Case Study Interview Examples: Questions and AnswersYou will need to prepare for an interview where case study questions will be asked. While preparation is required for every job interview, extra time is required to adequately prepare for case study interviews.
Providing an answer to a case study question involves much more than simply recounting the issues and problems set forth, it includes identifying the most important issues, employing sound and logical analysis, developing an action plan for addressing the problem(s) and making recommendations. Depending on the firms you're interviewing with, and the industry you work in, case study questions can be presented in verbal or written format, and address a number of topics.
In case interviews, it's not uncommon for interviewers to exclude important details when asking candidates to resolve hypothetical business problems presented. It's okay to ask interviewers for more information, and it's expected. They want to see if you can identify what information is important, and what is not.
Occasionally, interviewers provide no detail at all to test your analytical skills when adequate resources are unavailable. In these situations, it's okay to make assumptions, but they must be based on sound logic and analysis of information that is provided.
Interviewers asking case study questions are primarily concerned with how effectively you can analyze a problem, determine key factors, brainstorm ideas, and propose workable, pragmatic solutions that are supported by your analysis.
Answering Case Interview QuestionsIn the case interview, coming up with the "correct" answer isn't nearly as important as the process you use for getting there. When answering a case interview question, you want to showcase your ability to analyze a situation or business dilemma, identify the important issues, and develop sound conclusions that flow from your analysis. For this reason, it's important to use a logical framework for breaking down and analyzing the case. Some of the more common business analysis frameworks that can be employed include Porter's Five Forces, Value Chain Analysis, Four P's of Marketing, and SWOT Analysis. The framework you decide to use should be a function of the type of case you're presented.
Where a specific framework for analysis isn't readily available or applicable, a general framework or analytical approach can be applied. The most important thing is that your approach to answering the case interiew question is structured and logical.
Regardless of the type of case you're presented, there will likely be a few main parameters and several factors that influence those parameters. The first thing you want to do is identify the parameters and factors, the then determine which are key to the case output.
For example, assume the case involves a company's declining profitability. From your initial review of the case information you determine the main parameters to consider are total revenues and total costs.
After defining the two main parameters, you'd then drill down further to the factors influencing each of the parameters you've identified. You determine the factors influencing total revenues are average price of goods sold and volume of goods sold. And for total costs, fixed costs and variable costs.
With both the case parameters and factors clearly identified you give yourself the ability to steer the conversation and begin to identify possible solutions. To identify areas of concern, you'll want to explore the history of the four influencing factors. At the end of your discussion with the interviewer you may determine that it's rising variable costs that are having the biggest impact on profitability. You'll then drill down even further to determine what is causing variable costs to rise and come up with more specific recommendations.
Building a graphic representation (tree, decision diagram, etc.) of parameters, factors and other influencing elements will help you structure your thought process, keep from missing key aspects of the case, and make a strong argument for the recommendations you'll make.
Using a framework or structured approach to developing a recommendation for a case study interview question provides the added benefit of giving the interviewer something to take back and present to his or her superiors to make the case that you're the right person for the job.
Whatever you do, don't force-fit frameworks. If a particular framework doesn't apply to the case, don't use it. Most frameworks incorporate universal concepts that can be applied to various business issues. Use the concepts you've learned in school or through prior work experience to support your analysis of the case. Show your interviewer that you understand these business concepts well enough that you can apply them to the specifics fo the business issue being presented in the case.
Below we're going to present several case interview questions organized by question type. To perfect your ability to perform well in case interviews, we recommend reviewing each question and then developing a logical framework or approach for answering each one.
Standard Case Interview QuestionsAs is the case in real life, there is usually no single correct answer to standard case interview questions. As long as you're able to prove your case, using sound analysis and by demonstrating an understanding of the main case issues, you're likely to do well. Below are some common standard case interview questions that provide great practice for case interviews.
- What would be your approach for introducing a product into a foreign market? What are the risks and benefits to consider i.e. producing in your own country vs producing in the new country, etc?
