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Peer Review

The Case Interview



Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: May 23, 2001 by Business Editorial Board
Overview: The Case Interview is part of a recruiting web site designed by The Boston Consulting Group, an international strategy and general management consulting firm. The 'student' is introduced to the Case Interview approach of management consulting through an example followed by an interactive case. In the interactive case interview, the student is presented with a series of web pages that lead them to analyze a toy company's decision whether or not to 'go online' and begin to sell toys online. After identifying four general topic areas, the student is allocated 75 'days' to ask questions in each of the four areas. The answer to each question is assumed to take a specified number of 'days.' The answers are automatically displayed and recorded in a separate 'notebook' that will allow the student to review the answers at any time throughout the simulation. When the student is ready, they can answer the overall question of whether the toy company should go online and address specific areas based on the questions they have asked. The simulation automatically creates reports to address these specific areas and then provides 'personal feedback,' an assessment of the questions that were chosen by the student and a summary of how well they would have been able to address the specific issues in the summary report. The simulation ends with 5 examples of additional case interview scenarios, among other material.
This is a well-designed company recruitment tool that could be adapted for significant benefit to students in a business policy and strategy course, among others. The assignment created by Ron Purser is an excellent example of potential instructional uses of this site.
Type of Material: Tutorial
Technical Requirements: A web-capable computer is the only requirement.
Identify Major Learning Goals: This site is designed to test the student's understanding of general business concepts as it would apply to the case interview approach to business consulting. The successful student will demonstrate their knowledge of concepts in management, economics, marketing, distribution, and online retailing, by choosing the relevant questions to ask a firm considering the question of entering the online market for their product. As the student learns the answers to general questions, it is possible to explore some areas more deeply by choosing more specific questions. There is also a distinct economic element to the simulation, as each student can only ask a certain number of questions, based on the 75-day question allocation mechanism.
Target Student Population: The target student population is senior or graduating (graduated?) business majors. The underlying purpose of this site is employee recruitment; it is designed to test existing knowledge, not build new understanding of the concepts. It would be an excellent tool for a business policy & strategy course, where the students have already had at least the prerequisite introductory courses in business management, marketing, economics, and accounting to understand the task at hand.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: As mentioned above, I would recommend introductory business management, marketing, economics, and accounting for students to gain maximum benefit from this simulation.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: This is a terrific site, very entertaining and informative. Poses a real-world situation for students to consider and does an excellent job of walking the student through the process to determine their recommendation and solution. The interactive case presents the full process up front, then challenges students to analyze information and think critically through each step of the process. This is an excellent example of using the case interview to analyze a business management problem.
Concerns: The site is not maintained by an educational institution but seems to be used to evaluate the case interview skills of potential employees. Whether this is merely self-testing, so that candidates can determine whether they would like to do this for a living, or part of a more formal evaluation of job applicants is uncertain to this reviewer but the emphasis of the site appears to be testing prior knowledge, not learning new concepts
Costs/budgets were not part of the tradeoff/priority setting decision process, but at least time line was.
There is not always specific corrective feedback, i.e., why a specific response was wrong. Students have to think about about and figure out why their choices were wrong.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Excellent design and implementation of a business management case interview. It encapsulates many advanced business concepts in management, economics, marketing, and accounting into an easy-to-use interface. It can be used to test and reinforce basic business concepts, but it is not designed to 'teach' these concepts.
Recognizing this limitation, this site could be very useful for classes in business policy & strategy. It can be used as either an individual or team-based activity.
The credibility of the source and the "real" nature of the case will make it particularly motivating for students.
Concerns: The site does not identify the prerequisite knowledge necessary for the students to succeed.
The feedback mechanism, while impressive, does not sufficiently explain why certain questions might be preferred over others. While the student is given the opportunity to recommend the overall course of action (whether or not to 'go online'), the students are not provided an opportunity to write their own recommendation and then compare it with the recommendation generated by the simulation. Indeed, the simulation's recommendation sometimes assumed facts not illuminated by the limited answers to the few questions asked by this reviewer. However, this limitation could turn to an advantage if students were asked in an assignment to perform their written assessment prior to seeing the simulation's conclusions. I would recommend that instructors be made aware of these limitations and address them in assignments.
As with any such exercise, interpersonal skills and challenges are not addressed. These "soft" skills are also extremely important for consultants.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Excellent interface, good description of the content and the interactive elements.
Excellent reusability and ability to customize, each student will get a slightly different experience and can use their results to repeat the exercise to see "what they should have done."
The immediate "answers" for the questions selected in the Q&A section were very good.
The 'notebook' feature to access the answers to questions previously asked for 'note-taking' is also very useful.
Concerns: On one question I received no answer, but it cost me time ("What is Trevor's Toys' historical financial performance?"). Is this a bug? (It may not be!)
Occasionally had difficulty figuring out where to go next-the interface has a wonderful look, but navigation can occasionally be confusing due to the sometimes wide range of choices and links on each page.
Minimal interactivity-helpful hints would be useful for students. This is a function of its use as a recruiting tool for BCG to screen for potential employees with strong case analysis skills.
I kept getting Netscape errors (kicking me out of the application) when I tried the interactive case via modem from home. Is this a bug?

Creative Commons:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States