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Case Interview Preparation Tips to Land your Dream Job
If you want to enter the consulting world, prepare yourself for a rough ride. In short, the selection process is brutal.
In particular, even individuals who have enviable academic qualifications and/or formidable previous experience in the industry may very well still stumble in the notoriously tough case interviews.
The goal of recruiters is to push you to the limit and put you in unconventional situations requiring you to think outside the box.
After all, you are competing for a spot to work with some of the best minds in the industry.
You will go through a series of tests in which minor details are the difference between success and failure.
So how do you manage to keep your cool in such high-pressure situations?
Are there strategies and frameworks to use to structure thoughts and be at your best in these interviews?
There most certainly are.
But before that, here is a quick guide to help you understand what case interviews are and their purpose in the recruitment process.
Case Interview Preparation: What are Case Interviews?
Case interviews are an essential part of the consulting industry recruitment process.
During these interviews, you are presented with a real past or hypothetical business scenario that you ought to analyze and solve as you interact with your interviewer.
You’ll be allowed some time to solve the problem and offer your findings. While arriving at the right conclusion is important, you will also be assessed on how you arrive at the answer.
Recruiters want to understand your thought process to determine if you are the right fit for their company and culture.
As such, you should know your stuff, but also remember to engage the recruiters.
Case interview preparation: it is a dialogue, and you might as well ‘charm’ your way through their doors.
Why do companies conduct case interviews?
Case interviews are sufficiently effective that they are increasingly being adopted by firms in other sectors.
Banks like Capital One and tech firms like Google and Facebook are now likely to subject applicants to case interviews.
There must be a good reason for this. Why are case interviews becoming so popular?
Companies conduct case interviews to probe your qualitative and quantitative skills.
The way you apply the scarce information offered, present yourself, and analyze the situation showcases crucial qualities for any strong candidate.
The themes and problem scenarios that were chosen are often closely related to the daily activities within the company.
The scenarios put you in a situation you’ll find yourself in often as you work for the company. Showing that you can hack it at the interview stage is excellent news.
Some of the skills case interviews are designed to pick out include:
- Business intuition
- Analytical thinking
- Good and effective communication
- Asking important and the right questions
Now that we have the basics covered, here are some tips to help you prepare and ace case interviews.
Case Interview Preparation: here is how can you prepare for case interviews?
1. Start Early
Please do not make the mistake of underestimating the process; it is rigorous and can trip even the best and experienced minds.
As such, Preparing for a case interview is not something you can do overnight; it takes weeks or even months.
Think of the process, like teaching your brain a new way of dissecting and approaching a problem.
Experts recommend about 40 – 50 hours of preparation. But if you are coming in from a different industry, allocate even more time.
2. Brush up on your math skills
This is part of the reason why you should start your preparation early. In almost all case interviews, you’ll have to solve mathematical computation fast and without a calculator. The math is in the form of;
- Simple calculations – these are key to impressing the clients with quick estimates and posing preliminary questions to help you make accurate conclusions.
- Analyzing data – this involves extracting data from charts and graphs, elaborating them, and drawing accurate conclusions.
- Solving business problems – you will need to translate a real-world business problem into a math problem and solve it.
When you start your preparation, it is okay to be a little rusty. But with time, your brain will be sharp enough to complete the calculations mentally.
3. Fundamental skills are key
To effectively analyze a problem and solve it correctly, you need to have industry basics. Gone are the days when firms hired individuals with general skills.
The industry has changed and favors those with solid industry skills.
If you want to present yourself as an expert in any field, you need the basics.
After all, it would be difficult to break down the problem if you don’t have these in the palm of your hand.
4. Do not use frameworks
When preparing for case interviews, you will read up on sample case interviews to have an idea of the whole process.
However, many candidates make the mistake of re-using pre-existing frameworks during case interviews.
Case framework guides are there to do just that – guide you through the process. If you re-use them, the interviewers will pick up on it and penalize you for it.
Remember, every case is unique. Therefore, you should strive to come up with a custom framework for each case you are presented with.
It might sound difficult, but when you follow the right procedure, it will all fall in place.
5. Too much practice?
You can never have enough practice. Knowing how to approach a case interview is great, but it will not guarantee you a spot in the company.
Think of it as playing the guitar. You might know the strings and what you need to do to play a given tune, but the job has only begun.
You need to get your body to get with the program to play a tune successfully – and this takes time.
As you practice, do it alone but also have a partner in crime to help you simulate the cases better.
In the real world, coming up with the right answer is never enough. You also have to learn the art of presenting the recommendation compellingly.
If not, all the hours spent preparing for the interview will go to waste. To ensure your answers stand out, employ a CEO communication method.
Below are the aspects of this communication method:
- Top-down – start with the most crucial message. A CEO will only ask for details if the opening line is compelling enough.
- Concise – be quick and to the point. It helps if you have your responses structured.
- Fact-based – CEOs don’t like opinions. Instead, they prefer facts since these shine light on the reality of things.
- Offering facts during interviews also puts you in control.
Bonus Tip – Fit Questions
Though case interviews are tougher and focus on quantitative and qualitative skills, you need to prepare for fit questions too.
These encompass the ‘Tell us about yourself’, ‘How would your friends describe you?’, ‘Why are you perfect for this job?’ type of questions.
These questions are not a formality. Instead, they test your communication and social skills.
Case Interview Preparation Tips: Conclusion
Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand to get you to ace these interviews.
But with some hard work, focus and the above tips, your odds of landing that dream job are better.