- Company ABC is struggling, should it be restructured? Identify the three main problems it's facing. What is the most important problem the company is facing? How would you recommend the company address this problem? How would you turn this company around? Provide your reasoning for your recommendation(s).
- A toy company has been experiencing decline sales for the last two seasons. Research suggests that introducing several new product lines is the solution. Develop a marketing strategy for the company's largest product line, including pricing, product packing, etc.
- A large chain of retail clothing stores is struggling with profitability. Bases on your review fo the company's financial statements, what problems can you identify? Can this company be turned arounds? How would you go about deciding?
- A new Eddie Bauer Store is being opened up in London. Discuss all the marketing issues regarding the opening of this new location.
- Take in information quickly and remember what you hear.
- Identify key issues, prioritize and logically solve problems.
- Make quick, yet accurate, decisions.
- Manage time efficiently.
- Perform under pressure.
- Be aware of resource constraints.
- Identify customer needs.
- Be original and creative.
Market Sizing Case Interview QuestionsA market sizing case interview question is one where you're asked to determine the size of market for a particular product. These types of case interview questions are popular, and actually not difficult to answer if you practice. The following a few examples of market sizing case interview questions.
- Please provide the total weight of a fully loaded Jumbo Jet at the time of take off.
- How many light bulbs are there in the United States?
- How many photocopies are taken in the United Kingdom each year?
- How much beer is consumed in the city of New York on Fridays?
- How many people sell AMWAY products in the United States?
- If there are 7,492 people participating in a tournament, how many games must be played to find a winner?
- How many golf balls will fit in the Empire State Building?
- How many car tire are sold in Canada each year?
- Given thhe numbers 5 and 2000, what is the minimum number of guesses required to find a specific number if the only hint you're given is "higher" and "lower" for each guess made?
- How do you determine the weight of a blue whale without using a scale?
- Take time to think before you answer the question.
- If given a pen and paper, take notes and write down key information. Use the paper to make calculations, write down ideas and structure your answer.
- Ask additional questions if you feel you are missing information. The interviewer is often expecting you to ask to find missing information.
- Use lateral thinking and be creative. There isn't always just one right answer. Just make sure your answer is backed up by sound logic and numbers that make sense.
- Make sure you know your math. At minimum you'll need to perform some basic arithmetic or mathematical calculations.
- These quesitons are often used to test your ability to structure, as well as your ability to think laterallly, make logical links and communicate clearly.
- Make mental calculations quickly by making sensible estimates and rounding numbers up or down.
- Does your answer make sense? If you're answer doesn't make sense, chances are you've made a bad assumpation, estimate or calculation. Go back and carefully check your work and provide a new answer.
- You can use business frameworks (SWOT, Porter's Five forces, etc.) or mind mapping to support your analysis and answers, as long as it makes sense.
- Many market sizing questions revolve around issues being faced by an organization or industry. Commercial awareness can be very important to answering market sizing questions.
Logic ProblemsQuestions involving logic problems are designed to test your ability to think quickly and logically. These questions also require you to be able to perform numeracy quickly, while under pressure. The following are a few logic problems followed by their answers. Review the questions, develop your own answers, and then check your answers to see how well you did.
1. At 3:15, how many degrees there between the two hands of a clock? (J.P. Morgan interview question).
2. A fire fighter has to get to a burning building as quickly as he can. There are three paths that he can take. He can take his fire engine over a large hill (5 miles) at 10 miles per hour. He can take his fire engine through a windy road (7 miles) at 9 miles per hour. Or he can drive his fire engine along a dirt road which is 8 miles at 12 miles per hour. Which way should he choose?
3. You spend 21 dollars on vegetables at the store. You buy carrots, onions and celery. The celery cost half the cost of the onions. The onions cost have the cost of the carrots. How much did the onions cost?
4. You spend a third of all the money you have on a piano. Half of your remaining money you use to buy a piano chair. A quarter of the rest of your money you use to buy piano books. What porportion of you original money is remaining?
