Note-taking is key to setting up a good structure: practice the skill!
The structure is a very important part of the case interview. In fact, in most cases when candidates do not get a pass in their interview it is because of their inability to structure the problem. Ideally, you should structure your case based on two categories:
- Incoming information which you receive and process
- Outgoing information which you communicate to your case partner
To show your interviewer how you structure, you need to display how you receive and process information mentally and how you would express your thoughts to a potential client. Taking good notes helps in:
- Understanding the structure
- Remembering the structure
- Referring to the structure when required
Your interviewer will usually not give you all the information that is necessary to solve the case.
To be able to spot missing data and be organized, use the following approach:
Organize information and make conclusions
Support conclusions with data analysis
For all three tasks, use a different sheet of paper and never write on the back of these sheets. During stressful situations such as a case interview, you run into a high risk of losing track of where the information is if you cannot see everything on one side of the sheets.
The following examples show how the system applies in practice while taking notes:
1. Gather information
You gather information and take notes only at the beginning of the case. Make sure you don’t miss any details, especially if the interviewer is providing you with numerical data.
2. Organize information and make conclusions
This step is extremely crucial (organizing initial information and interpreting it). Here, you would want to build a framework for your approach and structure your hypotheses using an issue tree.
Start testing your hypotheses based on your structure and adapt it according to your results (whether the hypothesis is true or not). Use this particular sheet as a guide whenever you run into dead ends and to keep you structured. This approach will help you in clarifying your approach to the interviewer and yourself at every step of the analysis because it forces you to regularly make sub-conclusions and recaps. Use landscape format and as much graphic support as possible. This manner would also demonstrate to the interviewer that you think like a consultant.