The Most Common Case Study Interview Questions
Case study interview questions generally mirror the work of the employer.
If a candidate is interviewing for a role that is focused on a specific industry or function its necessary to have researched the typical projects that might be worked on and their respective solutions. These types of problems will likely come up during the case interview.
If a candidate is interviewing for a generalist role, they should get familiar with the most common business questions faced by CEOs, and their approaches to solving them. Consultants at MBBs are commonly involved in solving these questions and they often tend to come up in business case interviews. The questions include:
However, to avoid candidates gaming the system, the top-tier firms are moving away from the more common types of cases. London Business School MBA students reported that a third of the case study interview questions they saw when interviewing with top consulting firms did not fall within any of the above question types.
Dont Forget About The Personal Fit
It doesnt matter how much you ace the case, but if you are not a personal fit to the company, you will not get the job offer. After all, consulting is a peoples business, that includes teamwork and spending a lot of time with your colleagues. In order to ace the personal fit part of the interview, it is important that you understand whatany interviewer is looking for in a candidate to decide that he or she is a personal fit. Typically, the interviewer has three primary questions in mind.
Then, you have to learn how to convey to the interviewer that you comply with what he or she is looking for. Practice your answers to personal fit questions with other candidates or experts:
- Why management consulting?
The Bottom Line For Effective Case Interview Prep
The case study interview is not as complex as it seems if you break it into 4 parts.
Practicing each part of the case on its own will make your consulting interview preparation both more efficient and more effective.
Now that youre familiar with the 4-part approach to a case interview, the next thing to learn is the 4 different formats case interviews can take.
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Three: Practice 3 5 Cases Independently
Once you have learned the right strategies, the next step in case interview prep is to practice.
When practicing case interviews, it is usually better to practice with a case interview partner than to practice by yourself. Casing with a partner better simulates the real case interview experience.
However, when you are just starting to practice, I recommend doing the first 3 5 cases by yourself.
There are three reasons for this:
- You can get the hang of the case interview structure and format much more quickly working by yourself rather than having to wait to schedule a time with a partner
- There are many aspects of case interviews that you can practice without a partner, such as structuring a framework and solving quantitative problems. You can get much more practice working through these parts by yourself
- You may have difficulty finding a case interview partner if you are a complete beginner. Without having done any cases, you likely wont know how to properly give a case or provide good feedback
There are several sources to get cases that you can practice individually:
- The books and online course I previously recommended all have practice cases
You can also use this full list of case interview examples and practice cases from 12+ different consulting firms.
After doing the first 3 5 cases independently, move onto practicing cases with a case interview partner.
Master A Consistent Method To Crack Cases
The second step of your preparation should be to master a consistent method to crack case interviews. On the day of your interview, you will likely be extremely stressed. Being able to fall back on a consistent method you have mastered will be invaluable as a result.
In case interviews, you will encounter 7 different types of questions. In our experience, the best way to consistently crack cases is to learn how to consistently crack each type of question in isolation. When you are able to solve each of the distinct question types, then you will be able to solve the case as a whole. You can learn what these 7 question types are, in the video below:
This makes the whole learning process much more manageable. It means you can more easily measure your progress and focus your preparation on the areas of consulting interviews you are less comfortable with. For each of the 7 question types you should therefore develop a step-by-step method that you always use.
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What Are Firms Looking For In Interviews
Interviewers look for a wide range of problem-solving skills including but not limited to business acumen, communication skills, and analytical ability. Lets break down the 14 skills that will help you stand out in your case interview.
Consulting success depends on your ability to break down a problem into its component parts, and then prioritize the right component to find the key cause of a problem.
As a consultant, you possess influence without authority. Therefore, you must be able to develop a clear process that will gain buy-in from your peers, manager and potentially client.
Finally, youll be working with large quantities of data as a consultant. Being structured in the interview conveys that youll be able to analyze large amounts of data on the job to arrive at insights that make a difference for your client.
One of the frequent challenges consultants face is that business situations involve not just large quantities of data but a variety of data. Maintaining the integrity of the data is critical to solving problems. Consider the Profitability Framework. First it separates profitability into revenues and costs, and the kinds of data proliferate from there into increasing levels of granularity.
