Case studies test you in all manner of ways so they are one of the best – and fairest – methods of seeing a candidate ‘in action’. They are designed to evaluate how you process information, solve problems and react to new and surprising situations, as well as showing how you work within a team. Individuals or a small group of candidates are presented with a business problem and then given time to evaluate the information and brainstorm a solution. Case studies can be on almost any topic. OC&C Strategy Consultants says: ‘The cases can be on any topic, from the size of the diaper market in the Netherlands to how many tennis balls would fit in Wembley Stadium, to a business strategy topic, involving company financial data and graphs.’ Remember, as Bain & Company says, ‘There is no one ‘’right’’ answer. Case interviews should be thoughtful dialogues about potential approaches to solving a tough business problem.’
What to do in advance
Read the firm’s graduate recruitment literature and check its website to see if it has sample case studies (the vast majority of consultancies do). Have a look at recent press releases to get a feel for the type of work it’s involved with as well as what industries it works across. Read the business pages of newspapers and imagine one of the businesses to be your client. How would you advise them? What would you base your recommendations on? What factors would you and your client need to consider before proceeding to the next step? Also check with your careers service as many run workshops and presentations on how to prepare successfully for case studies and assessment centres.
Almost every graduate who offered advice on case studies via TARGETjobs Inside Buzz stressed the need to practise in advance. ‘Know the basic structure of case questions. Learn how to talk someone through your reasoning so that you voice assumptions you are making, and therefore find it easier to go back and challenge these assumptions, ’ said one BCG applicant.
Advice from consulting firms
Through our research of top consulting firms the TARGETjobs team has come across some valuable nuggets of advice for succeeding at case study interviews, such as:
- 'Expect maths: be prepared both to set up the analytics and do the maths. We want to see your comfort with numbers’ (Bain & Company)
- ‘Don’t panic if the answer is not apparent’ (Boston Consulting Group)
- 'Do not feel pressured to provide an answer immediately - take your time, work through the issues, and organise your thoughts’ (OC&C Strategy Consultants)