This is definitely assessment centre season. Lots of you will be researching your prospective employers, polishing your answers on why you want to work for them and getting ready to be proactive without being domineering at the group exercise. But what about the case study exercise beloved of many “City” employers? Here are 9 top tips on how to approach it.
It really helps if you can go into the exercise with some thoughts on structure in your mind. For example you might have to advise on the possible takeover of a company. What would you want to consider? This might include transaction financing, synergy (or otherwise) between the businesses, competition laws, real estate, plant and machinery, employees, how is this going to play in the markets. Get some rough headings in your mind.
2. Don’t panic if there’s too much to read in the time.
Giving you a weighty file of papers and woefully inadequate time to read it all is a common tactic. Don’t panic, that’ll only cause you to lose reading time! This is where your pre-planned structures are important. Think about your broad headings and slot information under those headings as you find it. Make sure you get an overview of everything, rather than an in depth understanding of only the first four pages! If you’re going to be able to hold onto the papers during the discussions try to get a grasp of where information is, so that you can look for it quickly when challenged. If you’re doing a presentation, make sure that you take time to structure it. Employers tell us that it is the structured answers which impress them.
3. Plan your argument.
If you have to advise or comment on something it’s very likely that your opinion won’t matter. The employers are looking to see how you argue something and whether your arguments support your conclusions. There isn’t a right answer for most case study exercises. So, stop worrying about right and wrong – decide on your stance and organise your arguments to support that position.
4. Use straightforward language.
You might be writing a response to the case study or preparing a presentation. In either case make sure that you think about how you communicate. If you’re writing, use short sentences. Make sure that your meaning is clear and that you get your grammar correct. Don’t ramble or waffle, there won’t be any points for that! Similarly if you are presenting, try to spend a bit of extra time on the introduction and the ending so that you start and finish strongly and with impact.
5. Show you know what is meant by commercial awareness.
Commercial awareness is often seen as something weird and marvellous. It isn’t! It’s about understanding the markets relevant to any organisation, how those markets impact that organisation and what its own drivers and aspirations are. If you’re in any doubt do check out our previous posts on the subject. The case study exercise allows you to demonstrate you are really commercially aware. Make sure that you show that you understand what is going on in markets relevant to the exercise and show how this impacts whoever you are supposed to be advising. Job done!
6. Be prepared to react to the discussion.
You are likely to be challenged to defend your arguments, be prepared to do this but be sensible. Sometimes the pressure of the exercise might mean you have missed some salient point which potentially alters everything. If so, you can be sure that this is going to be drawn to your attention. It may be that what you’ve missed changes your perception of the matter and renders your argument untenable. Be prepared to acknowledge this. Don’t defend an indefensible position!
7. Give yourself time to think when you need it.
Employers tell us that it’s common in case study exercises for there to be periods of silence while interviewees think through questions and formulate responses. Don’t worry if you find you need some time to think. You might just acknowledge this by asking “could I just have a moment?” but take the time you require. No employer wants to take on the employee who is going to give the knee jerk reaction rather than the considered response and you won’t be penalised for thinking!
8. Project a confident image.
Easier said than done when you’re panicking, feel that you’ve been put on the spot and that you’ve got something wrong! Try to keep your poise. Remember that these exercises are meant to be difficult and that nobody expects you to get it right all the time. Smiling goes a really long way to build rapport. Most employers are much more likely to take on the cheerful candidate that the one who looks as though he or she just wants out!
9. And finally?
Try to enjoy yourself. The candidates who land jobs often say that assessment days and case study exercises were fun!
This pack contains two full-length case study analysis practice exercises. You will also receive a complete set of preparation materials, including case study answers and presentation tips. As well as this, you will gain access to a general guide teaching you how to construct a case study assignment. This guide also provides you with explanations regarding solving methods and tips. The accompanying scoring forms can be used to evaluate your own performance according to what real assessors look for.
What Types of Case Studies Are There?
- The first type of assessment centre case study exercise are those for various positions in finance, banking, audit, marketing, IT, sales, and more. These case studies are based on a file of documents you must quickly read and analyse. They may be completed as part of an assessment day, or given at the employer's office as part of the interview. You can find more information about these exercises here or by scrolling below.
- Another type of case study exercise are those for consultancy and business management companies. These tests are usually administered without the use of endless documents. The entire scenario is described by the interviewer or is limited to a few pages. Generally, the task revolves around mathematical problems, estimation questions, and strategic thinking. The candidate is expected to question the assessor for more details in order to understand the problems at hand. Learn more about these tests here.
Assessment Centre Case Study Exercises
Typically, a case study or analysis exercise introduces a series of fictional documents, such as reports and results from recent market research. These documents may relate to hypothetical or real-life situations. You are asked to analyse the case at hand, make business decisions, and/or give a brief verbal or written report of your recommendations. You may also be given additional information to assess and respond to throughout the allocated time. In some instances, these exercises include content that is relevant to the company's affairs, giving candidates a taste of a real day-to-day task.
You may be asked to complete the case study as an individual exercise or as part of a group, which allows assessors to evaluate your ability to work as part of a team. Some employers designate case study exercises as a discrete element of the selection process, while others may combine them with an interview.
What Are the Main Types of Case Studies?
In general, case studies belong to one of two main groups:
Subject-Related Case Studies
Specific and professional knowledge of subject topics is required. In cases of candidates applying to a position in which industry knowledge is essential, the content of the case study is directly relevant to that role. In these cases, candidates are required to use their existing knowledge and experience to identify key information from the brief. For instance, project managers may be asked to plan for the release of a new product, which incorporates scheduling, budgeting, and resourcing.
General Case Studies
These case studies are designed for a broad audience of candidates who are tested for different positions. Answering the case study questions does not require any specific knowledge, and most questions can be answered with common sense. Any information that is required for answering the case study questions is provided by the assessor, whether by word or through additional documentation. These case studies are much more popular as they are completed by a vast number of candidates who are applying for a wide array of positions.
Popular Case Study Topics
- Strategic decisions in global or local contexts
- Expansion of departments, acquisition of new companies or products
- Entrance into new fields of development and product lines
- Exploring new markets
- Reconstructing organisational trees
- Creating advertising campaigns
What Skills Are Measured?
A case study exercise is one of several tools used to evaluate a wide array of skills and abilities:
|Aptitude Skills||Employment Skills|
|Problem solving||Working under pressure|
Prepare for Case Studies
JobTestPrep offers a unique preparation package designed specifically to help you prepare for your upcoming case study or analysis exercise. This pack contains two complete written case study exercises that can be solved under test-like conditions. Using the detailed solution guide, scoring form, and presentation example, you are able to assess your own performance and draw valuable conclusions.
The guides included in this pack present you with all the information you need to know about the case study assessment. They cover a variety of topics, including different types of case study tests, numerous solving methods, and case study presentation tips and examples.
- Two full-length case study exercises
- Comprehensive solution guides with detailed explanations
- Self-evaluation forms
- Presentation tips
- A complete online guide to case studies
- Similar to the process seen during real assessment centres
- Immediate online access, practice 24/7
- Target audience: graduate and managerial applicants