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How to be Successful in a Case Interview

three women sitting beside tableYour future success in a job you apply for may depend on how well you do on a case interview. Understanding how a case interview works, what the interviewer is looking for, and how to prepare, is critical for your success. This article gives you some tips to help you succeed in your next case interview.

Understand the Goals

It is important to understand the goals of a case interview, so you do not overlook all aspects the interviewer may be looking for. The goals the interviewer has likely go beyond finding out if you produce specific correct answers to their questions.

The interviewer wants to also understand how you think- do you have the analytical skills necessary to solve a problem you have never encountered before? In measuring analytical skills, it is less about the “right” answer than how you arrived at your answer. Was there critical thinking and logic behind it? Learning how to solve problems analytically will go a long ways towards improving your case interview skills. Here are some tips for developing your analytical skills.

The other key goal the interviewer will have is to assess your soft skills. This is extremely important to them, as it can make a big difference in winning over a potential client if you have good soft skills. The most important piece of soft skills is your verbal communication abilities; how you talk, how you listen, how you respond, your tone of voice, including your body language. Studying and practicing soft skills will also help tremendously in your case interview success. See here for advice on developing soft skills.

Know the Subject Matter

While having strong analytical and soft skills will go a long way towards success in a case interview, you need to also know the subject matter. If you are being interviewed for business consulting, you should be well versed in how to analyze a business problem and provide appropriate solutions. If you are being interviewed for a job that involves mathematics, you need to be prepared for a wide variety of mathematical questions. Whatever the type of consulting work, there is one or more subject areas that will be important to the interviewer.

Ideally you have a deep and broad knowledge of the subject matter. You can improve your chances considerably by using practice questions with solutions that are found online for a case interview. Keep in mind that many case interviews will not be a simple question/answer format, rather interactive discussion. The discussion may be led primarily by you or the interviewer depending on the structure. Good practice questions will help you understand how to conduct yourself with back and forth questioning and responses that demonstrate critical thinking rather than simply memorizing an answer.

Study the Frameworks

Case interviews often follow specific frameworks, such as the Profitability, Victor Cheng’s General Business, 4P’s, Pricing, Porter’s, Market Entry or Market Sizing. There are many online resources that describe these. Try to identify which framework is more likely to be used at the company you are interviewing for, keeping in mind they may not use a framework at all. Have at least a high level understanding of these major frameworks, so that if they are using it, you will spot this and align your responses with the expected format.

Tips for During the Interview

How you conduct yourself during the interview is another important area for success in a case interview. One of the most important things you should do is to listen carefully. Take notes if that is allowed. Bring a notepad and pen, and ask if you can use it.

If the interviewer thinks you are not listening well to what is being said, it will hurt your chances significantly. If you are not sure you understood the question, ask for clarification. Depending on the format of the interview, you may in fact be expected to ask follow-up questions that dig deeper for more information; they may have facts they are withholding unless you ask for them. Watch for hints they may drop that are designed to point you towards the next area of discussion.

Watch your body language, they are assessing how you would appear to potential clients. While this may be difficult if you are anxious about being in an interview, it is important to do your best. Here are some tips on maintaining good body language.

Study!

Study and prepare in advance. There is more to study for than just the areas discussed in this article. Study the company you are applying for. It may help you in framing your answers and impress the interviewer that you took the time to learn about them. Search online for tips from people who have interviewed with that company and shared their experiences. If you know anyone that works there already, reach out to them for any inside advice. Study the industry they are in, and ensure you know at least the basics about that industry.