Case interviews are the peak of the consulting recruitment process. All your hard work and countless hours of preparation have come down to a series of business cases. Are there telltale signs that indicate if you’re failing or doing well?
Firstly, if you’ve made it to the final phase of the recruitment process, you’re on the right track. This means that you have the credentials, as well as the mental and social capacity to fill in the vacant consulting position. However, the case interview can get the best out of anyone. Applicants have been known to buckle under pressure, making the process extremely unbearable.
Even if you think you are on the right track, misleading questions can easily make you question whether or not you are really qualified for the position. Furthermore, the body language of the recruiter can be influenced by a number of external factors that may not be related to the case interview.
As confusing as these elements might be, there are ways to tell how well you’re doing during a consulting case interview.
In most cases, the signs of how well you’re doing are obvious. Interviewers don’t have much time to entertain applicants who they see are not fit for a spot in the firm. Case interviews normally take some time to complete. If your interview was cut or seemed noticeably short, this could be a sign that you did not do so well.
If you aced the case interview, interviewers may talk a bit longer about what it’s like to work in the firm, or more about the vacant position. They will be specific about the steps ahead, such as providing specific dates on when you should come back or set an appointment with the secretary for your next visit. If he or she willingly gave you a personal business card without you asking for it, you may very well be in the running to become part of your target firm.
The interviewer’s body language can also be used to tell if you’re in the clear or in a hole. As mentioned earlier, body language may not be an entirely reliable method due to external factors. If the interviewer is having a bad day or is burned out from the week, he or she may naturally look stressed even while giving you praise.
Body language that is directed towards the applicant in a blunt manner should be taken in consideration. If the interviewer makes direct eye contact with you and rolls his or her eyes, this could be a sign that you need to do some serious catching up. Furthermore, if the interviewer shows clear signs of boredom and is uninterested in your answers chances are you are not doing so well.
If you catch yourself in this unfavorable position, it is best to make some adjustments. Don’t continue to go in the direction you’re heading and hope that something you say will turn things around. It usually never happens, because one right phrase doesn’t make up for several wrong answers.
The Role of the Interviewer
The interviewer serves a strong purpose during the case interview. They are there to guide applicants through questions and facts. They drop small hints, which will let you know if your answers are sufficient, or are running cold. If the consulting interviewer asks the same question in several different forms, this is a sign that you need to elaborate more in your answer. When this happens, simply take the time to recompose yourself and provide a thorough solution. Repeatedly guessing in small phrases is not advisable, as it can make you appear unreliable.
If the interviewer moves on to a new question in a positive manner and stops providing hints, then chances are you were able to steer clear of trouble. On the contrary, if he or she gives up and provides you with the answer in a condescending tone, then you can’t afford to make any more mistakes.
Signs of Success
There are several ways to tell if you are on the road towards a successful case interview. If you have the undivided attention of the interviewer and he or she apologizes for distractions, such as notifications or phone calls, then it shows that you are providing the right answers. Part of the recruitment process usually includes a tour of the firm. If the interviewer casually introduces you as the next person to fill in the open consulting position in a non-joking manner, then it is safe to say that you left a striking impression during the interview. Although these are clear signs of success, it is never final until you’ve signed the employment contract.
How Did Everyone Else Do?
In some cases, you did well and were scheduled to return in a few days. Then you received a call the following day saying that they already found a candidate to fill the position. Your case interview wasn’t cut short and the recruiter praised you for a job well done. What happened?
The margin of error during the case interview is incredibly thin. If you were part of a very competitive batch, simply providing the right solution or meeting the interviewer’s standards won’t do. If everyone else did the same, and the applicants before you set the bar extremely high, you need to exceed the expectations of the interviewer. Additionally, if the other applicants who came after you aced the case flawlessly, then it could also be a reason why the firm had to reconsider in choosing you as the final candidate.
It’s not recommended to form small groups in the lobby immediately after the case interview to discuss how everyone did. Instead, leave the premises and evaluate yourself personally before contacting the other applicants. Did you miss any signs or hints the may have predicted the results of your case interview?
Are You the Perfect Candidate?
Interviewers are looking for not only looking for the smartest applicant, but also one who has exemplary social skills. Because consulting is a team-oriented profession, recruiters need to be sure that the candidate has the personality to rub shoulders with the other consultants. Each member of the firm, from partner all the way to the IT staff, was handpicked to represent the company.
During the case interview, you would be able to gauge if you are able to connect well with the recruiter and everyone else whom you had an encounter with, such as the secretary and other consultants. That connection matters. If you felt that despite providing correct solutions, you and the interviewer are not on the same wavelength or line of thought, then something might be off.
It is normal for the first few minutes of the case interview to be awkward or a bit shaky. After all, it’s your dream job on the line and interviewers can understand what you’re going through. From here it’s up to you to break the ice quickly. Make the necessary adjustments to not just think about yourself, but also from the point of view of the recruiter.
Personal Evaluation and Reassessment
How an interviewer is assessing your performance during the case interview is not a complete mystery. Taking a few minutes to evaluate yourself on a personal level can help you determine how well you actually did. While it is best to be optimistic, a reassessment of your performance can help you patch up gaps in your character, career and personal development.
For example, if you struggled when selecting a framework to apply during the start of the business case, then (even if you were given the position) it would be a good idea to go back and review that key aspect of the case. Because the entire consulting interview process is highly structured, the results are also somewhat predictable.
If you’re coming in with the exact same educational background and credentials as the other associates in your target firm, it is likely that you will be favored compared to an applicant who has a number of questionable components in his or her resume. Additionally, if you’re hoping that the interviewer will overlook some of your answers during the case and focus on your strengths, it is a sign that your preparation was lacking in some crucial areas. When it comes to the case interview, if you were unable to direct yourself towards find the right solution in the first 5-10 minutes, it would be nearly impossible to suddenly stumble upon the solution during the latter parts of the process.
What Does a Successful Case Interview Look Like?
A successful case interview is one that goes very smoothly. The applicant’s answers are in sync with the interviewer’s guidance. It will almost seem like the applicant is not trailing too far behind in the progress of the case. When an interviewer knows that the applicant is right for the position, they tend to let their guard down a little. A smirk, off-topic joke or a simple nod may be a way of subtly saying congratulations, you have the job.
Learn more about the consulting interview process by downloading our free guide to management consulting case interviews. Our consulting guide covers the essential factors that you must take note of during the preparation stage. These include writing a competitive cover letter and resume that will instantly get noticed by a recruiter and case interview preparation. Download your copy today and increase the chances of successfully landing your consulting dream job.