It takes two to tango – this is especially true during the recruitment process. Both the employer and the candidate, who might be the future employee, has to perform on top if a match is to happen. Think about it. First, the employer has to have an attractive brand and compelling offer so that there are qualified candidates applying in the first place. Second, the employer has to assess the candidate’s ability to actually perform the tasks associated with a specific role.
Assessing a candidate
There are numerous ways to assess a candidate’s ability and experience. The most commonly used method is, of course, the ‘standard interview’ where you sit down and have a chat about the candidate’s previous experience within a certain field. Every industry has its own standard and while there might not be any strict formula for how a recruitment process in general looks like, recruitment processes for a role in consulting almost always include some sort of ‘case interview’. Almost all consulting firms use some sort of ‘case interview’ to better understand the candidate’s ability to solve a business-related problem, a skill used in the consulting profession every day.
While a ‘standard interview’ often means a 60-90 minute long chat about your experiences in some particular areas of interest, a ‘case interview’ is something else. A ‘case interview’ can take between 30-50 minutes to solve, depending on its complexity and structure and every second spent on not solving the problem and presenting it to your assessor is “time not well spent”. During the ‘case interview’, you will analyze and solve a business problem as one way of showing your skill in breaking down, structuring and synthesizing big amounts of data. The cases are usually inspired by past consulting projects your assessor has worked on.
Typical problems to solve
Here are a few typical problems that might be presented to you:
- “Your client is a brewing company, and their profits have been declining in recent years. Can you help find the root cause of the profit decline and turn the situation around?”
- “Your client is a sports retailer, wanting to launch a new line of private label sneakers in Sweden. How would you go about advising the CEO on what new product to launch?”
- “Your client is an organization in the Swedish public sector who is seeking to restructure its organization. What are the different elements you would consider to make a recommendation?”
While all these problems might seem different at a glance, they all contain the same building blocks; general information that needs to be structured in an orderly manner to understand the problem and to form a recommendation on how to solve it.
During a case interview, the assessor will be rating your ability to:
– Analyze & synthesize information and data
– Structure a problem
– Communicate thoughts and conclusions
– Apply overall business acumen
The start is fundamental
Structuring is important. Mastering structure guarantees a good first impression and serves as a safety net in case things go sour as you go through the case. The only way to guarantee you’re going to solve every case you get is to know how to create your own structure from scratch.
Structuring a problem in a logical issue tree is typically a pedagogical and time-effective way to both solve and communicate your thought process when solving a complex problem. The issue tree is a simple map of your problem and how to solve it. You could say that an issue tree is a graphical breakdown of a question that dissects it into its different components vertically and progresses into details as it reads to the right.
No matter if you want to break down the different components of how ‘Company A’ makes a profit (like the profit tree shown above) or why ‘Company B’ should outsource their call-center department to another country, an issue tree will help both you and the assessor to better understand the depth of your analysis and create acceptance for your conclusions.
The building blocks
There are typically six underlying building blocks in how you solve a case. Some cases require you to master all building blocks, others less. But rest assured, the more of them you feel you can master, the better it will make you feel when you enter your first case interview. The blocks are:
– Brainstorming ideas
– Frameworks that explain problem and solution
– Hypothesis testing
– Analyzing data
– Chart interpretation
Being confident in how to handle a normal case interview takes practice, so don’t try to wing it, practice (a lot) in advance! Why not start now? Scroll down to find a business case that we’ve used to assess graduates’ case-solving skills.
Good luck and happy solving!
Try out a business case here