Strategies for Answering Business Case Questions
1. Take notes.
As your interviewer presents your case, be sure to take careful notes on the numbers or other facts given. (Always bring a notepad and a pen to a consulting interview.) You don't want to ask your interviewer to later repeat information that has already been given.
2. Ask questions.
Your interviewer expects you to ask questions - as many intelligent questions as you need to obtain an accurate picture of the relevant facts in the case. Many inexperienced case interviewees make the error of not asking their interviewer any questions, perhaps afraid that they will look ignorant, or not wishing to "bother" the interviewer. On the contrary - not asking questions is a fatal error in a case interview. If you don't know the first thing about the helicopter market, ask how much it costs to manufacture a rotor. If you need to estimate the demand for a beef-flavored potato snack in Wichita, Kansas, then feel free to ask the population of Wichita and environs.
3. Be prepared to take charge.
You will often find that your interviewer will direct your line of questioning to a specific area, but you must always be ready to control the conversation in case the interviewer does not direct your reasoning. If you are unsure, simply ask the interviewer. For instance, if you find the interviewer offering little direction as you move through your initial scoping questions, you may wish to ask, "I find the lack of a risk assessment to be a potential showstopper. Might I ask some detailed questions about this?" Or you might say, "Given what you have told me about the situation, I would like to drill down for further clarity regarding the client's current relationship with its distribution partner. Would that be OK?" In this way, you take charge of the line of questioning without stepping on the interviewer's role ~ 4. Make no assumptions!
As a case interviewee, you should never make any assumptions. You should assume the persona of an actual consultant trying to learn about an assignment. It might seem obvious that there is no preexisting workplan (because if there was, why would this be a case interview?) but you should ask. You should also ask if the company has encountered a similar problem, or what other companies in the field have done when faced by similar problems. Your interviewer may not release that information but will be impressed that you asked these sensible questions. Some good basic "professional" questions to ask, which apply to most cases:
* Who hired us?
* How long will this engagement last?
* Is there a workplan?
* Has the company faced this problem (or opportunity) before?
* If so, how did it react?
* What was the outcome?
* What have other companies facing this situation done?
* Has the firm already done any research into the issue?
* If so, what were its findings?
5. Maintain eye contact.
Always maintain direct eye contact during the case interview. Eye contact is critical when answering case questions - it demonstrates confidence and authority. Remember that in consulting you may find yourself in front of twenty executives at a major corporation presenting a strategy you were briefed on only a half-hour ago. And then you have to answer questions! So you can see why business case interviewing is so important to consulting - it is a direct parallel to the environment consultants must face every d