Looking for BI Talent? Questions to ask a potential BI Analyst

A Business Intelligence Analyst position requires a wide range of technical knowledge and problem solving skills as well as a personality that can fit well in both IT and business analytical environments. Many IT centered people prefer to keep to themselves and focus on programming. This type of personality, while valued, will likely not fit well in a BI Analyst position. On the flip side, someone with loads of personal skills who is lacking in technical comprehension will simply not fit the bill.

What you are looking for is the perfect balance between IT and business, which really can’t be judged by reading an applicant’s resume. Resumes can often be misleading. They are full of recommendations, certifications, and include a long list of skills that just so happen to match the job description exactly.

Below I have listed a few questions that might help you gauge the competency of your BI Analyst applicant, starting with basic comprehension of a BI solution.

What is a BI solution used for?

This is a good starting question that a qualified applicant should be able to easily tackle. They will have the opportunity to present their perspectives on what a BI solution actually is and their answer will reveal whether or not they see the same potential value in BI as you do. Ultimately you are listening for the key words “better decision making.”

Walk me through the flow of data in a BI solution starting with the source system.

This question will test to see if the applicant understands the data flow from the technical perspective all the way through to the presentation level. An acceptable answer can be as simple as: Source -> ETL -> Data Staging -> ETL -> Data Warehouse -> Dashboards.

How would you approach analyzing a report with bad data?

This will provide some discovery into the applicant’s thought processes and problem solving skills. You should expect to hear that the applicant would question the integrity of the report as well as the integrity of the data in the data warehouse and the source system. From there the applicant should be able to walk through his or her plan for correcting the issue.

What steps would you take when building a data warehouse?

This will be the beginning of evaluating the applicant’s technical knowledge. The applicant should understand the importance of communicating with users and gathering business requirements. The applicant should also display an understanding of how to design the data warehouse schema and plan for the structure of the upcoming fact and dimension tables.

From here you will want to move into more technical questions. The specific questions will greatly depend on the specific software that you use. You will want to ensure that there is an understanding of the different components of an ETL package. It is also important to test the applicant’s understanding of how security should best be organized and utilized in reporting services and dashboards.

It is a good idea to push the applicant to the edges of his or her knowledge. At some point you will reach a question that the applicant doesn’t know. In this case “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer. What is less appealing is when the applicant obviously doesn’t know the answer but attempts to bull shit and ramble while avoiding a direct answer. A confident and intelligent person is comfortable to admit when he doesn’t know something, so you should view this as a positive in communication skills.

I hope that this has been a valuable resource for you and that it might jump start some ideas when interviewing your BI Analyst applicant. Happy hunting!



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