For the most part, case interviews are reserved for those people looking for employment as a management consultant, an investment banker, an engineer, or some other profession that requires an extensive amount of logical thinking and strong problem-solving abilities. For positions that require collaborative effort, you may be put into a team with other job candidates and asked to perform a task as a group.
The Basic Premise
Rather than ask a candidate, “How would you react if …” the interviewer gives the candidate a situation or problem and asks her to solve it. The point of the exercise is to see how the candidate's brain works. Is she able to develop a logical plan to solve the problem? Does she show an impressive display of reasoning, or does it seem like she's questioning her own answer?
In a typical question, you are introduced to a business dilemma facing a particular company. You are asked to analyze the situation, identify key business issues, and discuss how you would address the problem. Other questions scrutinize skills that are especially important in management consulting and related fields, such as problem-solving ability, communications skills, brainteasers, logical puzzles, and IQ questions.
Remember that rarely is there one right answer for analyzing a case. The way you process the question and reach your conclusion is as important to the interviewer as the conclusion itself.
Your professional demeanor and powers of persuasion will also determine how well you are graded by the interviewer(s). There are a number of websites that you should investigate to find out more about the case interview:
CaseInterview.com provides a range of resources about the case interview from articles to tutorials to success stories, providing examples and insights from companies like McKinsey, BCG, and Accenture.
Boston Consulting Group provides interactive cases for you to study. Listen carefully to each question, then paraphrase it back to the interviewer. Don't get bogged down trying to deal with every aspect of the case, and don't be afraid to ask questions or to think outside of the box.
The case interview sounds intimidating, and it is. To succeed at this type of interview, a candidate needs to be intelligent and quick thinking. Succeeding in a case interview requires a keen problem-solving ability and great insight. Candidates must have knowledge of their subject area and be able to apply it. Coming up with new and feasible solutions is something that recruiters will look upon very favorably.