Depending on the company and type of position, your interview could be one of these popular interview styles. You may not know for sure in advance, so it’s helpful to learn about the styles and what the interviewer is looking for ahead of time.
Behavioral interviewing is based on the idea that future performance can be predicted by past performance in a similar setting. The employer will describe a scenario and ask how you would handle it. You are expected to volunteer similar a situation from your own background.
How to prepare for behavioral interviewing
Develop six to eight stories from your experiences
These could be paid/unpaid jobs, courses and activities that demonstrate the behaviors and skills that employers seek. When asked to describe a situation, you’ll be able to choose an example and adapt it to fit the question. If you know that an employer is looking for certain abilities (e.g., presentation skills, ability to work well in a team), be prepared to give examples of how you’ve honed and used those skills.
Construct examples using the STAR method.
- Situation: Give context to your story with a brief background.
- Task: Identify what you had to do to solve a problem/address the situation.
- Action: Describe what you did and the skills you used.
- Results: Describe what happened and what you achieved or learned.
Be prepared for more questions
An employer may want to know the how and why of what happened. Be ready to answer questions like “What prompted you to choose that course of action?” or “How did you handle that obstacle?”
Be ready to describe yourself in negative or awkward situations.
Make sure you have a few stories that talk about how you made the best of a bad situation or managed to produce a positive outcome.
These are popular in fields like engineering. These types of interviews often test specific technical or software skills, offer coding challenges or brain teasers, and/or numerical reasoning questions. Be prepared to answer questions about your coursework, projects, and labs.
Employers may ask:
- What assumptions did you make? Why do you think that was a valid assumption?
- Did your results make sense? Did the experiments match your analysis?
- If you were to start over, what would you do differently?
A case interview is a role-playing exercise in which an employer assesses how logically and persuasively you can present a case. Rather than looking for a correct answer, the interviewer is evaluating your thought process.
In a case interview, you want to demonstrate:
- Analytical and logical ability
- Structure and thought process
- Tolerance for ambiguity and data overload
- Poise and communication skills under pressure
Common case scenarios
- Basic (a.k.a. “back of the envelope”): In this scenario, you may be asked estimation problems and market-sizing questions that rely on quantitative abilities and logic to estimate a numerical answer.
- Strategy: In this scenario, you may be asked how you would assist a client who is entering a new market, developing a new product or investigating pricing or growth strategies.
- Operations: In this scenario, you may be asked how you would help clients increase sales, reduce costs, improve bottom lines.
Tips for responding to case questions
- Listen to the problem and take notes
- Before your start to answer, verify the objective, ask clarifying questions
- Think big picture first, then structure the problem
- Organize your answer and manage your time
- Be creative and brainstorm
- Listen to the interviewer’s feedback
- Think aloud (but think first)
- Bring closure and summarize
- Demonstrate enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
Adapted with permission from Case In Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation by Marc Cosentino.
For more information, see
A Crash Course on Case Interviews for Consulting Jobs
How to Master the Case Interview
In the COVID era, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself interviewing by phone or Zoom/a similar platform. Here are a few things you can do to make sure the interview goes well.
- Find a quiet spot where you can concentrate and won’t be interrupted. If you have a Zoom interview, think about your attire and the background that the interviewer will see.
- Check your technology. Make sure your phone is charged and you have a good signal. If you’re using Zoom, make sure you have a reliable internet connection and that you have downloaded and tested the latest version of Zoom well in advance.
- Slow down and breathe. As with a traditional interview, preparation and taking a breath before you begin will ensure that you avoid rushing through answers. The secret to a more relaxed voice? Smile! Also, there may be some time lags or accidental interruptions with phone or Zoom meetings. That’s to be expected, so do your best to roll with it.
- Start strong. Know in advance what you will say when you pick up the phone or join the Zoom meeting. A friendly, engaged tone of voice is even more important when it’s not an in-person meeting. One good starting point: “Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.”
- Don’t sound like a robot. Do not give in to the temptation to read from a prepared script. Even if your interviewer can’t see you, they’ll be able to hear the canned answer in your voice. Like in any interview, have talking points in mind rather than a memorized answer.
- Conclude answers definitively. Rather than trailing off at the end of a sentence, make sure that the interviewer knows you’re finished, e.g., “And that was my favorite project from my time at XYZ company.”
- Practice with a friend. Set up a phone call or Zoom meeting to practice a few questions with someone you trust to give you constructive feedback on how you’re coming across to the listener.