Job Interview with a business case to solve
June 28, 2006 1:15 PM   Subscribe

I have a job interview where I will be given a business case and expected to discuss how I would go about resolving the issue. Any out-of-the-ordinary things I could read up on?

It will be about pharmaceutical marketing and the firm itself consults in the industry.

I have already searched and printed reams on the company, what they offer, have done in the past and their philosophies.

Any other suggestions?
posted by notcostello to Work & Money (9 answers total)
The Tylenol product tampering incident?
posted by bac at 1:31 PM on June 28, 2006

look at some articles from consultants and what they advised companies with problems to do.

(like bausch and lomb, recently...)
posted by Izzmeister at 1:32 PM on June 28, 2006

like this at BusinessWeek.
posted by Izzmeister at 1:33 PM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: Talk as much as possible. They likely don't care if you can solve the problem or not, so much as wanting to use it as a chance to see how you think and process information.

If you're making assumptions, state them and explain why you're assuming them. If it's a wild guess just because you need to put a stake in the ground, just say so.

Ask questions. They can likely give you more information than they will volunteer.

When you're done, don't be afraid to ask about the solution to the problem, and ask what they would have done differently. It'll show that you're constantly trying to improve yourself.

Oh, and relax--you don't know what specific problem they're going to throw at you, and they know that. They're not expecting a perfect solution, they're simply expecting a window into you.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:34 PM on June 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's a process question. It's easy to correct a logical person's understanding of the industry. It's very hard to correct an illogical person.
posted by I Love Tacos at 1:42 PM on June 28, 2006

Talk as much as possible. They likely don't care if you can solve the problem or not, so much as wanting to use it as a chance to see how you think and process information.

While they surely will be interested in how you think, talking just to talk (versus actually solving the problem) seems like poor advice.

I am neither an interviewer, a consultant, in the pharmaceutical business nor do I work in PR/marketing. But this is how I would approach this (YMMV):

1) Have a pad of paper ready;

2) Interviewer lays out hypothetical situation;

3) I would write down what they say as accurately as possible, as well as outline the duties to be handled by such a situation;

4) Explain how I would tackle each of these duties (scratching them off as I cover them);

5) Interviewer applauds my rational and thorough approach to the problem and offers me six figures and a company car.

I completely agree with the rest of NoMyselfRightNow's answer (asking probing questions, asking what they think of response, relaxing), I just think trying to solve the problem trumps talking in circles.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 2:10 PM on June 28, 2006

Only problem with terminal verbosity's answer is that often they won't let you write anything down. at the very least, you should ask before you make this assumption.

I've had people recommend Case in Point as a good book to prep for these sorts of interviews, but haven't read it myself.
posted by andifsohow at 2:54 PM on June 28, 2006

Be prepared to make bizarre estimates. Consulting firms are famous for questions like (adapting to pharmaceutical business) "please give a rough estimate on how many aspirin pills are consumed per year in the US".

The answer you give doesn't matter much, as long as it is reasonable, what they're really looking into is the method you use to calculate (estimate the population, estimate frequency of sickness, estimate namebrand preferences, estimate percent of population who is allergic).

Actually, for consulting firms, usually what matters in any case is your method. Explain every step in your reasoning, every supposition, and where it comes from. In your actual work, the actual result is a deterministic (non-creative) process from the methodology chosen, so, the real value is in coming up with good methodologies to tackle problems.
posted by qvantamon at 3:46 PM on June 28, 2006

On preview, a bit redundant with the last answer, but...

I did management consulting interviews with this format. The questions I got were in different markets, but it might be useful for you to hear them as typical case-type questions:

1. I have a client who wants to get into the beeper business. In a meeting, he asks for an estimate of how big the market is. Make an estimate.

2. How much profit does a typical symphony in a big city make?

3. For an airline, how many mechanics should I have on staff?

4. The client is in banking customer service. Some centers are very efficient and others aren't. What information do you need to figure out why? [I ask for a graph of how many agents they have per capita for the population they serve.] Good--they give you a graph like this: [dots all over the place in no pattern.] Why does it look like that?

5. How should I distribute costs to different product lines in a Walgreen's?

The comment about process is right. They do NOT want you to just make up a number, they want to see how you think about getting an accurate estimate. I got the job in one place because after I made all my guesses about the symphony I ended up with negative profit, and then said, 'Hmm...I think my assumptions about salary must be off.' They care about how you figure out the answer, not what the answer is.
posted by underwater at 3:48 PM on June 28, 2006

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