Job candidates seeking positions in management consulting firms or investment banking companies are increasingly facing what is known as “the case interview”. In these special job interviews, job seekers are asked to apply their skills to provide possible solutions to a real business challenge.
If you have such an interview coming up or have done them in the past, here are some great ways to handle it.
What the case interview will be testing
In a case interview, you will be expected to prove your abilities to analyze and solve problems while showing your ability to apply logic and strategy.
At the same time, the case interview is used when companies are looking to assess your creative thinking, listening skills, level of common sense, and overall comfort with having your ideas openly interpreted or discussed with a professional demeanor.
Finally, from time to time, you will be asked to present a case that assists with a past, present, or future issue the company will need you to work on.
Before the case interview
Before even thinking of how to present your case, you must first understand the company’s mission, product, services, and ideally, prior case studies that may appear online or in public media. The Internet and social media have made it fairly convenient to research a company’s financial strength, leadership, and previous success stories with problems the company solved.
Get to know how it all works now, and worked in the past. When you have all this down, and you have created the case which companies may give you before the interview, be sure to practice, practice, and practice some more.
Research online articles about other cases and interviews. Make yourself an expert on the topic, if not sick talking about it. You want to be that person in a case interview who is calm and cool under pressure.
The day of the interview
Make sure you are well-rested. No caffeine, coffee, stimulants, or anti-stimulants that alter your emotions and ability to think clearly. Practice one more time and make sure all is in order. Remember some case interviews have been as short as 15 minutes and as long as 4 hours. You will need your strength.
During the case interview
The company is going to judge you on your answers. Therefore, you must project clear thoughts, a practical judgment of the case itself, and do so professionally. A great way to approach the case interview when it starts:
- Ask questions to clarify the issues at hand, if you are unsure
- Point out your underlying thoughts and assumptions on the issue
- Do not ramble. Summarize specific findings.
- Provide recommendations
- Outline your steps with expected results
Most importantly, job seekers in a case interview are expected to have an enjoyable and effective discussion. Obviously, you do not work for the company, yet, so you cannot have the perfect answer. However, you must display your logic and thought processes for the case interview is supposed to be a test of a real case dialogue.
More to do during the interview
Listening skills takes more than just not talking and putting on your best listening face. Take notes, write questions down, develop a hypothesis, and compose your thoughts. You want to structure an analysis into a logical story and walk the interviewer through your assumptions and thinking.
Engage the interviewers in conversation. Never panic if you do not like their responses (that’s why no caffeine beforehand). You want to show your ability to think outside the box and prioritize issues or objectives.
The case interview questions
During the case interview, you will hear questions focused on the following:
- Market numbers case
- Problem case
- Business operations case
- Business strategy case
- Resume case based on your own business experience
- Logic case to test your IQ
- Never be afraid to give a wrong answer
When you are done presenting
Do not panic if the interviewers sit in silence, or if you take a moment to collect your thoughts before hearing more questions. You want to show you are calm and take the time to think before speaking. Do not avoid talking for several minutes, as it will make the silence awkward.
And never forget the classic interview tips
You have to display confidence in your case interview. Show enthusiasm, keep eye contact, and project confidence. These are just the classic interview tips you hear all the time and they still apply in a case interview.