A business analyst learns about a business, analysing data and looking at processes, to make recommendations about strategic improvements. A business analyst is an important part of the informed, data-driven decision-making process that helps businesses to grow, develop, and make more profits.
Through effective research and understanding of how a business currently operates, how competitors are doing, and what developments are on the horizon from new technology or industry innovation, a business analyst is able to distill large volumes of data into succinct, useful reports for stakeholders, influencing decisions and improving the performance of the business.
Finding the right candidate for a business analyst position means looking for specific skills, abilities, and competencies as well as any required qualifications and certifications. This article will describe the everyday tasks that a business analyst will complete for a company, the skills and abilities they need to be successful in the role, and how the recruitment team can easily assess applicants to be sure that they have the right level of skills, knowledge, and abilities.
What should a business analyst be able to do?
One of the most important tasks that a business analyst needs to complete is research. There are many places that a good business analyst will look for data to use as reference, including current business intelligence, industry reports, public information and field reports. They also need to be able to communicate with customers, suppliers, competitors and professional organisations to find data sources.
This research data needs to be analysed to generate useful reports, and the business analyst is responsible for creating, using, and maintaining databases, spreadsheets and dashboards to be used as business intelligence tools. They need to manage the flow of information, seek new sources and keep up to date with trends in the wider industry as well as general technology trends.
Finally, the data that has been collected and analysed needs to be disseminated to interested parties - usually stakeholders and decision-makers. The business analyst must be able to provide recommendations backed by data in a report that can be used by executives, managers, and clients to inform their decision making.
Throughout all this, the business analyst creates and manages systems, dashboards, tools, and reusable knowledge assets so that they can repeat the analysis as more data becomes available.
Skills to look for in a business analyst
A successful business analyst needs quite a wide range of skills and knowledge.
Some of this will be covered in their relevant qualifications and might include industry-specific software skills, but other skills that you should look for in a business analyst include:
- Decision making: extracting data and turning it into actionable, strategic recommendations means that a candidate must be able to think critically about information and use their judgement to make good decisions about what needs to be done.
- Reading comprehension: with so many different sources of data to be used in business analysis, skill in reading and understanding different types of written information - from reports to industry journals and technological specifications - will ensure that a business analyst can get the most from their data.
- Writing: writing a report giving recommendations is the end output of the business analysis product, and business analysts need to be able to write clearly and concisely to get their point across to the stakeholders.
- Mathematics: financial information and performance figures are an integral part of the datasets that a business analyst will use, and skill in mathematics will help a potential candidate to deal with calculations and use numerical data accurately.
- Systems analysis and evaluation: as part of the business analyst role, an assessment of the 'now' of the business needs to be completed. A business analyst must be able to evaluate what is happening in the business right now, looking at systems and processes to understand where improvements can be made.
Useful abilities for a business analyst
Abilities and aptitudes describe particular skills that are inherent in a successful business analyst.
These are the competencies that don't usually come with a certification or a qualification, but they are important for mental agility and success in a future role as a business analyst.
- Written comprehension and expression: business analysts need to be fluent in writing at different levels, reading to understand and creating written work that can persuade, based on research data.
- Inductive and deductive reasoning: taking different sources of information to find a general rule (inductive) and applying a general rule to find a specific conclusion (deductive) are both forms of logical reasoning, which gives clarity of thought and is an important part of critical thinking and the decision-making process.
- Mathematical reasoning: more than just an understanding of basic maths operations, mathematical reasoning is the ability to apply numerical fluency to a problem in order to solve it. It means using maths as part of the critical thinking process.
- Originality and fluency of ideas: the best business analysts are able to think of new ideas and angles, look for more data from interesting and unique sources, and come up with lots of original ideas to improve a business.
- Oral comprehension and expression: communication is an important part of the business analyst's skillset, and being able to have clear, useful conversations is where skilled oral comprehension and expression comes into play. Business analysts need to be able to understand others and have their words understood, too.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a business analyst?
Soft skills are important to almost all job roles, and they are typically the hardest ones to assess without using pre-employment screening tests. Below are some of the soft skills tests that would be most useful in assessing candidates for the most relevant soft skills needed to make a successful business analyst.
- Decision making: making the right decision on what strategic advice to give to stakeholders is just part of the business analyst's role - they will need to make rational decisions throughout their daily tasks to ensure that they are using the right data and analysing it in the right way, using the right tools.
- Communication: whether written or spoken, communication is a soft skill that is important for a business analyst to master. They need to be able to communicate effectively with important stakeholders, but also work within a wider team (usually in IT).
- Project management: many business analysts work on a project basis, and are usually the employees or contractors that are in charge of the project. Assessing their skills in managing a project - from a multi-faceted point of view - demonstrates that they can work as part of a team and get things done to deadlines where necessary.
- Adaptability: businesses who are looking for strategic growth opportunities are likely to need agile and adaptable members of staff, and working in a team that is responsible for development means that the business analyst needs to be comfortable being adaptable.
- Problem solving: practical skills in solving problems are part of the business analyst skill set, but they also need to be able to think clearly, consider other points of view, and really 'think outside the box' to find new and useful ways to solve problems.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a business analyst?
Technical skills and general aptitudes that are useful for a successful business analyst can be tested using the below assessments:
- Abstract reasoning: the aptitude for spotting patterns and using trends to make decisions is an important facet of a business analyst. With this test, recruiters are able to see how a candidate uses unfamiliar information to form a general rule and make reasoned decisions.
- Logical reasoning: using logical reasoning to make deductions demonstrates excellent analytical thinking, which is important for a business analyst role.
- Numerical reasoning: applying basic maths skills to solve problems is what this assessment is testing, and this is useful in a business analyst role where using percentages, ratios, and simple operations are part of the analyses that are completed.
- Verbal reasoning: extracting useful information from dense paragraphs of text needs quick reading, good understanding of formal and business language, and an eye for important details. The verbal reasoning assessment is used to test candidates on their ability to read and analyse text.
- Microsoft Azure: there are so many different software solutions and programs that can be used by a business analyst as part of their daily tasks, but Microsoft Azure is a good starting point thanks to the cloud computing abilities needed for analysis, data storage, and other tasks.
Our recommended test battery for a business analyst
With so many tests available that could be used as part of the process to hire a business analyst, choosing the right ones to use for your recruitment needs is difficult.
Using all the above tests might be unwieldy if there is a large candidate pool, and it might be too complicated or long-winded for the applicants themselves.
Below is our recommended test battery that you can use to help hire a business analyst for your business.
- Project Management: in this assessment, candidates are presented with questions that are based on fictional yet realistic workplace situations. In each scenario, there are several possible courses of action that can be taken to solve the presented problem. This assessment is about different aspects of project management and tests candidates on their ability to lead, work in a team, and complete actions to given deadlines.
- Numerical Reasoning: in the numerical reasoning assessment, candidates are presented with numerical data in the form of graphs, tables, or charts. The data is followed by a question with multiple choice answers, and the candidate needs to perform some basic mathematical operations to find the correct answer. The candidate needs GCSE-level math knowledge and an understanding of percentages, fractions, and ratios to answer the questions correctly.
- Problem Solving: to assess a candidate on their problem solving, critical thinking, and judgement skills, this assessment is presented as a series of work-based scenarios. Each scenario has several possible outcomes, and the candidate needs to choose the one that is most like the way they would solve the problem if they had to deal with it at work.
Here at Picked we also provide job knowledge tests, and our business analyst job knowledge test page has more information about how you can hire a business analyst and the best ways to test potential candidates.