Why Everyone Should Practice Case Interviews.

andy-mychkovskyFirst, I’ll admit my bias. For the past week I have been practicing case interviews, listening to case interviews and thinking of case interviews. October is the month of playoff baseball and on-campus consulting recruiting for students of public health. At first, they may seem difficult, unguided and ambiguous. They may seem only a ploy by firms to frustrate and mentally torture prospective applicants for 30 minutes to 1 hour. However, after a few weeks of practice I now see the benefit outside consulting interviews and you should too.

Here’s what you learn:

  1. You learn to make an actionable recommendation followed with data to support.
  2. You learn to segment or break-down your objective into component parts.
  3. You learn to synthesize your current findings and draw a new hypothesis before moving to the next phase of the problem.
  4. You learn to pause… and stall for extra time… before answering the question.
  5. You learn to organize your thoughts, so that anyone can clearly follow.
  6. You learn to make eye contact.
  7. You learn to speak precisely while under some level of stress.
  8. And finally, you learn to fail. Fail often and learn from your mistakes.

In order to demonstrate what I mean, here is an example of point number one, actionable recommendation. Let’s assume your friend asks for a recommendation. Do not ramble. State the actionable conclusion with three supporting arguments. Next address risks and potential next steps. See the difference in the following two conversations.

Ramble Version

Friend: Should I get a dog or not?

You: I’m not sure. Can you even handle one? You have always wanted one and have been putting it off for a while. However, they do seem like a lot of work and dog food is expensive. You make a decent living, but it would be tight. And it would be nice to have something to come home from work. They are supposedly very smart dogs and man’s best friend. Plus, the dog would love your backyard. Now that I think about it, you should get one, as long as the landlord is alright with it.

Case Version

Friend: Should I get a dog or not?

You: Yes, you should get a dog and here are three reasons why: 1) Dog is man’s best friend and you have always wanted one; 2) It would be nice to have a companion after work; 3) You can afford it and have the adequate space, including a large backyard. I would be cognizant about the price of dog food and should verify this with your landlord. Moving forward, we should go to the humane society to look at potential dogs!

With that I will end this post. Whether you’re considering consulting or not, I highly recommend you try a case interview or two. The worse that happens is you never practice or study one again.

Andy Mychkovsky is a second year HMP student at the School of Public Health.

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