What do I need to apply for a job as a Business Analyst?
In this post, we aim to outline some points that will help you to secure a position as a Business Analyst. We will give you an idea of the common requirements asked for in job listings for Business Analysts in a variety of fields, so that you know which areas you may want to touch up on. We also list some of the most in-demand certifications which employers may expect you to have, as well as helping you to identify which passive skills you may already have that will help you perform well in the role as you progress further in your career.
After assessing a multitude of job listings for Business Analysts, we have compiled a selection of typical examples from a range of fields for you to get an idea of what to expect when job-hunting.
Although the requirements will vary based on what industry the position is in, a few universal requirements that we have encountered are communication skills and a familiarity with project management methods such as Agile. Other common requirements are good time management skills, reporting skills, a degree and a certification in Business Analysis.
Business Analyst – Insurance
We have reviewed multiple listings seeking a Business Analyst in the Insurance field, and the most common requirement that we have seen is for the applicant to have previous experience in the Insurance field and to have excellent communication skills. Another requirement we have seen prioritised by employers is the ability to work on their IT infrastructure and to be able to manage stakeholders effectively. Besides these, many listings require a degree standard of education and a proficiency for requirements gathering and documentation.
Business Analyst – Finance
For the financial sector, employers usually look for Business Analysts with some experience with their finance systems, good software skills and the ability to work with Excel. Stakeholder management is important in this field, as is being able to compile financial and statistical data into comprehensive documentation. There is also a focus on processing mapping and data analysis, as well as excellent reporting skills.
Business Analyst – Software Development
The software development sector often operates within an Agile environment, with many listings seeking Business Analysts with Agile experience. In this field, a Business Analyst is often positioned as the liaison between the development team and the business stakeholders and users. This makes communication and stakeholder management a valuable skill, as these different teams will need you to explain concepts to them which they may not have a good understanding of. A strong familiarity with IT and software development is also favoured in this category of job listing, as you will need to understand the processes which are taking place.
A Business Analyst is a person who is adaptable and able to handle whatever tasks are required of them. Given how many different industries value the Business Analyst role, what is asked of you as a Business Analyst may vary quite drastically depending on the industry in question. Nonetheless, having complementary secondary skills which you can draw upon to help you perform your duties as a Business Analyst will undoubtedly increase your value to the organisation.
The role of a Business Analyst can be easy to transition into if you have some of these existing skills already. Each skill allows you to contribute something valuable towards the project.
Those with a technical or computer science background will have an advantage when it comes to tasks relating to both analysing and documenting data, as well as working with IT systems in general. Many functions within organisations today are performed through IT systems and as a Business Analyst, you may need to recommend innovations to these IT systems. In addition to this, having a technical background will also help you to better understand and empathise with your technical department and what they hope to achieve if you are in a technical field. Some Business Analysts use basic programming language skills in order to fully utilise their data systems – a skill often inherent to those coming from an IT or technical background.
These skills are very closely related to technical skills but are worth categorising on their own as they require less overall IT experience. Business Analysts make use of a variety of software and tools, some of which you are probably familiar with already such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Some of the software a Business Analyst might use is more specialised, however, they are not proprietary to Business Analysis so you may still know a few of them. Various diagramming, visual modeling and design software is used in areas such as data and process analysis, business design and requirements analysis as well as Business Analysis.
Drafting documentation is a skill that is used very often by Business Analysts, as they are tasked with creating requirements, specification and analysis documents – among other important documentation. This makes it vital for you to be able to concisely communicate your meaning in writing, with no room for misinterpretation. Although there may be some terminology specific to business analysis or to the industry you’re operating in that you would still need to pick up, being familiar with documenting activities, events and observations is a useful skill. Experience with technical writing, editing or copywriting may help you here.
The skill of analysing and reading people can be thought of as a layer within the core communication skill that is important for all Business Analysts to have. In order to perform effective requirements elicitation, you need to be able to not only coax the requirements of the organisation from stakeholders and users by asking the right questions but also get to the bottom of what they actually mean by what they say. Are they telling you what they want or what they need from the product? It is your job to deduce both of these requirements from your communications with people, so having the ability to read between the lines and to intuit the person’s true meaning will benefit you. This type of skill is often picked up from working in marketing, public relations or human resources, as well as simply from working cohesively with colleagues.
