Case interviewing is a tool used by consulting firms to assess your skills and potential for a consulting position. Cases are usually scenario-based, problem-solving activities designed to uncover competencies along various dimensions. This style of interviewing requires you to work through business cases similar to those you may face as a consultant. Employers seek candidates who demonstrate the following skills/competencies:
- Business insight
- Communication skills
- Logical/analytical thought process
- Practical judgment/decisiveness
- Quantitative skills
- Response to pressure/lack of information
Types of Questions
Logic questions that measure your creativity, quantitative, and problem-solving skills.
Questions that measure your quantitative skills, such as the size of a particular problem or quantity of certain products, and your ability to think quickly.
Problem-solving activities designed to uncover competencies along various dimensions. Cases are based on either hypothetical situations or real issues faced by companies.
There is not a magic formula for success in case interviews, but you can develop a structured approach. When answering case interview questions, familiarity with business frameworks helps you structure your responses. While models are not appropriate for all cases, a general understanding of the following frameworks and concepts may aid in your preparation efforts for case interviews:
- Porter's 5 Forces
- Availability of Substitute Products, and Level of Competition Among Firms
- 3 C's: Cost, Customers, Competitors
- 4 P's: Product, Price, Place, Promotion
- SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
- Profit = Revenue - Costs
The objective of the case interview is to demonstrate your ability to solve complex problems, not necessarily to reach the correct answer. In addition, the interviewer wants to observe the process you use to approach a problem. Remember that the case interview is a dialogue with the interviewer and not a monologue. Think about a case interview as four distinct parts:
- Information Gathering- Listen carefully and absorb all the information provided. Ask thoughtful, probing questions to clarify and acquire more relevant information. Taking notes is helpful as you engage in your case.
- Organizing Your Analysis- Take some time to think about your responses— a little silence is fine. Consider whether using a framework will help guide your case, but do not force a framework to fit the case.
- Addressing the Problem- Work through your answer out loud. Explain the logic behind your responses so the interviewer can understand your analytical skills and thought process. Throughout your response, make reference to the facts provided by the interviewer. Listen for hints from the interviewer as they will often guide you in the right direction.
- Closing the Case- Summarize your analysis. If you have not arrived at a solution, share potential options and next steps.
- Case examples and tutorials are available on many consulting firm websites.
- TheVault Guide to the Case Interview, by Vault (available throughthe NU Library's electronic resources).
- Ace Your Case! Consulting Interviews, by Wet Feet Press (available through the NU Library's electronic resources).
- Employers often host practice case interviewing sessions on campus. Visit the UCS calendar of events online for details.
- University Career Services hosts a Mock Case Interview Programs where students engage in a practice case interview and then receive developmental feedback. During the fall, seniors are given priority for practice times; during the winter quarter, juniors are given preference for practice times.
- Gather a group of people planning to interview with consulting firms and practice approaches to sample cases.