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Do you ever wish you could see how a candidate works before you hire them? Case interviews get you close to that by providing an opportunity to see how the candidate thinks and solves problems. Read on to learn more about what a case interview is, the pros and cons, and how to successfully conduct one.

What is a Case Interview?

A case interview is a job interview where the candidate is presented with a business problem to solve. The problem can be hypothetical, historical or real. Case interviews challenge the candidate’s problem-solving skills in a real life scenario and provide the interviewer with an opportunity to see what soft and hard skills the candidate has.

Case Interview vs. Regular Interviews

A regular interview goes through a series of questions, often about expectations and experience. Case interviews are not question-led, but revolve around the business problem. It often focuses not just on the solution, but on the approaches and frameworks used by the candidate.

Should Companies Do Case Interviews?

Case interviews help interviewers understand and evaluate how a candidate thinks and approaches problems. For positions where analytical thinking and problem solving are needed for success,  case interviews are a great option!

Pros of Case Interviews

  • Highly analytical. A case study is a really great way to understand how a candidate thinks and solves problems.
  • Candidate flexibility. Case interviews allow the candidate to lead the discussion, giving them a bit more flexibility.
  • More general. Unlike regular interview questions, case studies are looking for approaches and frameworks rather than specific answers and experience.

Cons of Case Interviews

  • High pressure. Case studies often feel more difficult and create greater anxiety for candidates.
  • Don’t cover experience. If you are looking for someone with experience, a case study doesn’t always show specific experience and expertise.
  • Test specific skills. Case studies do focus on specific skills: analytic process, logical thinking, business acumen, and communication. If these are less important for a role, a case interview will be testing skills that might be unnecessary.

Common Case Interview Formats

There are two types of case interview formats: candidate led and interviewer led. Candidate led is the most commonly used. Interviewer led is considered more challenging.

Candidate Led

In this type of interview, the candidate leads the conversation. The candidate walks the interviewer through their approach to solving the problem with steps like structuring, frameworks, data gathering, problem synthesis and solutions. This type of interview gives the candidate control over the case.

Interviewer Led

The interviewer leads this interview by asking the candidate about their work on specific parts of the case. Some interviewers follow the natural flow of problem solving, while others focus on specific parts. This type of interview focuses on the answer to each question rather than the final solution.

Common Case Formats

While there are different types of case interviews, there are also different formats for the cases themselves. Each format has a different purpose and expectation for the outcome.

Profitability

This type of case is focused on a business problem in regards to profitability (revenue, cost, etc.). All businesses seek profitability, so this type of case study is common across all businesses.

Market

Market case studies can focus on different parts of marketing: market size, market entry, market profitability, and market exiting. This type of case study is common for a company that consults or performs on the above.

Math

These cases are often used in a data-based industry. During this type of interview, a candidate should not have access to a calculator and needs to give well-developed estimates on their own. This tests their ability to work in an environment where data is not yet present and to also test their knowledge of business formulas.

How to Conduct a Case Interview

The level of emphasis and intensity of the case study varies by company and position. Consulting firms and analytical roles often have longer case studies with in-depth questioning, while other roles might have simpler interviews and answers.

Step 1: Decide When to Give the Case

Some companies send the cases ahead of time and some present the case during the interview and give a short time to prepare. You will need to decide which you’d rather do. The first option allows the candidate to prepare and do research thus showing their skill for preparation and research. The latter can show how a candidate works under pressure and a time constraint.

Step 2: Familiarize Yourself with the Case

It’s important to understand the case yourself. This will help you know whether a candidate is right or wrong as they diagnose the problem and interpret the data.

Step 3: Prepare Questions and Solutions

Be sure to prepare by coming up with questions you can ask anyone, such as, “Which frameworks did you use to address this?” It would also be helpful to come up with a few rough solutions yourself so you have an idea of where the candidate might be starting from.

Step 4: Be Open Minded

There are many possible solutions to a problem. A candidate might use a different approach and come up with a different solution than you would expect. It is important to keep an open mind because those who approach things differently can still demonstrate the skills a case interview is designed to show.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Case Interviews

Case interviews tend to be used most by consulting firms. Businesses and roles that look for specific skills (analytic process, logical thinking, business acumen, and communication) will be best suited for case interviews.

Case interviews are often between 30 and 45 minutes. Companies with deeper ties in consulting will often conduct multiple rounds of case interviews to gain a better idea of the candidate’s skills.

Katie is currently studying at BYU, with a HRM major and Statistics minor. She works there as an HR research assistant and also works as an HR Generalist at a local company, and both jobs provide her with a wide variety of experiences. Katie’s passion lies in HR and People Analytics, where she can discover and use data to help everyone understand and improve the workplace for a universal benefit.

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