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What to do in candidate and interview-led interviews

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Candidate-led Case Interviews

In candidate-led interviews, you take the lead. You must think about the data/information that you will need in order to help you assess the issues at hand. You must ask the necessary questions (and follow-up questions) in order to extract this information from your interviewer. You then analyse the data that you have requested.

These interviews may lack a defined structure and may afford you great freedom (for better or for worse!) to conduct analysis in the way you think is most effective. Accordingly, you may dictate the structure and tempo of the interview to a greater extent than in interviewer-led interviews. Candidate-led interviews tend not only to test your quantitative and communication skills, but also to expose your ability to structure your thoughts and solutions coherently.

Many tend to find candidate-led interviews more challenging (especially those with little or no case interview experience) as you generally receive less guidance from the interview than in interviewer-led interviews.  Candidate-led interviews have been favoured by a wide variety of consulting firms over the past few years, although many firms have recently shifted their focus to interviewer-led interviews (including some of the top management consulting firms).

In candidate-led case interviews, you will typically need to brainstorm ideas and apply your numerical skills throughout the interview. For instance, if you are faced with a problem relating to a decline in company profitability, in order to work out which information you will need from the interviewer, you will first need to brainstorm the possible causes of the decline (e.g. an increase in fixed/variable costs, a decline in revenue etc.). Once you have found out from the interviewer which of these factors applies to the case, you can then ask for the relevant financial data (e.g. by how much have fixed/variable costs increased). At this stage, you may then have to perform calculations in order to work out, for instance, how much additional revenue the company will have to generate in order to increase its profitability to the desired levels (this may also require you to calculate the amount by which prices should be increased or costs must be reduced).

Interviewer-led Case Interviews

The structure of interviewer-led interviews in contrast tends to be dictated by the interviewer. Questions may not necessarily flow logically from one to the next. The problems you may be asked to tackle can be more independent and the transition from one to the other may therefore be more abrupt.

In addition, rather than you having to proactively ask questions in order to gather information, in interviewer-led interviews, the interviewer may dictate precisely which information you may be given to support your assessment of the case at hand. However, you will likely be given the opportunity to ask at least a few questions. You then perform some quantitative analysis and carefully describe the findings.

As with candidate-led interviews, you will typically need to demonstrate your brainstorming and numerical skills in interviewer-led interviews. However, in interviewer-led interviews, interviewers are more likely to ask questions that are focused solely on testing your ability to either brainstorm or perform mathematical calculations. Brainstorming questions may require you to, for instance, list the key factors that contribute to a certain statistic (e.g. road fatalities, company insolvencies etc.). Numerical questions may involve interviewers giving you specific financial data (e.g. a business’ fixed costs, variable costs and average revenue per customer) then asking you to perform the relevant calculations to find a particular metric (e.g. the number of customers that business requires in order to break even).

Insolvency: a company is ‘insolvent’ when it cannot pay its debts in time, or when the total of its liabilities exceeds its assets. If a company becomes insolvent, it must cease trading.

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By Jake Schogger - City Career Series