Many companies have a case study analysis and presentation as part of the final interview or assessment process.
A case study is a great opportunity to show case your analytical and constructive skills, typically on a 1:1 basis so you aren’t competing with others in a group scenario.
Case studies are designed to allow us to assess you on the following competencies:
|Interpretation (Ability to dissect and evaluate information as presented)|
|Ability to construct a presentation in a logical and structured manner|
The topics of case studies that you may undertake are endless, topics may be influenced by the industry, country, social or economic climate you are currently in. For example: An oil and gas company may draw influence on topics from environmental or sustainability topics whereas a Telco or IT company may draw influence on topics from emerging technologies or customer service.
If you have studied engineering, they may ask you to develop a design or if you studied finance, you may be asked to analyse a business proposal alongside a profit and loss.
Case study formats may be based on a traditional analysis of words on paper, or it may be analysis of an existing investigation, video, interview or problem puzzle.
Whatever the topic and format, approach them all in the same way- with rigour, structure, careful and logical thought.
Scoring methodology can vary depending on the metric scale used. Every activity you undertake will be scored either in a number or scale methodology, often accompanied by notes and then rolled up into an overall score. This overall score is usually benchmarked against other applicants. Every part of this process is a competition with others and yourself, so ensure you do treat it like a competition.
The good thing about most case studies is that they are provided to you prior to the face to face interview or assessment centre, however often they are also given to you on the day itself and you will have an allocated time to prepare for it.
If it is given to you prior, ensure you don’t leave it to the last minute to prepare for, as you will most likely end up stressing yourself out and probably not do a good job of preparing. Prepare in stages, start by analysing the request, then research and evaluate the information you can find on the topic, prepare a logical and structured presentation and then practice and memorise as many times as you can. A great presentation will give you leverage and can really help increase your overall score or outcome, so take full advantage of this opportunity.
If you receive the case study on the day of interview or assessment centre, don’t freak out! Be calm, and follow all the steps as mentioned above, but do everything in a much faster fashion as you will have limited time. The important thing to remember is that you consider the facts carefully, don’t overview anything that’s important, use dot points and logical structure to be efficient and ensure you can justify and verify why you chose the outcome / conclusions you drew upon. A good tip is to assess the amount of time you have been given to prepare the case study versus the potential weighting it has on your outcome. For example, if you have been given 5 minutes to prepare and analyse, the likelihood is that the case study doesn’t hold that much weight in the outcome and is really just a hurdle to see how you present and deal with stress. If you are given between 15-30 minutes to analyse and prepare, we would consider this to hold more weigh in the overall score and outcome, I would really ensure you pay close attention to how to construct and validate your answers.
Our top tips for case study and presentations are:
- Ensure you read the instructions carefully and take notes
- When constructing your presentation ensure it is logical and presented in a sequence that others can follow
- Ask yourself if the idea you are presenting is really clear and easy to understand or are you the only one who it makes sense to? Is it easy to interpret?
- Use props (power point, charts, flowcharts etc if have time to prepare prior) to help your presentation. But ensure if you do, that you check if you have access to technology on the day.
- When presenting, speak clearly in a concise manner and practice with any one you can. Be confident in your idea so others can also believe in it and you! SLLOOWWW down if you know you talk fast.
- Ask others to critique your presentation and take the feedback constructively, don’t take it personally. Actively use this feedback to improve your presentation and dialogue. It’s also worth asking others if you have a filler words such as ‘um’ or ‘i think/ i guess’ or ‘maybe’ and actively pay attention to try to not say that word.
- If you are questioned based on your idea, you must be able to explain why you chose this idea or concept, so think about this prior. We bet you will be asked at least 1-2 questions at a minimum, so be ready to converse!
- Remember this is part of the overall assessment so treat it like every other one, be professional, prepared and confident.
Practising your communication, presentation and analytical skills will really help you feel more comfortable going into the day itself. Be confident, know the role, company, industry and use this knowledge wisely. Don’t let nerves take over and remember preparation and practice lessen nerves more than you can imagine.
UC Grad Recruiter.
The hiring process in the financial services sector often involves more than just a traditional interview. A growing number of employers are adopting a case study style interview to give candidates the opportunity to showcase their skills rather than describe them.
A survey conducted by the Corporate Executive Board Company (CEB) found that while only 30% of finance departments are currently using the case study interview in their hiring process, 87% of CFOs surveyed don’t believe they have the right talent mix on their teams to achieve their goals.
One solution to this talent gap is the case study interview. Instead of candidates responding to a series of interview questions, they will receive a set of questions concerning a business-related problem.
Kruti Bharucha, Senior Director at CEB, added that sometimes candidates are given information prior to the interview or will be asked to put together a presentation for an interview panel.
A case study interview can also involve meeting with multiple interviewees.
“Others may be put through a set of case rounds with different interviewers – where each interviewer asks a different case and they then get together to assess the candidates’ performances,” Kruti said.
Traditional interview techniques test for functional and technical expertise, but neglect to assess the applicant’s softer skills. These soft skills include communication, persuasion, business acumen, team management and collaboration, all of which can be demonstrated in case-study interviews.
“Case study interviews assess hard-to-teach and hard-to assess competencies, such as simplifying and communicating complex ideas, influencing stakeholders by adapting communication style, and explaining insights in a compelling manner to the business,” Kruti said.
Evidently, the case study approach offers a multitude of benefits to employers.
Four tips to succeed in a case study interview
1. Deconstruct the question before you construct your answer
Break the question into ‘sub-questions’ that you can answer prior to solving the whole problem. With each sub-question, ask yourself why it’s important and where it fits into the overall problem.
Case studies often include a plethora of information and more than one question — it’s your job to sift through the information and pull out what’s most important.
2. Explain your reasoning
Explaining your thought process to your interviewer will help them understand why you may have answered the question in a certain way. Even if you make a mistake, you’ll still be giving them the chance to observe how you reason.
If you’re unsure how to answer one of the case questions, this is a good method for earning points even if you make a mistake.
3. Listen to any leads or cues given by the interviewer (and if you need additional information, ask for it)
Any additional information that your interviewer supplies is probably something he or she wants you to remember, so take note of it and use it in your answer! Sometimes you’ll be assessed on how well you can probe for more information, so if you feel like you need a little more information to create an informed answer, then ask for it.
4. Don’t stress about finding the right solution
Often times in case studies, there isn’t one right answer. The employer is assessing how you solve the problem, not necessarily the ultimate conclusion you draw.
“In a case interview, the candidate could come up with a completely different solution to what seems like the ‘right answer’ but that could be because the candidate displays creative thinking or explores a line of reasoning that hadn’t been considered by others,” Kruti explains.
A sample case study interview question:
After being given information about a firm’s history, structure and finances, you could be asked something like this:
After reviewing their company’s financial records, a group of partners in a hedge fund firm feel that they should act on one or more expansion opportunities that have been presented to them. The company has considered hiring more staff or investing money in a new technology. What would you recommend the firm do?
In addition to general company information, case studies often provide case-specific information to help you answer the question. In this case, you would likely be given information on the two expansion options.