Phone or video conference case interviews can be even more challenging than traditional case interviews. For this type of interview format, you should follow the usual case interview tips, but case interviews done on the phone or through teleconference have their own unique challenges.
You’ll have to deal with the technical issues involved in setting up a phone or video case interview. You’ll also face communication challenges that make it more difficult to hear and speak clearly.
Finally, you’ll face the challenges of interpreting the interviewer’s body language, showing your work, and making a personal connection with the interviewer.
In this article, we’ll cover 20 actionable tips that you can start implementing immediately to overcome these challenges. You’ll learn:
- Why some case interviews are conducted through phone or video conference
- 9 tips to avoid having any technical difficulties
- 7 ways to improve your communication
- 4 strategies to facilitate making a personal connection with the interviewer
Why Some Case Interviews Are Conducted Through Phone or Video
Consulting firms may not have the resources to interview all of their candidates in person. It costs money to fly candidates across the country or to fly consultants to schools to conduct interviews.
Interviewers are typically full-time consultants that take on interviewing as an additional contribution to their firm. They are still expected to complete work for their consulting project and clients. Traveling to conduct interviews takes up a lot of time.
Therefore, consulting firms conduct case interviews on the phone or through video call in order to save money and time. They are most commonly used during first round interviews in order to screen candidates’ case interview capabilities more efficiently.
For final round interviews, consulting firms tend to use in-person case interviews because they can get to know candidates better by talking to them face to face rather than virtually.
However, given travel restrictions and the health risks of traveling due to coronavirus, many firms are forced to conduct final round interviews virtually.
To thrive and excel in phone and video conference case interviews, follow the following tips.
Technical Tips for Phone and Video Case Interviews
1. Choose a quiet place to do the interview
You don’t want to be dealing with loud noises during your case interview. These can be distracting for both you and the interviewer and make communication more difficult. Therefore, choose a quiet place to do the interview.
Be aware of the time of day that you will be doing the interview. Many places are quiet during some parts of the day, but noisy during other parts of the day.
2. Confirm that you have good phone or internet signal
Whichever place you choose to take your phone or video conference case interview, make sure that you have good phone or internet signal. You don’t want to be dealing with dropped calls or poor internet connectivity, which can severely interrupt your interview.
Avoid taking calls in basements or underground floors. For better internet connection, try to be close to the nearest router.
3. Choose an appropriate background for video conference case interviews
If you are doing a video conference case interview, try to make your camera face a plain background that is free of distracting objects. You don’t want to be showing your messy room.
Making your camera face the wall is a simple way to get an appropriate background. If this is not possible, many video conferencing software allow you to use a virtual background by uploading an image. Upload a background image that is a solid, neutral color.
4. Have a light source
For case interviews done through video call, make sure you have a light source turned on near your computer. Light makes a big difference in terms of video quality and helps you look better in front of your web camera. Having a brightly lit environment is also more aesthetically pleasing to look at.
You want to avoid taking the interview in a dark setting, which would make it difficult for the interviewer to see you. A dimly lit environment is also not aesthetically pleasing to look at.
5. Test that your camera works beforehand
For video conference case interviews, make sure that your camera works beforehand. This will give you time to buy or borrow a laptop with a working camera if the one that you have doesn’t work.
You don’t need to have the highest quality web camera, but it should preferably be at least 720p resolution. This is the resolution on most computer web cameras. If your computer is very old, you may want to invest in a cheap web camera.
6. Make sure you have the necessary software installed
Video conferencing software, such as Skype, Zoom, or BlueJeans, usually have a web-browser version and a desktop application version. You should use the desktop application version because there is more functionality and stability.
However, this requires you to download the software. Make sure to download the software in advance because it could take a long time to finish downloading and installing the software.
7. Use earphones that have a built-in microphone
If you are using your laptop to take your video conference case interview, don’t use your laptop’s built-in microphone, which typically produces low-quality sound. To have better sound quality, you want the microphone to be near your mouth or throat.
Many earphones have built-in microphones. You want to be using earphones during your interview for three reasons.
One, you will hear better since sound is being directed right into your ears. Two, you will produce higher quality sound since the earphone’s microphone is close to your mouth or throat. Three, using earphones will prevent echoing. If you are using your laptop’s speakers and microphone, sometimes the laptop microphone will pick up sound coming out of the laptop speakers.
8. Make sure your phone or laptop is fully charged
You don’t want to have your phone or laptop die during an interview. Therefore, charge them beforehand so you don’t need to worry about how much battery you have remaining. You could also plug your phone or laptop into a charger during the interview instead.
9. Join the video conference a few minutes early
For video conference case interviews, join the call a few minutes early just in case you have any issues signing in or joining the meeting. This time buffer is helpful in case anything goes wrong.
There may be last-minute software updates required, so you want to avoid a situation like this that would make you late for your interview.
Communication Tips for Phone and Video Case Interviews
10. Speak up if you can’t understand what the interviewer is saying
If you can’t understand the interviewer, make sure to speak up. If the interviewer’s sound is too soft, cutting in and out, or you are hearing an echo, let your interviewer know. Communication during a phone or video interview is already difficult and you don’t want to put yourself in a disadvantage by having to deal with these issues.
