MBA Interviews | Owning Case Questions

Shooting for the gold star (image: SkagitLily)

by: Grayson Leverenz

Case interviews are most often reserved for students pursuing Consulting and Investment Banking careers, but breaking down the process should benefit everyone reading this post. Plus, it’s always fun to learn a new way to think.

During a typical case interview, you will have about 30 minutes to analyze a business scenario and make a recommendation for action. The goal is to see how you think and how you handle a simulated business situation. The theory is that your performance in the interview room foreshadows your performance on the job; so remember to stay cool, calm and collected throughout the interview.

Case interviewing is highly interactive; you ask the interviewer questions when you have them, and always verbalize your thought process to ensure the interviewer follows your logic. Listen very carefully as the interviewer describes the business situation to you, and take notes on important points as necessary. After they describe the scenario, ask them for a minute to process. My colleagues in B-school literally said, “May I have a minute?” The interviewer will definitely respond with a “yes.”

At that point, it’s time to shine using the process below.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

Identify the major question or issue facing the company knowing that your goal is to make a recommendation on that issue. Restate the issue to the interviewer. For example, you might say, “Thanks for giving me a minute. My understanding of this issue is that Best Company Ever is facing…, and our goal is to…”

2. Circle back to isolate what you need to know to make a recommendation.

This will most often be the 2-3 drivers of the scenario. There may be significantly more factors involved, but remember that part of the test is how well you ascertain the vital information. The thinking here is, “in order to make a recommendation on X, I need to know A, B and C.”

3. Cover the three A’s for each driver: Ask, Assume, Assess.

* Ask relevant questions for the driver.
* State your assumptions about the driver.
* Assess options within each driver using solid analytics you share with the interviewer.

4. Summarize the situation and make a recommendation.

Think of this as your mini-client presentation if you were actually on the job. In 2-3 minutes, you want to summarize the issue and the drivers for the interviewer and then close with your recommendation.

Case interviewing requires lots of preparation, but try to enjoy it. If this is how you’re planning to spend 80-100 hours a week post-graduation, I really want you to have fun!

There are a lot of great resources on the Internet to help you prepare for Case interviewing. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Click here for the Bain video practice case.

Click here for the BCG interactive case.

Now go out there and own it!

Click here to purchase the MBA in the USA™ complete interview guide “MBA Interviews: How to Shine in Every Interview Situation.”

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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