Case interviews: Quick Recap

Paul really wants to get into consulting. He likes the stimulating environment, the workplace harmony, as well as the high profile of the engagements.

He has really worked hard to prepare for his case interview this morning!

With the help of Google, he found lots of interesting material online like marketing e-books, ready to use frameworks, “look over my shoulder” material and so on.

With the abundance of such services, he has spent the last couple of months practicing for this case interview.

Paul was very optimistic about finally getting the job!

The day of the interview comes, he walks in there confidently and soon afterwards, the feedback call:

  • Hmm, Paul, I have to say it was a difficult decision on our side. To be honest, we did not see you approaching the problem as a consultant. I am sorry, but at this time we cannot proceed working with you.

What happened? How would a consultant have approached this case differently?

First let’s look at how a typical MBB interview looks like. It will usually have 3 key sections:

-The introduction part where you introduce yourself and go over your experience.

-The business case part where you would be expected to solve a case problem.

– The fit interview that includes the Q&A part, where you can pose your questions about the firm or your role or any other question you may have for the interviewer.

The business case and the fit interview are the two main challenging parts! Let’s look at the former.

You’ll be given a business case. Nothing to be scared of, it’s just a problem to solve! It is usually about a catastrophe which company or any other organization could face. Therefore, your job as a consultant would be to present solutions.

On another note, the case prompts may vary. For example: Profits may decline while the revenues increase!

Here are few questions that you may be asked in a case interview.

-Our NGO wants to raise as much money as possible, what should we focus on?

-We want to expand, should we enter new markets? Which ones?

-How do we react to the aggressive moves of our competitors?

Now, back to Paul. After talking to a number of consultants, he finally managed to get the right solution for the case!

Rather than focusing on applying frameworks, he focused on applying the same logical approach any experienced consultant may come up with.

That’s the key to be successful in a consulting interview. It all about the right approach, not the right solution. If it’s your lucky day, you can get to the right solution even with the wrong approach! That is if you are particularly familiar with the discussed topic. But, it is still unlikely that you would be able to replicate your performance in the field, if hired.

Most candidates try to get to a solution by applying the framework approach, it looks something like this:

  • Identify case type
  • Apply a prepackaged solution
  • Perform the calculations
  • Provide a recommendation

This approach has several shortcomings; the most important being that it is impossible to have a prepackaged solution to a real world problem.

If your logical approach is correct, you will crack one case after the other since that’s what firms are looking for!

In a business case you must clarify the problem, build a structure, lead the analysis and provide recommendations. You can find the method summarized below.

The first part is about yourself. Sounds easy? It depends, interviewers usually know how to make things a bit challenging! There are two broad types of questions you should expect:

  • First would be about your past experience: What tasks did you handle in your previous job? How did you approach a certain challenge? Why do you think you’re a good leader?
  • And second one would be about your status: Do you see yourself as consultant? Why did you apply to our company? Why not investment banking? The interviewers always make sure that you are clear about what you want in your future.
  • Keep in mind that your past experience can tell a lot about your future performance. Again, they won’t be that much interested in what happened, but rather in how you used to approach issues.
  • Also, your motivation to work hard in such a fast paced environment is key! Do you really want to be a consultant? Are you really ready to put in the hard work it requires?
  • And remember, there is no ranking between case and fit: they are both equally important!
  • Companies would rather hire a motivated candidate than a smart experienced tardy one!

If you have any questions, please ask below!