Mastering the Case Interview

Any consulting candidate can look great on paper, but can you really offer a valuable service to businesses? That is exactly what hiring managers want to know, and they determine the answer to that question through case interviews. Typically, the case interview will be the conclusion to a lengthy interview process in which the hiring manager will learn everything he or she can about your qualifications, past successes, education and work ethic.

Case interviews are most commonly used for the following consulting positions:

– Management Agencies
– Law Firms
– Police Departments
– Government Organizations
– Non-Profit Organizations
– Social Work Institutions
– Marketing & Advertising Agencies

When consulting for any of the above companies, your output directly affects the success or failure of the business in whatever capacity you will be hired to perform.

In most cases, the case interview will involve a series of real-life situations for which you will have to determine the best possible solution. They are commonly called “What If” situations or “SupposeâÂ?¦” situations. The hiring manager will outline the details surrounding the fictional problem, and you will be given a set amount of time to come up with a plan of action.

The consulting candidate can use any number of available resources to best impress the hiring manager. Software, graphs, charts, sums, projection charts and models are completely acceptable ways to illustrate your idea to the hiring manager. The most important thing to remember is that the more logical and well-developed your idea, the more impressed the hiring manager will be.

The good thing about case interviews is that there are no right answers. Your services as a consultant are required because the current business officers don’t know how to handle certain issues. They can describe those issues to you, but your solution must only impress them. If your ideas are logical, then they will most likely be accepted as viable.

To make case interviews progress more smoothly, apply the following suggestions.

1. Be a professional. The hiring manager is looking for a take-charge, confident consultant who can step right into the company’s shoes and make changes without supervision. Don’t hem and haw about several different avenues; choose one and proceed forcefully with it as though it were the only intelligent solution.
2. Explain in detail. You not only have to tell the hiring manager what your solution is, but you must also describe how you arrived at that particular conclusion. Use variables and hypothesis to explain in detail why you feel the way you do, and what benefits your solution poses over alternatives.
3. Be prepared. Before you enter the case interview, learn as much as you can about the business for which you will hopefully be working. Learn about the cash flow, the operations and about the nitty-gritty details the hiring manager will not expect you to know. The more you know about the company, the more likely you will be to deliver a plausible solution.
4. Be a detective. Approach each question from a neutral and logical perspective, and work it in a logical fashion. You can’t solve a case based on circumstantial evidence just like you can’t solve a business problem based on hypothetical assumptions.
5. Be proactive. The hiring manager will expect you to come on board with guns a’blazin’. This means that you responses to the case interview should be entirely proactive. Don’t tell them what you could do; tell them what you will do. This will allow the hiring manager and business officers to feel confident in your abilities.
6. Go above and beyond. Just because the hiring manager gives you a small problem doesn’t mean that you can’t jump ahead. Explain why your solution will affect sales and production ten years from now, and what your subsequent steps would be to keep the ball rolling.

Case interviews can be stressful, but if you approach them with a calm, clear head, you can make immediate headway with the hiring manager, and hopefully land yourself a consulting position.

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