July 30, 2021

Alternatives (or Additions) to the Standard Interview: The Case Study (Part 2 of 2)


The Managers’ Corner:

Just for a change of pace, we thought we’d finish our section on case studies with a few FAQ’s.  Here goes:

  1. What does a proper form for a case study looks like?

There is no single form for a case study but here are some components from Bendel Services that might help you design yours:

  • A statement of welcome to the candidate which includes information about how the exercise functions – time, method of submission, likely date for the candidate receiving resultsand next step in the process.
  • A general introduction to the organization on which the case study is based. This could be the actual organization or a fictitious one, but the candidates should be given as much detail as possible as a basis for their response.
  • A presenting problem which includes presenting issues and accompanying ancillary issues which add to the complexity of the solution.
  • A statement on what form the response should take – an oral presentation, a plan of action, a letter of transmittal etc.
  1. How long should a case study be?

Case studies vary in length.  Case studies for higher level management positions would likely be longer than those for operational positions simply because the issues tend to be more complex.  Depending on the position, a case study could be a paragraph, a full page or several pages in length.

  1. Where would the writer of a case study find the subject matter to include in it?

The primary source of a case study should be the job description which should infuse the job advertisement as well.  Whether you use a problem for your case study from your organization or a generic one about a mythical situation, the basis should be from the job description.

  1. How should case studies be assessed?

When the case study is designed, the assessors should also identify the “look fors” or indicators which serve as a guide in grading the responses.  The assessors must remember that a case study’s indicators are suggested only.  It is entirely possible that candidates could come up with responses not identified in the indicators.  If these responses are reasonable, they should be considered as such and used along with the suggested indicators for assessing responses.

  1. Should a case study be graded by only one assessor?

That is always a possibility.  However, if more than one person grades a case study the process of evaluating may be more objective – especially if the assessors, having marked the case study on their own, discuss their respective ratings – and why – after their individual assessments.

  1. Are there different ways of making the case study available in advance of the competition so the candidates may prepare properly and fully?

Case studies can be made available to candidates in many ways.  The lead time depends, to a large extent, on the complexity of the case study and the quality and depth of the expectations of the responses.  For instance, a case study can be handed to candidates with 30-minutes to complete it at which time they must submit whatever they have done.  Conversely, for upper-level positions, candidates could be sent materials to review a week ahead of the actual case study.  They are told to review this background and gather whatever information they feel would help them in addressing the case study as a prelude to receiving the case study itself.  Confidentiality of time and place is important for both in-person and online processes.

  1. Would you use both case studies and interview questions in the same session?

This is very common.  Typically, case studies are used at the beginning of an interview process or at the end (never in the middle).  If a case study is used along with questions, it can help to corroborate what was said in the interview responses or it can be used to assess indicators that were not present in the questions themselves.  If both are used, assessors should be very clear on the relationship between the two.  Thus, responses can be judged accordingly, and the preparation time is commensurate with the quality of the information that the assessors receive from the candidates.

  1. Are case studies available commercially?

Commercial case studies are present online in abundance.  The problem is that they are generic in nature and may not get at the issues that are most important to the organization.  The questions or case studies or other forms of gathering information should be based on look-fors or indicators that have been taken from the job description for the advertised position.

  1. Should case studies be re-used?

Case studies should be kept on file and not used again until time has elapsed, and earlier candidates are not in the running.  They should be updated especially if the job description has changed and if the presenting problem that was used in earlier case studies has disappeared.  In other words, keep them on file but update as needed.

  1. Who should develop the case study and the indicators?

Generally, case studies should be managed through Human Resources.  However, it is essential in terms of authenticity that the case study and its indicators be developed confidentially with the manager or staff members of the applicable department for reasons of authenticity and alignment.  Case studies are forms of simulations and the closer the case study is to the real world and organization, the more useful it will be in assessing candidates for specific positions.

  1. Does Bendel have case studies on file?

We have case studies on file for demonstration purposes only.  We are available to help organizations develop and customize case studies, for positions at any level, for future use.

  1. Would Dr. Dan use case studies for staff selection?

In a heartbeat – provided that the advertised position requires the kind of complex response that cannot be gleaned from a set of standard interview questions.

Dr. Dan

Want to know more about case studies and our services regarding them?  Check out our Management Group Webinars on “Handling Case Studies in an Interview” or “The Use of Multi-Source Data gathering in Selectin and Appraisal” or the Education Contracted Services on “Selecting the Best Candidate:  Designing Effective Case Studies”.  You might just find we can help you on your way or, indeed, provide you with some samples that fit your organization’s needs!