Case Interviews

The other day I wrote about pre-employment testing and an individual wrote back about with some thoughts – one being that hiring managers are worried about making poor hiring decisions and thus are trying everything they can to dig out more information on candidates.  I thought this was a great insight into the thought process of someone who is hiring another individual – there is a fear of making a bad choice.  With tight budgets, the effects of a poor hire are magnified.

So what other tools are hiring managers using to evaluate candidates?

Case Interviews.

Several years ago, it was standard for an interviewer to ask about entries on a resume – “Tell me about your experience at XYZ?” or ask hypothetical questions such as “How would you approach a team member who was not performing up to par?”.  The problem with these interview questions is that it leave too much room for the candidate to craft an answer that may not be accurate.  Exacerbating the problem is the fact that references are sometimes not allowed to go into any details about a candidate’s work performance at a former company…so how is a hiring manager supposed to confirm the candidate’s experience at XYZ and they way he said he would handle a team problem if a reference cannot back up what the candidate claimed?  In short, the hiring manager cannot.

So interviewers moved to the Behavioral Interview practice.  Behavioral Interviews phrase questions  to solicit specific: “Tell me about a time when…”, “Would you provide an example of …”, “When have you had to …”  This form of questioning seeks specific examples from a candidate’s experiences.  The psychology behind this questioning is that past behaviors are indicators of future behaviors.  The way you handled a team problem in the past is a good indicator of your approach to handling future team issues.  Additionally, when a candidate provides specific examples, the hiring manager can dig down for more details.  In the handling of a team problem example, a hiring manager may ask for how you worded your outreach to the team member, how that member reacted, how that interaction affected your working relationship with that person, what would you do differently, etc.  This is a much more effective way to learn about an individual as compared to listening to stories and answer to hypothetical questions.

Now in this new economy where bad hires are feared, employers have added more steps in the process.  Pre-employment testing was discussed earlier, another tool is the Case Interview.  Case Interviewing was made popular a few years ago by the famous management consulting firms and now is being adopted by many industries.  Case interviews are basically a role-play where the company has you go through a particular scenario to evaluate how you approach the problem, evaluate data, questions you ask, and your thought process.  Getting the “right” answer is not the end goal, the  hiring manager wants to have a better understanding of your approach to problems and your thought processes.

If you know/suspect you will be facing a case interview, I recommend checking out “Case in Point” by Marc P. Costentino.  Additionally, check out management consulting firms’ (McKinsey, BCG, Bain) career sites as many list example case studies for practice.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
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