Nailing the Case Study Interview

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Case studies are starting to be implemented into several companies’ interview processes. This is a very different type of interview than the behavioral type (tips on this kind of interview can be found in this article). Instead of talking about your past experiences and roles with the interviewer, you will be talking about a business situation that is presented to you. Since case studies are a lot less common, a lot of you may not have a lot/any experience with them. This article is meant to provide you with helpful tips that will hopefully calm your nerves and prepare you to ace that case study round!

1. Thoroughly understand the issue

Whether you are given the case study prior to the interview or right after you sit down with your interviewer, the very first thing you should do is work to understand the case study. I have seen companies give the case study in paragraph form, explaining the business situation and problem, and I’ve also seen companies just provide a flow chart to analyze. Read through the case study 2-3 times and absorb everything on the sheet. If you don’t understand the case correctly, it will be difficult to continue in the case study process.

2. Ask questions

Asking questions is very important in the case study process. It showcases your ability to communicate with your teammate(s) or client(s) because you will inevitably be put in a situation where you don’t understand a part of the project. No question is a silly question. In the workforce, your manager would much rather you ask a question if you’re confused rather than you do something wrong and then have to redo it just because you misunderstood something. Asking questions also shows that you can be proactive in learning and achieving the goal, so don’t be shy!

3. Frame the Situation

Once you are confident that you understand the case, provide a quick overview of your perspective of the situation. An example of how you can start this part is: “Thank you for all your input. With that the information I have received, I see that..” Think of this like telling a story. You want to set up the background before you get into the details. If you’re having someone explain a solution to you, you want to have some kind of introduction first, right? Get the interviewer on the same page as you before you continue.

4. Summarize Your Findings

After you introduce the situation, briefly summarize what you observed in this case. This can include descriptions of processes, a list of all the gaps in the process, and any issues you saw. Do not talk too long about this; they are the client so they know what is going on first-hand. This just allows you to showcase your understanding and set the stage for the recommendations you will soon give.

5. Dig Into It

If there are specific questions that the interviewer has, start to answer those. Remember to reference the case when you answer the questions with a phrase such as, “After learning about this process…” In other situations, the interviewer might just ask more open-ended questions, such as, “How can we improve this process?” If you are asked something like this, walk them through your solution from the beginning. After answering questions, transition into providing recommendations. In this stage, connect your observations to your recommendations, with the intent of proposing quality solutions. Engage the interviewer in a conversation, don’t give bland statements, and be confident that you know the case well enough to answer the question(s) and give recommendation(s).

6. Look to the Future

After presenting your answers and recommendations, paint a picture of future next steps and results. Are there risks that they should anticipate? What about the costs? What can the client expect to see if they take your recommendation(s)? Don’t just end your interview with your recommendations. You want to persuade him/her that your solutions are worth implementing, so show the value in them. Your ideas are great! Make sure the interviewer knows that!

I remember being terrified before my first case study interview. It’s a lot to take in. This article was a high-level look at the process and it takes practice to get comfortable with it. The two biggest takeaways from this article are: fully understand the case and communicate your thought process the best you can. The interviewer is more interested in seeing how you think and converse with others, rather than the actual solution. Be brave and be smart!

If you have any questions about case study interviews, feel free to reach out to me at heaths4@vt.edu. Good luck!

 

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