The Case for Case Studies

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Are you using case studies as part of your interview process for new hires? If not, then you might be missing out on one of the most valuable tools for determining whether a candidate possesses the hard and soft skills needed to thrive at your company.

A recent article from CFO magazine talks about how the railroad company, CSX Corporation, utilizes case studies as an aid to identify prospective finance professionals who exhibit analytical expertise, strong communication and leadership skills. In addition to traditional face-to-face interviews, CSX gives its potential hires a hypothetical business situation, complete with financial statements, and has the candidates present their recommendations to a panel of CSX executives. Adding this element to the interview process allows CSX to not only evaluate a potential hire's analytical and decision-making skills, but also how well they are able to think on their feet and convey those ideas in a persuasive manner. 

When it comes to finding the right person to join your organization, there are two equally important parts to the new hire equation: hard and soft skills. Hard skills include a candidate's technical expertise and professional experience, are the primary elements listed on a resume, and are more easily expressed in an interview setting. Contrastingly, soft skills are a combination of a candidate's personal attributes that enable them to interact effectively in a work environment and are much more difficult to grasp in an interview setting.

Although both hard and soft skills can be explored through various question techniques during the interview process, putting potential hires through a real-world scenario is a much more effective way to first-handedly see how they will analyze different scenarios, communicate their findings and manage stressful situations. Being able to uncover a candidate's behavioral strengths during the interview process allows organizations to become more confident in their hiring decisions, especially if a company is looking at applicants with unconventional backgrounds or an extremely competitive talent pool. 

While case studies can be a valuable tool, it's important to remember that they are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Businesses will want to put a lot of thought into creating a case study to ensure it highlights the specific skills or attributes that are the most relevant to the job and the company. But companies should keep in mind that incorporating case studies into their interview process can be very time-intensive with subjective results. Leaders need to think carefully about whether the benefits of using case studies outweigh the investment of time and energy for both their employees and applicants, particularly if its lower level or there are numerous positions that need to filled. 

Messina Group’s staffing experts and talent consultants can help you analyze the pros and cons of using case studies. We can also help you design an evaluation process that allows candidates to show you — rather than just tell you — how they are a great fit for your company. 

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Ellen Mullarkey

Ellen Mullarkey

Ellen Mullarkey is a Vice President of Business Development with Messina Group. Ellen joined Messina more than 25 years ago after graduating from the University of Iowa and has been instrumental in establishing and expanding Messina’s accounting & financial staffing divisions. Ellen is a past president and long-term board member of Hephzibah Children’s Association. In addition to being actively involved in River Forest Youth Baseball and Softball, Ellen has served as the tenured volleyball coach for the St. Luke Women’s Club.

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