MECE, which stands for Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive, is core to a consulting mindset and is the optimal way to organize information.
Second Round Of The Case Interview
This time, the second round of the interview will have a different spin. The second round will have another case interview and a fit interview. However, unlike the first round, you will do a group case interview.
In the second round of the interview, you will be assigned to a group. There will be four to six people within a group. Then, you will be given by the interviewer a case, along with it, some data materials for your reference. You will be given 10 minutes to study the material.
Once the 10 minutes is up, you are then to discuss with each other about the case for 20 minutes. During the discussion, the interviewer will merely observe. They are observing your team dynamics and see how each one is contributing to the team. After 20 minutes, the interviewer will then begin to ask questions to the group for another 15 to 20 minutes.
You must appear confident throughout the interview. Even if you are not sure of anything, fake it. Impressions matters a lot.
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Practice With A Partner Or An Expert
If possible, find a case interview partner to help you better simulate the interview. However, trying to find a high-quality partner is proving rather difficult. But, the better your partner is, the more efficient your preparation will be. Spend some time trying to find a good partner to best simulate a case interview.
If possible, ask an expert or coach to help you practice better. Experienced consultants are the ones that truly understand the day-to-day job of a consultant. Ask for advice and feedback from them. With their expertise, they can help you improve a lot.
Tips For Answering Case Interview Questions
Your case interview may be less stressful if you have an idea of whats going to happen. Here are some tips for handling case interview questions:
Understand the question. Paraphrase the question before answering to make sure you understand the problem. If youre not clear on the question be sure to ask for more information.
Be prepared to take notes. Most companies allow interviewees to take notes during the interview if so, you should be prepared. Bring lined paper to the interview for notes and bring some graph paper as well, in case you need to draw any charts.
Theres no need to rush. Take your time answering each question logically think through the problem before arriving at a solution.
Ask questions. Case interviews are interactive feel comfortable asking your interviewer clarifying questions to gain more information. In fact, your interviewer will expect you to ask questions.
Always explain how you arrived at a solution, even if you are simply estimating a number. Remember that how you arrived at your answer is generally more important than the answer itself.
Stay professional. Although this is different from a traditional interview, its not the time to act too casually. Remain as professional as you would during a regular interview. Sit up straight, speak clearly, and make eye contact with the interviewer.
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Mental Math Drills And Questions
As we noted at the start of this article, consultants take mental math very seriously and you will need your calculations to be sharp in interview if you want to get a job. We have already noted a few “hacks” that will help you perform some operations more quickly. However, these arejust a small subset of a whole host of such skills which you should be able to draw upon.
Our video lesson on consulting math in MCC Academy explains a full set of such skills. Here, we’ll just take a look at a couple of these techniques to get an idea of the kind of methods consultants use day-to-day to make quick calculations – and which are invaluable in case interviews.
How Do You Succeed In Case Interviews
Case interviews, especially with one of the Big 4 Deloitte, KPMG, EY or PwC can be challenging, but there are some steps you can take to prepare for these.Practice
Like most things in life, practice makes better and by understanding exactly what is expected of you, youll be in a better position to be able to answer the questions. Reading cases and practicing online case study tests will help you get prepared for the interview. If you can get a buddy to help you practice, this will also benefit you. Ask for feedback from a friend, as this will give you a better understanding of what youre doing right and what you need to work on. If you cant find a buddy, practice by reading the cases aloud. The key to success with the case interviews is preparation and practice. It is also a good idea to practice calculations too, as this may be part of the process during case interviews. You may need to work out numbers and its important to have an understanding of how to work these out, especially when youre on the spot.
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Management Consulting Jobs Are In High Demand
Management consulting jobs are among the most sought-after positions in on-campus recruiting, whether youre applying as an undergraduate or from a business school.
Consulting firm recruits also include law school students, Ph.D. program candidates and people whove already started their professional careers in other industries.
Management consulting firms are filled with smart, driven people working to solve hard business problems.
This work is a great launching pad for your career.
Top consultancies offer competitive salaries and also invest significantly in employee development. A job at a management consulting firm will expose you to multiple different industries and types of business problems.
Theres a lot to like about a career in consulting!
What Are The Best Ways To Prepare For Interviews With Management Consulting Firms
If youre on this page, youre probably considering a career in management consulting or are already in the middle of the interview process.
