Friday, June 14, 2024

How To Prep For Case Interviews

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Get Ready To Play An Active Role In The Discussion

Learn Case Interviews in Under 30 minutes

Case study interviews require a high level of engagement. While other interviews might have you responding to questions with rehearsed answers, the case study interview presents a situation that is dynamic and unpredictable.

Youll want to approach the session with an active disposition. This typically includes taking notes, documenting your observations and ideas, sketching out diagrams and charts, and asking follow-up questions throughout the interview.

Case Interview Prep Timeline

In a perfect world, your case interview prep timeline should start 6 months before your interview time for 1-2 out loud interviews a week and plenty of math and structure drills in between. Look ahead to the time youll start the interview process and build your prep schedule backward from there.

Of course, many people find themselves with less than six months before their desired interview time. Heck, I had 2 weeks. That doesnt disqualify you it just means you must be strategic to prepare on an accelerated timeline.

In our Black Belt program, one of our MBB coaches will build a personalized prep plan for you that is 1 week or 1 year long, and based on any background.

If you are in school, there are certain optimal times to apply.

U.S. Undergrads:

Peak recruiting season for juniors and seniors begins in July. Start preparing for the case interview by March.

International Undergrads:

Application drop in October. Begin case interview prep by May.

Advanced Degree Candidates :

We recommend applying for the competitive Bridge Programs in March, and full-time recruiting begins in July. For the best shot, begin preparing for the case interview in November or December of the prior year.


First year MBAs will interview in January for internship roles. However, diversity recruiting begins at conferences as early as September so you should begin interview prep in May, after matriculation but before even coming to campus.

Experienced Hires:

Types Of Case Interview Questions

Most case interview questions do not have one “right” answerthere may be more than one acceptable way to manage the situation.

For example, you may be asked how to determine how big the market might be for a new type of tennis ball. Thats not much information so youd need to ask questions such as who the target consumer isprofessional tennis players or weekend tennis enthusiasts. Another question might be about how much the new tennis balls cost and how or where they are sold: in stores or online.

You could explain how youd calculate the potential size of the market for this new tennis ball. In addition, perhaps you could offer ideas for expanding to additional consumers such as high school or college tennis players.

Recommended Reading: What Answers To Give In A Job Interview

Keep Up With Industries

You never know what industry the case youre given will focus on. However, the more relevant you can make your questions and answers to the industry, the better.

Two things can help here. First, as you practice, keep a running tab of specific attributes particular to an industry . Second, keep current with the news. Reading The Economist every week is a great way to keep abreast of major trends in different industries and countries.

Stacking Your Skills Up Against A Real Business Challenge

Case Interview 101

If you’re a candidate for Deloitte Consulting LLP, you’ll be asked to demonstrate your problem-solving skills, your analytical ability, as well as your strategic and logical thinking. These case interviews can also help us assess your common sense, creativity, and comfort with ambiguity. At the same time, you’ll gain insight into our approach because these cases represent real client projects.

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Types Of Case Interviews

There are several different types of case interview questions that may be used to test an individual’s problem-solving skills. The following are three of the most case interview types:

  • Paper-driven cases: This type of case interview is when the interviewer provides the interviewee with a “deck” or information related to the case that is to be solved. The candidate is then often left alone and given time to read through and analyze the information as well as prepare an analysis and/or solution to the problem.

  • Open-ended cases: An open-ended case is when the interviewer provides only a limited amount of information and expects the candidate to use this information to come up with a solution.

  • Structured cases: A structured case interview is when the interviewee provides information related to the case and then guides the interviewee through the problem-solving process.

Additionally, there are different types of business problems that may be presented during a case interview. Common business problems that may be included in case interviews include brainteasers, market-sizing framework, consulting math, profitability framework and market study framework. The type of industry that the job being applied for is in will often determine the topic used in a case interview.

How Do Interviews Work At Consulting Target Schools

This may differ across locations, but first-round interviews are typically held on campus for target schools. Its easier for the firms because the volume of interviewees is generally quite large, so spending the day on campus with a panel of interviewers makes sense. For final rounds, youll probably be invited to the office as numbers are lower, and its an ideal opportunity to get a feel for the office environment.

Your career services office is a great resource for information about the firms and when theyll be on campus for events and interviews. Youll also find these details on your school page of the firms career sites and, of course, within your interview invite email.

