Interviews and oral exams include some of the toughest things to prepare for and they people of all age groups and education levels dread them. There never seems to be enough time to prepare for one and it always appears as if there is something more you should cover just to be sure. The more unorthodox the topic the harder it is to study, and the more specific the case the more challenging it is to tackle all the different problems at hand.
If you have a case study interview to prepare for, you are probably looking for ways to help yourself with the planning, organizing, and solving the different aspects that come with it. Lucky for you, we decided to help you in this step by step guide. It is rather easy to accomplish such a feat if you have the right tools to turn to. Therefore, pay close attention as we dissect the approach to an average case study interview. Read more if you are further interested in finding out things about case study interviews and how to set yourself up for success next time around.
The best preparation is doing practice interviews with yourself by doing mock examples. They are enough to give you a general idea of what you can expect, how much time you have, and how each section looks and feels. During practice, you should follow all of the same steps from below. This approach ensures that you are ready no matter the topic, subject, or problem you are met with.
1. Listen to or Read the Questions Carefully
There is no point in trying to solve anything if you do not pay enough attention to the questions the interviewer is asking you. While they are laying out the problem in front of you, start thinking about all the different things on their own and how they influence the whole thing. Communicate with the interviewer and make your reasoning known. Carefully utilize the hints and all the help you get from them and make sure you take notes in this stage. This part is very important when practicing on your own because it will turn into a habit later and listening will become second nature.
2. Structure and Organize
Not all case study problems are of the same length and complexity, but all of them could potentially be broken down and further organized. Take a step back and think about how you can lay out the problem in a way that it makes sense. You have to get a different perspective and cover all the bases before tackling them. An analysis is key. For maximum efficiency you should first try to do the easiest and most obvious things and start from there. Such a structural approach will help you no matter the degree of difficulty you happen to be facing in a real interview scenario. Only with a decent framework can you succeed.
3. Think Before You Speak
This is a life advice as well as an important step for case studies. Never jump to conclusions or say things before evaluating them in your mind first. This is arguably the best way of saying what you do not really mean, or making crucial mistakes that could cause the interviewer to think you are not prepared, knowledgeable, or worthy of passing. A few extra minutes could be what makes the difference between a well-formed answer and blabbering the first thing that comes to mind.
4. Explore Different Options
After you have taken some time to analyze the problem as a whole and solved some of the minor issues, it is time to generate a hypothesis. However, there could exist the issue of several possible answers and you can very well get stuck. The interviewer will probably only be looking for one specific solution and it is your job to find it. Therefore, make calculations, attack the problems from different sides, and try to find the most logical option. Sometimes it pays to be innovative, while traditional approaches may work as well. Depending on the issue at hand, you will probably know exactly what kind of solution you need.
5. Calculate Quickly and Move on
If you have a lot of things to evaluate and calculate, or perhaps run several times, do it as quickly as possible because you do not want to spend a lot of time on one and the same thing. There are more things to be done and more stages of the issue to cover. Using numbers, data, and information on the fly is an important business skill, and a great one to practice on your own. Therefore, there should be no place for a lot of it once the real case study interview is on the way.
6. Do not Attempt Anything Until You Understand the Problem
This is not so much a step as it is a piece of general advice. It is never smart to initiate the solving process until you are sure you understand the problem. Organizing your thoughts is something you can do together with the interviewer through questions and hints. Start to make assumptions and offer potential solutions only when you know exactly what they ask of you. Moreover, it the answer is not becoming apparent and if things do not prove clearer after some time, do not lose focus and panic. Many interviews offer certain amount of freedom in the way you deliver the answer, and everyone is different under pressure. What is more, the interviewer does not expect from you to know everything there is. Much can be seen form the way you behave, deliver the answer, and talk. Pay attention to all of that and you will not feel like your final answer to the study has to be perfect.
7. Accept Criticism and Do Not Argue or Defend Your Solution
When the time comes for the interviewer to evaluate your answer, listen carefully and do not argue if you think they are wrong. A challenging solution is a new test through which they can learn more about you, so expect it and do not stand by your own answer at all costs. Let them know that you acknowledge the possibility of another solution and deem their perspective as a piece of advice or an alternative solution you did not thought of completely. However, stay true to yourself and enjoy the discussion. Worrying too much never did anything good to anyone!