Case interviews can be a stressful experience as one is usually given a detailed scenario and, in some instances, charts and other data to quickly evaluate in order to answer a question. The information dump in itself can be overwhelming so some strategies to handle this are needed.
As the interviewer is giving you the scenario, it is advisable for you to take notes. Write down any key information (numbers, questions, objectives) in order not to forget any crucial information. If you feel as though you missed some information or are unclear on some of the data, recap your notes to the interviewer to ensure you have the correct information. Better to be corrected now than to find out after thirty minutes that you were working with a faulty set of information.
Map It Out:
When the interviewer poses the question you must address, take some time to map out your answer. “I would like to take a few moments to organize my thoughts” or “If possible, I would like to take a minute to organize my answer.” – this will show the interviewer that you are organized and do not “shoot from the hip” with your comments. Why is this so crucial? By taking a thoughtful approach in the interview, your answer will flow much better, it will be easier for the interviewer to follow your train of thought, and you reduce the risk of making a simple (but potentially catastrophic mistake). Additionally, by taking some time to organize your ideas, you are communicating that you will do the same when dealing with clients. An important factor when firms are evaluating candidates is answering the question, “Could I trust this person in front a client?”
Talk It Out:
There is usually no ‘right’ answer in case studies, although there can be several wrong ones. The answer is not as important as the thought process and approach on takes to tackling the question. Knowing this, talk through your answer – tell the interviewer how you reached a certain number or figure, explain your thoughts behind why you would suggest a certain strategy, involve the interviewer in your answer process.
For example, in a previous post I used the example of market sizing question – how many 20-40 year old males would use bodyspray – instead of giving the answer of 44 million, the candidate walked the interviewer through his answer and calculations.
Another advantage to talking through your answer is to avoid going too far down a wrong path. It is common for an interviewer to stop or redirect a candidate if the candidate has made a crucial mistake or is getting off track with an answer early in the process. The only way an interviewer can assist is if he/she can follow the candidates thought process.
Remember, the answer is not the most important piece of the case interview – the thought process and approach are what interviewers really want to know. Talk through your answers in an organized and thoughtful manner to shine in the interview.
Next Installment – Closing the Case