Case Study / Case Study Interview
Case study questions were first introduced into interviews by management consulting firms. They are now used by many employers, in particular city firms such as the big 4.
Case study questions are used to test candidates' analytical skills, creativity and problem solving ability. They are also used to test candidates understanding of basic commercial principles and ability to interpret data from tables and charts. They can also be used to give candidates a sense of the type of work they will be doing at a firm. Often case study exercises can be linked in with group exercises, written and e-tray exercises at assessment centres.
Typically, a case study will consist of a business scenario that is presented to the candidate on one or several pages. The business scenario will often consist of a situation involving a client's business, and you will have to comment on what advice you would give the client in their current situation. Normally you will be given some time to study the information provided, and then discuss the case study as part of your interview.
Interviewers will be looking for:
- Your ability to reason logically.
- Your ability to justify your points clearly.
- Your ability to understand basic commercial principles.
Answers do not require any specific knowledge. Most questions can be answered with common sense. Any information that is required for answering the case study questions will be provided.
In certain circumstances, interviewers may offer little or no background information with their questions. This puts added pressure on candidates, forcing them to work out a solution based on their own knowledge, or an analysis of the limited information available. This does not in general apply to candidates applying for accounting to the Big 4, and is relatively rare these days.
Strategy for the Case Study
- Use the preparation time effectively.
- Underline noteworthy sections in the text. This will help you work quicker and more accurately.
- You will normally be permitted to make notes and take these to the interview. Identify the key issues, and then prioritise them by importance so that you discuss the most pertinent issues first.
- When in the interview, stay focussed on the case study, and do not get sidetracked into talking about the real-world industry unless asked to do so.
- Speak clearly. Remember they are assessing you analytical and reasoning skills.
- The interviewer will deliberately reason with you to force you to justify and defend your answers. Be prepared to justify all your main points.
- Remember, there are no right answers; consider all lines of argument however present one as your chosen opinion, mentioning why you discredited the other possibilities.
A presentation is a short persuasive talk that must be given as part of an interview or assessment day. Employers will either ask you to prepare a presentation in advance, or more usually on the day of assessment itself. You may have to give your presentation to a single interviewer, a group of assessors, or even a room full of other candidates. Depending on your assessor(s), you should also be prepared to answer questions at the end of your presentation posed by your audience.
To give a successful presentation you need to show that you can put information across to other people clearly, confidently and consicely. You must support your ideas and themes with anecdotes, examples, statistics and facts. Aim for a conversational delivery, using brief notes or bullet points, rather than memorising and reciting, or reading from a prepared sheet. Try to establish eye contact with everyone around you. Speak clearly, take your time and don't try to rush through your delivery.
How to prepare for your Case Study?
It is essential you practice your presentation before the interview. Give presentations to friends and family well in advance of your interviews, rehearse in the mirror or record yourself on camera or tape to analyse your delivery. If you give a good presentation at interview you will give interviewers a very good impression of yourself and all the practice you have put in will pay off.
Candidates should keep their presentations simple, straight-forward and easy to understand. If you try too hard (for example, to be funny or clever) you run a serious risk of embarrassing yourself.
Keep things sharp, succinct and to the point. Don't over elaborate, or waffle for the sake of using up time. It is important to be articulate, and not to use slang. Throughout your presentation you must be professional, as professional in fact as you would expect your interviewers to be.
Keeping track of time is important during your presentation. If you have been asked to prepare a presentation of five minutes, make sure you present for at least four and a half or at most five and a half. Giving a short presentation looks like a candidate is under-prepared. Giving a long presentation runs the risk of boring or agitating your assessors.
The most important part of your presentation is how you present. Interviewers are looking for candidates who are naturally professional - confident, articulate and presentable. Essentially, interviewers are looking for candidates that they would be happy about putting in front of one of their clients.
When delivering your presentation take note of the following:
- Voice: Speak clearly and loudly enough for everyone to hear during your presentation. Vary the tone of your voice to keep your audience interested. Don't speak too fast and be confident enough to leave space between any key points you make, if necessary.
- Eyes: Maintain eye contact with your audience throughout your presentation. Look from person to person as you talk to keep everyone engaged.
- Smile: Be positive throughout your presentation. Smile when you begin, keep smiling as you talk, and conclude with a smile. People naturally prefer people who smile, especially your interviewers!
- Stance: Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and feet pointing straight at your audience when delivering your presentation. Use your hands to elaborate what you are saying if you need to, but not excessively.
At the end of your presentation, rephrase the original question (or title of your presentation) and answer it with your conclusion. Thank your audience, smile and offer a chance for questions to be asked.