5. Why are manhole cover always round, instead of square?
6. In the Chicago subway system there are two escalators for going up but only one for going down to the subway. Why is that?
7. You find three boxes at the store. One contains onions. Another contains potatoes. The third contains both onions and potatoes. However, all three of the boxes are labeled incorrectly so it's impossible to tell which box contains what. By opening just one box (but without looking in) and removing either a potatoe or onion, how can you immediate label the contents of all the boxes?
8. There are 8 bags of wheat, 7 of which weigh the same amount. However, there is one that weighs less than the others. You are given a balance scale used for weighing. In less than three steps, figure out which bag weighs less than the rest.
9. There are 23 rugby teams playing in a tournament. What is the least number of games that must be played to find a tournament winner?
The following are the answers to the 9 logic problems above:
If you thought the answer was zero degrees, you'd be incorrect. At 3:15, the clock's minute hand will be pointing at 15 minutes, exactly 90 degrees clockwise from vertical. At 3:15, the clock's hour hand will exactly one quarter of the distance between 3 O'clock and 4 O'clock. Each of the 12 hours on the clock represents 30 degrees (360 degrees divided by the 12 hours on the clock). Consequently, one quarter of an hour is exactly 7.5 degrees, so at 3:15 the minute hand will be at 97.5 degrees. So there is a difference of 7.5 degrees between the hour hand and minute hand at 3:15.
Driving his fire engine 5 miles at 8 miles per hour takes 37.5 minutes. Driving his fire engine 7 miles at 9 miles per hour takes about 47 minutes. Driving his fire engine 8 milles at 12 miles per hour takes 40 minutes. So he should choose to drive his fire engine over the hill.
Answering this problem just requires some simple algebra. If we assume the cost of celery = x, then the cost of onions = 2x, and cost of the carrots is 4x, such that the total cost of all vegetables = x + 2x + 4x = 7x = 21 dollars. Consequently, x = 3 dollars. Hence, the onions cost 6 dollars.
You spend a third of all the money you have on a piano, so you're left with two thirds (2/3). You spend half (1/2) of the remaining two thirds on a piano chair, which leaves you with just one third of what you started with (1/2x2/3=1/3). You spend a quarter (1/4) of what you have remaining (1/3) on piano books, which leaves you with one twelth of the original (1/4x1/3=1/12).
A square manhole cover can be dropped down the hole if turned diagonally to the hole, where round covers can't be dropped down manholes.
People coming into the subway tend to arrive at different times, so the flow of people down the escalators is a more even stream. Conversely, when people get off the subway they typically all arrive at the escalators at about the same time. Consequently, two escalators are need to handle people leaving the subway, where only one is required for people arriving.
Just open the box that is labeled "Onions and Potatoes". Since none of the boxes are labeled correctly, this box must contain only onions, or only poatatoes. If you remove a potatoe from this box, the box must be the "Potatoes Only" box.
One of the remaining two box has to be the "Onions Only" box. However, the only you currently have it labeled "Potatoes Only", and the other is label "Onions Only". So the box labled "Potatoes Only" must be the box that contains only onions, and the box labeld "Onlions Only" must be the box that has both potatoes and onions.
Bags of Wheat
Immediately, take any 2 of the bags and place them to the side. Weigh 3 of the remaining six bags against the other 3 bags. If these bags weigh the same, that means the bag that weighs less must be one of the two that you immediately placed to one side. If this is the case, weigh the 2 bags you placed to one side against each other to find out which one weighs less. You've now found in your bag.
However, upon weighing the sets of 3 bags against one another you find that one set weighs more than the other set, place one of the bags from the set of heavier bags aside and weigh the remaining two bags to find out which one is heavier. If they are of equal weight, the you know that the bag you place to one side is the bag you're looking for.
In a tournament, every rugby team except the winner is eliminated from the tournament after being defeated just once. Hence, the number of games required to find a tournament winner is going to be one less than the number of teams, or 22 in this case.
