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INTERVIEWS

CASE INTERVIEWS

Types of Cases

All cases fall into two broad categories Ė long and short (the reference being to time). Listen to the interviewer for cues on this issue, and know the structure of the interview before going in. Odds are you will never get started with a long one, and youíll find that, more often than not, you can gauge what your interviewer is looking for. If he leans forward and says, "O.k., letís start with a quick case to get warmed upÖ", this does not mean, please ramble on for the next 45 minutes, pulling every rabbit out of your pocket. If he throws down his pencil, leans back, rolls up his sleeves, and takes about 10 minutes to formulate the question giving you every fact including names, dates, etc., odds are your answer should be longer than "Yes, they should expand." Itís all a matter of reading his cues both at the start, and while youíre answering. As you get more experienced, you will also recognize that certain types of cases are usually long ones (written cases are always long), while others are quicker. That comes with experience. In the meantime, we want to introduce you to the types of cases youíll come across:

bullet Brain Teasers. "Why are man-hole covers round?" This is a famous brain-teaser question, and weíre not sure if anyone knows the real reason. The case interview answer, however, is "So that they canít fall into the man-hole (if someone drops them, for example." You can have other answers as well "Theyíre heavy, and you can roll them down the street", for example, but then youíre becoming rather creative, arenít you? It might workÖit might not. Brain teasers are those little puzzles that your parents used to tell you, and are a fairly popular way to get the interview going (sometimes to wind it down). Your answer should be quick, relaxed, and even include a sense of humour about the whole thing.
 
bullet Market Sizing. These are also generally short questions, though your answer should be somewhat longer than for brain teasers. "How many beige washing machines were sold in Canada last year?" Weíll save you the suspense Ė you will never know the right answer, and the interviewer doesnít even know it either. What this type of case tests is your ability to structure a problem, make certain assumptions, do rough calculations, and explain your reasoning to the interviewer. The last thing you should do is say "13,000." A typical explanation follows the lines of "Letís say there are 30 million people in Canada, with an average household size of 3. That makes 10 million household. Letís say that 50% of them live in houses, 70% of those having their own washing machine. That makes 3.5 million washing machines in houses. Out of the 5 million people living in apartments, letís say 10% have their own washing machines. That makes another 500,000 washing machines in apartments. Letís assume that Laundromats have 1 washing machine for every 10 households that donít have their own machines. There are 6 million of them (in houses and apartments), so that makes another 600 000 washing machines in Laundromats. There is now a total of 4.6 million machines in Canada. Letís assume that washing machines depreciate once every 4 years and need to be replaced. That means 1.15 million new washing machines are sold every year in Canada. White is the common colour, so letís say that only 20% of them are beige, which makes 230,000 beige washing machines sold every year in Canada".

Before you applaud, letís make it clear Ė we have no idea how many damned beige washing machines were sold in Canada last year, nor do we really care. However, we did demonstrate an ability to structure a problem, make reasonable assumptions, and we demonstrated that we are comfortable calculating 20% of 1.15 million. Thatís what the interviewer is looking for. You can use a pen and paper to keep track of your figures, and you should always use round numbers (never say 8% - youíre only shooting yourself in the foot). Donít get too detailed as you will lose the interviewer, as well as drag the process out far much. Be concise, detailed, and organized. A decision tree never hurt.

bullet Project. Project cases are generally long, they can be written or oral, and involve a typical situation facing a business. Generally the interviewer will pick an industry with which she thinks you might not be familiar (such as the golf ball manufacturing industry), and ask you to analyze the problem facing the client. The client might be looking to expand into a new product line, a new geographical location, attempting to target a new demographic, facing a rising cost structure, or any other typical problem that companies face every day. You will be given a minimal amount of information. As you start to structure your problem, you will realize you need other pieces of information, and you should ask the interviewer if they can give you that information. This shows that you understand what issues are relevant, and reveals to the interviewer what types of information you would spend your time gathering. If they donít have the information, they will tell you to make an assumption, and you should do so as in the market sizing. The project case is an interactive dialogue between you two, where you should continually be asking questions, and "thinking aloud". The interviewer will often steer you in the direction she thinks you should go, and you should follow her lead. These cases can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. The interesting ones are when the interviewer asks you about a case she has actually worked on in the past, and then tells you what really happened in real life.
 
bullet Business World. These are the most challenging, and the most rare. "What do you think Eatonís did wrong?" If you havenít been reading the papers Ė you are toast. You generally have the floor (i.e. no dialogue), and you are required to analyze an important event in the business world. This will show your degree of interest in business in general (i.e. do you love the Financial Post or not), your ability to incorporate common sense with advanced business theories in the analysis of a real-life scenario. If you donít have a clue what youíre talking about, be honest that you havenít followed the case and are unfamiliar with the details. However, itís best to be familiar with the major events in the business world, so start reading the papers a few weeks before you start applying for jobs (you should also be familiar with past landmark events, such as the Apple vs. Microsoft war, Japanese Automobiles in the U.S. etc.). We donít want you to worry, however, these types of cases are very, very rare.

http://www.campusaccess.com/campus_web/career/c5job_incatc.htm


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Behavioural Interviews

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Types of Interviews

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Sample Questions

Behavioural Interview Questions    Traditional Interview Questions    Case Interview Questions
Education    Previous Jobs    Company / Job    Questions determining your Competence
Questions on Wages / Salaries    Personal Characteristics    Your Community Involvement

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Questions You Can Ask

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Questions Not to Ask


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5 employer concerns

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Before the interview
    
Commonly asked questions in a traditional interview
    Commonly asked questions in a behavioural interview
    Questions to Ask
    Questions Not to Ask
    References
    Dress for the Interview
    Anxiety

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Researching before your interview

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During the interview

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After the interview
     Thank You Letters

Interviews