What Are Case Study Interviews? (Plus Interview Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 5 December 2022

Published 30 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Case studies interviews are an essential part of the recruitment process for consultancy firms. It enables hiring managers to assess a candidate's capability in contributing effective business strategies. If you're scheduled for a case study interview, it would be useful to understand the different formats of this interview and learn how to prepare for it so that you can have a positive interview experience. In this article, we discuss what are case studies interviews, explore the different case studies interviews, outline the skills that are assessed and suggest how to succeed in this type of interview.

What are case study interviews?

Case study interviews are used by consulting agencies to recruit new consultants in their firms. In this interview, the interviewer presents a scenario based on a real-life business challenge and asks the candidate to design a solution for that problem. This kind of interview is typically a simulation of an issue that the hiring manager has previously encountered or it could involve a situation that candidates may encounter in the future if they were to land a role in the company successfully.

There are usually no right or wrong answers to these types of questions. Hiring managers are keener on the process the candidates go through to derive the solution. This process involves how thoroughly candidates comprehend the problem, how they systematically analyse the problem and how they deliver their thoughts and solutions to the interviewer.

Related: 9 Consulting Skills to Be a Successful Consultant

Types of case study interviews

While every case study interview involves a problem statement, how the interview is conducted may differ depending on the company or the position you are applying for. Here are some formats of case study interviews:

Candidate-led

As the name suggests, the interviewer would introduce a problem statement and expect the candidate to lead the discussion. The candidate then has to take the interviewer through a step-by-step process of deriving a solution to the issue. Candidate-led case study interviews allow candidates to choose their approach to the problem and give them the autonomy to structure their analysis and solution as they see fit.

Interviewer-led

The candidate receives greater guidance from the interviewer in this case study interview format. The interviewer begins by presenting a problem and then supplements it with more data as tables and graphs. In doing so, the interviewer breaks down the question. The interviewer asks some predetermined questions specific to the issue, which the candidate is to answer. The interviewer may interrupt the candidate to shift the direction of the candidate's analysis. This type of interview gives hiring managers an opportunity to assess candidates' specific skill sets or knowledge and also evaluate their weaknesses.

Presentations

In presentation case study interviews, the interviewer gives a problem along with some data and the candidate is to deliver the solution by creating a presentation. Candidates have a time limit to adhere to and in that time, they review the problem and then create a presentation on-site to present possible solutions. Hiring managers expect candidates to analyse the problem swiftly, distinguish between good and unhelpful data, evaluate findings and propose actionable recommendations. This format of case study interviews gives candidates a chance to exhibit their presentation skills as well.

Related: How to Improve Communication Skills (With Definition and Examples)

What skills do case study interviews assess?

Hiring managers use certain indicators during the interview process to predict your performance in the company. Interviewers would expect candidates to display some of the following skills:

Problem-solving skills

As every case study interview involves a problem that requires a solution, it's useful for job applicants to have strong problem-solving skills. Candidates require a combination of creativity and logic to construct effective solutions that would prevent the recurrence of the same issues. The way candidates approach a problem may be their unique element. One way to develop problem-solving skills is to seek opportunities to solve problems in everyday situations. Problem-solving also becomes considerably easier when candidates have an in-depth knowledge of the subject in the relevant fields.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills Examples (With Steps to Develop Them)

Analytical skills

Analytical skills refer to the ability to assimilate and examine data and extract meaningful insights from the information. When the interviewer presents a business problem during the case study interview, job applicants are to use these analytical skills to identify patterns in the data and quickly identify the underlying issue of the problem. Individuals with outstanding analytical skills are critical thinkers who can view the problem from multiple angles. This enables them to create the best actionable solution. Interviewers would also be keen on observing how systematically candidates structure their analysis to derive solutions.

Related: What Are Analytical Skills and Why Are They Important for Employment?

Communication skills

It's important for candidates to coherently and confidently communicate their recommendations for the problem. They can exhibit data-driven and logical reasoning using solid business jargon instead of giving vague answers. Interviewers may also assess your ability to remain calm under pressure and maintain a sense of professionalism, rather than defending your solution at all costs. Displaying good interpersonal skills during the case study interview is also another indicator to hiring managers of how you might build rapport with clients in the future.

Related: Soft Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips

Tips to prepare for case study interviews

Here are some techniques you can use to better prepare for your case study interview:

Have an in-depth understanding of various frameworks

In case study interviews, interviewers place more emphasis on the process that candidates use to derive solutions to problems rather than the solution itself. Therefore, it's important to use certain frameworks to organise your thoughts and structure your analysis before drawing conclusions and making recommendations. Be sure to familiarise yourself with frameworks such as the 4Ps framework, Porter's 5 forces, profitability framework, pricing framework and merger and acquisition framework. Besides being thorough in the technical aspects of these frameworks, ensure that you use the most appropriate framework to help you deconstruct the case and identify its root causes.

Related: What Are Porter's Five Forces? (With Definition and Examples)

Do ample research

Read up on the company that you're going to be interviewing for and several other similar companies, their product pricing and the challenges they might have faced. The information that you may have garnered during your research could assist you greatly in making recommendations during the interview. Be sure to review several actual cases as well. You could source for these in certain consulting firms or the career services department of tertiary institutions.

Related: How To Prepare for an Interview

Refresh your mathematical skills

Case study interviews rarely require candidates to solve complex mathematical equations. Although, there may be some type of calculation they may test you on as most case study interviews have problems with numerical topics such as valuation and estimation. Using calculators or smartphones to do such computations may not portray a professional image. Therefore, it's useful to reacquaint yourself with some basic mathematical skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Practise with a friend or colleague

You can consider preparing for the interview by doing some role-playing with another person. It would be beneficial to do this activity, preferably with someone who may have had some case study interview experience as they could offer you some constructive feedback. Gather some examples of interview questions and get your friend or acquaintance to ask you those questions. While you answer them, focus on structuring your analysis in an organised manner before articulating your solutions.

Related: Stepped Guide on How to Ace an Interview (Tips and Examples)

Tips for your actual case study interview

Be sure to bring a pen and paper to the interview so that you can jot down some salient points of the case study. You may wish to remember the following suggestions as you attend your case study interview:

Ask appropriate questions

Depending on the type of case study interview format, the interviewer may present more information or very little information. Ask appropriate questions to clarify so that it might help you approach the problem correctly. When you ask the right type of questions, the interviewer may even give you some additional information and drop hints which could be useful to you. Asking questions is also a way to engage with the interviewer and move the conversation forward.

Articulate your thought process

Hiring managers are more interested in your analysis of the problem rather than the type of solution that you come up with. Therefore, explain your decision-making process and rationale. Hiring managers would assess your thought process and logical reasoning, so take them through your approach step-by-step.

Related: Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning: Differences and How To Improve

Anticipate questions

While you're articulating your response to the problem statement and making recommendations, your interviewer may pose questions such as 'Can you explain in greater detail?' or 'Why have you selected this approach?' or 'Why do you think that this is the most feasible option?' Your interviewer may also interrupt you by highlighting concerns or weaknesses in solutions you may have proposed. To counteract such situations, you can support your recommendations with specific evidence, such as data and figures that you may have received from your interviewer.

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