“Case study interviews put you in the driver’s seat: you’re given a real business problem to work through and solve. The logical reasoning you use to work through the case is just as important as the conclusions you reach” (The University of Sydney, 2019)
Every year, consulting firms get hundreds of applications and the human resource team will select those who have the skills to communicate why they are a candidate worth taking a chance on. During this stage, those selected come from many different types of educational backgrounds. However, one underlying feature across all applications is the same: all applicants have the ability to do the job. This leaves consulting firms with one other main question: can they and how will they do it?
A common trademark in the consulting recruitment process is the case study interview. A case study concerning a business problem and scenario is given to an applicant or group of applicants to work through. The case study is designed to mimic the work management consultants do for their clients and therefore showing the interviewer how the applicant might perform for the firm (The University of Sydney, 2019).
What should I expect?
The goal of the case interview is to assess whether the applicant can work in a designated time frame to solve a case and come to a logical conclusion. Cases may be given verbally or in writing, but applicants will need to have the ability to communicate their strategies and assumptions clearly.
The type of case will vary depending on the employer and the role that the applicant has applied for. Common types of cases include:
- Numeracy scenarios: During this case study, applicants will be asked to estimate figures.
- Lateral thinking scenarios: This could include coming up with creative suggestions and methods in relation to a particular issue.
- Interpretations of pictorial information: This could include analysing certain graphs or charts.
- Corporate and business strategies: This can include examining profitability, growth opportunities, investment strategy or performance improvement (The University of Sydney, 2019).
Practice, practice, and practice
The case study provides an opportunity for applicants to demonstrate problem-solving skills in real-time and does not require extensive knowledge of specific industries or processes. A given case study will have several credible solutions (Accenture, 2018). The consulting firm is really assessing the applicant’s questions and thought-process and how they would communicate with clients in the future (The Boston Consulting Group, n.d.).
In order to get the best out of your case study, preparation is a key element. There are many different case study examples online. Having a run through different types of issues and how they are structured could help you be less overwhelmed on the day. Becoming familiar with how to read or pick out the important information in a case study will provide you with more time on the day to actually put an answer together.
Public speaking is another useful skill, and one to start practising well before the recruitment process even begins. Keep your mind open and flexible to different opportunities. This can be done by joining clubs, tutoring, or even just participating in seminars. This experience will help you in the case interview by making you familiar with the best way to structure arguments and statements in a clear and succinct way.
Advice for the day
There are no magic formula to perfectly solve a case study, however, there are some common tips that you should keep in mind before stepping into the interview room:
- Listen to the interviewer and ask questions:Take time to align your thinking, ask clarifying questions and communicate your line of reasoning to your interviewer. Do not be afraid to take notes along the way.
- Generate a hypothesis and explore options creatively: Make sure to state your hypothesis. Treat your interviewer as a client (Deloitte US Careers, n.d.).
- Structure the problem and form a framework:It is important to take a moment to think about the case in order to gain perspective. Having a clear structure will help you to organise your individual points and clarify your analysis.
- Think before speaking:Don’t jump to conclusions too fast.
- Focus on high-impact issues: Make sure that you are creating value for your ‘client’ (The Boston Consulting Group, 2019).
Overall, going into the case interview, remember that the firm is less concerned with your solution than in your approach to solving the case, your ability to navigate challenges, and how you present yourself (Brianne Turk, n.d.).
Celine Smith is a student at Victoria University of Wellington completing a conjoint degree in Law and Commerce. Conducting research for the School of Information Systems, she is invested in obtaining a career that advances information technologies.
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