An interview is not simply random set of questions thrown at an interviewee but in fact has its own lifecycle. A good designed interview goes through a set of structured phases with each phase focusing on different aspects such as knowledge on the topic, personality, behavioral traits, project, people skills, technical skills etc. It’s important for an interviewee to recognize these phases and understand the type of questions he/she must expect in each of these phases. This lifecycle is more relevant to a ‘Consulting-Based’ interviews, which are heavily ‘Project-Driven’. Though I have written this article from a business analyst interview perspective, these phases are very well applicable for any other role who works in a ‘Projectized’ environment. Figure 1 shows the different phases on a ‘Project-Driven’ job interview:
(A) OPENING QUESTIONS: Opening questions will be asked toward the beginning of an interview. These questions set the stage for more detailed discussions and have most profound impact in the decision making process. Generally, are subtle in nature but carry most weightage. Things like “Please tell me about yourself or please introduce yourself”. The goal of this phase is to acclimatize the interviewer as well as interviewee with each other, provides an opportunity to introduce each other, and is the suitable time for an interviewee to give a snapshot of his/her career, what is commonly known as ‘Elevator Talk’.
(B) PROJECT-BASED QUESTIONS: As a consultant most of the work we do is project-driven i.e. we are assigned a project with a definite start date and end date, we complete it and then move on to another project or another phase of the same project. So it becomes very obvious for anyone to ask “What was your most recent project all about?” or “Can you please tell me about your XYZ project?” I recommend to prepare a cheat sheet with the following things and use it to prepare of an interview. Oftentimes, despite working on a project, we may not be able to recollect the key information during the interview, especially for the projects we completed 2-3 years back. Preparing a cheat sheet will go a long way.
(1) About the client, business domain, products/services sold by the client
(2) The business context that would help your interviewer understand the project
(3) Issues, painpoints faced by your client
(4) Business need behind the project (Key drivers to initiate the project)
(5) Scope of the project in terms of solution as well as key project milestones in terms of artifacts, deliverables, processes etc
(6) Business benefits realized from the project
(7) Your role and responsibilities on that project
(C) TECHNICAL: This phase of an interview is where an interviewee’s core knowledge on the subject, tools, technologies, artifacts, documentation etc is tested. The objective of an interviewer is to validate your knowledge on the subject. Since I am writing this article from the ‘Business Analysis’ perspective, you may expect questions such as below.
(1) What is BPMN 2.o?
(2) What is ‘Gap Analysis’?
(3) How do you write a ‘User Story’?
(4) What are the different ways to split an EPIC into small user stories?
(5) What is a pre-condition in a use case specification?
(D) BEHAVIOURAL: I personally believe that this is the most important phase since this is where your true character comes out. Since this phase focuses on your overall personality, behavioural traits, aptitude, sense of humor etc, there is no way you can truly prepare from any textbook or sample set of questions. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s how we have been groomed over the years. For example, in my very first interview of my career, I was asked “How would you have reacted if after reaching here (I had travelled 200 miles for that interview) you were notified that the interview is cancelled?”. At another instance, one of my candidate was asked “Why do you like your job?”. These are very subjective in nature and hence can’t be termed as right or wrong answers.
(E) CLOSING: As part of the closing phase, you may reinforce all your selling points and make closing remarks. Also, you may ask questions to your interviewer on the project, team structure, tools used, requirements processes, tentative project initiation date (if not yet initiated) or , if selected, what is the expected starting date etc. It will leave a good impression on the interviewer since you are already showing interest and eager to work with the project team.
Recognizing each of these phases and what type of questions to expect in each phase will alleviate lot of stress and anxiety. More importantly, it will give you great amount of confidence in answering your questions since you were already expecting them. This has really helped all my trainees and hopefully will help many others.
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