When I first started doing cases I began with the candidate led style and found interviewer led cases to be very difficult as a result. I’ve observed that many other people struggle with the transition as well, so this article is to help other people bridge the gap. We’re going to discuss some of the differences and how to deal with them.
There are two (2) main differences between interviewer and candidate led cases:
1. In the interviewer led cases, the interviewer guides the direction of the case. Often this means that the case goes down a road that you may not have considered, or there is no one answer at the end (which is very disconcerting to people who have only done candidate led cases).
2. Because the interviewer guides the direction of the case, interviewer led cases are much more about your ability to structure the problem, brainstorm, and come up with insights from data.
Directing the Case
As we said, in an interviewer led case you are not responsible for guiding the direction of the case. However, it looks very favorably if you do provide your recommendation about where you would like to proceed at the end of every question, and how each question ties back to the client’s objective.
For example, let’s say you’ve been given a case to assist a manufacturing company turn around its declining profitability. You are first asked to structure the problem and the next may be ways to improve the revenues. After you finish talking about revenues, it would look very favorable to say something to the effect of “We’ve examined the revenue side and come up with many good options, however what I’d like to do next is size each of these opportunities to see which one would help us improve our profitability the most. After that, I’d like to examine the cost side to see if we may increase profitability by cutting some of the client’s costs.”
The other issue many people have is often there’s no concrete answer to these types of cases. As a result, they don’t know how to conclude. My recommendation is that your conclusion should say something like:
“To answer the question of how to improve your profitability, based on our analysis it seems like you should do X for three (3) reasons:
1. Evidence # 1 (i.e profit, growth rate, lack of competition, etc.)
2. Evidence # 2
3. Evidence # 3
However, to be 100% sure that this is your best option, we’d like to look at:
1. Further Analysis # 1 (i.e. market analysis, capacity utilization, barriers to entry, etc.)
2. Further Analysis # 2
Structuring, Brainstorming, and Data Analysis
Structuring an interviewer led case requires much more detail than a candidate led case because you won’t get the chance to develop your framework as you get into the case. As a result, you need to be prepared to go 3-4 levels deep in your structure. See my article on structuring a case to see an example of one of these structures and how to communicate it.
Brainstorming is also much more critical in interviewer led cases. You may have to brainstorm in several questions throughout your case and may have to come up with 10+ unique ideas per question (my experience has been that most people who do their first interviewer led case can only come up with 1-3 ideas). My suggestion is to think of categories before you start brainstorming.
For example, let’s say you were asked to brainstorm as many characteristics of a phone as you can. You could probably break it up into categories such as hardware, software, carrier, and pricing. From there you could break hardware up into size, weight, quality, battery life, reflectiveness of the glass, etc. This is one easy way to brainstorm.
Data analysis is a bit more tricky, I’ll write a further article for it and link it here.
Interviewer and candidate led cases have two major differences:
1. The interviewer guides the case. However, remember it looks very favorable on you to always try to tie each question back to the original objective and indicate where you’d go next with your analysis (just like a candidate led case).
2. The case is much more about your ability to structure, brainstorm, and analyze data. Remember to build a structure that is 3-4 levels deep and when brainstorming to start by breaking things up into categories.