Were here to help.
Were a team of more than 20 former McKinsey, Bain, and BCG consultants and recruiters and we put together this guide to help you prepare for getting your consulting offer.
After reading this, we hope congratulations is also what youll hear when you leave your final interviews.
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If A Hypothesis Is True Drill Down If Its False Go Sideways
What happens when we test a hypothesis?
Assuming that we have access to enough data, it either gets proven TRUE or proven FALSE. How do we proceed from here?
- Proven True: go DOWN the issue tree to sub-branches! Lets say the metal detector identified the key IS indeed on the first floor. Go deeper. Draw sub-branches of that first-floor branch and repeat the process.
- Proven False: go HORIZONTAL to other big branches! Lets say the metal detector denies the key presence in the first floor. We then can cross out this branch and go test others, a.k.a: the second and third floor.
Test, Sleep, Test, Repeat until the ROOT-CAUSE shows up!
Case Frameworks Are Not A Silver Bullet
Remember frameworks exist to help you figure out an approach to difficult problems. They are not a pre-written script to force-fit in response to a particular question youre being asked. The framework serves the problem, not the other way around.
Think of a case interview more like a chess game, in which each framework represents one potential maneuver in a longer sequence of moves.
Also, remember that the case interview is not just a problem to be solved but an audition. You want to demonstrate to your interviewers that you have the ability to respond to a question fluidly, independently responding to new inputs and maintaining perspective as you think on your feet. It is not helpful to demonstrate a rote memorization of the frameworks.
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Focus On The Task At Hand
Dont think too much about the approach your interviewer is taking. It should not matter much if the conversation is interviewer- or candidate-led. If you go into your interview with a profound understanding of how to handle even a difficult case, the format of the interview should not be an issue. Keep a cool head and structure your thoughts.
Using Frameworks To Structure Consulting Cases
Thirty years ago, people started to use frameworks to structure cases, as was popularized by the book Case in Point. Another book, Case Interview Secret, went further by suggesting that most consulting cases could be solved using a single one-size-fits-all framework.
Unfortunately, candidates who depend on these books today are being led down the wrong path. Top consulting firms are increasingly using unusual case questions that do not simply fit neatly into a generic framework. A candidate needs to demonstrate to an interviewer that they are capable of strongly structuring a case, as opposed to just relying on a framework.
Although frameworks should not be memorized and applied as is, knowing them can be a good starting point and source of inspiration when crafting bespoke consulting case study structures.
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Examples Of Case Interview Questions
The interview topics can be real cases handled by the firms or manufactured cases designed just for the interview. The interviewer is not looking for the right answer, though you may breeze your way into the next round of the hiring process if you manage to come up with it.
The interviewer is trying to find out how you approach the case, whether you ask the right questions, use structured ways of problem-solving, and can think out of the box. Do you use the data to quantify your recommendations and do you review your own solution realistically before suggesting it?
A case interview may last 30 minutes to an hour, and you may be put through half-a-dozen case interviews in a couple rounds or more, depending on the position applied for.
After an ice-breaking light banter, to find out whether you are a good fit for the organization, the interviewer will present the case question. You will be given time to study the case and can come up with questions to clarify it.
Here are some examples of case interview questions:
What A Good Structure Looks Like
Structuring is among the most difficult parts of the consulting case interview. While there isnt just one correct structure for a case interview question, there are many wrong ones.
A good structure needs to focus on the right question, break it down into an exhaustive set of independent drivers, provide an approach to solving the case, and supply helpful insights.
A common approach to ensuring a good structure is the AIM test . To expand upon this:
- Answer-focused means two things in practice: the structure focuses on the right question and it provides an approach to answering that question.
- Insightful means the structure is tailored to the specifics of the client or problem in the case and that it is not generic. If the structure can be applied to another case of a similar type, then it hasnt passed the Insightful test.
- Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive, or MECE means that the drivers outlined in the structure are exactly as such. Mutually Exclusive means that the drivers in the structure are independent and dont overlap they can be handled separately, or in turn. Collectively Exhaustive means that when combined, the drivers in the structure are comprehensive enough to answer the case question.
The video below describes the AIM test in more detail.
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