What is a case interview?
The case interview is a scenario modeled after a real business or management problem. Candidates are asked to analyze a problem and provide a solution based on the information given. The majority of cases don’t have a specific answer that you are expected to give; instead, the interviewer is looking for you to demonstrate a thought process that is both analytical and creative.
Who Uses This Style of Interviewing?
Many consulting firms use the case interview as part of their interview process. The case gives candidates a sense of the type of work that consultants do and allows the employer to test the candidate’s ability to analyze, present information, and perform under pressure. However, any employer who is looking for strong problem solving and presentation skills can use case style interviewing.
Skills Evaluated During a Case Interview
- Communication skills
- Analytical and reasoning skills
- Ability to organize and present information
- Ability to perform under pressure
- Understanding of basic business principles
- Creativity and resourcefulness
Types of case questions:
- Business case (most common). A scenario to gauge the general business knowledge of candidates and how they can logically apply this knowledge. It could focus on different areas such as: profit/loss, organizational structure, and marketing. Example: “An airline finds that, while its revenues are high, the company is still operating at a loss. What is going on?”
- Market-sizing/"Guesstimates." Estimation questions that require the use of logical deduction and general statistical information to estimate some number or size. Example: "How many gas stations are there in the U.S.?"
- Brainteasers. Puzzles or logic questions used to gauge creativity, quantitative skills, and problem-solving skills. Example: "Why are manhole covers round?"
How to Approach a Case Interview
- Listen to the case. Take notes and rephrase the question to make sure your got all the information.
- Clarify the problem. Ask good questions to clarify and show your understanding of the problem.
- Analyze the problem. Pause and take time to think about how you will approach the problem. Silence is okay!
- Structure an answer. Write out your method for solving the problem. Use examples from in and outside the classroom to show insight.
- Share your answer. Talk through your approach using key points to guide you.
- Summarize your findings. Provide a conclusion that restates your main points.
How to prepare for a case interview
The best preparation for a case interview is to PRACTICE. The more cases you work through, the more comfortable you will become with the process.
Use this general timeline and the resources below to structure your practice:
As early as possible:
- Read the case resources Case in Point and the Vault Guide to the Case Interview.
- Coordinate an informational interview with a Georgetown alum working in consulting. Use Hoya Gateway to get connected.
- Sign up for a mock interview to practice your behavioral interview skills (these are important too!).
Two weeks before an interview
- Review and practice cases with a friend
- Attend an employer case workshop
- Come to a "Peer-to-Peer Case Study Hour" at the career center to get more practice time (see out career center calendar for times and dates)
- Visit employer websites for each company's tips and sample cases
The day before the interview
- Review our tips below
- Get enough sleep so that your mind will be sharp
- Bring paper and pens to the interview
Case Interview Tips
- Take notes
- Remember, the case is a chance to demonstrate how you think – don’t be discouraged if you don’t know the industry well. Use your analytical and communication skills to show how you would break down the problem.
- Make sure you understand the problem you are being asked to analyze. Paraphrase back to the interviewer to make sure you heard them correctly.
- Ask questions and listen to the answers you get (don’t be discouraged by information that the interviewer doesn’t provide, that likely means it is not important).
- Take time to collect your thoughts (and ask for more time if you need it). Don’t be afraid of silence.
- Lay out a road map for your interviewer (your framework will help here).
- Think out loud to allow the interviewer to see your analytical skills.
- Present your thinking in a clear, logical manner.
- Summarize your recommendations and use examples from your classes, internships, or extra-curricular activities to provide insight beyond the case.
- Read industry magazines and journals (both general and specific).
- Familiarize yourself with some basic statistics, such as the population of the U.S.
There are several resources available both in the career center and online, which can help you prepare for case style interviews. Some of the best resources are:
Books & Guides
All the books below are available to view in our career library on the first floor of the Cawley Career Education Center. Check in at the front desk for help.
- Case In Point: Case Interview Preparation, 10th Edition, (Marc P. Cosentino, 2010)
- Case Interview Secrets (Victor Cheng, 2012)
- Vault Career Insider Guides - career guides, employer profiles and rankings, and more. You must create an account with your Georgetown e-mail address to access Vault.
- Vault Guide to the Case Interview, 8th Edition
- Vault Case Interview Practice Guide 2: More Case Interviews
Sample Cases & Websites
- CQInteractive - interactive cases, videos, and drills to help you practice for your case interview. Free access for Georgetown University students.
- Management Consulting Case Interviews - hundreds of case interview questions organized by type, industry, and employer. Questions are available for free but solutions require a subscription.
- CaseInterview.com - Sign up for free access to case interview training videos, newsletters, and strategies for success from Victor Cheng, author of Case Interview Secrets.
- MConsulting Prep - Started by a former McKinsey consultant, this website has videos and coaching strategies for interview preparation.
- How to Ace the Case Consulting Interview webinar, Igor Khayet (F’06)
- Case Interview 101 - an introduction video from MConsulting Prep.
Peer-to-Peer Case Study Hour
The Cawley Career Education Center is providing space and resources for you to practice your case interviewing skills. Bring a friend or find a partner when you arrive to practice case questions and work through solutions together. Be sure to check our calendar in Handshake for any updates to location and times.
Company Resources for Case Interview Preparation
Bain & Company
BCG (Boston Consulting Group)
Dean and Company
McKinsey & Company