Here are ten key questions to make the interviewing process smoother.
Bridging the gap between subject matter experts and the architects and developers who create solutions is hard work—but it’s work that the functional (or business) analyst is up for. Interviewers may challenge candidates with these ten questions so they’ll know that the candidate has the skills to help transform desires and dreams into developed code.
Q0: What elicitation techniques do you use most frequently?
A: The answer will be more subjective, but a candidate should be able to articulate at least 2-3 different approaches to requirements gathering. That might include interviews, brainstorming, or other, more formally defined approaches. It’s okay if a candidate has a favorite technique, but they shouldn’t limit themselves to just one approach.
Q1: How do you track requirements?
A: Any functional analyst should have at least one way to capture the intent of the subject matter expert. A candidate will ideally explain multiple requirements approaches that they use to capture different kinds of requirements. Of these, they should use at least one non-text representation of requirements.
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Q2: How do you learn about the topic you’re writing requirements for?
A: Online research is a given to better understand the nuances of the industry or function, but a candidate should also mention working with the SME to understand their business. Being able to ask questions of their peers is a strong quality for FAs.
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Q3: When should a functional analyst propose a solution?
A: When the functional analyst is giving the business leader or subject matter expert an opportunity to understand the opportunities. They should only propose strawman ideas to allow the subject matter expert or business leader to respond to something. These proposed solutions should always be couched in language that makes it clear that this isn’t something that will definitely happen, but is one potential solution to consider. The proposed solutions should generally be less sophisticated than the final system is expected to be.
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Q4: What is a paper prototype?
A: It’s a paper representation of the intended system. The functional analyst tests this paper prototype by manually managing the interactions with the subject matter expert (SME) as they interact with the user interface. This provides a quick and easy way to test ideas with the SME.
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Q5: How do you minimize misunderstandings?
A: Because communication is crucial to this position, active listening and reflective listening are key ways. A candidate must be willing to test every known assumption. Obviously, not all assumptions are known—but those that are should be tested. It shouldn’t be assumed that SMEs or business leaders will read the documentation that the functional analyst creates.
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Q6: What do you do when you have conflicting requirements?
A: Conflicting requirements are unfortunately a common occurrence with software design. Getting the parties that don’t agree in a room is important. Any answer should display a candidate’s ability to communicate clearly and ask questions, especially when conflicting parties are present.
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Q7: How do you build a relationship with the Solutions Architect?
A: The candidate should demonstrate an awareness that they are able to ask the solutions architect questions. Solutions architects are the ones who help the functional analysts understand the technical options and limitations—so being comfortable enough to ask questions is key to building a relationship.
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Q8: What have you tried that hasn’t worked?
A: This question is sort of like the typical “What areas are you weakest at?” question, with the intent to expose techniques that haven’t worked. If a candidate has never tried something that hasn’t worked, they may not be trying hard enough, or may not be brave enough to try something new. A key candidate will understand that a certain level of trial and error and even failure is normal. If a candidate’s response is focused on how the solution didn’t work or how team members didn’t implement "correctly", it could indicate a lack of this understanding.
Q9: What tools do you use?
A: The candidate’s answer will vary, but should include tools like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (or comparable tools), as well as specialty tools for diagramming, outlining, and sketching.
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