Case study based interviews are near certainties when interviewing with management and strategy consultancies but they are also becoming more and more prevalent for non consulting roles. Combined with behavioural and competency based interviews they are intended to provide potential employers with a clear view of the way candidates structure their thinking, approach problems and reach sound conclusion with limited information. Furthermore they are a great way to test interactive and creative problem solving in addition to broader business judgement. Unlike many other interview approaches they cannot be strictly prepared beforehand but they can and should be practiced.
If you have been in a consulting environment or have recently completed an MBA you will no doubt be used to tackling problems with the case study mind set. However, I have seen a number of senior candidates recently who have struggled with the case study component of the interview. Many have performed exceptionally well on the behavioural and competency based questions demonstrating real leadership and ability. We have thus grappled with the question of whether they are simply rusty at the old case study or whether this is an indication of a gap in their skill set. It has certainly led me to guide senior candidates to engaging in a quite a bit of extra case study practice and a recognition that great success in your career to date does not naturally mean that you will fly through a case study interview with ease. There are a number of excellent sources online in addition to books on the case study – my advice is to break these open, you are never too advanced in your career for a bit of old fashioned practice!
Katharine de Vaal is a consultant on the Select Team at FreshMinds Talent