Problem Solving

Business case method: a simplified model for interviewing

Many interview processes these days involve on-the-spot business case analysis. Companies do this to assess a candidate’s thought process, and whether the candidate follows any particular methodology in their analysis.

There are many methodologies out there, and I’ve created a simplified model for my clients specifically to employ during the interview process if they have not been classically trained in these methodologies. Most business case methods have certain guide posts in common, and that’s what I’d like to focus on – where these methodologies converge.

Step 1. Determine the business case objective. Translate the scenario into ONE QUESTION you are trying to answer.

This will anchor you. Many business cases have a lot of information – what is relevant and what isn’t? The first step in determining that is going back to the problem you’re trying to solve for.

Step 2. List assumptions.

You’ve got to start somewhere! Instead of worrying about getting it all done perfectly, just list your primary assumptions and move forward with them. The important thing is that you demonstrate that there are assumptions in this type of work.

This step is especially important for noting cognitive biases. (For some of the most common cognitive biases I’ve seen on the job, see here, here, or here.)

Another item in your toolkit is the simplified 3-2-1 Model for Critical Thinking. This is a great way to walk your interviewers through your thought process. It’s systematic, it hits all the major considerations, and it’s easy enough to remember in an intense, high-pressure situation.

Step 3. List scenarios with decision, rationale, and trade-offs.

The reality is that every decision will have trade-offs. Make note of them. It’s important to get to an answer in an interview, and if you are unsure about getting to the right answer, at least acknowledge WHY someone might make the decision and what they will have to trade off as a result.

Step 4. Now pick something… but tie it into the original case objective.

Let’s never lose sight of what the whole point of the case is. Remind your listeners that regardless of what assumptions they feel are the right ones, which cognitive biases they feel are in play, or what decision rationale or trade-offs they believe the case culminates in, that you can still tie your conclusion back to the objective YOU originally defined. You come full circle. Don’t pick a scenario that veers off your stated case objective.

This flowchart demonstrates this simplified method. Use it for application to online examples of business cases when preparing for interviews.

business case aurelian coaching


You might also like:

Conduct an Interview to Land the Right Person: The Midlevel Manager’s Guide

Managing Up: Address the 3 Biggest Challenges to Mastering this Elusive Skill

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