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Acing a Case Interview

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Case studies have been used by management consultants for years in order to assess talent. Case interviews have become the norm in various functions and industries including investment banking, consumer product management, marketing and research.

What Is a Case Interview?

A case interview is one in which an interviewer will provide information about the firm, a dilemma or a problem that the company faces. It can be presented on paper or orally. The issues and the company can be imaginary or real world. The interviewee is asked to provide suggestions or answers to the dilemma.

There are various styles in a case interview, as explained below:

Open-Ended: An interviewer will provide you one or two sentences of information. You would be expected to work only based on that information and your assumptions.

Structured Cases: You would be provided information and the interviewer will then guide you through the process of problem solving.

Paper-Driven: You would be handed a full information deck. The interviewer would leave the room so you can read through the graphs and text in this deck. You will then come up with an analysis and present it to your interviewer.

Why Are Case Interviews Used?

A case interview is designed specifically for increasing the level of pressure felt during a normal interview. Interviewees have to
work with senior executives and are expected to think fast, analyze issues, come up with creative solutions if they want to prove to be suitable for the job.

A case interview offers a glimpse into how a candidate actually thinks. Employers can see how the mind of a candidate works, his/her thought process, logic work, how the problem is structured, quantified and how well the ideas are articulated under pressure.

How to be Successful in a Case Interview

Although there are a number of books you will find on handling case interviews, there are a few basics you should remember:

Practice: If you haven't practiced a case study interview process before it can be very difficult to succeed. It is easy to find sample cases online and you can get a career counselor or a friend to practice with you as an interviewer.

Ask Questions: Your questions may impress your interviewer even more than your answers. Don't be shy about asking for clarifications or additional information on the key points. The interviewer's job is to help you out and support you through the process. However, you will need to demonstrate your communication skills if you want to draw the information out.

Organize Your Thoughts: Taking a minute or two to collect your ideas and make notes is a wise decision once the case has been explained by the interviewer. Breaking down the analysis in three parts is a good idea- operational challenges, competitive threats and market opportunity. These will then have subset issues under them that you have to address. Following this approach will help you come up with a cohesive solution.
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