Interview Questions: Case Questions

by | March 10, 2009

Case questions are most commonly used in consulting interviews, but they can be used in other situations, such as in interviews for marketing positions with consumer goods companies. Interviewers will want to know, first and foremost, whether you have the analytic capability and marketing knowledge to run a business. Case questions will vary in their breadth or specificity – some may be more geared toward figuring out how an applicant formulates long-term strategy, while others will require candidates perform specific tasks, such as pricing promotions for a product.

Sample case:

1. The brand launch: If we were looking to introduce a carpet cleaner to our line of products, how would you go about developing a business plan?

The brand launch is a common marketing case question. As with consulting casequestions, interviewers are interested in what kinds of questions you ask, how you proceed from assumptions you make, and your understanding of market pressures. If the interviewee has experience in the industry, he or she can actually use numbers or information gained from previous experience, though this is of limited importance. Interviewers may be pleasantly surprised if you know the size of the carpet cleaner market, or the characteristics of the key competitors – but they certainly don’t expect exact information. The important thing, as with consulting case questions, is to think aloud. "The first thing that you would do is to verbalize your thought process as much as possible," advises one veteran marketing manager. "Express how you’re thinking of the market."

The logical place to start with this particular question would be the carpet cleaner market and its future. How large is the carpet cleaner market currently? Is it expected to grow in the next several years? What are the main potential competitors? What trajectories are those companies on - are they moving out of that market, or planning to expand? Have there been many new launches in the carpet cleaner market by other companies, and are more anticipated? Finally, where is carpet cleaner sold – in grocery stores, in hardware stores, in convenience store - and how? Is it an impulse buy? Is it purchased in emergencies? Does it rest securely on shopping lists?

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Candidates should then turn to the company's strengths and weaknesses in the carpet cleaner market Does the company produce similar products, and therefore, possess a base of R&D expertise? Does the company have a distribution network in place? Is the company sitting on extra capital it can invest into a product launch? Does the company have a strong brand in a similar market (shower cleaner, for example) that can produce synergetic advantages in promotion? Make sure to identify the company’s weaknesses as well. Perhaps the company mainly sells to teenagers, not normally a large market for carpet cleaner.

A diligent marketer will also consider broader issues. One major category of these are consumer preferences. Are homeowners now opting for hardwood floors and throw rugs rather than carpeting? How are professional carpet-cleaning services faring? Are there trends in carpeting that affect the cleaner business (perhaps easy-to-clean carpets are reducing the need for cleaners)? Another major concern for marketers are demographic trends. Are foreign markets beginning to consume more carpet cleaner? Is there a population that will soon be users of carpet cleaners, or will soon stop using the product? While legal and regulatory issues may be less important to the carpet cleaner market than to, say, the pharmaceuticals industry, they are always a consideration. Are aerosol carpet cl

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