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Help! What's a Case Interview?

If you are interested in consulting, you can expect case interviews to be part of your job search experience. Representatives from Accenture and Deloitte Consulting are here to offer firsthand advice for conquering the case interview!

First, what is a case interview?

Accenture: A case interview is a type of job interview that allows an applicant to demonstrate his/her ability to solve a given business problem. During a case interview, an interviewer presents a situation or case and then asks the applicant to explore the underlying causes of the problem and suggest recommendations to remedy the problem.

Deloitte: If you're a candidate for Deloitte Consulting, you’ll be asked to participate in a case interview as a part of the interviewing process. Through the case interview, you will be given a client scenario similar to what you may face as a Consultant at the firm, and asked a number of questions to help us understand what recommendations you might make for the client. Don’t worry – you do not need business knowledge or skills to do well! We are more interested in your thought process, and how you demonstrate your problem-solving skills, analytical ability, as well as your strategic and logical thinking.

What are you looking for in the student's response?

Accenture: Many times students get bogged down with trying to arrive at the “correct” answer. It’s important to know there isn’t always one right answer; at the end of the day, the interviewer wants to see your thought process and problem solving skills. It’s also not necessary to have extensive industry knowledge. The interviewer will expect you to be effective with the knowledge that you do have, with an element of common sense as well.

Deloitte: There is no right answer in a case interview. We are focused on the soft skills that you demonstrate through your questions and answers. Your answers should project clear thinking, practical judgment, and a professional demeanor. Apply this five-step approach while working through the case interview:

  1. Understand the issue; ask clarifying questions as needed
  2. Identify the underlying assumptions
  3. Summarize specific issues and findings
  4. State your recommendations
  5. Outline next steps and expected results/impacts

How can a student best prepare for these types of interviews?

Accenture: Attend case interview workshops! Many companies hold these on campus. Also, review any materials provided by the company you are interviewing with (workbooks, etc). Ask the recruiter questions about what you can expect. Additionally, there’s a plethora of online resources and videos that can assist you with your preparation. Sometimes it is helpful to practice with a friend, classmate, or career services advisor.

Deloitte: Practice, practice, practice! Read up on case interview tips/books, leverage practice case interview tools, and practice a case with an actual human (this is much different than practicing alone). Leverage Deloitte’s Case Interview Prep Tool and Case Interview Tips site as you prepare for your upcoming interview.

Are there any types of "red flags" that students should avoid?

Accenture: One of the biggest stumbling blocks is when a student doesn’t verbalize the steps of their thought process. It can feel awkward as it tends to not be their everyday way of solving problems, but that’s exactly what the interviewer wants to hear in order to accurately assess their skill set. Additionally, attempting to force a specific traditional case-solving structure when perhaps a combination of approaches would work best is something that can have a negative impact on the result of the interview.

Deloitte: Feeling the need to answer the question immediately. Take the time to compose your thoughts before speaking, and ask additional questions if you have them. As awkward as it may feel, a bit of silence is ok to gather your thoughts! Also, not only will follow-up questions provide you with additional data necessary to answer the question asked, but it may also provide your interviewer with some insight into your thought process (which is a good thing!).

Is there anything else students should know about case interviews?

Accenture: Don’t hesitate to ask your interviewer clarifying questions. Most of the time they are prepared to offer you additional pieces of information, you just have to ask. Also, effectively manage your time! Ensure you are able to arrive at your solution before the end of the interview.

Deloitte: Stop by Deloitte’s Recruiting Tips site to learn more about case interviews, and prepare yourself for the recruiting process.

"What we find is that if you have a goal that is very, very far out, and you approach it in little steps, you start to get there faster. Your mind opens up to the possibilities." - Mae Jemison

About the author

Alex Austin

Alex Austin is a Graduate Administrative Associate with Engineering Career Services.