A case interview is a type of interview in which a candidate is asked to analyse and solve a hypothetical business problem or brainteaser question. Case interviews are commonly used in the consulting sector, while investment banks and tech firms are also increasingly using them as part of their recruitment processes.
The magic (or perhaps the terror) of case interviews lies in the fact that you won’t know which problem or question you’ll be facing beforehand; you’ll have to work it all out on the spot. This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t prepare for a case interview, although a different approach may be needed.
We’ve set out the key steps you need to take before a case interview, so you can go into it feeling confident and prepared:
Know what to expect
While there is no way of knowing the exact question you will face during a case interview, you can familiarise yourself with the different case types that are commonly used. These include:
- Market sizing questions such as ‘How many smartphones are sold in China in a month?’
- Growth strategy questions such as ‘How can we increase our sales in Europe?’
- Profitability questions such as ‘How can we reduce manufacturing costs for our products?’
- Brain teasers such as ‘How can you add eight eights to reach 1000?’
Other types may centre on pricing strategies, mergers and acquisitions, product development or entering a new market. There are loads of examples available online, so do your research to get an idea of what to expect; odds are the question you’ll face relates to one of these types.
Understand what they’re looking for
The most important thing you need to know about case interviews is that what you’ll be judged on isn’t so much the solution you come up with but how you get to that solution. By asking you to resolve an unfamiliar problem with only limited information the interviewer can test key employability skills, such as your ability to solve problems, ask the right questions and think creatively. Your industry knowledge and maths skills may also be put to the test, while the way you approach a scenario can also tell them a lot about your organisational skills and your ability to apply structured frameworks. The exact skills the interviewer is looking for usually depend on the role, so familiarise yourself with the job description and work on honing those key skills so you can show them off during the interview.
Build your commercial awareness
Your knowledge of the company and the industry it operates in is key to answering case interview questions. Your understanding of the company’s product or service, its competitors and key industry trends are all likely to be put to the test, as well as your understanding of key business terms and concepts. So, make sure you research the company and industry thoroughly and stay up to date on the latest news.
The best way to prepare for a case interview is to practise. You should be able to find plenty of mock cases online. Familiarise yourself with the different types before trying some yourself. Writing your answers down can help you structure them but by working through the case out loud you’ll get a chance to practise articulating your thought process, which, ultimately, is what the interviewer is most interested in. Working with a friend to simulate the interview can also be helpful.
Just like any other interview, the key to case interview success is preparation and confidence, with the former inspiring the latter. So, make sure you take the time to familiarise yourself with the different case types, have a clear idea of the interviewer’s expectations and practise, practise, practise.