Business Analyst Case Study Interview Questions And Answers

Case study is the most important round for any analytics hiring. However, a lot of people feel nervous with the mention of undergoing a case interview. There are multiple reasons for this, but the popular ones are:

  • You need to think on your feet in a situation where there is already enough pressure
  • Limited resources available to prepare for analytical case studies. Even with the amount of content available on web, there aren’t many analytical case studies which are available freely.

From an interviewer perspective, he is judging the candidate on structured thinking, problem solving and comfort level with numbers using these case studies. This article will take you through a case study. Answer to each question takes you deeper into the same problem.

Background:

I moved to Bangalore 10 months back. Bangalore is a big city with number of roads tagged as one-way. You take a wrong turn and you are late by more than 20 minutes.  Every single day I compare the time taken on different routes and choose the best among all possible combinations. This article takes you through an interesting road puzzle which took me considerable time to crack.

Process to solve: 

I have structured this in a fashion very similar to an analytics interview. You will be provided with background at start of the interview, which will be followed by questions. After you have brainstormed / solved a question, you will be presented with additional information which will progress the case further.

If you want to undergo this case in true spirit, just ask one of your friends to take the questions and information (provided in next section) and present them to you at the right time. After all the questions, I have provided asnwers which I expect. You can compare your answers to mine.

Please note that there is no right or wrong answer in many situation and a case evolves in the way the interviewer wants. If you have a different answer / approach, please feel free to post in comments and I would love to discuss them.

Problem statement :

Background : There are two alternate roads I take to hit the main road from my home. Average speed on each of the road comes out around 30 km/hr. Let’s call the two roads as road A and road B. Total distance one needs to travel on road A and road B is 1 km and 1.3 km respectively to hit the same point on the main road . Note that, before the two roads split, I see a signal (say Z)  which is common to both the roads and hence does not come in this calculation. See figure for clarifications.

Q1 : What are the possible factors, I should consider to come up with the total time taken on each road?

Q2 : Which road should one take to reach  the main road so as to minimize the time taken? And what is the difference in total time taken by the two alternate routes?

Additional information (to be provided after question 2): Recently, one of the junction (say, X) on road A got too crowded and a traffic signal was installed on the same. The traffic signal was configured for 80 seconds red and 20 seconds green. Let’s denote the seconds of signal as R1 R2 R3 … G1 G2 G3 . Here, R1 denotes 1 sec after signal switched to red.

Q3 : Does it still makes sense to take road A, or to switch to road B provided the average speed on the road A is still the same except the halt at signal?

Additional information (to be provided after question 3):  If I reach the signal at R1, I will be in the front rows to be released once the signal turns green. Whereas, if I reach the signal at R80, I might have to wait for some time even after signal turns green because the vehicles in the front rows will block me for some seconds before I start. Let’s take some realistic guesses for the wait time after signal turns green.

R1 – R 10 : 0 sec , R11-R20 : 3 sec , R21 – R60 : 10 sec, R61 – R80 : 15 sec, G1-G15 : 5 sec, G15-G20 : 0 sec

Q4 : Does it still makes sense to take road A, or to switch to road B provided the average speed on the road A is still the same except the halt at signal?

Q5: Can you think of a reason, why road A can still be a better choice for reaching junction X in minimum time?

Additional information (to be provided after question 5): The signal Z (before the two roads split) has the exact same cycle as the signal at point X i.e. 90 sec red and 20 sec green. Average speed of any vehicle vary on road A from 25km/hr (heavy traffic) to 30km/hr (light traffic). The signal X is offset from signal Z by 25 seconds. Hence, when it turns green at Z, it is R55 at signal X.

Q6 : Does it still makes sense to take road A, or to switch to road B provided the average speed on the road A is still the same except the halt at signal?

Solution  :

Background : There are two alternate roads I take to hit the main road from my home. Average speed on each of the road comes out around 30 km/hr. Let’s call the two roads as road A and road B. Total distance one needs to travel on road A and road B is 1 km and 1.3 km respectively to hit the same point on the main road . Note that, before the two roads split, I see a signal (say Z)  which is common to both the roads and hence does not come in this calculation.

Question : Which road should one take to reach  the main road so as to minimize the time taken? And what is the difference in total time taken by the two alternate routes?

Solution : 

Background : Recently, one of the junction (say, X) on road A got too crowded and a traffic signal was installed on the same. The traffic signal was configured for 80 seconds red and 20 seconds green. Let’s denote the seconds of signal as R1 R2 R3 … G1 G2 G3 . Here, R1 denotes 1sec after signal switched to red.

Question : Does it still makes sense to take road A, or to switch to road B provided the average speed on the road A is still the same except the halt at signal?

