Preparing for a Case Interview - dummies

By Jason Williamson

Many big data jobs today in consulting, financial services, or other companies that require creative solutions are conducting case interviews as a part of the hiring process. Case interviews are used to test a candidate’s ability to quickly identify problems and solve them. In addition, it gives companies a chance to see how candidates react to stress, think on their feet, and are creative in their solutions.

To prepare for a case interview,

  • Do your homework. Most top schools have a wealth of information on the case method. Spend some time researching places like MIT, Harvard, and Princeton and the resources they’ve published on the case method.

    For example if you go to the MIT website and search on “case studies big data,” you’re given a list of case studies to explore. For more information about the case study method, you can go to Google Scholar and search on “case study methodology”; you’ll find a wealth of information.

  • Know your audience. Check out the company you’re interviewing for to get an indication of the type of case you may get. Companies often publish resources on their career websites on how to prepare for a case interview within their firm.

  • Listen to the problem. When you’re in the interview, carefully listen to the case and the problems that arise. Reflect back what you think you’re hearing for validation or course correction from the interviewer, if you want. Starting from a strong foundation of problem identification is key to solving the case.

  • Ask questions. Asking questions shows how you think about things. Sometimes you’re expected to go down a certain path or line of reasoning. Don’t be afraid to interact.

  • Practice, practice, practice. Practice as many case studies as you can. Learn to identify patterns of problems and creative ways to solve them. If you’re with a group of people who are also preparing, spend time role-playing so that you can re-create the experience; these are called mock interviews. Consider recording these. Watching yourself can be tough, but it will almost always reveal things you should work on.