Why the Case Interview?

by | March 10, 2009

Your impressive resume may get you an interview with a consulting firm, but it won't get you the job. Consultants know that a resume, at its very best, is only a two-dimensional representation of a multi-faceted, dynamic person.

And because consulting firms depend on employing those multi-faceted, dynamic people, the firms rely heavily on the case interview to screen candidates. The interview process is especially pertinent in the consulting industry, since consulting professionals spend the lion's share of their business day interacting with clients and colleagues and must themselves constantly interview client employees and executives.

Consultants must have a select set of personality and leadership traits in order to be successful. The consultant's work environment is extremely turbulent. There are nonstop co-worker changes, hostile client environments, countless political machinations, and near-perpetual travel. These factors mandate that an individual be cool under pressure, be influential without being condescending, be highly analytical, have the ability to understand the smallest aspects of a problem (while simultaneously seeing the big picture), and have the ability to maintain a balance between the personal and professional.

Consultants are often staffed in small groups in far-flung areas. As a result, the individual must be able to function, and function well, without many of the traditional workplace standards: a permanent working space, the ability to return home each night, easily accessed services such as administrative assistance, faxing, and photocopying, and the camaraderie that develops among co-workers assigned to the same business unit.

All these factors necessitate a unique interview structure focused on assessing a candidate's ability to manage these particular circumstances with professionalism and excellence. The case interview has evolved as a method for evaluating these characteristics.

Filed Under: Interviewing


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