Welcome back to part 2 of How To Amp Up Your Interview game! This time we will be discussing one example of a short business case. The business case can be done verbally, in writing, individually or in a group. Typically the firm will tell you in advance how they will conduct the interview but if they don’t, be sure to ask.

The short business case is used to assess your analytical ability, your ability to drill down from a high-level statement, to be able to approach and logically solve any business situation. Firms are not looking for you to act as if you know all the answers. Rather, they want people who know how to ask questions, to listen to the answers and who are able to use the information effectively.

Before the case interview:

Whether it is a case interview or not be sure to visit the firms’ website, and review their financial documents, mission and vision statements and areas of recent success (usually found in the media or press release section). If you are a marketing major pay particular attention to new product or service introductions, expansion of retail operations, and their advertising and social media campaigns.

You won’t be allowed to use a calculator so be sure to practice some basic skills such as using percentages, moving decimals points and multiplication.

Know roughly the population of Canada, the US, and any countries in which the firm operates. These numbers will be handy to have when trying to solve a case!

Practice, practice, practice!

Here are some websites you can use to practice:

The short business case can take several forms but the five main types are as follows:

  1. Falling Profits
  2. Competitive Response
  3. New Product Introduction
  4. Growth Opportunities
  5. Mergers and Acquisitions

Each of these situations requires the use of a particular approach or steps to make sure you ask the right questions and provide a reasonable answer to the question. For this blog post, we will be focusing on a falling profits example. To find out about the other case types check out: “Mastering the Case Interview” by A. Cherney.

Falling Profits: This type of case asks you to explore the possible reasons behind a company’s drop in profits. An example of this type of case would be as follows:

“You are the product manager for a food product. Your product has been gaining market share but has experience declining profits. What would you recommend?”

Step 1 – Paraphrase the question you are being asked

Just like the guesstimate question I discussed in part 1 of this blog series, the first step is to paraphrase or summarize the question out loud to the interviewer.

You could say: You are asking me to make a recommendation about the firm’s declining profits even though the product has gained market share.

Step 2 – Use a structured approach

Fortunately, there is a systematic way to think about and ask questions about this situation in order to develop a recommendation. The figure below gives the main explanations of a drop in profits. There could be many others but for the purpose of the case interview, these will suffice.

Be sure to ask the interviewer specific questions keeping this framework in mind. It is also acceptable to quickly draw it out. If you decide to draw it out, tell the interviewer what you are doing. It will impress them that you have a structured way of approaching the case.

fallingprof

Step 3 – Once you have eliminated cost increase and price change as reasons for the profit decline, there are some other questions you should ask particularly in an interview for a marketing job.

You could ask the interviewer about whether there have been any changes in perceived attractiveness of product/service or in the perceived attractiveness of competitor’s product/service. You could ask about changes in customers’ needs or preferences. For a product you could ask about a decrease in product availability, or in the case of a retail firm, a change in the number of physical locations or their online presence.

Step 4 – Clearly state a recommendation based on the information you have gathered

Using the information from the interviewers’ answers, state your recommendation. If you can think of one or two alternatives, that is even better. Whether you present one recommendation or a recommendation plus alternatives be sure to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of your recommendation.

Hopefully, this example and tips will be useful to you as you are preparing for your next interview! Remember, it’s better to be over prepared than not prepared at all!

Feel free to share any questions you may have in the comment section below! Also, be sure to check out my previous post on Guesstimate Cases!

Posted by Joanne McNeish

Prior to joining TRSM, Dr. McNeish held senior research, marketing and advertising positions in public and private sector companies. In 2002, she was made a MRIA Fellow which recognizes those who have made distinguished contribution to marketing research in Canada. Joanne was one of the youngest candidates and one of only a few women to be so honoured. She received her PhD from Carleton University in 2010.