Case Studies and Group Work


I expected to use the skills I've acquired through four years of study in a new job. I hadn't expected these very skills to be so critical in the application process.

Three months ago, I applied for a job with Robert Bosch, LLC, the U.S. subsidiary of the German manufacturing giant. I first discovered the job on the Kelley Careers website, an incredible resource of job, internship, and interview postings open to all Kelley students. The job, very nearly my dream job, is a 24-month rotational finance development program called the Professional Development Program. Through four six-month rotations, the position allows the trainee to experience different functional roles in finance (cost accounting, product forecasting, internal auditing, etc.) while working in different regions and with different teams. I saw the job as an amazing opportunity to gain exposure to different functional roles before finding the optimal fit as well as a chance to see more of the country. With the resume and cover letter I'd created with help from the Career Placement office, I applied for the position. Like applying to a "reach" school, I had hope but little confidence.

A few weeks later, I was contacted by Bosch to set up an initial telephone interview. In addition to standard background questions, the interview was primarily behavioral-based. For those unfamiliar with the concept, behavioral-based interviewing seeks to understand the applicant by asking for examples from work and school of specific events and qualities. I had thought Kelley's insistence on practicing and role-playing answers to behavioral-based questions to be a tad excessive. I'm very glad that I was wrong. I answered maybe a half-dozen questions constructed as: "Tell me about a time that you did [something]" or "Tell me about a time you demonstrated [a quality]." The time spent in class practicing answers to questions very similar to this was immeasurably valuable.

A few days later, I was invited to complete the next phase of the interview process: a finance case study. This is truly where I appreciated my education at Kelley Indianapolis. In I-Core, the integrative core classes when students take Finance, Operations, and Marketing together, I completed what seemed, at the time, to be an endless series of financial case studies. I lived and breathed in Excel for months, and I resented it. Now, serving as the gatekeeper to my dream job, I found myself staring down a case very similar to those my team and I had completed in the introductory financial management class. Scenario testing and cash flow analysis, concepts I had never even heard of prior to college, were the basis of my deliverable. So much of what we do in higher-level courses at Kelley is case-based. Not only does it allow us to learn from the real world, the skills we gain are incredibly applicable.

I met with my financial management professor and shared what I'd prepared. He made suggestions and provided the kind of mentorship and faculty insights that I've come to value from my Kelley instructors. Then, I submitted the case and waited.

A few weeks later, I received word that I'd made it to the final round. Bosch would be flying me out to Farmington Hills, Michigan to interview and present my case. The PowerPoint presentation skills I'd developed in many of my Kelley classes would be a major factor in whether I was able to attain the job I so dearly wanted.

The flexibility of my professors was invaluable in making preparations to fly to Michigan. Falling as it did the week before exams, the interview conflicted with a number of assignments and presentations in my courses. With enough notice and flexibility, however, all of my instructors were willing to work with me to ensure that I could both complete my assignments and make it to Michigan. Without their support, I would never have been able to get the job.

My time in Farmington Hills is nearly a blur. I was impressed by the quality of the other applicants, both undergraduates and MBA candidates, but working with the bright and talented students at Kelley had prepared me and I did not feel overly intimidated. A series of interviews preceded the presentation of my case study. I believe it was my case study presentation which truly set me apart. Rather than focusing strictly on academic concerns, finance education at Kelley mixes theory and practical application. My ability to focus on pragmatic concerns was appealing to the working professionals evaluating my work.

The final aspect of the interview process was a smaller case study, but built as a group assignment. Two other candidates and I had twenty-five minutes to read and present a mini-case. Five or six company representatives, in HR, finance, and other disciplines, watched and evaluated both how we worked together and what we ultimately presented. I've heard students complain that too many classes at Kelley Indianapolis involve group work. As I sat down with two strangers to read and present the finance case, I silently thanked every single one of my past group members for the experiences I'd had.

I returned to Indianapolis excited and hopeful, but set thoughts of Bosch aside as I entered final exams. A week later, I received the call. I'd gotten the job.

It's so easy to take for granted everything we learn through our years at Kelley Indianapolis. Attending one of the top 10 business schools is a privilege, but it's more than a sense of honor and accomplishment. The education I've received at Kelly has prepared me in ways I never realized for what I hope and expect to be a bright and exciting future.