Why Do I  Need To Learn Case Study Interviews when I’m Not In Management Consulting?

Job seekers need to master the case study interview. Proficiency in behavioral interviews alone won’t cut it.

Most professionals outside of management consulting are not used to the case study interview.  These professionals are comfortable with behavioral and technical interviews, however, Capital One has been using case study interviews for years.  Investment banks have started using them, along with many Fortune 500 companies.

The companies use case studies based on their actual problems, so the interviews are anything but theoretical.

What Is a Case Study Interview and Is It Hard?

A case study interview is designed to see how you think, reason, and do simple math on the spot.  The thought process is the key, not the ultimate answer. For example:

  • Our company wants to double market share in 3 years. What do you recommend?
  • We are falling behind Facebook more now than ever. What do you suggest?
  • How should we balance digital marketing vs. more traditional channels?

You are asked to think out loud.  The tricky part is that you can’t practice the actual question like “Tell me about yourself?”

To compound matters, different companies ask for different types of case studies, depending upon the job you seek. Facebook, Amazon, Bank of America all have their own styles.

The Good News Is That It’s Not As Hard As You Think

The first step is to have a framework in mind. A framework allows you to place the problem in a context and provides you with a roadmap for thinking through an answer. Common frameworks are:

  • SWOT (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats)
  • Market Entry
  • Profitability
  • 3Cs
  • M&A
  • Porter’s Five Forces (Industry Competition/New Entrants/Power of Suppliers/Power of Customers/Substitute Products)

The next step is to realize you will rarely have all the information you need. Asking for the right missing information is key.

There are additional pieces to this solvable problem. I recommend Case interview: the ultimate guide. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Client Win

My client was new to case studies, as he worked in financial services his whole life.

At age 42, he found it challenging to open up his thinking and adopt a new framework.  He never thought a financial services job would require a case study interview.

He was going into his post-HR round of interviews with a large tech company, and they told him case studies were next.  First, he studied the company culture and principles to form a foundation of what to emphasize from his accomplishments.  You can’t answer in isolation, since Facebook, Google, Amazon all have different stated values and different case study methods.  Demonstrating these values as you answer the case studies is also key to market yourself.

What did we do together?

  • Educated him on the main frameworks which cover about 90-95% of the case studies he might face
  • Changed his mindset of thinking that he knew all the relevant facts and demonstrated the need for asking for more information
  • Reviewed basic math which can be done in his head despite his having used calculators his whole life
  • Practiced over and over again, since this style did not come naturally for him

If you apply to Google, he might be interviewing you!

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