Being an excellent interviewer is a valuable skill. When you become a great interviewer, you will be in high demand to practice with best candidates. You will be able to learn from their strengths and to raise your game.
But how exactly should you go about doing this? What skills should a good interviewer have for candidates to make the most out of their practice?
Three key elements
- You should choose interesting cases and know them well.
- You should be conversational: even if the interviewee’s answer deviates from what is written on the paper, that is fine as long as they are creating interesting, creative, contextual, prioritized and of course structured answers to the questions.
- You should be honest and specific with your feedback, celebrating what the interviewee is doing well, but also telling them what they need to continue to work on and support your assertions with observations.
1. Choosing and knowing your cases
The key to being a great interviewer, as is true about many other things involved in case interviewing, is having done your homework.
Firstly, choose a good case that you enjoyed in your own practice. A good case should present a fun problem, some challenging questions, including an exhibit and a numerical question, and a clear script that will help you with the delivery. The case library in our Interview Prep Course is a great place to start.
Secondly, use the same case several times with different candidates. Only after you have given the same case 4 or 5 times will you be able to deliver it smoothly and naturally. Once you know a case well, you will be able to focus on the conversation and on observing the candidate’s performance, and not on your own delivery. And your view will be calibrated, allowing you to better judge the candidate’s performance.
So focus knowing 1-2 cases very well instead of spreading yourself between many different cases.
2. Be conversational
A great interviewer is not a script-reading robot. It is someone who engages in a conversation with the candidate. This starts with your tone when delivering the case prompt. Use open body language to try and put the candidate at ease. Make them feel comfortable.
This also means being open to answers that do not exactly match the answer key. If the candidate provides a structure that is different from the one given in the case solution, ask yourself if their structure could answer the question. If so, roll with it, and if not, push them to come up with different buckets for analysis. In the same way, be open to new insights on exhibits, new ideas in the creativity questions, or a new approach in the numerical question.
Nevertheless, you should not be completely hands-off. Your role is also to provide guidance when the candidate fails to get things right on their own. Help them get out of a ditch with questions such as “Are you sure?” or “What about x?”. Volunteer missing information if they fail to ask for it. Put them on the right track if they are not sure what to do next.
Overall you need to give the candidate space to show their skills, but not so much that they can’t progress through the case.
In addition, challenge candidates when appropriate. For instance, using questions like “What else?” can help tease out creativity. “So what?” can help the candidate focus on the client’s goal.
Finally, managing the conversation means amending the case material as you see fit, for instance by skipping or adding questions, or improving the prompt. Cases rarely last more than 25-30 minutes, so you should manage the time to wrap up the case on that schedule.
3. Be honest and specific in your feedback
Finally, measuring case performance makes learning more actionable. When interviewing another candidate, you should use a scorecard like the one provided in our Interview Prep Course.
During the case, grade performance objectively and jot down your observations of what the candidate did well and what they could have done better. At the end of the case, share their grade on each dimension, together with the supporting observations. Feedback will be much more actionable and easy to accept with these pieces of evidence.
Although you should communicate areas of strength as well as where there is room for improvement, it is critical that you do not shy away from difficult feedback. Too many interviewers sugar-coat their feedback. You need to be brutally honest. This will help the candidate identify where they need to improve, whether it is an area of problem-solving or presence and communication.
Finally, a great interviewer will be able to summarize their feedback to a few key takeaways that the candidates can focus on.
To find great case material with top-mark solutions, check out our library of 80+ cases in our Interview Prep Course. And to book practice sessions with other top candidates, just head to the Practice section on CaseCoach.