The case interview. Arguably one of the most daunting hurdles that stands between you and that coveted summer consulting internship. Case interviews are meant to test how you’re able to use analytical and critical thinking to solve a real-world problem that the firm or interviewer you’re sitting down with has actually once faced.
Typically, a case interview is a job interview that will likely occur after you’ve gone through a round or two of behavioral interviews. In the interview, you’re given facts about a company and a potential problem they might be facing. It is then up to you to determine why they might be experiencing that particular problem, and how you would recommend that company go about solving it. Though case interviews may be nerve wracking, here are five tips and tricks to ensure you’re ready for whatever case is thrown at you.
One of the biggest misconceptions with the case interview is that once your interviewer has outlined the case, you’re not allowed to get any other additional information or communicate with your interviewer until you’ve come up with your final answer. This is actually false, and will most likely not get you called back. The case interview is meant to be interactive, as the original case that is presented to you is typically incomplete, and you are meant to think about the additional pieces necessary to come up with a fully informed answer. Make sure you listen closely to how your interviewer chooses to answer your questions, as listening is one of the most important skills interviewers look for when deciding whether or not to hire someone. Also, your interviewer may choose to answer the questions in a way that could give you some hints on how to further proceed with the case.
Before you go off on market-sizing and calculating the yearly revenue, take a second to think, develop, and write down a structure for solving the case. Structuring the problem allows you to gather your thoughts, write down you currently know, understand what your final solution should look like, and helps you figure out what you’re currently missing. It’s also important to not rely solely on the frameworks you’ve learned in a business class or read about on the internet. Standardized frameworks like Porter’s 5 Forces or a SWOT analysis may not be adequate in capturing all features of the problem you’re trying to solve, and by trying to force the case into one of these very basic structures, there’s a good chance you’ll leave out crucial information.
We here at TransparentCareer are all about transparency, and case interviews are no different. When solving a case, there is very rarely one single correct answer. Case interviews are not meant to see if you can solve the case “correctly” but rather be able to understand your thought process and your approach to difficult questions and problems. Showing your work, whether that be on paper or out loud to your interviewer, as you’re working through the presented case is an integral part of showing the interviewer how you decide to tackle the task at hand.
While working on a case, it’s easy to get distracted and bogged down by the plethora of information and problems at hand. Don’t let all of this take you away from the main objective, and make sure that your final answer focuses on the specific problem you were tasked to solve. This is another reason why showing your work and structuring the case is so important. If you get off the path of where you should be, some interviewers may try to get you back onto the right track, whereas some may not say anything until you’ve presented your solution to the wrong problem.
As with most things, practice really does make perfect. But in this case, practicing with a friend is even more important as practicing the communication skills that goes along with the interview is just as important as actually solving the case. When you’re practicing cases be sure to also brush up on your mental math skills, as most case interviews will include numbers you’ll need to analyze, and you most likely will not have access to a calculator. Finally, most large firms, including McKinsey, Deloitte, Bain, and BCG, have a plethora of sample cases on their websites so you’ll never run out of practice materials.
Now that you’ve gotten the case down, need some help working on your behavioral interview? Take a look at our article on the most commonly asked behavioral interview questions.
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