Today we're going to cover everything you need to prepare for your Capital One case interview.
If you're a business analyst, senior data analyst or strategy analyst, and you're not used to case interviews, they can be challenging. That's why we've put together the ultimate guide to the Capital One analyst interview to maximise your chances of success.
Here's an overview of what we'll cover:
- Assessment tests
- Preparation tips
NB: If you're a software engineer interviewing at Capital One, check out our engineering interview guides.
1. Capital One: doing things differently
Capital One is unique. As of the time of this article, it's the 13th largest bank ($450bn in assets) in the United States, behind firms like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley, despite being founded as a single-business bank in 1994. The business was initially only focused on credit cards but now include the following 3 verticals:
- Credit Cards
- Consumer Banking
- Commercial Banking
The company's success has been driven largely by its clever use of data. They've developed sophisticated strategies for identifying and directly marketing to profitable customers. This has created a competitive advantage vs. traditional banks, which have historically focused on broad (rather than targeted) marketing.
Capital One also has their own strategy group, which essentially serves as an internal consulting firm.
Although Capital One is a top player in the banking industry, their unusual history and technology focus, has created a unique culture. It has more of a "tech firm" feel, than you'd expect from a giant financial institution. Another notable area where Capital One is different from their peers, is in their interview process.
The type of work (and the nature of the interview) you can expect at Capital One varies across group and role. They hire for roles ranging from call center reps, to software engineers and business analysts.
This guide is primarily written for business analyst candidates, but most of what we say here is applicable for anyone with a case interview at Capital One, including senior data anlaysts and strategy analysts.
The application process includes 4 main stages:
- Resume & cover letter submission
- Pre-interview online assessment tests
- First-round interview
Power Day of 3-5 interviews
Let's take a closer look at each step in the Capital One interview process.
2.1 Resume & cover letter submission
First, recruiters will look at your resume and assess if your experience matches the open position. This is the most competitive step in the process—we’ve found that 90% of candidates don’t make it past this stage.
And if you’re looking for expert feedback, you can also get input from our team of expert recruiters, who will cover what achievements to focus on (or ignore), how to get more impact from your bullet points, and more.
After the initial application, you'll face the online assessment tests.
For the business analyst position, the BA quantitative assessment usually consists of 11 questions that aim to assess basic analytical skills. You'll be given a data set and you'll need to use a spreadsheet to solve mathematical and analytical problems.
Example Capital One online assessment question
- Ali and Sophie are budding musicians who have been playing Thursday night shows at a local live music venue. The venue told them that over the course of the last four weeks, they’ve had 900 tickets sold for their shows. They are curious to see how many people are repeat fans, coming to more than one show. The venue’s recent customer survey says that 60% of fans have come once, 30% have come twice, 6% have come three times, and 4% have come four times. How many unique people have seen an Ali and Sophie show during this time period?
2.3 First round mini case interview
If you pass the online assessment, you make it to the first round 'mini case interview', which will be conducted via phone or video call. Be ready to hit the ground running in this interview, don't expect much "getting to know you" discussion because they usually get straight to the case. This interview will normally last 30 minutes.
2.4 Final round Power Day
The final round, often referred to as a "Power Day" or a "Super Day", is a series of 3-5 back-to-back interviews.
For the role of business analyst, you can expect two case interviews and one product interview, with behavioral questions thrown in at the start of each interview.
If you're interviewing for a more technical role, such as senior data analyst, you will face a technical interview such as coding or a data challenge, one case interview and one behavioral interview.
Now you know the interview process, let's go deeper into what questions you can expect to face.
In this section we'll take a look at the type of questions you can expect to face in your Capital One interview. We'll start with the most important, and the most challenging: case interview questions.
Case interviews are the most important part of the Capital One interview process. The company has published a video tutorial, which shows the style of their case interviews.
We've embedded it for your reference below. It's a great resource, but it's pretty long (about 20 minutes), so we've also summarised the key take-aways and added some additional commentary below.
Capital One case interviews include 3 sections:
- Business situation and framework
- Quantitative question
Each section of the case interview has particular things you'll need to prepare for. Let's look at each one in-depth.
A. Business situation and framework
The first several minutes of the interview will cover the business scenario and case framework. This typically begins with the recruiter providing a brief statement about the business or industry where you'll focus for the case. In the sample case (in the video), you're the CEO of Ice Cream Corporation.
Typically, the recruiter will end their opening statement with a broad question. For example: "What are the key factors you would consider when developing a strategy to grow profits for Ice Cream Corporation?" For this stage of the interview, you should have two objectives.
First, you should ask clarification questions to make sure that you understand the situation correctly. For instance, in the video above the first candidate asks exactly what role the CEO has with regards to "pricing" and to "sales". Many candidates skip that initial step, but it's actually essential because it will help you put together a more relevant framework.
Second, once you fully understand the situation and question the interviewer is asking you, you should put a simple case framework together to answer the interviewer's question. The objective of this framework is to identify and communicate key areas that you will consider to answer the interviewer's main question. For instance, the candidates in the video mention areas including pricing, number of markets, number of competitors, their size, etc.
