Advice » Interviewing» Interview Preparation » Ace the Case Interview
Ace the Case Interview

Ace the Case Interview

Management consulting companies have used case studies to assess talent for decades. Case interviews have started to edge into various industries and functions over the years, including research, marketing, consumer product management and investment banking.

"As consultants leave consulting and they go off and do other things, they take this form of interviewing with them," says Marc Cosentino, president of and author of Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation.

What Is a Case Interview?

In a case interview, the interviewer presents information about a company, as well as a problem or dilemma the company is facing. The case can be presented orally or on paper. The company and the issues addressed can be real-world examples or imaginary. The interviewee comes up with answers or suggestions for the company.

Michael Steiner, who has conducted case interviews for a leading management consultant company for years, cites a variety of case-interview styles:

  • Open-Ended Cases: The interviewer gives you a sentence or two of information, and then expects you to run with only that information and your own assumptions.
  • More Structured Cases: The interviewer gives you information, and then proceeds to guide you through the problem-solving process.
  • Paper-Driven Cases: You're handed a "deck" of information, and the interviewer sometimes leaves the room while you pore over the text and graphs contained in the deck. You then prepare a brief analysis, presenting it when the interviewer returns.  

Why Employers Use Case Interviews

The case interview is purposely designed to increase the pressure most people feel during a traditional interview by a few notches.

Susan Lemke of Babson College's MBA Center for Career Development, explains that firms are trying to pick the best and the brightest. "Consultants often have to work with the senior execs of a corporation," she says. "And in order to be effective in that [situation], they really need to be able to think on their feet, analyze problems, bring up creative solutions, and they have to support whatever recommendations they're going to make." Case interviews are one way to determine which candidates are up to the task.

Cosentino says the case interview provides a glimpse into the way a job candidate thinks. "It gives [employers] a chance to see how your mind works, how your thought process and your logic work, how you structure a problem, how you quantify things, how well you can articulate your ideas under pressure," explains Cosentino, former associate director of career services at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

How to Succeed at a Case Interview

While entire books have been written on case interviews, here are a few basic things to keep in mind:

  • Practice: You are almost assured of failure if you haven't gone through the paces of the case-study process before the interview. Hundreds of sample cases are available, many for free. Get a friend or career counselor -- ideally someone familiar with case interviews -- to act as the interviewer.
  • Ask Questions: The questions you ask can impress interviewers as much as your answers do. Don't hesitate to ask for additional information or for clarification on key points. The interviewer is there to help you, not trick you into going down the wrong path. But you need to draw that information out. Doing so will help demonstrate your communication abilities.
  • Organize Your Thoughts: It's OK to ask for a minute to collect your thoughts and scribble some notes after the interviewer explains the case to you. Steiner says it makes sense to try to break down your analysis into three parts -- market opportunity, competitive threats and operational challenges. Each of these themes has a subset of issues you can address. This approach will help you construct a cohesive message.


Latest Jobs

Posted: 06/30/2015
Posted: 06/30/2015
Fairview Heights, IL, 62208
Posted: 06/30/2015
Posted: 06/30/2015
Carson, CA, 90746
The Select Group
Posted: 06/30/2015
Raleigh, NC

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.12.0.54-306