Case interviews are based on the analysis of a business question. One of the main purposes of case interviews is to evaluate candidates’ problem solving skills. This type of interview is most commonly used in the consulting industry, although quite a number of MBA recruiters now incorporate “mini-case” questions in interviews for other functional areas such as marketing and finance.
In a case interview, recruiters are assessing the following:
- Analytical skills and logic
- General business knowledge and acumen
- Attention to detail and organization
- Comfort with quantitative analysis
- Practical judgment/decisiveness
- Communication and presentation skills
- Response to pressure/lack of information
Tips for Case Interviews
Do not worry about trying to come up with the “right answer”. Employers are assessing your analytical skills, logic in approaching the problem, and your thought process in how you got to your answer and recommendations. Think out loud and provide insight into the logic behind your technique and decisions.
Never lose sight that a case interview is also an interpersonal interview. In addition to analytical skills, firms also judge candidates on their communication skills, persuasiveness, interpersonal skills, professional readiness, and achievement drive/energy.
Listen carefully and make sure that you answer the question that is posed. Restate the question back to the interviewer so that you can be sure that you understand what he/she has asked you to address.
Ask questions that build relevant facts to the case. Remember that the questions themselves and the order in which they are asked demonstrate your ability to analyze an issue in a logical manner. Frame your questions methodically and not in a random order.
The case interview is not a race. Take time to compose your thoughts. Bring a notepad and pen so you can take notes and organize your thoughts.
Make clearly stated, reasonable assumptions when you do not have enough information. One of the primary purposes of case interviews is to assess a candidate’s ability to deal with ambiguous situations.
Although there are typically no “right answers”, remember that some approaches may be more right than others. Most cases are taken from actual client engagements. In an interview situation, you have a limited amount of time so focus on the key elements of the case. Listen to the cues your interviewer gives as you ask questions. Often, they will guide you away from the dead ends.
Use a framework to help you organize your thoughts. Each framework has relative strengths and weaknesses so pick the one most appropriate for the given scenario. When using a framework, do not just say for example, “I would use Porter’s Five Forces Model”. Use the particular framework as a guide in articulating your thinking and perspective.
Synthesize your analysis into a compelling story. Be decisive and define what the client should take-away. Summarize the problem, relevant issues, and your solution in a concise way as if you were sitting in front of an executive at a client engagement.
Practice with sample questions. Being adept at case interviews is a learnable skill. The only way that you will be able to improve your ability and comfort level with case interviews is to practice.