Business Case Interview QuestionsThe following are examples of common business case interview questions:
- How would you work with a subordinate who is underperforming?
- You're consulting with a large pharmacy with stores in multiple states. This company has improved sales but experienced a decrease in revenue. As a result, it is contemplating store closings. Explain how you'd advise this client?
- You are working directly with a company's management team. It is organizing a project designed to significantly increase revenue. If you were provided with data and asked to supervise the project, what steps would you take to ensure it's successful?
- You have been assigned to work with a small company that manufactures a popular product. However, a competitor begins selling a very similar product which incorporates state of the art technology. What would you advise your client to do?
- You have been assigned to advise a company with a large Western European market. Company management wants to open the Chinese market. What advice do you have for this company?
- The firm has assigned you to consult a company intending to drop a product or expand into new markets in order to increase revenue. What steps would you take to help this company achieve its objective?
- You have been assigned to consult a shoe retailer with stores throughout the nation. Since its revenue is dropping, the company has proposed to sell food at its stores. How would you advise this client?
Case Interview ResourcesIn addition to the guides and articles presented on our website, there are several other good resources, including workshops, mock interviews, books and interactive online resources, that will prepare you for case interviews. Some of the resources we recommend are listed below.
- Vault Guide to the Case Interview
- Vault Career Guide to Consulting
- Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation
- Mastering the Case Interview
- Ace Your Case! Consulting Interviews (series 1-5)
Interactive Online Resources
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Summary: Make sure you are prepared to answer any question a law firm might throw at you by reading through this comprehensive list of questions and answers.
When you are interviewing with a law firm, you always need to be prepared to answer any question they throw at you. Here are some of the most common law firm interview questions. Many of these questions overlap in certain aspects, but the key to acing your law firm interview is to be ready to answer each of these questions in a clear, concise, and specific manner.
We recommend thinking through these questions very carefully. We also note that some people benefit from physically writing out the answers and even practicing speaking them out loud. The goal is not to memorize answers, but rather to become so conversant with the questions you might be asked and the answers you will give that nothing rattles you during the interview and the answers roll effortlessly off your tongue.
The questions are organized according to the following categories (click to go directly to that specific section):
Self-Descriptive Questions: These are open-ended questions that ask you to give a description or characterization of yourself. The interviewer is interested in the substance of what you say (what kind of person you are), but the interviewer also is interested in how and why you give the answer you give. Successful answers will be short, simple, and articulate. They also will demonstrate a sophistication and appropriateness of judgment as to why you chose a particular characteristic, trait, or experience to discuss over all others.
Tell me about yourself.
How would your friends/co-workers describe you?
How would you describe yourself as a person?
What is important to you in life?
Who is your hero/heroine?
Why did you choose your undergraduate major?
How have you changed in the last five years?
What experiences most influenced your career choice?
What constitutes success in your mind?
Do you see yourself as a litigator or transactional lawyer? Why?
What do I need to know about you that’s not on your resume?
Questions about Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Professional Attributes: These questions are designed to illuminate your strengths and weaknesses, which are obviously relevant to an employer. When it comes to strengths, you should be honest and confident but not boastful or arrogant. The law firm is looking to fill a position that requires certain skills and you want the law firm to know without hesitation that you are more than capable of performing those very skills. Why would a law firm hire a litigator who is not fully confident in his or her writing ability, for example? When it comes to weaknesses, you should be forthright – but be mindful that you can almost always “spin” a “weakness” into a “positive” by demonstrating a willingness to acknowledge that weakness, to work hard to overcome it, and to figure out a way to move past it or to use it to your advantage.
What are your weaknesses?
What are your strengths?
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
How do you get the best out of people?
How do you go about handling difficult people?
How would you go about building a trusting relationship with a client?
How do you work under pressure?
How strong are your writing skills?
What sort of management skills do you have?
Would make you a good trial advocate?
