5 Tips for Acing Your Case Interview

A case interview might sound intimidating, but it's actually a wonderful opportunity. You get to spend time with company officials, analyze a business challenge, and come up with a solution.

A resume tells the story of what you've done, but a case interview lets you demonstrate how well you can do. It showcases reasoning abilities, creative problem-solving, communications skills, and business awareness.

case interview

Even though you usually won't know the exact case scenario you'll be presented during a case interview, you still can prepare for possibilities. Here are five great ways to do that.

1. Do your research

Many of the same techniques you would use to get ready for a regular job interview apply to acing the case interview—research the company, Google the people you'll interview with, and practice with friends.

With a case interview, you'll need to dig a little deeper and differently. Look at the company's competitors as well. This can give insight into the firm's challenges, which in turn could be potential case interview fodder. Look at where company officials have worked previously. An interviewer might draw on past experience in coming up with your case scenario.

2. Be familiar with business analysis frameworks

From profitability to market entry, there's a framework out there for solving most business problems. Familiarize yourself with some of the more common ones before your interview, but don't get too attached.

It's rare that any case is going to fall neatly within just one category. Your case might be, at its heart, a pricing question for a new product, but there could be marketing considerations as well. Be prepared to borrow from various frameworks in putting your case together.

3. Listen carefully, and ask questions

Case interview questions can run the gamut from calculating how long it takes to move a mountain with an average dump truck to changing a convenience store's layout to maximize profits. Some interviewers will thoroughly outline the situation, while others will offer only bare bones. Either way, it's up to you to flesh things out.

What does the interviewer consider an "average" dump truck? What size is the mountain? Will blasting be required or is the mountain made of easily excavated softer rocks and dirt? Will labor laws or union contracts limit the number of hours worked a day? What month will the work be done—this determines how many day-time hours are available without the expense of extra lighting. Which is more important: fast or cheap?

That's a lot of potential complications for a seemingly easy question. You'll win points for each one you ask about.

4. Come to a clear conclusion

Many times, two options are going to look equally attractive. While it's possible to present both—if you're more interested in maximizing revenue, pick A, but if cutting costs is the goal, choose B—most of the time you'll need to pick a side.

You can, however, add caveats. "I believe pursuing additional revenue streams is your best course, for reasons A, B, and C. But I also considered cost-cutting measures that could be implemented in tandem with the other steps."

5. Communicate

Be prepared to go step-by-step through your decision-making process. Interviewers aren't looking for the one right answer as much as they're interested in hearing how you got there.

If an interviewer questions a finding, make sure you consider his perspective thoughtfully. It could be that he's playing devil's advocate to see how well you handle dissenting opinion.

Above all, give yourself time to process. There's nothing wrong with saying, "Let me think about that for a second." It's better to take that second than to say the first thing that comes to mind and sound ridiculous.

Though it's easy to stress out over the great unknown of a case interview, it's actually a great opportunity to showcase what you know and how you think. Do a little research beforehand, then sit back and enjoy the challenge.

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