Case-Style Interview Questions

A case is a scenario modeled after a real business or management problem. The idea is to test a candidate’s:

  • Listening skills
  • Analytical and reasoning skills
  • Ability to organize and present information
  • Ability to perform under pressure
  • Understanding of basic business principles

 

Who Uses this Style of Interviewing?

Typically management consulting firms use case-style interviewing in some or all of their interview process. This style of interviewing gives candidates a sense of the type of work that consultants do and allows the employer to test the candidate’s ability to analyze, present information, and perform under pressure. A number of the management consulting firms that recruit Georgetown students use this method of interviewing. However, any employer who is looking for strong problem solving and presentation skills can use case-style interviewing.

 

There are several types of case questions:

  • Classic business questions are given to see how much general business knowledge candidates have and how they can logically apply this knowledge to a common business problem. There are several types of business questions which could be posed, in areas such as: profit/loss, organizational structure, and marketing. An example of this type of question is: “An airline finds that, while its revenues are high, the company is still operating at a loss. What is going on?”
  • Brain teasers are logic questions used to gauge creativity, quantitative skills, and problem solving skills. An example of this type of question is: “Why are manhole covers round?”
  • Guess the number are questions in which a candidate needs to use logical deduction and also general statistical information. An example would be: “How many divorces take place in the United States in any given year?”

The goal to answering case-style questions is to demonstrate your problem solving abilities. There is usually not one correct answer. There are several things you can do to approach a case-style question:

  • Listen carefully
  • Summarize the question
  • Clarify any points you do not understand
  • Ask a few questions to show your understanding of the problem and to get more information
  • Take some time to think – don’t be afraid of silence!
  • Work through the answer out loud, so the interviewer can evaluate your analytical skills
  • Use examples from your classes, internships, or extra-curricular activities

 

How Do You Prepare?

It is important to remember that the interviewer is often more interested in how you came up with the answer than the answer itself. Therefore, keep a few things in mind:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills are essential
  • Organize your thoughts logically and speak clearly
  • Business experience is not essential – however, general knowledge of business practices and theories will be important
  • Read industry magazines and journals (both general and specific)

There are several resources available over the internet which can help you prepare for case-style interviews. Some of the best resources are:

Wet Feet Ace Your Case
McKinsey & Company On-Line Case Study


This information is provided as a courtesy of Georgetown University's Career Education Center.