If you're familiar with the different types of case interviews, you'll notice that Capital One uses the interviewer-led approach. This is similar to the method used by McKinsey in their application process.
That said, we still recommend that you try and drive the case forward yourself to a certain extent, by communicating the implications of your answer with the interviewer. This will show them that you're able to think a few steps ahead and take an active approach to problem-solving.
B. Quantitative question
The second stage of the interview is heavily focused on maths skills. The recruiter will provide you with some data, and ask you to perform calculations.
In the sample case, you're asked to calculate total monthly profit for Ice Cream Corporation, given the following data:
- Price per carton = $5
- Cost per carton = $1
- Demand = 100 cartons/month
It's important to ask questions at this stage, as the recruiter may have additional data which they have not yet provided. The video shows a great example of this, when the candidate asks how much of the cost is variable vs. fixed cost.
- Price per carton = $5
- Variable cost per carton = $1
- Fixed cost per carton = $0
- Demand = 100 cartons/month
At this point, the calculation is straight-forward.
- ($5-$1) X 100 cartons = $400 profit
Make sure you talk through your logic, to show the recruiter your problem-solving skills. This will also help them to steer you back on track, if you've misheard any of the data.
Don't expect all of the calculations in your interview to be this simple. There are 2 additional examples provided in the video, which include elasticity of demand and break even calculations. These require a little extra work, but your approach will be the same:
- Understand the data provided
- Ask for more information when necessary
- Lay out your approach
- Perform the calculations
In our experience, the best candidates brush up ahead of their interview, so they can have confidence in their maths skills. If you do the same, this will give you a polished reaction during interviews, which recruiters will notice.
Compared with the case interviews used at consulting firms, the case interviews at Capital One tend to have a greater focus on quantitative questions. So you should expect to spend more time on these types of quant problems during your interview, and less time on other areas, like creative brainstorming.
In the final stage of the interview, you'll be expected to make and defend a recommendation. To form your recommendation, draw on the calculations from the previous stage (e.g. the results of the break-even analysis). Consider the numbers, use your intuition, and make a decision.
For example, this might be your conclusion: "since frozen ice cream is a non-perishable, I think it would be reasonable to expect most of the additional sales from a promotion, to come from stock-up behavior. I'd recommend looking for other opportunities to increase sales."
The specific strategy you suggest, is less important than your logic and ability to defend it. Expect the recruiter to question your approach. For a recommendation like this, they may ask you to explain how you would go about identifying other opportunities.
Additional tips for your Capital One case interview:
- Don't be surprised if you're given a case from outside the finance industry
- Take notes on the information provided by the recruiter.
- Ask for a minute to organize your thoughts when needed.
- Talk through your thought process, show your work as you do it.
- If you don't understand a topic, ask the interviewer for clarification.
- Call out important assumptions.
- Notice directional cues, as the recruiter may want to steer the conversation.
- You're usually allowed a calculator, so bring one that's easy to use
In addition to case interviews, Capital One also uses behavioural questions/interviews, like most companies do. While you may not get a whole interview devoted specifically to behavioral questions, you can expect to face them at the start of your case and product interviews.
Behavioural interview questions asked at Capital One fall into two main categories:
- Fit questions. These are generic questions such as “Why financial services?” or “Why Capital One?”.
- Personal Experience Interview (PEI) questions. These are questions such as “Tell me about a time when you lead a team through a difficult situation.” Or “Tell me about a time where you had to manage a team conflict”
We've written extensively about fit / PEI questions in another guide. But in summary here are the top 5 fit and PEI questions you should prepare for at Capital One, or other firms.
Top 5 fit questions:
- Why Capital One?
- Why financial services?
- Walk me through your resume
- Tell me about something not on your resume
- Tell me about your greatest accomplishment
Top 5 PEI questions. Tell me about a time when ...
- You failed at work
- You worked in a team and had to manage a conflict
- You had a disagreement with a colleague / boss
- You had to change someone's / a group's mind
- You led a team through a difficult situation
Capital One is known to favor the STAR method when it comes to answering behavioral questions. So, for your interview, plan to answer behavioural questions using the following format:
- S - Situation
- T - Task
- A - Action
- R - Result
This approach will help you to answer each question in a clear, and methodical way, which are great qualities to demonstrate when interviewing with Capital One.
3.2.1 "Why Capital One?" interview question
You're almost guaranteed to be asked this question, so let's dive a bit deeper into how you should answer it. Here are 3 ways to make your answer stand out:
Name-drop: Before the interview, make an effort to meet with or call one or more current employees of the firm. Ask them what it’s like working there, why they chose Capital One and what is unique about it. This will give you good, specific talking points for your answer, and mentioning their names shows the interviewer that you’ve put in effort to get to know the company.
Be specific. Test out your answer by swapping another bank’s name with the one you’ve got in mind. If your answer could also apply to this other bank, then you need to fine tune it.
Keep up with recent activity: Being aware of the latest deals and developments in the department you’re applying to will give you an idea of what kind of projects you’ll get to work on, and whether they sound interesting to you. Bringing them up in the interview will show the interviewer that you’ve done your research and stay up to date on market news.
Example answer: "Why do you want to work at Capital One?"
