Case In Point Version 5

Case In Point
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CQ Interactive

CQ Interactive

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What is a case question?
A case question is a fun, interactive interviewing tool used to evaluate the multi-dimensional aspects of a candidate. Individuals are presented with information and asked to analyze, synthesize and articulate a solution.

What is the purpose of the case question?
Interviewers use case questions to see how well candidates listen, how they think, the logic behind their thoughts, and how well they can articulate their thoughts under pressure. Consulting firms also ask case questions to gauge self-confidence, discover the candidate’s personality and to see if problem solving genuinely intrigues them.

What’s the objective of a case question?
The objective is not to determine if the interviewee got the "right answer," but rather to evaluate the process the candidate used to structure a competent approach to derive a solution.

What are firms testing for when asking case questions?
They ask case questions to test the candidate's ability to:

  • analyze information
  • sort through an excess of data and identify main points
  • think logically, structure their thought process and organize their answer
  • maintain poise and clearly communicate under pressure
  • relay personality and characteristics that are considered a good "fit" with the company.

What are firms looking for during the interview?
They are looking to see if candidates are:

  • relaxed, confident, and mature?
  • engaging and enthusiastic?
  • good listeners?
  • able to determine what is truly relevant? 
  • asking insightful and probing questions?
  • organizing the information effectively and developing a logical framework for analysis?
  • stating assumptions clearly?
  • approaching the case creatively?
  • comfortable discussing the multifunctional aspects of the case?
  • trying to quantify their response at every opportunity?
  • displaying both business sense and common sense?
  • exhibiting strong social and presentation skill?

Are all cases verbal or do some firms ask written cases?
While most cases are given verbally, some firms give a written case. The candidate is given 30 to 45 minutes to read the case and make notes. She is then questioned about the case. Sometimes this is done one on one, other times the candidate is brought in as part of a group to solve the case. This is done to see how well a candidate can work as part of a team with strangers. Is the candidate trying to dominate the interview or is she building on what another candidate said? Is she communicating laterally as well as vertically?

How is a first round consulting interview structured?
While it varies from firm to firm most first rounds are two back-to-back 45 minute interviews. In the first of the two, the interviewer spends about 15 minutes asking questions like:

  • why consulting?
  • why our firm?
  • how are your quantitative skills,
  • give me examples of your leadership experience,
  • tell me about a time you worked together as part of a team to reach a common goal, and
  • have you ever failed at anything?

These questions are asked to gauge leadership, drive, and enthusiasm, as well as to determine the candidate's true interest in and commitment to consulting.

More and more now, firms are incorporating ways to test candidate's quantitative skills. Some interviews include a written exam, though many still rely on cases to help determine an individual's quantitative capability. Most important, the math component is added to determine how a candidate processes information under pressure.

Next comes the case question, which can take up 10 to 15 minutes. Here they are testing poise, analytical and communication skills.

Finally, the last couple minutes are for the candidates questions. They want to see if the individual has done her homework and whether she can ask intelligent questions.

In the second of the two interviews, the recruiter may ask one or two questions about the candidate, but the majority of the time will be taken up with a bigger case. Again, the candidate may have time to ask a couple of questions, so it is important that the candidate prepare questions ahead of time.