Preparing For Case Studies In Graduate Job Applications

Graduate jobs, Interview Tips

September 16, 2021

So you’ve spent many long and arduous weeks at the library sending off one job application after another with the hope of landing something. And then luck slides in your favour: you receive an interview invitation for that graduate job you wanted before an invite to a graduate assessment centre. 

In that same email, you notice that it says the graduate assessment centre will include a case study exercise, but you’ve never heard of such a thing before. No need to fret — here’s what you need to know. 


The ultimate aim for an employer hosting a case study is to see how you perform doing the said job. Whereas in the interview you spent the majority of the time telling the employer how you’d work, this is an opportunity to show them exactly how you do it. This also highlights the importance of being honest about your abilities and past work experience during your interview: you don’t want to make things harder for yourself in the event of having to do a case study. 


What are case study assessments?

Under case study exercises, you are given a scenario with a challenge — very similar to the kind of situations you will be dealing with in your job — and you will be asked to work towards a solution. 


You will be provided with a detailed brief with the scenario, instructions, and other guidelines to keep in mind while formulating plans or solutions for the given problem. In the end, you will be asked to present the solution & share how you arrived at the solution. 


What do graduate assessment centre case studies involve?

The case study exercise can be for individuals or groups, and it might involve giving a presentation or doing exercises and tasks that you would otherwise have to do in the job itself. Owing to the pandemic, large scale assessment centres that were common practice have now largely moved online. Regardless, the tasks and presentations have stayed the same.


Ahead of your case study assessment, it’s important to prepare for the process. Here are some top tips:

  • Read the organisation’s graduate recruitment literature on its website, social media, etc. Research the company well so you can get a feel for the type of work that it does and the organisational policies. 

  • Read and understand the job well by reading through the job description. Ask others in the same role what their day looks like. This will give you an idea about the kind of tasks you could be asked as part of the case study.

  • You can practice mock case study exercises on websites such as AssessmentDay. It’s also always worth checking out your careers advice service, to see whether they have valuable advice in this regard too.

  • You can ask your friend or a family member if you can do a mock exercise with them. This can help you soothe nerves and help with your public speaking skills and presentation technique. It’s always best to ask for feedback from people whose advice you trust.


On the day of the case study assessment


Here are the best tips for navigating the exercise on the day itself:


Understand the assignment

Make sure that you’re completely clear about what it is that you’re being tasked with doing. If it’s a written text, re-read it multiple times to ensure you’ve understood the assignment. 



Once you’ve read through the tasks, it’s worth printing them out if they haven’t already been printed. Then, annotate the important pieces of information that will help you clarify the task. Once this is done, it’s worth brainstorming solutions before you plough ahead with the task.


If this is a team exercise, it’s worth giving roles to different team members.


Time management

Set a strict time aside for the reading and brainstorming prep, and ensure that once you’ve passed that time you commence with doing the assigned task. If you’re in a group, you could offer to be the timekeeper or ask that someone else takes this role. By being careful with how much time you’re spending on each task, you will be more likely to complete all of them.



If you’re in a group session, take into consideration all of the contributions that everyone else in the team makes, and ensure that you don’t talk over people or dominate the discussion. Remember that these people could be your future colleagues!


And most importantly keep in mind that if you’ve been invited to an assessment centre you’ve already seriously impressed the hiring managers with your application! Walk in knowing this, and you’ll already be setting yourself up for success. Good luck!

Written by Marco Marcelline
Photo by Leon on Unsplash

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