovely point and i salute to the whole "Judging the thought process and GUESSing" thing.
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0 # G R 2011-12-20 03:06
This is very important question to ask BAs while interviewing and many interviewers forget to ask. This type of question reminds me the consulting based interviews.... where logic is supposed to be tested.
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0 # leslie 2011-12-21 10:57
@Kate: What types of bulbs are in the lights? Couldn't resist :-)
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0 # Robin 2012-01-03 03:53
I always used the peanut butter and jelly sandwich :)
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+1 # Kim 2012-01-03 10:39
We often ask our candidates how many gas stations there are in our city - for the same purpose - to see how they think through things. It also demonstrates how they ask questions - some will clarify whether the gas stations to count include member only and supermarkets, or only within the city limits proper, etc. This reveals to some degree their skill at eliciting requirements as well. Often the question will lead into, how would you figure it out if I needed an exact answer, not just an estimate - which also demonstrates the different strategies or methodologies they would use to research a topic. One candidate simply replied that it was a ridiculous question and they didn't need to respond - given that sometimes we are asked to evaluate things without knowing the whole purpose behind it, this answer demonstrated a level of insubordination that was clearly not acceptable for our environment.
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+1 # Louise 2012-01-03 10:46
As much as I like to have a BA with excellent analytical and abstract thinking skills, in the end it comes down to their ability to fit in a team, to speak to stakeholders and ask the right questions, all that has more to do with interpersonal/c ommunication versus analytical skills. Interviewing for a BA, I prefer to ask questions about how the candidate has lived experiences in their previous assignments, understanding their past and how they handled various situations, informs me on what their future behaviour will be and that is what I really need to know. This includes analytical skills, but these are not the priority.
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+1 # Chris 2012-01-17 20:11
There is a better answer to the revenue question that I would look for from an ideal candidate. "If I were to google it and can't find a reasonably dependable answer or enough information for me to be able to project one, I'd guess it's something like 1.5 million people with half owning cars and..." The reason why this is the better candidate is because they are exploring options for getting at the information. B usiness Analysts need to be both efficient and open as well as thorough, and the ability to use any and all tools to get to the end of job is better than resorting exclusively to internalized estimation based on assumptions. An answer that is both near-correct numerically *and* well thought out is better than an answer that is justified through a reasoning process without confirmed data.
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0 # Chris 2012-01-17 20:19
@Kate, I'd start the answer with a question of my own: "Do I know before starting the experiment whether the switches themselves are 'on' or 'off' according to their current position?" Par t of the testing process is seeing whether the individual tests assumptions as well as thinks creatively and logically. P.S. I'm not a big fan of gimmicky questions like this if you get just one of them, particularly if it's a common one that many people know about or could have read in an "how to be interviewed" reference somewhere. Better to throw a couple original ones at the person to see how they'd react.
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0 # kupe 2012-01-17 20:26
@Chris, I think youi are over thinking this one. Yes, looking for efficiency is great, but I don't want an answer that I only includes "I would google it". I know many questions can be answered via Google or at least get you close. The reason for the question is to see if they can analyze a situation. Can they take something abstract and start to break it down. If they can't do that, does it matter if they are effecient?
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0 # Chris 2012-01-17 21:17
Kupe, the article is titled "The ONE question to ask a BA candidate". If the theme is centred around a single question, doesn't it make sense to gain as much interpretive value from the answer to that single question as possible? I'm not sure how my approach of looking at every dimension of that single answer for useful candidate assessment data can be criticized when the associated question is flagged with that kind of importance.
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0 # Kupe 2012-01-17 23:06
@Chris, Thanks for joining the conversation. I did not intend to criticize. I agree with looking at every dimension. I wrote the post to highlight the fact that analytical thinking is not questioned enough in interviews and less about only asking one question.
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+2 # Chris 2012-01-18 01:20
