Assessment centres have become one of the most popular and accurate predictors of which candidates are the right fit for the job, with case study exercises becoming one of the most common tasks candidates will face.
Assessment centres test the suitability of potential employees through a range of exercises over an extended period of time, with case study exercises providing a crucial stage in determining the best candidates. But case study exercises are also commonplace in other forms of interviews, so it’s best to be fully prepared just in case.
Here we take a closer look at what this task involves, and highlight some top tips for case study success.
What is a Case Study Exercise?
Designed to simulate a real work situation the case study generally revolves around a particular scenario which the candidate is expected to deal with.
The scenario will be relevant to the industry the organisation is part of and to the specific post you are applying for (case studies are particularly popular within the finance, banking and accountancy sectors).
Having been presented with an information pack outlining the scenario candidates are then expected to work individually or in a group to determine the best course of action. Reasons must be given for the recommendations and evidence presented to support them.
Skills being tested include the ability to quickly and effectively interpret information and the capacity to develop a robust plan of action. Where the task is undertaken on a collective basis employers are testing candidates team working and leadership skills.
Preparing for the Case Study Exercise
You are unlikely to discover the exact nature of the exercise until the day of the assessment centre, but it is still possible to carry out research in advance.
- Carefully review the company’s graduate recruitment information and check out their website for possible case study examples.
- Also read around issues within the relevant industry and business topics currently making the news. Practice skills such as speed reading, analysing large amounts of information and mental maths so that you are able to engage them quickly on the day.
- Also, investigate the possibility of working with a professional career coach who can give specific advice tailored to address your particular situation.
Performance on the day
Although you may feel under pressure, it is important to relax and take enough time to fully digest the background information you are given.
- Carefully review the scenario and ensure you understand what is being asked of you. Diving straight into the task may feel dynamic but this approach risks missing the whole point of the exercise.
- Try to divide the task into manageable chunks and set deadlines for completion of each stage. This will ensure you keep on track in terms of timing which is crucial.
- If working in a group, encourage the assignment of roles such as note taker and time keeper- this is how it would be in a real-life office environment.
- Be proactive in your style of engagement with others but don’t take over completely. Participants are observed throughout and while employers certainly don’t want to employ a ‘shrinking violet’ type character they also tend to steer clear of people who are overtly dominant.
- Stay focused on the objectives of the task. If you think the group is veering off track, remind them about the overall goals. Play a key role in the communication of the group findings and ensure that the presentation delivered is clear yet concise.
Case studies should follow a logical order – brief outline of scenario, issues discussed, summary of conclusions and recommendations. Knowing this means that you can be as prepared as possible for any case study exercise that comes your way.
Remember that everyone is being tested on the unfamiliar, and so any research preparation you have undertaken will help you perform on the day.
For more tips to succeed at assessment centres and all types of interview contact the experts at Interview Skills Consulting.