Home‎ > ‎

Case Style Interviews

One of the primary objectives of the Consulting Club is to help students develop skills in Case style Interviews. 

There will be Practice case interview sessions every month planned by the club. You will be paired against one or more students to work on cases during a twenty minute period per case/per person. 

The Consulting Club has a huge database of cases that is free for the members of the club. The club will provide cases for the practice sessions. 

A sign up sheet and instructions will soon be provided to everyone who is interested in gaining the experience of solving cases. 

To begin with let us give you a brief idea of what a Case Interview is.

A case interview is a style of interview question or interview technique used by management consulting firms when recruiting new employees. The case question is generally a business problem or estimating exercise designed to make you think on your toes, use logic and common sense. Consulting organisations want to see that you can structure an answer and perform basic calculations with large numbers. 

The objective of the case interview is not to get it right, but more to demonstrate your ability to solve complex problems and how you think. The interviewer wants to see you as a colleague with whom he or she would want to work with in a team. Often the case interview can be very interactive, as you ask questions, seek clarification and bounce ideas off your interviewer. 

The case interview is generally a one on one style interview and you are given a pen and paper or perhaps a whiteboard on which to write, brainstorm, perform calculations and structure your answer. After some light conversation and getting to know you, the interviewer will then pose the case question. Feel free to take notes because a lot of information may be coming your way. Clarify the questions details to ensure you are of a common understanding and on the right track before launching into the case. The interviewer will then watch you and is there to answer any questions, give more information when needed and guide you on the problem. 

You can expect to be interviewed by 1, 2 or 3 different people on any one day with an average 30 mins to an hour assigned to each interview. The case question itself can last anywhere from 20 - 40 mins depending on its difficulty and the specific round of interview. 

Although you may feel tense, nervous and anxious, the important thing is to relax be confident and have fun! 

Answering case interview questions? 

When answering case questions the most important thing above all else is to demonstrate to the interviewer your intelligence and ability to solve problems. There is a good chance that you will not even generate an answer nor will it be correct. Often case interviews can simply end up being an exploration of issues with the interviewer guiding you down one of many possible paths allowing you to formulate a solution to a problem, give recommendations or ‘ball park’ an estimate. 

With this in mind never go too quick because you may overlook important elements of the problem and take too narrow a focus. Be sure to work at a steady pace however to ensure you can at least give a final answer if required by the interviewer. 

Interact with the interviewer and ask any questions to gauge the scope of the problem or fill in missing gaps of information. Often certain details of the case will be withheld purposely to see if you can determine yourself what extra information would be useful. This demonstrates that you are both inquisitive and thorough. 

Don’t be afraid to be creative because management consulting requires a large element of ‘thinking outside the square’ and innovative ideas. Be enthusiastic, confident and comfortable. Always let your personality come through. You may get way off track in a case interview and think that there is no way you will make it to the next round, however your personality is what often will get you over the line. 

A good point to make here is the importance of bringing structure to your problem solving. Common methods and frameworks such as Porters 5 forces, the BCG Matrix, SWOT Analysis, Revenue and Cost modelling, business life cycle analysis, Mind Mapping, key issues grouping and problem decomposition are great ways of bringing structure to your thoughts, however feel free to structure your solution anyway you can keeping in mind what feels appropriate given the nature of the case question. 

The last point that should be made is in regard to the appearance of your key strengths. Consulting firms hire from a variety of backgrounds and degrees including engineering, science, law, business, economics, management and commerce. They take anyone who shows the right attitude and mind for the job. Management consulting firms look for the most intelligent individuals, ‘all-rounders’ with competencies and interests in a range of disciplines and despite your education or experience being in only one or two areas they will provide the best training and education to bring you up to speed. It is important, therefore, that if you are a business or commerce oriented individual you must be sure to demonstrate creativity, problem solving skills and a level of thinking outside of the traditional number crunching economist or accountant mind set. Conversely someone like an engineer needs to demonstrate a level of business acumen with at least some knowledge or interest in the commercial world. Play to your strengths but don’t show the interviewer that you are only strong in solving problems from one particular approach or based on one educational style. In saying all this, number and math skills are a must, so make sure you can add, subtract, multiply and roughly divide large numbers in your head or on paper without the use of a calculator. 

Good Luck!