Questions about Your Career Path and Goals: These questions can reach as far back as your initial desire to pursue law and include anything along your career path up until now – high school, college, law school, past jobs, and past professions. The interviewer wants to see a logical progression to your career arc, so he or she feels confident that you have the mindset and experience necessary to do the job at hand and be part of the legal profession. The interviewer also wants to see that you are a “goals minded” person with an overarching career plan for the rest of your professional life. Lawyers with plans and goals are considered assets to law firms, as opposed to people who appear to aimlessly drift through life and jobs without the benefit of a structured and reasoned plan.
Why did you choose law?
Why did you go to law school? Have your goals changed since then?
How has your education and experience prepared you for the practice of law?
Why did you choose to work at these specific organizations on your resume?
What did you particularly like/dislike about that work?
Why did you leave your prior jobs?
What did you do between college and law school?
Why did you decide to switch from your previous field to law?
What goals have you set for yourself? How are you planning to achieve them?
What are your short/long term career goals?
How are you planning to achieve these goals?
Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) years?
In what ways do you see yourself needing further development in order for you to be fully effective in your career?
Questions about Your Job Qualifications and Suitability for the Position: These questions are designed to assess whether you are qualified for the particular position being offered and whether you are suitable for the law firm offering it. Your answers should demonstrate that you understand the nature of the job, can do the work, are interested in the relevant area of law, and actually want to do the job as opposed to just taking the job because it is available. Your answers should show the interviewer that you have researched the firm and have a good basis for wanting to be at that firm – whether it is because the firm has a great reputation in the field, attracts the best clients and most sophisticated work, is located near your hometown where you are returning to settle, or for another rational reason. You want your interviewer to understand that – due to your experience, background, expertise, personal plans, and commitment – there is simply no better candidate for the position and firm.
How would you describe your ideal job?
What kinds of things give you the most satisfaction in your work?
What do you know about our organization?
Why do you want to work at our office?
Why do you want to work in our office, as opposed to other offices that do similar work?
What do you like most about this firm/practice group/organization?
Which of our legal practice areas and/or areas of interest are you most interested in?
Why are you looking at this area of specialization?
How did you become interested in X practice area/subject matter?
How much experience have you had in your field of interest?
What fields interest you other than the one you are in?
Why our practice setting? Why our issues?
What is your geographical preference? What ties do you have to our area?
What qualifications do you have that will make you successful at this job?
What sets you apart from other candidates?
Why should we select you over all the other candidates?
What can you bring to this organization?
What would you look forward to most in this job?
What would the greatest drawback of this job be for you?
What do you think will be the hardest part of this job for you?
What kind of training or supervision are you looking for in a job?
What criteria are you using to evaluate the employer for which you hope to work?
What is your ultimate career goal? How does this job fit into those goals?
Why did you come to us through an agency?
What are you expecting from this firm in the future?
What sort of salary are you expecting?
If offered the position, how long do you plan to stay at this company?
What challenges are you looking for in this position?
How do you feel about long working hours?
What other law firms have you applied to, and why?
Why did you decide to switch from private sector to public interest work?
How much experience have you had with public interest organizations?
Questions about Your Personality, Values, and Views on Law: These questions are designed to assess your personality, values, and views on the law to ensure that you are a good fit for a law firm environment and for the unique law firm environment where you are interviewing. Some of the questions are designed to assess whether you are a team player (important for a law firm). Others are designed to assess your politics, awareness of current events, and the quality of your “lawyering” skills, such as analytical thinking, powers of debate, advocacy, and commitment to a cause.
What qualities do you think a good lawyer should have?
What two or three things are most important to you in a job?
Are you a team player or do you prefer to work on your own?
Do you like working by yourself?
What type of people do you work with best or would have trouble working with?
How are you prepared to work with clients/colleagues who are different from you?
In what environment do you work best?
How do you get things done?
How to you deal with stress?
Describe how you would handle a disagreement between you and your supervisor about the direction a case should take.
What do you feel are things that help a person become successful?
How do you feel about accountability versus reconciliation?
How do you feel about representing alleged child abusers?
Is there any crime you would have trouble defending?
How do you feel when defense of the First Amendment conflicts with other rights?
If you weren’t in law school, what would you be doing?
Tell me about a recent Supreme Court case you disagreed with and why.
If you were a court, how would you rule on the following issue…?
How committed are you to service for the underrepresented?
What interest do you have in service to the public generally?
What was an interesting legal issue you dealt with in your job last summer?
If you had a completely free choice, which law would you like to change and why?
In your view, what are the major problems/opportunities facing the legal industry?
Why don't you want to be a counselor at law?
Questions about Your Specific Accomplishments: If you have made it this far, you have accomplished a great deal! These questions are designed to showcase those accomplishments. The key to answering these questions is to be specific (give concrete details), be proud without being arrogant, and be honest. You want your interviewer to feel that he or she has learned something new, real, and exceptional about you. You also want your interviewer to understand that there is “meat on the bones” of your resume and that you will accomplish great things for your new law firm just as you have done for your past firms, schools, and in other areas of your life. You want your interviewer to be impressed with you, to consider you a “winner,” and to appreciate the value you will bring to the team.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
What one thing have you done that you’re proudest of?
What is the most difficult/rewarding thing you’ve ever accomplished?
What type of responsibilities have you had in prior work experiences?
Tell me about your legal writing sample/note.
Tell me about a legal memo you wrote this year.
Tell me about a complex legal issue you worked on.
Describe a situation where you had to convince someone of your viewpoint.
Describe the project or situation that best demonstrated your analytical skills.
What has been the greatest challenge you have faced during your volunteer efforts? How did you overcome such a challenge?
Describe a professional failure and how you handled it.
What community service project do you believe allowed you to make the greatest impact and how?
Questions about Your Law School Experience: Especially for recent law school graduates, there will generally be a set of questions about law school and the law school experience. Until you have practiced for several years, there is not much to evaluate you by except law school. Moreover, law school is something all lawyers have in common and it is thus a relatively easy place to focus on in an interview. Thinking through the following questions will prepare you to tackle the majority of questions about the “law school experience” in an insightful and productive manner. Remember, you are applying for a job as a lawyer, so the more enthusiasm you manifest for law school and all it had to offer, the better off you will be.
- What do/did you like most about law school? What do/did you find most challenging?
- What was your favorite class in law school? Why?
- Who was your favorite professor in law school? Why?
- Tell me about your hardest law school exam question.
- What extracurricular activities have you participated in during law school?
- What was the issue you argued in Moot Court? What was the argument on the other side?
- What clinical work have you done in law school?
- Tell me about your participation on the journal, in your externship, your clinical program, or your research project.
- Tell me about your thesis/journal article.
- Do you think your grades are a good indication of your academic achievement? Are they an indication of your ability to do a good job at this organization?
See the following articles for more information:
Why did you only get an “LP” in…?
Have you enjoyed law school?
Questions about Outside Interests and Hobbies: You should always be prepared to answer questions about your outside interests and hobbies. Sometimes these questions come up as icebreakers and sometimes they are used to assess whether a candidate is a well-rounded person with interests outside of work. But beware – while on one hand law firms want to hire people who have balance and texture in their lives, on the other (and often more important) hand, law firms want to hire people who will do the work that is asked of them, assimilate into the law firm culture, and for the most part leave their outside interests and hobbies at the door. The way to handle these questions is to show that you are a nuanced and interesting person, but also that you have your priorities straight so nothing will interfere with your ability to be a team player and an extremely productive worker for the firm.
What are your outside interests?
What are your hobbies?
How do you spend your free time?
What is the latest non-legal book you’ve read?
What is something interesting that’s not on your resume?
Tell me about your interest in rock climbing, course on Islamic law, etc.
Would your social life infringe on your work commitment?