Preparing for a possibly technical panel interview
November 1, 2017 3:22 PM   Subscribe

I have an interview next week for a Lead Business Analyst position and the HR person said it would be three hours long - the first part with a panel and the second with the hiring manager. The job description is IT-heavy and is frankly a stretch, but when I spoke on the phone with the non-tech gatekeeper yesterday it sounded like something I could manage via filling in gaps in my knowledge. Now I have to convince a panel.

Here are some of the line items from the job description (I omitted stuff I definitely do know). I will spend every waking moment researching them but if they ask me to write a bunch of code in front of them, I will probably freeze like a deer. The only one I'm solid on is SQL. I was very honest on my resume and didn't mention anything I've never done. I was vague in the gatekeeping interview but didn't outright lie.
  • Proficient in SQL programming for MySQL and Server programming
  • Familiar with Oracle applications and navigation
  • Ability to use FTP and windows command line
  • Proficient in asp and programming
Um, help? What is a panel interview like? Does it seem likely I'll be asked to code?? What would be the best thing to focus my energy on? I did sign up for and I will take some of the suggestions in my previous question (note, that was for a different job; they have not called to set up an interview) .

This is a huge company and I have actually worked for them before as a contractor in a different department (similar duties, just less programming). I don't know these people, but I do know the culture. People tend to be assertive and make decisions quickly. I do come across as very confident.

What do I wear? The IT managers I worked with at this company generally wore button-up shirts and khakis or dark pants. Never ties, rarely jackets. I dressed the same when I worked there. But should I go for a suit? I have a dark grey one, various dress shirts and black shoes.

Hope me! I have been out of work since March.
posted by AFABulous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Always dress up.

Do you know he Star technique for answering questions? It’s really good when you get asked behavioural questions (I.e. tell me about a time when you...)

S. Situation (the background info)
T. Task. (The job that needed to be done
A. Action (what YOU SPECIFICALLY did in the situation)
R. Result ( the end outcome)

You can talk about things you would have done differently with hindsight or lessons you learnt from it. You don’t have to have gotten it perfect first time if you show you can reflect on it and take responsibility for things.

A panel interview usually consists of a few people (numbers vary) asking you questions. I work in government and we assess the answers using BARS (behavioural anchor rating scale). So we look for things you demonstrate throughout the interview. You don’t get to see the rating scale or bars, but it keeps it even across all candidates. I don’t know if they are used in the us, but they are considered best practice. They aren’t perfect but they are pretty good.

Have a look at the pd and see if there’s anything there about qualities or attributes that you need. If they use bars they will be aligned to the job description.

Hope this isn’t too specific since I don’t know the US recruitment scene but the star technique is a great one to use regardless.
posted by jonathanstrange at 3:40 PM on November 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

A business analyst role isn't usually very hands-on in the kinds of admin/coding deep-in-the-weeds stuff you've outlined here. Especially if there are yards of requirements that you've omitted because you're confident in them, this reads like a wish list of things they'd like candidates to know - the dream candidate would be proficient in all of these things, but most of us in the real world would be at 70-80% on these things, especially as a business analyst.

You might console yourself with the idea that if they actually expect you to perform these things and prove them all during a panel, the job wasn't a good fit for you, and was not fairly advertised as a business analyst role. I wouldn't dream of asking a BA candidate to perform all this stuff hands-on, either in an interview nor on the job. What I'd expect is more of a working familiarity, which I'm sure you can acquire conceptually.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:57 PM on November 1, 2017

I have never been a business analyst, interviewed business analysts, or even worked in a company that has business analysts as far as I know (I've worked in several large well-known tech companies that don't use that title from what I can tell). So take my advice with a grain of salt. But I personally would expect any interview for a role that includes requirements that say "proficient in ... programming" to involve some programming. If programming is actually an important part of the role (rather than just a "nice to have"), I'd be asbolutely shocked to hear that they don't make candidates write code in some way. Maybe it's whiteboard coding, maybe it's a take-home project, maybe they just want to see sample code from a project you've done. But I'd expect something.

I personally would just ask the recruiter what the interview involves. You may risk tipping your hand that you're not comfortable with programming, but it might be better to figure that out now, before you're on the spot, if that's truly important to them.
posted by primethyme at 6:40 PM on November 1, 2017

Consider contacting your SHRM chapter with questions about what to expect. I too would expect some coding, probably very simple coding though. And I too suggest you might ask the recruiter about it. Maybe you have a work colleague in your network who could help you learn the basics or brush up on the coding in the coming week. Best of luck!
posted by a constant satellite at 7:05 PM on November 1, 2017

I’m a “technical BA” and my job basically covers all of these. If you want the job (lot of non technical BAs bomb this kinda role) at least figure out how you might go about doing the things, but only to help you gather technical requirements, then doing the “official” coding. Brush up on sql.
posted by sandmanwv at 8:26 PM on November 1, 2017

That's an odd job spec, combining pretty simple things like "use FTP" with more technical stuff like " programming". BA's don't usually do hands-on programming.

You probably won't have to write any actual code on a computer if it's not mentioned that there's a technical test. Whenever I've been asked to write actual code the description of the process has included it.

You might be asked to step up to a whiteboard and write some code or pseudo-code on a whiteboard. Pseudo-code looks like code but doesn't have to be precisely right as long as it demonstrates the right sort of instructions to a computer.

I should start with Wikipedia and learn the basics.

You can also google "ASP.NET interview questions" and "FTP Interview Questions" and learn a few of the answers... there will be an awful lot of potential questions but don't let it faze you.

I would expect questions like "What is the difference between ASP and ASP.NET" to come up, and "What FTP clients have you used" to come up.

Finally, at my job what we're looking for is evidence that someone can think logically and problem-solve. Technical details can be learned, but you can't make a muddled thinker into a problem solver. Don't be afraid to slow down, and think aloud. You can say "Let's see, this the problem, so we could try X (look at their faces)... or we could try Y... or Z..." Don't try to bluff knowledge that you don't have. Admit it if you really don't know. If you're uncertain whether you know it and want to take a stab at it, say something like "I'm not sure but maybe". Exaggerating a bit on your resume is part of the game, but not outright lying.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:53 PM on November 1, 2017

The “use FTP” and “update ASP/” requirements together makes it sound like website updates are a part of the role. That seems ok for a business analyst so she can update her own product collateral.

Using Oracle application could be using the CRM or other internal business applications.

SQL could be for writing reports.

If there are reams of non technical requirements then focus on those. Prep some stories (STAR format is good) around prioritization, conflict, delivering value to customer, proudest accomplishment, or other similar routine behavioural question.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:48 PM on November 1, 2017

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