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Case Interview Creative: Example

Speaking of drilling down further, most case interviews involve some kind of brainstorming. Lets imagine for a moment that the interviewer will push you on this, asking What kind of changes can you think of that might have an impact on standardized test scores? Youll need to come up with a list of ideas out loud, but writing them down at the same time so you can keep your thoughts organized.

Here are some ideas:

  • Teach concepts, not to the test
  • Teach problem-solving strategies to enable cognitive flexibility
  • Incorporate 1:1 mentoring / coaching into standard curriculum
  • Set a cap on number of students per class

Research The Framework Of Case Study Interviews

Case Interview 101 – Watch This Before Anything Else!

A case study interview, also known as a fit interview, is laid out like a brief. Youll be informed about a business scenario. You, in turn, need to review the necessary materials and present a solution to the interviewer. However, there may be other elements to the interview such as slideshow presentations, where you may have to summarize the importance of each slide like you would with the client. So, make sure youre prepared for all kinds of potential scenarios by thoroughly researching the company beforehand.

Related: 5 Situational Interview Questions

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How To Prepare Pei Stories

People remember stories. On the day of your interview, your interviewer will see 6 to 8 other candidates, so you need to build memorable stories that will make you stand out.

There are multiple ways to tell a story, but we like to keep things relatively simple with the framework below:

  • Situation: start by giving the necessary context
  • Problem: outline the problem you / your team were facing
  • Solution: explain the solution you came up with to solve the problem
  • Impact: if possible, quantify the impact you had in solving the problem
  • Lessons: conclude with any lessons you learned in the process

Using this framework as a guide, we recommend preparing 5 specific stories that you can use to answer PEI questions during your interviews.

If you are preparing for McKinsey, we would also encourage you to read our article on McKinsey PEI questions. The same five themes we covered above are used by McKinsey, but in slightly different proportions. And we also share common mistakes to avoid in that article.

Ask The Right Questions

At the beginning of the case, your interviewer will present you with the situation of the client. Dont rush into the analysis without developing a deep understanding of the problem first. Ask your interviewer questions to clarify the case. This is expected behavior that also takes place later with the client. Make sure you understand what the business model and your objective in the respective case are . If there are any other possible limitations you are unsure about, ask your interviewer in a concise way. Asking unnecessary questions will raise doubts about your ability to work efficiently under pressure.

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How Do I Land An Interview If Im Not Coming From A Target School

Going to a target school definitely gives you a clear edge when applying to MBB, but by no means is it the end of the road if you arent attending one.

Rest assured that your application will still be reviewed, so make it strong. Do what you can to become a more competitive candidate, whether thats participating in consulting case competitions, upskilling in areas like leadership or analytics, or ensuring your GPA is on track to be a hire score.

Networking with consultants in the offices of the firms youre applying to is a great way of getting to know the culture, and also gives the consultants a chance to get to know you. The more positive intel they have on you, the more likely it is that youll be on their radar when theyre selecting candidates to interview.

Attend the events theyre hosting to increase your chances of being able to network and dont be afraid to reach out to consultants directly via platforms like LinkedIn especially folks you have something in common with like your university or school, your hometown, interest in a specific industry, or another affiliation.

Consider applying to locations where you think offices may have a smaller local pool to choose from, perhaps because the university or business school in that area doesnt rank as highly, or the location isnt one of the more popular ones like New York and San Francisco.

Effective Time & Resources Management

Case Interview 101

Every consultant works hard, so the only way to stand out is to work smart.

Yes, I know its a buzzword, and I know its cliched, but the 80-20 rule really does apply in this line of work. The best performers are always the ones to identify the most important lever and focus on it.

With the intense workload and up-or-out policy at major consulting firms, this skill is vital. Dont be surprised if you pull all-nighters and work hard all the time but still get fired, while that one guy who goes home at 5 gets promoted. If you want to survive, learn from him.

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Case Interview 101 Part : Business Concepts You Need To Know

Here are some common business concepts that you need to know as you prepare for your interview.

Process: This is a set of actions or operations that lead to results . This typically describes how a company makes its products or services. The steps can be performed by workers, equipment, or computers. In a case, this is mostly used in situations where a client would like to make their processes more efficient. For example, a client who is in logistics would like to reduce the cost of its operations by improving the efficiency of its processes, such as by reducing equipment downtime or scheduling deliveries according to time-saving routes.

Best practices: Best practices are methods or techniques that are considered to be the working standards and guides in a given situation. In a business situation, best practices are used to benchmark companies against the standard and can serve as a roadmap on how to improve the efficiency of their operations.

