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The Software Engineer Case Study Interview

To round out my unofficial series on interviews, I thought I'd finish up with an interesting one that I've encountered recently: the case study interview.

I did a ton of googling on this interview type and wasn't really able to find much that was applicable. I think it's because it's such a weird hybrid of interviews that no one person has really pinpointed it. Which is completely understandable, I didn't really think I would ever encounter this type of interview either!

But for anyone out there who has been told they could expect "to solve a problem in a group" or were explicitly told it was a case study interview, I hope this may be a bit helpful in your preparation.


From my understanding and small bit of experience, this interview type is very much a hybrid of the systems design interview, a consultant interview, and a technical interview.

I had one interview that was much more high level, a designer, developer, and product manager were all present to consult with and I was expected to design an implementation of an app.

But for the interview that was explicitly labeled as a case study, I was given a prompt and ample time to come up with a solution of how I would solve a specific problem.

These two are very different but boil down to about the same pain points to solve for and similar questions to ask.

Breakdown / Tips

This was the breakdown of my thought process on the question:

  1. Ask clarifying questions

    • Ahh, if you've read any of my other interview blog posts, I am 100% confident you would be like "Megan, again with the clarifying questions?!" But I cannot skip over this fundamental step!
    • Questions are the foundation of your solution and will help to ensure that you fully understand the question. They will also confirm that you are solving the problem correctly so that your interviews can dispel any confusion you may have or wrong assumptions.
    • In the case where I was asked how I would design an app, I asked questions to confirm my assumptions about the users and the scale of the application.
  2. Explain a high level overview of your thoughts

    • Now that you are confident you know what the question is asking, give a short overview of what you want the app to look like.
    • You can name some of the technologies you would use and how you'd like your front end / back end to be developed.
    • You don't have to go into a huge amount of detail, but just give enough so that you have receive a bit of feedback on what your initial thoughts look like. If your interview agrees with your design, then you can go ahead and dig deeper into each portion.
  3. Dive deep!

    • Alright, you're on track and pretty much halfway through this! Now is what I think can be the more fun part, really developing each portion of the app.
    • You can get very detailed, but in the case of the interview where I was expected to collaborate with the designer as well as the product manager, I tried to keep it more on the surface level and include each person in the thought process. I was able to speak with the designer on generally what the app would look like and how it would be helpful to function for appropriate user interaction (i.e. how certain buttons could be helpful in specific cases, etc.)
    • Don't be afraid to just go in on the details and let the interviews know what you're thinking. That is the main function of this interview, to understand your thought process. And I'm sure if they have questions they'll ask!
  4. Big picture

    • After building the flesh and bones of this app, I'm sure you've impressed the interviewers already! But it's a good idea to take a step back in the end and confirm that your app is accomplishing all of the tasks you had originally set out for it.
    • In the case of the panel interview I had, usually the concerns were always brought back to the user stories. What will help to confirm that the user will receive the items they had originally intended? Did some of the details you went into get in the way of the main goal?
    • There could even be an instance where you want to look at the app from the business perspective. How will this be efficient and useful for the business itself? Depending on the company this could be a huge concern.
  5. Know that you did great!

    • After all of these interviews it's easy to be overwhelmed, stressed, and to feel like you may not have done that well. But know that you gave it your best and should be proud you even got to this step!
    • Also don't forget to thank your interviewer and send them a thank you note within 24 hours of the interview.

Best of luck with interviews and know that I'm rooting for you!

Top comments (2)

prakriti1809 profile image

Thank you, Megan! This is really helpful to me, I'm just about to appear for a case interview tomorrow.

as1320 profile image
Ahmed S Khalil

Thank you, that is helping