@Kupe: No worries and thanks for that. I always think big when it comes to interviews because I find there's value in hiring people that can be flexible in the consulting business that I'm in, particularly in BA roles that act as a critical bridge to our customers. I agree that an analyst's ability to think analytically should be a fundamental skill if they're going to be placed in anything that requires an aspect of design and value-addition beyond simple grunt-work, or if they're a potential candidate for growth within the hiring company. One final point, though, to clarify my exception above: Just because a candidate might reply with a rapid "Here's the answer according to Google", it does NOT mean they're lacking the analytic perspective that adds a lot of value. It means they know how to use Google and they have a technique to rapidly retrieve a likely-to-be-ac curate answer. In some positions, this can be a desirable skill. In your little case study, there's nothing to stop the interviewer from following up on a "I googled it" response with with "Okay, say you were not online and had to deal with the question...". If their response to THAT is "Well, I'd try to get connected", then perhaps they're married too tightly to a single technique.
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0 # Kupe 2012-01-18 02:22
@Chris, Yes, there are no absolutes in questions an answers. But if I give a number of exceptions in my post you and others may not comment. It's much better to have people comment so we can all learn from each other. Thanks again.
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+1 # Ian Frazer 2012-01-24 11:21
Interesting comments / feedback. Another take on this is from the prospective BA's point of view. IF, repeat IF, the interview consists of one such question, or heaven forbid, a series of such, I would probably inform the interviewer that this is not the sort of firm I would work best with, get up, and leave. I have had so many HR-types pull this sort of BS during initial or even follow-up interviews, without getting into my skill set or experience, that I just can't stand it any more. These HR-types are just not serious or capable in their jobs. If the interviewer, during or after getting the skill sets, experience/expe rtise side of things down, asks one such questions, then they are serious and things can proceed.
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0 # Ben B 2012-01-31 06:02
I think the idea is right (asking questions to elicit how people think about unusual problems) but I take issue with the question. The question implies some knowledge of Atlanta. If you're talking to someone from, say Los Angeles, or Toronto, they may lack enough information to begin answering the question. I remember a similar question that my boss posed a candidate. It was "How many gas stations are in the U.S." And the point was to see not if they knew, but if they could reason their way to an answer (however inaccurate). Since everyone is familiar with gas stations, it's a reasonable question for just about anyone.
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0 # Kupe 2012-01-31 06:18
@Ben B. You can change the question. I live in Atlanta and many BAs I hired were from Atlanta. I'm glad you agreed with the line of questioning. That's what will help differentiate one BA from the others!
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0 # nagarjuan mn 2012-01-31 17:44
amazingly, I came across this kind of interview with one of the companies in india. i felt very happy after the interview process though i couldnt able to crack it, it was a good experience.
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0 # Tom Karasmanis 2012-01-31 22:06
The thought process you describe is classic engineering thinking. While taking my undergrad degree, my thermodynamics professor would expect us to guestimate the correct answer independently to make sure it is reasonable. Guestimating was a skill he wanted us to use throughout the course. For example, if we were calculating the temperature of a cup of coffee in a room after it was left out for a period of time using heat-loss equations and we wrote down 70F when the answer was say 75F or even 90F, we lost some marks for the mathematical error. On the other hand, if we wrote 60F when the room temperature was 68F we got a zero, since the cup of coffee cannot get colder than the room it is in just sitting there. We had to use guestimating to make sure our answer made sense and was in the right ball park. To this day, this is one of the most useful techniques I have learned. tk
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0 # Pete K-Star 2012-03-05 01:43
I totally agree with this concept. I always go with the mantra - no-one can criticise a blank piece of paper. Get something done, work something out. Then let people challenge it. You start to get others thinking and before you know it, you have some requirements, designs wireframes whatever you need. Like you said, who cares how close you are, its all in the thought process.
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0 # Kupe 2012-03-05 03:22
Hey Pete - How are you? Thanks for joining in the conversation.
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0 # Kirk Fleming 2012-05-19 01:10
Excellent! I was blessed with a math class in grade school where we had to do estimating. It became a regular mental exercise, and I encouraged my kids to do it. Provides a sanity check, weeds out a lot of nonsense, and helps you check your own work. Great stuff, and most of the time good enough, too.
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0 # BA 2012-06-12 13:33
It's a great article with excellent following comments. I totally agree to what was said in the article and what is justified AGAINST it. and here is the reason WHY.

Before I got further, I wana say HATS OFF LESLIE .. I like your comments. Kupe focused on the forming the judgements on ANALYTICAL side of a BA, and what most of people responded with was EITHER "Yes Kupe is Right", or "Yes I have never practiced this before".

Guys, there was a time not too long ago when there was NO google and even No Technology. Interviewers DID use this method and some of them (who require certain level of IQ or Smartness) still do it. I happened to face TWO really interesting questions when I was being interviewd. 1) How many manhole covers are there in Manhattan, NY? and second was even more Challenging. The guy was interviewing me in a very friendly way, he offered me Tea, and then walked up to a side table, got HIS cup of tea, came back, put the cup in front of himself and then asked me "WHAT IS IN BETWEEN YOU AND I THAT NOBODY HAS?" .. guess what .. if i was not that freaking surprised (of his tea-drama-actio ns) ... I would have NOT SAID *T* (Tea).
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0 # Cindy 2012-06-12 13:53
Isn't using Atlanta just an example? Of course you would use a question in context with a person's frame of reference, substituting a nearby city, neaby highway, for example. Or some other question that requires some estimating and guessing to reveal their thought process.
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0 # Scott L 2012-06-12 13:54
Some other fun ones to use:

* How many times do a clock's hands overlap in a day?
* How would you weigh a plane without scales?
* Tell me 10 ways to use a pencil other than writing.
* Why is there fuzz on a tennis ball?
* With your eyes closed, tell me step-by-step how to tie my shoes.

---Source: http://career-advice.monster.com/job-interview/interview-questions/100-potential-interview-questions/article.aspx
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0 # Leslie 2012-06-12 14:43
"How many gas stations are in the U.S." And the point was to see not if they knew, but if they could reason their way to an answer (however inaccurate). Since everyone is familiar with gas stations, it's a reasonable question for just about anyone.
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Another illustration of my point - never assume that everyone has the same understanding of the question as it is posed.
If someone asked me that question when I was living in Europe, I'd have asked, what do you use Gas Stations for in the USA, because I don't think we have them in Europe?
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0 # kupe 2012-06-13 07:44
@Leslie - I don't disagree that you can't assume everyone has the same understanding. I am looking for candidates to give answers based on their assumptions. As an analyst you need to be able to analyze situations based on what is known and clarify assumptions.
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0 # Leslie 2012-06-13 10:41
Never waste an opportunity to questions. Waiting until User Acceptance Testing to ask 'did i understand the purpose of a gas station correctly?', might be too late.
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0 # Leslie 2012-06-12 14:43
"How many gas stations are in the U.S." And the point was to see not if they knew, but if they could reason their way to an answer (however inaccurate). Since everyone is familiar with gas stations, it's a reasonable question for just about anyone.
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Another illustration of my point - never assume that everyone has the same understanding of the question as it is posed.
If someone asked me that question when I was living in Europe, I'd have asked, what do you use Gas Stations for in the USA, because I don't think we have them in Europe?
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+1 # Merrie 2012-06-13 10:19
I ask every candidate to verbally help me create requirements for a new pen. I set up the scenario such that I'm on the product team and we have to create a new pen, and, tell the candidate I need help with all the requirements.

If they look at a pen in the room, that's fine - in fact the good thing is that it tells me they won't try to reinvent the wheel for every project - they'll see what else is out in the marketplace and doing well, and, think about what we can do to deliver something better than our competitors.

What I love about this question is that it exposes the candidate's thought process to me. I can see where they take their response, how far they'll go, and, tells me about their confidence and how they act when they don't know if they have given the right answere. It's also a great way to see how the candidate responds to pressure.