Solution : Let’s assume I come to the signal at a random time. Hence, probability of getting to the signal at R1 R2 R3 …or G1 G2 G3 are all equal. Hence, the expected time taken at the signal is :

Background : Till this point, the solution will look good in books. Lets spice the problem up by ground realities. If I reach the signal at R1, I will be in the front rows to be released once the signal turns green. Whereas, if I reach the signal at R80, I might have to wait for some time even after signal turns green because the vehicles in the front rows will block me for some seconds before I start. Let’s take some realistic guesses for the wait time after signal turns green.

R1 – R 10 : 0 sec , R11-R20 : 3 sec , R21 – R60 : 10 sec, R61 – R80 : 15 sec, G1-G15 : 5 sec, G15-G20 : 0 sec

Question : Does it still makes sense to take road A, or to switch to road B provided the average speed on the road A is still the same except the halt at signal?

Solution :.

Background : Even after making such logical calculation, I noted that in 30 different events, I was commuting more than 25 sec faster on road A compared to road B every single time. I did not change my average velocity on either of the roads. It could have been acceptable in case I found x number of event where A wins and 30 – x where B wins. But A winning every single time was fishy. I was struggling for last 10 days to figure out a valid cause. It struck me today and following is what I figured out:

The signal Z ( before the two roads split), which I initially though had nothing to do with the calculation was actually the game changer. Here is how it played a role.  This signal had the exact same cycle as the signal at point X i.e. 90 sec red and 20 sec green. Whenever, the two lights have the same cycle, the incidence on signal X is no longer random.

Question : Does it still makes sense to take road A, or to switch to road B provided the average speed on the road A is still the same except the halt at signal?

Solution : 

End Notes

Did you find the article useful? Share with us any other problem statements you can think of. Do let us know your thoughts about this article in the box below.

In one of the upcoming articles, we will share how an interviewer judges an analyst during a case study.

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So you finally landed the Business Analyst interview you’ve worked so hard for? Lucky you. This post contains some tips to help you prepare for the big day. I've also included some tips you can apply if you find yourself in an assessment centre-like setting.

1. Think through all the Business Analyst competencies, as specified by IIBA, and prepare scenarios where you have exhibited these competencies. In answering competency-based questions, don't forget to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) technique to compose your response.

    • Analytical thinking & Problem-solving - Interviewers may look for scenarios where you have demonstrated creative thinking, decision-making, learning, problem solving and systems thinking. In particular, prepare to answer competency-based questions such as: Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision, Tell me about a time when you suggested something innovative, Describe a time you solved a difficult problem or describe a time you faced a difficult challenge and what you learnt from it.
    • Behavioural Characteristics -  You may be assessed based on your ethics, trustworthiness and personal organization. Be able to define what ethics means to you and identify a scenario from your experience when you did something ethical or made a decision based on your ethics.
    • Business Knowledge - The interviewer may assess your knowledge of business principles and practices, industry knowledge, organization knowledge and solution knowledge. Take the time to do some initial research on the industry you've applied to as well as the organization itself. Doing this research will help you understand some of the business problems they face, and help you think of possible solutions and a business strategy that could apply to them (especially when you're presented with a case study). Also, learn about the typical technological solutions/software that may help the organization in performing its day-to-day operations.
    • Software Knowledge - The interviewer may assess your understanding of general purpose software applications and specialized software applications (modelling/diagramming tools). Business analysts should be able to draw UML diagrams and business process models with relative ease. Get some practice in this area for when you're presented with a case study that requires modelling.
    • Interaction -The interviewer may examine your facilitation, negotiation, leadership and teamwork skills. If you find yourself in an assessment centre, these are some of the skills that are typically assessed. Be prepared to show these skills as the assessors will be on the look-out for them. 
    • Communication -  You may also be assessed based on your proficiency in oral communication, teaching and written communication. Some organizations require that you deliver a presentation. This is your chance to show how good your communication skills are. If you're asked to present the findings of your case study, here's 6 Practical Tips for Giving a Great Presentation.

In addition to thinking up scenarios from your background, think of relevant BA techniques you can use to prove one or more of these competencies, where applicable. These techniques will help you demonstrate some of the above competencies if you're presented with a case study.

2. Prepare to answer case study questions and present your findings - Case studies are usually designed to examine your problem-solving and analytical skills. So, prepare to draw diagrams or mockups (if the case study is based on analysis tasks), and use relevant techniques to show the interviewer how proficient you are in the art of analysis.

While presenting your case study results, the interviewer may press for more information. He may do this to challenge you, alter your thinking or test your position. You'll need to decipher which one is happening and respond accordingly.

In some cases, you might be presented with a case study that requires you to come up with strategy recommendations or solutions to business problems. Case study analysis in this case, can become a breeze if you have a framework to draw on. Popular analysis frameworks like SWOT, BCG Matrix and the like can come in handy.

3. If you don’t remember anything else, remember to be confident – I know it’s easier said than done, given the overwhelming anxiety you may experience on the day. Confidence is, however, one of the guaranteed ways to get your interviewer's attention and respect. However, remember there’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance so don't cross that line.

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