Issue tree: This is a common approach in consulting used to solve complex problems.An issue tree is used to break down complex problems into key components in a structured manner. In a case interview, you can use the issue tree to break down the clients problem into manageable chunks or to break down a formula such as the profitability formula into key components.

Read our article for more information on Issue Trees.

Customer segment Purchase frequency for items from coffee shops

How To Test A Branch Use Data And Compare It With Benchmark

Now that we decide to test branch First floor, how do we do that?

We prove or disprove our hypothesis by collecting DATA. That data is then compared with benchmarks to shed more meaning. Two main types of benchmarks are: historical and competitive. For example, lets say by some magic, the client has a metal detection machine which can measure the metal concentration of any space.

To test the first-floor branch, the consultant would come to the first floor, measure the metal concentration and compare it with the data before the car key is lost, a.k.a: historical benchmark.

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Everything You Need In One Place

Ask the interviewer to validate your hypothesis – that is, to say if you have gotten the problem right. If they say you are correct, you can move on tostart structuring the problem and begin your analysis. If not, you can adjust your hypothesis and try again, iterating until you arrive at the correct problem. This way, you will be sure you will always be sure you have successfully identified the problem before you go on to analyse it.

Round Numbers For Speed And Accuracy

How to Prepare for a Case Interview in One Week or Less

The next 5 subsections all cover tips that will help you do mental calculations faster. Heres an overview of each of these tips:

And the first one that well cover here is rounding numbers.

The tricky thing about rounding numbers is that if you round them too much you risk:

  • Distorting the final result
  • Or your interviewer telling you to round the numbers less
  • Rounding numbers is more of an art than a science, but in our experience, the following two tips tend to work well:

    • We usually recommend that you avoid rounding numbers by more than +/- 10%. This is a rough rule of thumb but gives good results based on conversations with past candidates.
    • You also need to alternate between rounding up and rounding down so the effects cancel out. For instance, if you’re calculating A x B, we would recommend rounding A UP, and rounding B DOWN so the rounding balances out.

    Note that you won’t always be able to round numbers. In addition, even after you round numbers the calculations could still be difficult. So let’s go through a few other tips that can help in these situations.

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    Takeaway And Your Next Steps

    Whilst you don’t need to learn any maths or finance theory to prepare for your fit interview or McKinsey PEI, you need to take preparation seriously if you want to get a job in consulting. Being good at cases is not enough. You need to have planned your fit interview responses well in advance , constantly keeping in mind how what you say will set you apart from the crowd of other applicants.

    This piece gives you a great starting point. However, there is only so much a single article can convey.If you want to give yourself the best possible chance of success, then you should check out ourFit Interview Course and consider having a session with one of our ex-MBB consultants – nobody else will be able to point out where you need to improve as quickly.

    Some of our other articles aimed at case interview preparation are also relevant for the fit component. In particular, the articles on CEO-level Communication and the Pyramid Principle will help you communicate more efficiently in the same way the STAR method aims to.

    Our comprehensive MCC Academy covers everything you need for both the case and fit interviews, though you can also take our fit interview course in isolation.

    Secret #: Structured Problem

    Consultants consider themselves as problem-solving professionals.

    To begin with, it does NOT mean that they solve problems by luck or because they have 20 years of work experience in a specific industry.

    However, it DOESmean that consultants solve problems using a logical and structured approach.

    Thus, your interviewer expects the same and will test your ability to:

    • Break down a complex problem into smaller, easier-to-solve problems
    • Organize these sub-problems in a logical way
    • Explain the relationship between an issue and the overall problem

    To break down a problems and organize its key components in a logical way, you need to know how to build MECE issue trees.

    This case interview prep guide will define what MECE means and how to build MECE issue trees in the Develop Your MECE Issue Trees section.

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    Case Interview Prep Tips

    Here are some tips to help you prepare for case interviews:

    • Practise active listening. During a case interview, it is important to listen closely to an interviewer to ensure you understand their questions. Practise active listening by engaging with others, paying attention when they speak and responding appropriately.

    • Ask others for feedback. When you practise case interview questions with a friend or family member, ask for their feedback on your responses. Use this feedback to identify areas where you can improve as you continue practising.

    • Record yourself. Whether you practise independently or with another person, record yourself speaking so you can analyse your responses. Listen carefully to evaluate the tone, speed and quality of your responses.

    • Time your answers. Most case interviews last 15 to 30 minutes, and interviewers may ask one question or a series of questions. It is helpful to time yourself while practising so you feel comfortable answering questions concisely or speaking for longer periods of time.

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