Why You Should Avoid Frameworks When Prepping for Case Interview

posted by Chris Valentine

Case Interviews started as the primary selection method in management consulting, but are rapidly spreading to other industries – especially tech and finance.

In management consulting, many candidates turn to case interview frameworks, such as those found in Case in Point or the widely read resources of Victor Cheng.

However, the fact is that case interview frameworks are inherently limited and often unreliable when dealing with complex scenarios. Real, working consultants never use these frameworks for these reasons.Candidates will spend a great deal of time rote learning a whole battery of things like profitability or market sizing frameworks, only to find that they fail to function in the complicated kinds of case studies they are given in interviews.

Many in the management consulting scene have cottoned on to this, and frameworks are starting to be seen as old fashioned in business schools, etc.

However, since a new generation of interview candidates in other fields are now being asked to take case interviews, it is time to revisit why they, too, should avoid frameworks or any similar generic schemes.

What Are Case Interviews And Why Are They So Important?

A case interview requires a candidate to provide a solution in the context of a case study. The interviewee uses the various exhibits, including data and graphical representations, to make the decision.

While the interviewer can use hypothetical cases, most tasks relate to the position at hand. Often, the interviewer simulates these questions from the company’s recent projects.

The scores to case interviews depend on both your answer and how you arrive at it. But since, in reality, one problem might have multiple valid answers, how you reach your answer takes precedence.

In case interviews, the recruiting company tests the skills required for the job within the conversation itself. Of course, this move saves them time and resources. So, the model is useful for the following reasons:

  • Enable the hiring company to test a range of skills needed for different positions.
  • They can assess your performance in a real-life setting.
  • It is a practical approach to comparing the abilities of candidates with very different resumes in the context of the hiring company.

Case Interview Frameworks

Case interviews are increasingly vital if you want to land any number of top-flight jobs. The question then becomes how best to prepare for this incredibly stressful but crucially important hurdle to the next step of your career.

Especially in the management consulting domain, where case interviews have been around long enough for highly specialist resources to be available, this is where many candidates turn to case interview frameworks for guidance.

What are Case Interview Frameworks?

You need to understand how to go about case study interview questions. Case interview frameworks define the sets of rules that guide you on how to solve such problems.

There are about 12 frameworks, if the ideas of those who sell them are anything to go by. These 12 covers everything, from profitability to market sizing analysis. However, each of them is case-specific. Thus, it is on you to decide the correct framework to apply to pop out the solution in each case study.

A popular framework-based resource in the management consulting world is the book “Case in Point” and the material from Victor Cheng.

Are Case Interview Frameworks Reliable?

Simply put: no. Well, let’s explain. Forget the marketing catchphrase. These few frameworks cannot provide an answer to each of the infinitely many real-world problems. Overly relying on them could leave you with an egg on your face when you get stuck with case studies that hardly match your understanding of these models.

Frameworks are Not Secrets

Mastering the frameworks doesn’t give an edge over the other candidates in the interview. All of you, including the interviewer, have access to the same structures. But what does this mean?

Since the interviewer has gone through the frameworks, they would ensure the case studies they give you don’t match the generic models. That way, they would be able to test the creativity of individual candidates, and even if you fail, you would be remembered for your ingenuity.

Expect Complex Case Studies

It is easier to think frameworks would work for most potential case studies. Perhaps not. But if it is a gamble you are ready to take, pray that the interview question doesn’t turn out to be a hard case to crack.

Well, to prepare you, the interviewer won’t test things they know you would quickly figure out. After all, they want to assess your resourcefulness.

Just as a tip, a case interview is now a favourite of both top businesses and corporations. These firms want you to wear your many hats, and so you don’t expect generic interview questions or case studies.

So, cast your net wider, and don’t put all your faith in case interview frameworks!

What Should I Do Instead?

With the flaws of the frameworks, how should you prepare for your case interviews? Here are a few pointers to set you off on the right track:

Grasp the concepts

Understand both the theoretical and practical concepts, and have the ability to put them in practice.

Learn, analyze, think logically, and critically to break down problems. By understanding the question, you can easily consider all options. It’s not late to learn using the MECE rule.

Master Communication

For case interviews, communication and analysis go hand in hand as you solve the problem in a conversation with the interviewer.

Nonetheless, be economical and only speak when necessary. You want to avoid tangents and waffles.

Employ the Pyramid Principle

Start with the key takeaway as you work through with your supporting arguments.

Good Luck!

As the practice of case interviewing spreads beyond the bounds of management consulting, we can be assured that so will the practice of selling sets of apparently-miraculous frameworks, promising to make easy work of those case interviews.

Everything isn’t doom and gloom though, as we have given tips to point you in the general direction of a much more robust, reliable, and insightful way of solving case studies.

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