You may need to propose rejoining the call or using different audio equipment to fix these issues. If you and the interviewer still cannot resolve these issues, you may need to propose rescheduling the interview.
11. Look into the web camera, not at the computer screen
During an in-person case interview, you want to be making strong eye contact with the interviewer when you are speaking or listening. In a web conference case interview, you also want to do the same.
To best simulate eye contact, look into the web camera, not at the computer screen. Looking at the computer screen actually makes you look like you are staring downwards on your interviewer’s screen. Looking at the web camera makes you look like you are staring directly forward, into the interviewer’s eyes.
12. Overcommunicate and summarize regularly
You will need to overcommunicate in a phone or video case interview in order to communicate with the same level of clarity as an in-person case interview. Tell the interviewer what you are going to say, say it, and then tell the interviewer what you’ve said.
You may also find it helpful to regularly summarize what is going through your mind during the case interview. You want the case interviewer to know exactly what you are thinking and what you are planning to do next.
13. Speak more slowly
For phone and video conference case interviews, try to speak slightly slower than how you would speak during an in-person case interview. Since it is harder to hear things on the phone, you need to give the interviewer more time to process and understand what you are saying.
Additionally, speaking more slowly makes it easier for the interviewer to jump into the conversation if they have follow-up questions or information to provide you.
14. Use numbered lists
Try to structure your answers and responses to make it easier for the interviewer to follow and understand what you are saying. If you are planning to speak for more than a minute, enumerate your thoughts and ideas by using a numbered list. This helps the interviewer understand when you are changing topics.
For example, you may say something like:
“There are three reasons why I believe this market is attractive. One, it is a very large market at $80B compared to the current market that we are in, which is only $20B. Two, the market is growing very quickly. In each of the past five years, the market has experienced 30% annual growth. Three, profit margins in the market are attractive. The average profit margin is 40%.”
15. Pause briefly after each major thought
In a phone or video conference case interview, you won’t be able to read the interviewer’s body language. So, you won’t know when they are trying to jump into the conversation to point something out or ask you a question.
To give the interviewer opportunities to speak more easily, pause briefly after each major thought. If the interviewer does not jump in, continue what you are about to say. Else, the interviewer may ask you a follow-up question or provide feedback to you.
16. Show the interviewer what you are writing
In an in-person case interview, you can easily show the interviewer what you are writing by turning your paper around and presenting it. In a phone or video conference case interview, this is not possible.
If you think it is helpful to share with the interviewer what you are writing, you have several options if the case interview is done through video conference. You can point your web camera at your paper, take a picture of your paper and email it to the interviewer, share your screen, or use digital whiteboards if the teleconferencing software has that feature.
If the case interview is done through phone, the only way to share your work is to take a picture of your paper and email it to the interviewer.
While there are many benefits in showing the interviewer what you are writing, the biggest drawback is that it takes time. You will need to make a decision on whether what you have to share is worth the time.
Sometimes, if you overcommunicate, you will not need to show the interviewer what you are writing. Other times, it may be easier to share what you are writing rather than trying to talk through it.
Tips on Making a Personal Connection During Phone and Video Case Interviews
17. Smile and show enthusiasm
Case interviews done through phone or video can be awkward for both the interviewer and the candidate. To mediate this, smile and show enthusiasm during the interview. This makes it much more pleasant for the interviewer. The better time the interviewer has when interviewing you, the more likely they will be to have a positive impression of you.
Smiling and showing enthusiasm also helps demonstrate that you are excited about consulting and working at the firm. Consulting is not an easy job and interviewers want people passionate about consulting because they will be more likely to work hard on the job.
18. Show your sense of humor
To make a more personal connection with the interviewer, show your sense of humor during the interview. You should still keep it professional, but showing your sense of humor can make the interview more fun for the interviewer. Additionally, it also shows your personality.
If the interviewer likes your sense of humor and personality, they will be more likely to push for you to move onto the next interview round.
19. Ask the interviewer questions about themself at end of the interview
Interviewers typically leave some time at the end of the case interview for you to ask them questions. This is a tremendous opportunity to connect with the interviewer on a more personal level.
Ask the interviewer about how they got into consulting, what their favorite project was, and what they want to do in their career after consulting. Ask follow-up questions and express genuine interest in what they are saying.
It is human nature for people to enjoy talking about themselves. If you ask personalized questions to the interviewer to get them to talk about their work and life experiences, they will naturally have a tendency to have a positive impression of you.
20. Practice by doing a few mock case interviews through phone or video
It will be helpful to practice doing a few mock case interviews with a case partner through phone or video. This will help you understand what the interview dynamic will be like during your actual interview.
The more comfortable you are with phone or video conference case interviews, the better you will be at identifying opportunities to make a personal connection during the interview.
Land your Dream Consulting Job
If you found this article helpful, you’ll love our comprehensive case interview course. The material in the course has helped 6,000+ students across 13+ countries land offers at top-tier consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain.