It’s easy to overlook the importance of being a good case interviewer when preparing for management consulting interviews. Since you’ll need to give almost as many cases as you take, you and your fellow applicants need to be highly capable at simulating the real experience, and facilitating opportunities to improve. Here are some tips to be a better case interviewer.
Take Good Notes
Interviewees often express sincere gratitude at the thoroughness of my feedback–it’s a nice compliment, but I wish that they received this sort of feedback more regularly. I typically return two or more pages of bulleted notes on what the candidate did well, and what he or she can improve on. Since I’m giving interviews over the phone, I also include what I think the candidate wrote for his or her frameworks so that he candidate can gauge how well he or she explained it.
This sort of feedback should be closer to the norm than the exception. You should be writing or typing as much as you can to evaluate the candidate’s performance to the best of your ability. You will learn much more quickly how a good case is done, and the candidate will get a much better picture of how he or she is performing.
If you are new at cases just tell the candidate what you think was good or bad. Your thoughts of what was good and bad may be incorrect, but that will give the candidate a chance to explain him or herself to you, providing valuable information for your future cases.
Since two pages can be a lot of feedback for the interviewee to handle, you should also take it upon yourself as the case interviewer to recommend two or three primary things for the candidate to practice. Try to figure out what would help the candidate improve most quickly, or try to identify the most important skills that the candidate is lacking.
Improving your feedback mechanism is the single greatest thing you can do to be a better case interviewer, and it will enhance your case interview skills almost as quickly as doing a case yourself.
Study The Basics
Before doing or giving your first case, it’s helpful to have at least read the basics. You should know how a case is run, its basic processes, what it’s testing, etc. Your school may have a club that explains the basics. BYU even has a decent guide on how to get started with videos and drills to practice. Although there is no substitute for practicing with other people, drilling specific skills on your own is imperative.
Know The Candidate’s Objective
Before you start a case, you should ask the candidate what he or she is working to improve. If you know what the candidate is working on, you can give more targeted feedback much more easily. If your candidate doesn’t have anything that he or she is working on, ask the candidate what problems he or she encountered in his or her last case. Candidates should almost always be working on something.
Adjust Your Difficulty
When you’re being the case interviewer for a candidate’s first case, you should expect to “hold their hand” through most of it. Give them a chance to shine by not giving things too easily, but make judgments about what is best learned by struggling through it and what is best learned through explanation.
When giving a case to a high performer, give them a hard time. Hold back pieces of information until they ask for it, and be more willing to push back on their conclusions. Give them harder cases, and be more nit-picky in your feedback.
Give Push Back
Giving good push-back takes a skilled and knowledgeable interviewer. Good push-back will challenge assumptions that the candidate makes, force the candidate to defend his or her position on a debatable item, or help the candidate correct a mistake. To give good push-back, you need to pay close attention to what the candidate says and pick apart the logic behind his or her statements.
Use The Same Case
Try to find a case that other people aren’t using and give it to the many people you’re practicing with. As you give the same case over and over you will be come more familiar with the tricks contained in the case and get a better idea of what approaches are most effective. You’ll have an easier time giving feedback and you can spend most of your mental energy on providing feedback instead of trying to follow the case.
Write Your Own Cases
Writing your own case has many benefits. Not only does it nearly guarantee that no one else will be giving your case, but you’ll also be intimately familiar with it from the beginning. Creating your own cases also helps you gain an intuitive sense for what cases are trying to test (see my post about the “Essence of the Case Interview” for more details on that). Writing a case is a great way to help you “think like an interviewer” when you’re trying to be an interviewer.
Ask For Feedback
You hopefully always ask for feedback on how well you performed as a candidate in a case, but it’s a good idea to seek for feedback as a case interviewer. You might even consider recording your feedback as an interviewer, but that might be more effort than it’s worth. Just try to make general improvements and seek general feedback on what kind of interviewer you are.
Being a good case interviewer is just as important and helpful as being a good interviewee. Put a bit of thought into providing meaningful feedback and helping your “candidate” learn, and you will both progress more quickly in your case interview skills.
Keep seeking truth.
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