“I want to work at Capital One for three main reasons. First, I want to work in a very data-driven environment and to have access to a vast amount of data when working strategically. I've been really impressed with Capital One's pioneering use of data and machine learning in the banking sector, which has helped it gain market share across its verticals.
Second, I've also been impressed with Capital One's strategy regarding a banking-as-a-service model and embedded finance. I saw an interview with Richard Fairbank (CEO) talking about how all banks needed to collaborate with fintech apps to provide instantaneous results for customers, rather than working in silos, and I thought he articulated a really strong vision.
And finally, I’ve had a few conversations with Seth White and Tamara Grey, associates in the McLean office, both of whom gave me a great impression of the firm as a whole. Seth in particular encouraged me to apply to the Travel team, as we share a similar educational background, and he was complimentary of the opportunities he’s been given to succeed."
See more details on how to answer the "Why this company?" interview question.
If you're interviewing for a business analyst role, one of your Power Day interviews will be a product interview. Compared to the very quantitative case interviews, the product interview is a lot more qualitative and you'll need to think more creatively.
In almost all the interview reports we've seen over the last year or so, the candidate was asked to improve a product in some way. We recommend you read our article on How to answer product improvement questions to help you structure your response.
Example Capital One product questions from business analyst candidates:
- Describe 12 uses for an alarm clock
- How would you redesign an alarm clock?
- What is the customer base for this product?
- Describe 10 ways to improve an umbrella
- How would you improve this water bottle?
- What's your favorite product and how would you improve it?
4. How do I prepare for a Capital One case interview?
Here's how we recommend you prepare for your Capital One case interview. First, use Capital One case studies to research the company. Second, become really confident at maths. Then, learn a consistent method to approach case interview problems. Fourth, practise a lot and learn from your mistakes. And finally, do mock interviews to hone your case interview technique.
4.1 Use Capital One case study examples for research
Case interviews require no prior knowledge. However, you can bet that overall your interviews at Capital One will go a lot better if you go in having done some research on the company and the wider financial industry.
Capital One shares some case studies on its website, which are well worth looking over. Also take a look at some of the articles on Capital One's insights center. Elsewhere in the media, we liked this piece on how Capital One uses data to get an advantage.
If you're coming from a finance background, you may already have a good knowledge of Capital One's place in the sector. If not, check out Investopedia for a brief summary.
4.2 Become really confident at maths
You don't have to have a perfect GPA or GMAT score to succeed at case interview maths. And in any case, during your Capital One interviews, you will be allowed to use a calculator. That said, it will help if you're confident performing mental maths quickly and accurately.
In order to do this, it’s essential to know the formulas for common metrics, like return on investment or breakeven point. And it’s also helpful to know a few maths shortcuts to help you solve problems more quickly. To learn more about these topics, check out our free guide to case interview maths.
In our experience, the most successful applicants start their interview preparation by practising maths skills, so make sure you prioritise this step.
4.3 Develop a consistent method to crack cases
One of the biggest challenges of interviewing with Capital One is solving cases that you’ve never seen before. Each case can be difficult, and you’ll have to perform well across multiple case interviews in order to get an offer.
As a result, it’s critical for you to have a consistent approach for solving cases. Capital One uses interviewer-led case interviews, which can be broken down into the following types of questions:
- Framework development
- Quant question – Data provided
- Creativity question
If you can crack each type of question (within a case), then you can crack the overall case.
Use this list of example case interviews to practice with. The companies listed here are consulting companies rather than banks, but doesn't matter as case interviews use examples from all sorts of industries, not just the one you're interviewing for.
4.4 Learn from every mistake you make
During case interview preparation, the quality of your preparation is just as important as the quantity of time that you dedicate. It's better to do 20 cases thoughtfully than to rush through 40 cases.
We recommend that you keep a notebook where you record improvement opportunities and specific things you did well for each case.
The notebook and self-evaluation will help you to be more strategic (and efficient) with your preparation. It's also a good idea to go back and re-do old cases. For example, after you have done case #20, you could go back to case #1, to make sure you are not repeating the same mistakes.
The minimum preparation time required to succeed in case interviews is probably around 30 hours. However, if you don't prepare thoughtfully, it may take much longer. So take notes, be strategic, and keep practising!
4.5 Do mock interviews
How you solve each case is important, but your interviewers will also be evaluating how you COMMUNICATE your answers. It's important to speak in a structured way that makes it easy to clearly understand your points.
The best way to hone your communication skills is to practise interviewing out loud, and you can do that in three main ways:
- Interview yourself (out loud)
- Practise interviewing with friends or family
- Practise interviewing with ex-interviewers
Practising by yourself is a great way to get started, and can help you get more comfortable with the flow of a case interview. However, this type of practice won’t prepare you for realistic interview conditions.
After getting some practice on your own, you should find someone who can do a mock interview with you, like a friend or family member.
We’d also recommend that you practise 1-1 with ex-interviewers from top consulting firms. This is the best way to replicate the conditions of a real case interview, and to get feedback from someone who understands the process extremely well.
That's all you need to know about the Capital One case interview, from all of us at IGotAnOffer, good luck!