Sunday, February 18, 2007

Case interviews: practice is key

A few weeks ago, I interviewed with Microsoft for a marketing internship position. A week or so later, they sent me a rejection email. I've been thinking about this and talking it over with folks, and I think part of what sunk me were my responses to case questions. I encountered questions such as the following:

  • What's your least favorite class right now? [I said econ.] Ok, how do you market that class to incoming students?
  • Suppose you're the dean of the UW MBA program. How do you elevate your school's rank to #1?
  • Assume you are the product manager for the Zune. You have $1 million, and 30 days to spend it. What do you do?
I realize in retrospect that I went about answering these questions all wrong: I immediately gave answers. No. This is not how you respond to case questions. As I have learned (after the fact, unfortunately) case questions are meant to invoke a discussion between interviewer and interviewee, a back-and-forth in which the case is constructed. As interviewee, you are to ask intelligent questions that demonstrate your knowledge of marketing frameworks. You should jot down the information that the interviewer reveals to you and then offer a recommendation -- preferably one that you can defend with strategic logic.

I know these things now, and I'll be better prepared the next time case questions arise in an interview. I really wish I would have done some mock interviews that specifically focused on case questions, prior to the Microsoft interview. If you're a prospective or first-year MBA student, let this be a cautionary tale to you -- don't let an actual interview be the first time you practice responding to a case question.



Megan said...

Sorry to hear you didn't get it.

So how would you go about marketing LINQ to Entities?

Jonathan said...

I'll pray that I'll never get a question like that in an interview.

Vanessa said...

I'm not sure if this is the type of thing you could do as the president of the MBAA, but what about establishing a session (for next term or year I guess) where MBA's sign up to practice interview case questions? I'm sure you're not the only one to have experienced this.

Jonathan said...

Good idea! :) A group of us has already started getting together and practicing informally. I'll also be going to a case interview workshop through our career center next week.