Do You Want to Be A Consultant? Master the Case Interview!

Tips for Answering Business Case Interview Questions Successfully

Do you want to be a consultant?  Have you begun the consulting position search process, but, haven’t found the position of your dreams yet?  In interviewing, have you run into Business Case Interview Questions and found them challenging?  If you answered yes to any of the above, Lexacount Search can help.  We can help you get prepared for Business Case Interview Questions with some tips below:

1. Take Notes

As your interviewer explains your case, make sure to take extensive notes. (Always bring a pen and a notepad/portfolio to your interviews.) If you bring your portfolio, your pen, notepad, and additional resumes and business cards, you will be prepared for any eventuality.  Take notes so you don’t need ask the interviewer to review a fact or an “interviewer stated-assumption” you may have missed.  Also, try to be as detailed as you can as you take your notes – the more information you have, the more easily you will be able to manage your response.  Additionally, don’t be surprised if your interviewer collects your notes at the end of your interview.   Toward the meeting’s end, your notes normally are gathered and add to your interview profile.

2. Make No Assumptions

As you think through your answers in a case interview, never make assumptions.  Your interviewer has given you enough facts/problems that you should be able to manage. However, know that your interviewer will not jump into help you if you are struggling or if you misstate a premise.  As you are interviewing, without being pompous or arrogant, you should be confident in your ability to answer the question reasonably.  In fact, you should take on the persona of an expert – attempting to find out all of the information around a certain set of challenging circumstances.

3. Ask Questions

As you think through your case, if you have questions that reflect a deeper understanding of the issues presented, you should inquire further.  For example, if it is relevant and makes sense, you ought to inquire as to whether the organization has experienced a comparable issue, or what different organizations in the field have done when confronted with comparable circumstances. Your interviewer may or may not respond with additional data, but, if your questions are good, your interviewer will be impressed with the strength of your analysis and the insight your questions had.  Some great fundamental “expert” things to ask, which can apply to most cases:

  • What is the item?
  • Who contracted us?
  • To what extent will this engagement last?
  • Has the organization confronted this issue (or opportunity) sometime recently? Assuming this is the case, how could it have been able to it respond? What was the result?
  • What have different organizations confronting this circumstance done?

Once you have reviewed facts/issues, think a little more before sharing your answer.  At this point, if a question about anything remains, ask another question. In some cases, your interviewer may offer additional information and clarify.  If not, you may be on your own.  In any event, at that point, you’ve done the best you can in showing all of the information and showing your thought process.

4. The Interviewer Expects You To Ask Questions

In your case interview, your interviewer expects that you will ask questions – as we reviewed in tip 2, you should ask enough questions such that you have a solid understanding of the facts of the case.   Additionally, by making inquiries, you turn the experience from a presentation to a discussion, which is a much more pleasant experience for you and the interviewer.  Too many interviewees worry that asking questions will make them appear unprepared or unintelligent.  An interviewee must ask questions because the questions reveal your thought process – interviewers need to see that to make an evaluation.  Indeed, likely, you will need to ask questions to come to a reasonable answer.  For example, if you don’t know anything about the car business and your case interview question is about that industry, ask how much it would cost to produce a carburetor.

Also, as you work your way through the case, you can show that at the point of your evaluation that you need additional information before you would be able to give a client good advice.  For example, you can ask, “This looks like a point where I need additional data – Is there any additional information you could share?”  Or, you may say, “Given what you have let me know about these circumstances, I might want to discover more about the customer’s current relationships with its channel partners – Could you share that?”  Again, in challenging the facts, these thoughtful questions demonstrate how you think and how you would bring value to the firm and its clients.

5. Listen to the Answers You Get

Once you ask the questions, listen to the answers.  Many interviewers warn that the candidates forget to incorporate the new information into their answers.  Don’t be that candidate – remember to add the new information.

6. Maintain Good Eye Contact

Be confident and maintain good eye contact!  When you look your interviewer in the eye, it shows that you are confident in your positions and shows that you will have a good presence in future client meetings.

7. It’s Ok to Take a Moment

Take as much time as you need.  Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it is fine to take a moment to work through your answer.  Indeed, most interviewers think that is best and would expect you to do so.  On the other hand, while “a moment” is fine, five minutes would be excessive.  Be careful of time management.  You don’t want the interviewer to be waiting for too long!

8. Lay Out a Road Map for Your Interviewer

After you’ve chosen the path for your case solutions, share!  Explain to the interviewer what direction you are going in and how you will get there.  For instance, you may say, “To begin with, I’m going to talk about the produce market in Chile. Second, I’ll get some information about barriers to entry. Finally, I will make suggestions/offer solution for ….” Providing an outline helps you clarify for your interviewer and for yourself how your response to the case will look – and that helps you both!!

As you do so, make sure that your “outline” addresses the following elements of the case

  • Your outline should illustrate how you comprehend the client’s potential problem
  • Your outline should illustrate how you comprehend the extend of the problem
  • Your outline should illustrate how you recognize who and how to manage the expectations of key decision-makers
  • Your outline should illustrate your solution to the client’s potential problem

9. Verbally Process Quickly

With this tip, the idea is that you practice thinking out loud!  If you practice “thinking out loud” with various events in your life where you have to evaluate to make a decision or provide a solution, in your head (or under your breath), you will get used to thinking quickly and sharing your thought process aloud.  That way, with practice, in the interview, you will skip the awkward silences while you are thinking the case through or the ums and uhs that are sometimes used to fill empty space.  The more you practice, the more polished you will become.

10. Be Prepared For An Abrupt End

When you are in your case interview, it’s possible that the interviewers will suddenly cut you off.  If that happens, be prepared to rapidly summarize what you have said and come to an immediate conclusion.  The interviewers may need to end the interview quickly because of an emergent client issue of their own, or because he or she believes that you have addressed the relevant point for the evaluation process.  Whatever the reason (indeed, you will probably never find out), do not let it unnerve you.  Instead, quickly (30 seconds or less) summarize and issue your conclusion/solution.

Good luck!!


(These tips were excerpted from Vault’s Guide to the Case Interview, which also highlights additional information.)


*  *  *

Do you have a Case Interview coming up?  Would you like some help in working through these tips?  If so, contact a Career Counselor with Lexacount Search’s Career Consulting Services.  Or, if you are interested in learning more about open finance and accounting industry opportunities, contact a Search Consultant from Lexacount Search’s Finance Group.  Or, if you are a lawyer or legal assistant, learn more about open legal industry opportunities with a Search Consultant from Lexacount Search’s Legal Group.


By Lexacount Search

This post was written by .

Lexacount Search is a boutique recruiting and staffing company, focusing on permanent placement for legal and accounting professionals. We place attorneys, paralegals, accountants, and contract specialists with law firms and corporations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and nationwide. Equidistant from New York and Washington, D.C., our offices are located in suburban Philadelphia. Our search consultants have a range of experiences as lawyers, paralegals, law clerks, accountants and accounting clerks. These backgrounds make our consultants uniquely qualified to match your skills and career goals with permanent positions with our clients. Whether you are a lawyer, paralegal, law clerk, accountant, accounting clerk or other skilled professional, Lexacount will provide you with a variety of available career opportunities.

Published .

Posted in: AccountantAccountantsAccounting SearchAssociateAssociate DevelopmentAttorneyCareerCareer CoachingCareer SearchCareersCounselCPADiversityEmployerEmploymentExecutive SearchFAQsFinanceFinance SearchInterview SkillsJob Hunting TipsJob SearchJobsLawyerLegalLegal SearchLexacount SearchMBARecruiter