If you are interested in a career in counseling, you are probably well aware of the importance of case interviews. They usually form the core of the selection process within top consulting firms like McKinsey, Bain, BCG.

That's why we're going to explain how to prepare for a case interview. But first we need to find out in detail which case interviews are required. Find out which format a counseling session uses, what is expected of you and much more.

Case interview formats

All case interviews start with a question, but how you answer it depends on the format of the interview. Therefore, it is important to have more information about the formats of a case interview.

In the candidate-led case interviews, you will be asked a question that will lead you to an answer step by step. On the other hand, you can have an interviewer conduct a case interview. Typically, this type of case interview involves two interviewers taking you, the candidate, through a multi-level case problem. Each of these steps can include diagnosing the root cause of a business problem or estimating the market size.

There is also a written case format that usually contains more than 20 pages of documents that you need to analyze. Presentation case interviews are one of the common formats. In this case, you will be expected to come up with the solution that will allow you to go deeper.

In some rare cases, you will be asked to do a video case interview before doing one in person.

How long does a case interview last?

Case interviews can last 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour. If you want to have a 10 minute interview, you need to solve a problem that usually only needs to be questioned about one level or element.

Because of this, a 10-minute case interview is less complex, but still not easy to solve. It just takes less time to resolve. A standard interview lasts 20 to 30 minutes in the first round of the interview and 30 to 40 minutes in the last round. One final round contains deeper and more difficult questions than you would expect.

Whether you are there for 10 minutes or an hour, preparing a case interview is key to success. That's why we're giving you some tips to help you prepare for the interview.

Case interviewPhoto by Cottonbro from Pexels

Prepare the case interview before the interview

It is important to take case interview preparation seriously because without it you will not pass it. There are many things you can do when preparing for case interviews. Here are the main actions.

research

Sometimes you will get the questions ahead of time so you have time to research. In most cases, you won't receive the questions in advance, but it is still important to prepare for the interview in advance.

You can investigate and find out what kind of questions candidates had before you. Take a look at how others have responded and think about your hypothetical answers.

Think of frameworks

If you want to answer questions about case interviews, you need to be very careful. This is the reason why the development of the frameworks is at the center of conducting a case interview. The ideal candidate must have a well-developed problem-solving structure in order to find good solutions.

Since there are many theoretical frameworks, your job is to look up some of the common ones and think about how to apply them. You shouldn't just learn them by heart. The goal is to use them to aid your strategic thinking process. Understanding frameworks is definitely one of the keys to properly preparing case interviews.

Don't forget to practice

Don't think that knowledge and research is enough. You need to practice too. You can always hire a career coach who is experienced in preparing case interviews. This can be done if you have enough money and time, but don't worry if you don't have enough – you can still practice without paying.

If you have a friend who also works in the consulting business, you can do a bogus interview. If it doesn't, you can always practice in front of a family member or even in front of a mirror.

Always come equipped

This might sound simple, but you'll need to bring everything you need to write down with you. Since you can't use your smartphone, bring a watch and calculator.

Now that we've worked through some tips for preparing for case interviews, let's go over some advice that can help you once you're at the interview.

Case interview tips

Knowing how to answer case interview questions will minimize stress. You have to understand the question. Always ask for more information if you are not sure about the question. Don't forget to take notes as you came to the interview already equipped.

A case interview is not your average job interview. You have to give well-structured answers, and to do it correctly, you cannot rush with your answers. Always explain how you got your answer because that's what your interviewer wants to hear. Show your confidence, but not just with your voice – express yourself with your body language.

Wrap that up

As you could see, a case interview is very different from a regular interview. Because of this, you shouldn't even think about showing up without proper research and completed case interview preparation.

Think about the structure of the interview, use frameworks, but don't rely entirely on them and remember that they want to see your thought process – not just your solution.

When you're there, ask questions, take notes, take the time to think, and focus. Still, don't forget to be yourself, show your confidence and remember that they are interviewing you for a reason. Don't be afraid to show your potential.

The Post-Case Interview – What To Expect and How To Prepare First appeared in Home Business Magazine.

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