The skills we have mentioned here are largely universally applicable, regardless of the industry you operate in. However, there are some industry-specific skills that will undoubtedly also be required of you. Although it would be impossible to intuit what these would be before you occupy the role, your employer would know this and allow you time to get up to speed. Depending on the sector your organisation inhabits, these skills may cover customer relations, finance, IT, or any other number of skills. Becoming familiar with the general operations of your organisation will always benefit you, so researching about the industry which you will be working in is recommended.
Being familiar with the methodology used in your organisation will also give you a step up. Where your organisation is based and what industry it’s in can sometimes give you an idea as to the methodology that may be in use. Different methodologies are more popular in different areas and are more effective in certain industries. This is not a hard and fast rule, however, so it is always worth researching which methodology is used by the organisation that you hope to work with. Being familiar with your organisation’s chosen method of operations will help you to integrate with the way things are done.
Let’s briefly recap of some of the core skills that benefit Business Analysts the most. While reading through them, try to identify secondary skills that you already possess – through past job experience or as general skills – that would support any of these core skills.
This is a skill which is required by many roles in many fields, but it is especially useful for Business Analysts because so many of their tasks require interacting with people. It can consist of being able to not only present your point clearly and effectively but also validate the person you’re communicating with and encouraging them to share their thoughts with you in turn. You may also need to act as an “interpreter” between the customer and stakeholders and the technical team, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. This is a skill often used by those in sales, customer service and marketing.
Any kind of technician role makes use of problem-solving skills, as does any role that involves troubleshooting or diagnosing a problem. Managerial, maintenance and engineering positions also rely on problem-solving. A natural inclination to problem-solving would be supported by attention to detail, a determined nature and taking an alternative approach to problems.
Critical thinking skills
Critical and analytical thinking often go hand in hand. Critical thinking consists of objectively analysing and assessing a problem or situation, with the intent of coming to a conclusion that will improve upon it. It is a skill that benefits anyone in a role that requires analysis of data, numbers, operations and decision-making. Roles in legal, accounting and healthcare fields often require critical thinking.
With a bit of thought, any passive skill you have can most likely be leveraged to benefit your role as a Business Analyst. Because the role can be so varied and is constantly evolving, it is important for you to make sure that you can adapt and evolve with it. Many of the skills we have discussed here are easy to pick up along the way with a bit of awareness, or easy to learn formally by taking an online course to boost your knowledge base. Taking the initiative to broaden your skillset and apply your own passive skills will help you to perform better and will most likely be acknowledged by your employer.
Besides the skills and requirements that we’ve discussed here, you will also need a certification stating your understanding of the tools, techniques and practices used by Business Analysts. Let’s take a look at two of the popular certifications that aspiring Business Analysts choose to pursue.
Business Analysis Foundation
This certification is an entry-level certification from BCS and represents one of the modules in the structure for obtaining the final International Diploma in Business Analysis. It is acknowledged around the world and is particularly popular in the UK. It signifies that you understand the processes used for identifying and analysing the available options for improving and streamlining a business and that you are familiar with the tools used by a Business Analyst to perform these processes. This level of training does not require previous Business Analysis experience and will put you on the map in the eyes of potential employers.
Entry Certificate in Business Analysis
This certification comprises Level 1 of a total of 3 Levels of certification from IIBA. With an ECBA certification, you will be recognised as beginning your journey into Business Analysis as a career. This level of training is suitable to those who have no prior experience with Business Analysis and will familiarise you with some of the base Business Analysis concepts. This certification is intended for those who hope to pursue the other levels of certification from IIBA.
Both of these certifications are recognised around the world and will automatically give you a higher chance of being seriously considered for the Business Analyst job you apply for. Both of these certifications can be easily studied for through online courses, allowing you to quickly and easily meet the requirements that you may not currently fulfil.
Although these certifications represent the lower tiers of their certification structures, they are no less respected. This means you can still apply – and most likely be accepted – for Business Analyst roles while holding foundation level certifications. This gives you the opportunity to practise your skills in action while you pursue the higher certifications, or simply use the foundation level certifications you have to establish yourself as a Business Analyst.
Now that you have an idea of where you lie in regards to the requirements for Business Analyst roles, you can determine if you’re at a level where you can begin applying for Business Analysis positions or whether you need to further your skillset or certification level.