If anyone in the QA world is reading this, I ask every QA candidate to test the pen I've been using to take notes during their interview - a simple spin on the question that works for both roles.
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-3 # Name 2012-10-25 06:17
You got this from an article?

You're not creative enough to be hiring candidates or writing a blog.
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+1 # Kupe 2012-10-25 12:23
Hi Name,

I am more than happy to have a good debate about why I disagree with you, but you have to share your name. I apologize if Name is your name.
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0 # Steve Blais 2013-02-22 10:04
Interestingly, Kupe, I just went thru the toll booth in question last week.
I tend to agree with Leslie's comments and have another practical question which I hope has not been raised hitherto fore - I hate to be redundant.
In my experience, people do not say their thinking process aloud. In our cognitive studies and some of our usability testing we have to encourage the participants to think aloud. They usually start doing so, but when the problem they are facing is tough, the situation complex, or the time of essence, they tend to go silent. Many times in reviewing the activities we have to ask what they were thinking between this voiced thought and the next because there is a gap or a leap. Of course, afterwards not only do they not remember, but their memory is biased.
I'm afraid if the candidate started talking thru the analytical process as you describe I might wonder. If the candidate were engaging with a stakeholder and launched into such a description of his or her analytical process, what would the effect on the stakeholder be?
I don't disagree with some method of determining a business analyst's analytical powers, but are there not some brain teaser like questions or game that might be more illustrative? Perhaps a few questions from the Mensa test? Or some of those trick questions where the answer is obvious and over-analyzing gets the wrong answer?
My question is how would you get the candidate to truly walk thru the analytical thought process considering that the candidate is "on stage" and being judged? Might not the candidate only express thoughts that would reflect well on them?
Is it a valid judgment to simply gauge the amount of time the candidate takes before answering?
Of course, if the candidate does provide a clear and understandable analytical thought process, you have also gained an understanding of their ability to communicate, and getting two qualifications confirmed with one question is not too bad.
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0 # Kupe 2013-02-22 13:01
So, Steve, do you agree or disagree?!!! I want to hit on one thing you said..."I'm afraid if the candidate started talking thru the analytical process as you describe I might wonder. If the candidate were engaging with a stakeholder and launched into such a description of his or her analytical process, what would the effect on the stakeholder be?"

Why is this a bad thing in front of a client? If a client throws out an idea or problem. I think it is great if the BA responds with something like "here's what I am thinking, what you are explaining is x, which makes me believe the real problem may be y..is that the case?" What a great way to make sure everyone involved in a situation is definitely on the same page.
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0 # leslie 2013-02-25 13:21
What I do if asked questions that require a thought process during an interview, is grab a marker pen and start writing on the whiteboard.

If I was asking the question, I would expect the candidate to do likewise.

So instead of verbally explaining to me their thought process, try writing it down.

This works for me is because I explain myself much better with pictures than I do in words.
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0 # Kupe 2013-02-25 15:43
Leslie, if the taledk through it would it be a bad thing? If they don't feel comfortable writing it on a whiteboard is that an indicator they are not a good BA? I'm curios as to why you would expect them to be writing it on the whiteboard.
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0 # leslie 2013-02-28 18:54
as a minimum, give them the option.
No, it doesn't necessarily make them a good BA, but a BA who can't express themselves in words very well is not necessarily a bad BA.
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+2 # Jeanne Roffee 2013-04-29 19:00
Kupe,
I completely agree. Your example of the estimation process one would use to answer the Georgia Tollway query comes straight out of the hiring technique used by the consulting firm McKinsey. The goal is not the answer so much as the process one used to arrive at it. The process used in your example demonstrates an ability to decompose a large unknown by using variables that are. I wish I were asked such questions when interviewing.
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+1 # Lisa 2016-11-10 16:40
thank you for sharing. I will keep this thread in mind should I actually make it past another resume gatekeeper and actually meet with a hiring manager in the future.
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