Hiring a Business Analyst? The 5 Soft Skills for Business Analysts to Look For
No one can dispute that the role of a business analyst is pivotal to the success of any organization.
Business analyst roles are diverse and can range from tactical to strategic. They may work with different departments to understand the company's business needs and document them for developers to make changes.
Because of this, hiring managers must be aware of the five soft skills for business analysts when looking to fill this role in their company. These skills will help ensure that the business analyst can succeed in their position and provide value to the team they are working with.
This blog post will discuss the five soft skills for business analysts and outline what to look for in potential candidates.
Soft Skills for Business Analysts: What Should You be Looking for?
Soft skills, sometimes referred to as interpersonal skills or character traits, are the personal abilities and attributes that determine how a person communicates and interacts with others.
Soft skills complement hard skills, which refers to a person’s knowledge and technical skills. Because soft skills are more about who a person is rather than what they know, sociologists use soft skills to describe a person’s EQ (emotional intelligence).
Soft skills are essential in the workplace. Communication involves listening, speaking, and presenting ideas. Interpersonal skills determine how a person relates to others. Teamwork determines how well a person works with others, and leadership skills such as time management, problem-solving, and mentoring are also crucial.
You might be tempted to hire based on technical skills alone when hiring a business analyst. Of course, hard skills such as data analysis, IT proficiency, financial planning, and business process modeling are essential, but they don’t make for the best analyst.
In today’s workplace, where the emphasis is on soft skills training to bridge the gap between good and great employees, business analysts need to have a firm understanding and grasp of their own soft skills and how they can support businesses through rapid change.
But what soft skills do today’s business analysts need?
Soft Skill #1. Teamwork
Business analysts often work with project managers, stakeholders, technical staff, and developers as a member of a team. They must have teamwork attributes.
Communicating with many different people and departments requires a willingness to work as a team and understand team dynamics. How does the team form? How does it function? Analysts are almost managers as they help build and cultivate the trust of team members and help the whole business function at full capacity.
Other soft skills come into play when thinking about teamwork. There will be team disagreements, but strong conflict resolution skills include analyzing the positions and expectations of team members and eventually coming to a resolution that everyone can live with.
Interpersonal skills also affect team dynamics. Having the emotional intelligence to understand people’s attitudes and motivations helps analysts relate to them and build strong relationships.
Soft Skill #2. Communication
We touched briefly on communication above, but to dig a little deeper, communication is the cornerstone of a business analyst's role. To build relationships with stakeholders and employees, effective communication is a must.
Business analysts need to be multilingual. They’ll need to speak the language of each department. Another connected soft skill here is active listening. How are messages communicated both up and down the organization and between departments? An analyst will have to adapt to different communication styles and determine each department's needs.
Once data and needs are compiled, analysts need to communicate insights clearly and concisely, depending on who they’re talking to. Some departments might need technical ideas to sound simple.
Communicating in the language of each department ensures that every employee understands why decisions are being made. This understanding lowers the chances of miscommunication and conflict.
Soft Skill #3. Critical Thinking
It’s relatively easy to do some research, come to a sensible conclusion, and present your findings. But business analysts need to dig deeper. They need the ability to step back and evaluate multiple paths to success before deciding on a solution.
Top business analysts want to help businesses implement change to take them to the next level. With so much business data to siphon through, how do analysts ensure they wisely use their time and skills?
They’ll need to decide which data sets are important, why they need to collect them, and the benefits of each data set. Then they can assess opportunities and risks to help stakeholders make better decisions.
For example, you might be tasked with creating a report based on a concern. Instead of collecting data and presenting your findings, you might ask:
- Why do we need this report?
- Do we have other data like this already?
- Will this report have any implications?
- Who will use this data?
You might find that a similar report exists already or that the information doesn’t add value to business operations. Some concerns are valid, while others are not.
It’s crucial to ask thoughtful questions, listen to responses, and weigh up the consequences and implications of any suggestions before making recommendations.
Soft Skill #4. Proactive Problem Solving
Critical thinking informs problem-solving. Every project has problems. A business analyst needs to identify and clearly define a problem to create a shared understanding of the issue and ensure they address it at the root cause.
The other skills already mentioned are part of the equation. A business analyst must communicate the problem to different stakeholders and departments to facilitate problem-solving.
Proactive business analysts anticipate problems, find ways to reduce the risk of problems occurring, and ensure that businesses are agile and resilient.
A business analyst should remain impartial. They can take on board the concerns of stakeholders but ask probing questions to uncover the root causes of issues and the actual needs of the business. There are more than likely patterns in behaviors and communication gaps that cause problems.
To remain impartial and get to the root cause of problems, analysts should gather and review data, be organized, and pay attention to detail. Then they can apply logical thinking and compellingly communicate their findings.
Soft Skill #5. Negotiation
With multiple stakeholders involved in most business decisions and initiatives, a business analyst needs strong negotiation skills. They’ll need to mediate discussions between parties to help stakeholders understand different points of view, resolve conflicts, and reach mutually beneficial conclusions.
They’ll need to use active listening and communication skills to confidently understand the company's needs and individual stakeholders and then facilitate discussions and identify solutions.
This delicate balance between a client’s wants and business needs is precarious and requires interpersonal skills like negotiation, active listening, and effective communication.
How to Assess the Soft Skills for Business Analysts
Bad hires are a drain on resources and can be emotionally draining too.
A business analyst with technical skills might be a bad fit for your company if they offend people, aren’t collaborative by nature, lack attention to detail, and lack critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Running the numbers is easy; facilitating change isn’t. You need someone who can do both without causing a rift in your business.
Though notoriously hard to measure, to assess applicants' soft skills, you can use CapsimInbox.
To make educated hiring decisions, you need insights. With CapsimInbox, you can provide potential candidates with short, engaging, and customized simulations.
Try our self-guided demo today and start to build the simulations you need to assess soft skills.