Your Guide to Assessment Centre Case Studies

Case studies are one of the most effective methods of seeing a candidate “in action”. Discover what assessment centre case studies are and how to start preparing for them.
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Jasmine Mun
Writer, gradmalaysia
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Case studies are a vital activity at assessment centres. Graduate recruiters use them to assess a candidate’s capability after being shortlisted; to see the candidate “in action” and obtain valuable insights on how they would perform on the job. Just like how job interviews and assessment centre presentations are all about telling recruiters what you can do; case studies are about demonstrating your potential to recruiters in a practical way.

What Is a Case Study Exercise?

A case study is a simulation exercise that gives candidates a realistic representation of a scenario that they’ll experience while on the job. The exercise – depending on the recruiter and the nature of the job you’re applying for – may be done as a group or individually.

In short, you will be provided with a brief describing a problem that the company is trying to solve, and then asked to come up with a proposed solution to said problem. You (and your group) will then need to present your proposed solution to recruiters and defend or justify your approach.  

The case study brief will typically provide additional information such as financial reports, market studies, competition analysis, and other information that may relate to any aspect of the job. It may also provide other company reports, client reports, new product research, etc.

How You’ll Be Assessed

Case study exercises are designed to give the recruiter a fair and balanced evaluation of each candidate. Be it an individual or group case study exercise, recruiters are typically monitoring these competencies:

  • Analytical Thinking
  • Assimilation of Information 
  • Commercial Awareness
  • Innovation
  • Organisational skills
  • Decisiveness
  • Judgement

If it’s a group case study exercise, recruiters may be assessing how the group interacts and who takes thelead. Some examples of competencies are:

  • How you interact with other people – your interpersonal skills
  • How you deal with a difficult teammate
  • How you would fit into the workplace
  • How you cope with group or peer pressure

How It Usually Goes

Case study exercises are often timed and you’ll need to carefully examine the brief before presenting your findings and solutions. After analysing the documents and deciding on a way forward, you or the team will be required to present your talking points in the form of a presentation. With individual case studies, you will probably present your solutions at an interview with a recruiter or in a written form.

It’s important to note that a case study exercise is just as much about assessing your approach to solving the problem as the solution you arrive at. Case study exercises are usually designed not to have one “correct” answer. As long as you can justify your proposed solution and withstand scrutiny from recruiters, you are likely to score marks.

Example Case Studies

Try your best at these 2 quick case study examples and grab a family member or friend to present your solutions and findings to. Remember to time yourself for the exercise and read your case study brief carefully and understand what the recruiter is looking for.

Example Case Study 1

The following group exercise is an investment case study. Candidates have to work together to find answers and respond to incoming news and data. They then have to make a presentation to a ‘management board’.

The Brief

A conglomerate of media companies is looking to make a significant acquisition. It has identified a target e-commerce company and approached a number of investment banks for their views on the merits of a potential deal and a target price. Based on these presentations, the publisher will decide whether to proceed with a bid and, if so, select one bank to act as their adviser.

Your team is one of the investment banks bidding to win the mandate. You need to analyse the figures provided; to review the marketplace, your potential client and the target company; and to prepare a five-minute presentation giving your recommendations. (e.g. whether to go ahead, go ahead under specific conditions, hold off on the deal entirely. etc.)

Example Case Study 2

This is an example of a case study used for FMCG graduate programmes. In this case, the groups are given a pack with details of the product range, sales figures, marketing campaigns and news clippings. The basic problem in this type of scenario is that a product range or the company receives some negative publicity on the eve of a new product launch or marketing campaign. Assessors are interested in whether and how you would respond to it.

The Brief

You are a member of the marketing team at a global organisation, Choc-O-Lot Ltd. It is headquartered in Europe and manufactures and distributes chocolate products throughout the world. Its flagship bar is ‘Dairy Dream’, but the business has expanded rapidly over the past eight years, launching new products and diversifying into new areas (such as starting a new capsule coffee product lineup).

The company is planning a huge brand relaunch. Just as Choc-O-Lot is about to launch a marketing campaign, articles appear online alleging that Choc-O-Lot treats its workers, and members of its supply chain poorly. In particular, its Malaysian manufacturing plant is alleged to be exploiting migrant workers. These articles are widely shared on social media, with calls from readers for a boycott. What would you do?