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Case Interviewing Graduate Business Career Center Carlson School of Management Agenda Why case interviews? What are they? Approaching a business case Takeaways Case interviews help companies assess your problem-solving skills.... Recruiters say: “How a person thinks is most important”

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case interviewing

Case Interviewing

Graduate Business Career Center

Carlson School of Management

agenda
Agenda
  • Why case interviews?
  • What are they?
  • Approaching a business case
  • Takeaways
case interviews help companies assess your problem solving skills
Case interviews help companies assess your problem-solving skills....

Recruiters say:

“How a person thinks is most important”

Case interview gives employers a level evaluation field

“We’re looking for subtlety and thoughtfulness”

“We get to test candidates in a real-world atmosphere”

“The interviewer wants to know that you’ll perform well in front of a client, even if you’re asked something you don’t know”

and characteristics for success in business
…and characteristics for success in business

Characteristic

Description

Problem solving

How you handle ambiguity, think creatively and/or strategically

Provides complete picture of candidate’s abilities and fit with position

Process more important than finding “right” answer

Analytical skills

How you deal with interrelated numbers

Structuring

How you think and organize

Leadership

How you manage the case and deal with frustration; how you present yourself

Communication skills

How you interact with the interviewer

a case interview simulates communication about a business problem
A case interview simulates communication about a business problem
  • Conversation between you and interviewer
  • Common types of cases
    • Real-life business scenario
    • Group case
    • Guesstimate
    • Brainteaser
  • Applicable to all functions - not just for consultants anymore!
approach a case interview using 4 basic steps
Approach a case interview using 4 basic steps

Clarify

Structure

Analyze

Conclude

  • Develop approach to solve problem
  • Be hypothesis-driven
  • Communicate approach and assumptions (if necessary)
  • Prioritize hypothesis
  • Ask questions to test hypothesis
  • Synthesize findings and their relation to the question
  • Make recommendations
  • Identify implications
  • Ensure complete understanding of question
  • Take notes and write question
clarify the issue and confirm with interviewer
What to do:

Listen carefully to question

Take notes

Confirm time available

Understand objectives of client/company

Confirm problem statement with interviewer

Helps ensure you’re answering the right question!

Guides you to structuring your analysis

Clarify the issue and confirm with interviewer
develop and communicate your framework before diving into the case analysis
Develop and communicate your framework BEFORE diving into the case analysis

What to do:

  • Take a minute in silence to collect your thoughts and break the problem into pieces
  • Write approach/framework on paper
  • Describe overall approach to interviewer
  • Use hypothesis and explain how each piece of hypothesis relates to overall question

Demonstrates structured approach to problem-solving

Allows interviewer to give you additional information or guidance

use an issue tree as a good general way to structure your analysis
Use an issue tree as a good general way to structure your analysis

Business Situation/ Client Objective

Each issue should contain hypothesis for answer to question

Issue

Issue

Issue

Each sub issue is hypothesis that could give answer to issue

Sub Issue

Sub Issue

Sub Issue

Sub Issue

Sub Issue

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

use frameworks selectively to cover relevant issues
Use frameworks selectively to cover relevant issues

Common frameworks:

  • Profit Model
  • Porter’s Five Forces
  • BCG Growth-Share Matrix
  • Four P’s
  • Five C’s
  • Value Chain
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Order-Winning Criteria

Remember: frameworks are tools to help you organize your thinking, NOT solutions to problems

prioritize the issues and begin analysis
Prioritize the issues and begin analysis

Broad approach:

  • Walk the interviewer through your thinking
  • Prioritize issues
  • Ask relevant questions
  • Do the math!
  • State findings for each analysis, and how they relate to question

Other suggestions:

  • Alternate frequently between hypothesis and data
  • Keep analysis as simple as possible: remember 80/20 rule!!
use issue tree to keep your analysis on track
Use issue tree to keep your analysis on track

Business Situation/ Client Objective

After completing analysis of one branch, communicate the “so what”

Communicate hypothesis of solution based on previous branch and why moving onto next branch

Eliminate all non-key issues

B

C

Issue

Issue

Issue

A

Sub Issue

Sub Issue

Sub Issue

Sub Issue

Sub Issue

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

Output

be creative in your analysis and recommendations
Be creative in your analysis and recommendations
  • Think about broad strategy issues:
    • Should the client even be in the business?
    • Are there significant barriers to implementation?
    • Are there cultural and or inter-personal issues?

Use pictures to communicate broad trends or keys to success:

2X2 matrix

Relationships between things

80/20 Rule

Cost

Millions

Revenue

Millions

50

80

Seg A

70

‘01

100

Revenue Potential

50

Seg B

70

‘00

70

20

70

‘99

50

% of Profit

% of accounts

Service Rating

Year

finish with specific actionable recommendations and relate them back to the problem statement
Finish with specific, actionable recommendations and relate them back to the problem statement

At the end of the case:

  • Synthesize findings
  • Build your argument
  • Discuss trade-offs
  • Develop overall recommendations that relate to the problem statement
  • Communicate how you would deal with any open issues

You will never have enough data! Make the best decision you can with what you have

takeaways top 7 things to do
Takeaways: top 7 things to DO
  • Enjoy the process!!
  • Listen and trust what the interviewer says; use verbal and non-verbal cues
  • Manage your time
  • Organize your answer first, then explain it
  • Explain your thought process so interviewer can see where you are going and why
  • Be creative in your thinking
  • Stay calm if interviewer challenges part of your answer - it’s usually part of the test
takeaways top 7 things to not to do
Takeaways: top 7 things to NOT to do
  • Try to force-fit a framework to the problem
  • Label your frameworks
  • Hide from the details or numbers
  • Ask a lot of questions without explaining why you’re asking
  • Work against your interviewer
  • Forget what question you’re trying to answer
  • Panic
takeaways key to success
Takeaways: key to success

PRACTICE!

  • Resources:
  • Case Interview Toolkit
  • Harvard College Guide to Consulting Case Questions
  • Case in Point
  • Wetfeet guides
  • Vault guides
  • Company websites (BCG, Capital One, Bain and many others)