Once the sole preserve of management consulting interviews, case studies have now been adopted by many other business sectors. Apply for a role with a fintech company, and the chances are you’ll be faced with a case interview.
The world of management consulting has always drawn some of the most talented people from the top universities. The competition for the jobs is fierce, with thousands of applicants, and just 2% being successful. Case interviews provided management consultancy firms the ideal tool for selecting the perfect candidate.
Fintech and finance firms adopted the case interview early on, and if you are interested in a role in finance, you need to be ready for it.
But don’t be intimidated by the prospect. This interview style has been used in management consultancy for decades, and there is a wealth of help and information out there.
You might be reading this and thinking; I’m not really sure what a case interview is. No problem, let’s take a few minutes to explore the case interview style and discover ways to prepare for it.
Case Interviews; What Are They, And Why Should You Care?
Unlike most job interviews that focus on your employment history, experience, and qualifications to determine if you are a good fit for the role, a case interview is a real test of your problem-solving abilities.
During the case interview, the interviewer will give you a case study. More often than not, this will be based on a real problem, and it could be a problem the firm has recently solved. On some rare occasions, you may be asked to answer a hypothetical question, such as the cliched question, “how many rounds of golf are played in the US every year?”
For applicants to finance companies, a common type of case study is about profitability. The interviews follow a standard format, with the interviewer presenting you with the basic scenario first. You can ask questions, and as the conversation progresses, you’ll be provided with additional information, such as graphs, charts, and other data.
It is essential to realize that the case study interview aims not necessarily to get the correct answer but is more focussed on your method and communication skills. There may actually be several “correct” answers, and of course, it is excellent if you find a solution, but don’t get fixated on this. Concentrate more on clearly explaining what you are doing and why.
Whilst we’ve covered the basics so far, it isn’t possible to give a fully-thorough run-through of the case interview format here. Luckily, though, there are plenty of excellent, longer-form guides available. The free MyConsultingCoach case interview guide is a great place to start.
Why do Employers Use Case Interviews
Case studies are popular with employers, as it allows them to test for the skills you need to be successful. As a management consultant, this will be your job, should you be hired, so you can see why it is an essential part of the interview for employers.
During the case interview, the employer can quickly assess your problem-solving, confidence, and communication skills. All essential attributes for a career as a management consultant. It allows the company to compare candidate results easily and is far less reliant on your resume for selection.
Case Interview Preparation
It is essential to prepare well for the case interview. Employers put such a heavy weighting on your performance that if you want to succeed, you must be prepared.
Luckily, there is a wealth of material available, from free online resources, books you can buy, and if you have the budget, personal coaching.
We can’t cover everything in this short article, but here are our top tips.
Start As Soon As Possible
- Case interview preparation is very demanding
- Start preparing before you even apply
- Realistically, allow several weeks and preferably more for a good level of preparedness
Don’t use Frameworks
- Most interviewers will quickly realize you are following a generic framework
- Employers have seen this before and will give you tricky problems that won’t easily fit the generic frameworks
Build your Problem-Solving Skills
- Case interviews often set very complex problems. Finding the solution is not the main aim, but demonstrating that you can work through a problem logically is
- Learn how to break a complex problem into smaller more manageable issues
- Practice methods such as Issue Trees and Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive (MECE)
Brush up on your Mental Math
- Many of the case interviews will involve a lot of math, and you usually won’t have access to a calculator
- Practice mental arithmetic to improve your speed
Practice, Practice, Practice
- Find as many case studies to practice as possible. It not only improves your problem-solving skills but also improves your speed of working
- Practice with friends as much as possible, and try to simulate the interview
What Other Interview Prep do I Need to do?
With all this concentration on the case study, it is easy to either skimp on the usual interview preparation or forget it entirely.
Even though the case study is vitally important, you will still be asked fit questions to assess your suitability for the role.
By fit questions, we mean the standard interview questions you’ve most likely heard dozens of times;
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
- Why do you think you are the ideal candidate for this role?
- What are your weaknesses and strengths?
- What has been your proudest achievement in life?
The interviewer is assessing how well you communicate, whether they think you’ll stay with the company long enough to make hiring you worthwhile, and if you’ll fit in with the team.
It is essential to take this part of the interview as seriously as the case study. Failure to do so could cost you a job offer.
And Finally …
We can only skim the surface of preparing for a case interview in this short article. Hopefully, it has given you a starting point for your preparation and an insight as to why they are used.
The rest is now up to you. Practice as much as you can, and be ready to ace the interview and land that high-paying consultancy role in finance.