How to Impress at a Case Study Interview: What to Expect and Tips for Success

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 October 2022 | Published 25 June 2021

Updated 7 October 2022

Published 25 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you work in a specialised field like consulting, you may need to provide live demonstrations of your skills during the application process. Case study interviews allow you to directly show employers how you approach work assignments, making them a valuable interviewing tool. Knowing what to expect from a case study interview and spending time preparing may improve your performance and enhance your application. In this article, we explain how case study interviews work and share tips for using them to impress an employer.

What is a case study interview?

A case study interview is a type of interview where job applicants review a business situation and provide their analysis to display their ability to succeed in a role. Businesses recruiting for consultant and analyst roles use case study interviews in their recruitment process to identify candidates who thrive in high-pressure situations and demonstrate advanced business knowledge.

In a case study interview, you receive a sample case file that includes an assignment prompt with details about a business scenario similar to the ones you may work with if hired. Using the provided materials, you present suggestions for how to address the situation. The interviewer observes your work and determines if your mindset and processes meet the job requirements. Case study interview topics can include:

  • Making a business more profitable

  • Improving efficiency

  • Pricing a new product

  • Creating market entry strategies

  • Assessing investment opportunities

Related: Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

Why do companies use case study interviews?

Businesses use case study interviews in their recruitment process to observe how applicants think, make decisions and communicate their ideas. Case study interviews are common at consultancies, which assess potential consultants' ability to handle client accounts by asking them to perform sample consultations. By watching you work on a sample case, employers can learn about your thought process and working style. When applying to be a consultant, whether at a consulting firm or another business, your performance in the case study interview can help your potential employer envision your success in the role.

The case study interview usually occurs after the fit interview, which is an interview that addresses your suitability to work in consulting through questions about your resume, personal experiences and career goals. It's important to prepare to both discuss your professional abilities during the fit interview and show proof of those skills during the case study interview.

Skills to highlight in a case study interview

Case study interviews provide you with the opportunity to showcase many of the complex skills involved with business consulting. During your case study interview, highlight key consulting skills like:

  • Communication: When responding to a case study interview prompt, use clear, consistent communication to show your ability to interact with clients, set expectations and collaborate. During case study interviews, employers can evaluate your communication skills by reviewing how well you explain the reasoning for your choices and considering your interpersonal rapport.

  • Situational analysis: During case study interviews, you use situational analysis skills to process a scenario quickly and make relevant suggestions. Being able to make accurate estimates for the outcome of situations is a top technical skill for consultants. Explaining how you calculate estimates and make projections helps the interviewer learn about your process for adapting to new client cases.

  • Strategic thinking: Consultants use strategic thinking to consider the long-term impact of different variables in a business situation. You use strategic thinking during a case study interview when comparing the outcomes of potential solutions and choosing the best recommendation for the client's desired outcome.

  • Problem-solving: Identifying a business's problems and proposing solutions is a key element of working in a consulting or analytical role. When reviewing your performance in a case study interview, interviewers may consider the creativity of your solutions and their practicality in a real scenario.

  • Persuasion: Since case study interviews involve presenting suggestions to the interviewer as if they were a client, they require you to be persuasive. Consultants may use persuasion when convincing clients to implement their ideas and negotiating contracts. Delivering a compelling presentation and using engaging interpersonal skills shows high potential for success with clients.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to prepare for a case study interview

Use these instructions to prepare for your next case study interview:

1. Research company values

Review information about your potential employer and learn about their company values. While you can expect to emphasise several common consulting skills during a case study interview, displaying a company's unique values may make you a more competitive candidate. Research the organisation's company culture and business methods and reference them during your case interview. For example, you may make riskier suggestions when interviewing for a business that has innovation as a core value.

2. Review analysis frameworks

Research common consulting frameworks and analysis techniques to establish fundamental knowledge for the case interview. Knowing how to use multiple types of analysis prepares you for a variety of situations and scenarios. Read books and articles about methodologies in your industry so you can reference them during the interview and use them to guide your analysis. Be prepared to answer questions about which frameworks you use to guide your work on the case.

3. Hone your calculation skills

Practice using mental maths and performing calculations to support your data analysis for each case. Interviewers may provide numerical data as part of a case file, which you can use to make calculations and estimates. Review financial ratios and business metrics, when to use them and how to interpret their results. Use sample questions and scenarios with specific numbers to practice making quick, accurate calculations.

4. Develop an organisational system

Build a basic outline for how to interpret a prompt, analyse the situation and present a solution. While the content of each case study assignment varies, having a plan for how to organise your work gives you a basic structure for developing a thorough response. Decide how to sort information from the assignment materials and develop a system for approaching challenges.

5. Complete a sample case analysis

Use example business scenarios to create a mock case study interview. Search for case study interview prompts and sample business cases in your industry, then look for trends, make estimations and summarise your findings. After completing a practice case study, review your work and identify areas for improvement. Try working with multiple different prompts to practise flexibility and become familiar with common types of cases in your field.

6. Practice explaining your work

Prepare to narrate your case analysis to the interviewer by explaining your thoughts aloud while completing your work. Explaining how you interpreted the information and brainstormed solutions gives the interviewer insight into your ability to use logic and overall consulting mentality. Practice speaking clearly and simplifying complex ideas to share your advanced expertise with others.

Tips for a successful case study interview

Here are several tips to use throughout the case study interview to impress potential employers:

Be an active listener

Engage the interviewer with active listening techniques like paraphrasing their statements, asking clarifying questions and using attentive body language. Pay attention to the directions and prompt the interviewer provides, and regularly ask questions to guide your work. Active listening establishes a positive professional connection between you and the interviewer and illustrates your potential behaviour with clients. It's also a strategy for interpreting case information correctly and meeting interviewer expectations.

Related: How to Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Manage your time

Pay attention to how long you spend in each stage of the case study. Be mindful of how long you have to complete the assignment and prepare a mental outline for how much time to devote to research, analysis and presentation. This ensures you have enough time to summarise your findings and answer any clarifying questions from the interviewer. Try timing yourself during practice case studies to develop an accurate plan for how to allocate your time.

Related: Time-Management Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips for Improvement

Talk through challenges

Include the interviewer in your thought process throughout the case study by talking about how you rationalise information and generate ideas. Case study prompts may include complex questions and challenging subjects that require deep thought, so discussing your ideas aloud prevents awkward silences as you finalise your suggestions. When you identify a challenge in the case, explain why the issue is challenging, discussing each important factor and how it influences your decision-making. Show your passion for consulting work by expressing excitement about solving complex problems.

Reference past experiences

As you work through the case, think about the choices you made in past projects and how they influenced the project's outcome. Apply the lessons you learned in previous roles to guide your analysis and explain to the interviewer how your work on other projects helped you make strategic recommendations in the case study.

Develop a narrative

Successful consultants can identify the overarching themes and meaning of complex business data. Build a narrative about the case study scenario based on the data to make your recommendations more approachable and easier to understand. By using your analysis to tell a story, you provide additional context to support your interpretations and make your thoughts accessible to an audience.

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