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How should I prepare for a Consulting Case Interview?

I'm interested in management consulting. How should I prepare for the case portion of interview? I haven't taken any business classes, although I have taken micro economics and macro economics.
#consulting #interviews #case-interview #management-consulting

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Allison’s Answer

Hi Rebecca,

The thing to keep in mind with most Case Studies is that there isn't one right answer. Most companies want to see how you would solve a problem and how you would think through implementing a solution. They know that you aren't going to have all the answers and know exactly what to do, because they know you are still a college student. The majority of companies are hiring you for your potential, not necessarily for who you are right now. They are looking for someone who can present themselves well, be articulate, be respectful, and is "coachable."

In your preparation, I would find a couple of case studies online and talk through them with someone you see as having some "Business knowledge" or Problem Solving prowess. This could be a friend who is a Business major or and Engineering major (some of the best consultants are engineering majors). Practice presenting and defending your answers. Have your buddy try and challenge you if you don't give adequate supporting information. Have them ask challenging questions to try and catch you off guard.

My last advice for you is to not try and pretend you know more than you do. If your interviewer asks you a question you don't know it is acceptable to say that you wouldn't know what to do in the situation. It is ok to say that you think you would do X but that you would check with your team first. I have never been a fan of faking it till you make it, because chances are your interviewer will see you as inauthentic and fake. It is ok to make some assumptions, but make sure you note them. Most case studies are purposefully designed to be vague, so you will probably have to make some assumptions. As I said before, your interviewer is not necessarily expecting you to come to a single correct answer, they want to see how you think.

Allison recommends the following next steps:

Find some Case Studies online to practice with
Find a smart friend to practice presenting with

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Gary’s Answer

First, know what type of consulting you wish to pursue, and only chase that path.

Having been interviewed and also having been on the other side of the table, my best suggestion is relax. As you will find, there is no single or even correct answer. The case studies are often real, but the key is demonstrating your thought process and approach to problem solving. I have found the best answers have come from candidates who are voracious readers and approach problems in a multidimensional view and not a single threaded path.

Gary recommends the following next steps:

Read often and regularly
Do not simply read US business books. Wisdom is found in many international writings and other texts.
Take a consultant to lunch. They can share direct experiences and more importantly, precious mistakes
Practice, practice, practice again.

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Veena’s Answer

In addition to the advice provided above, the following books helped me when I was preparing for case interviews in business school:

  • Crack the Case
  • Case in Point

Once you understand the basics of the case interview method and the types of frameworks you can leverage, the most important thing to do is practice, practice, practice. I joined a group of students and we would pair up with on another to practice case interviews together.

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Nevin’s Answer

First try to decide what types of companies you would be interested in - many of them have sample case interviews on their recruiting websites, and you should look at those. Also, many universities have consulting clubs that offer case interview books and practice. You can also search on the web for "case interview .pptx" or "case interview .pdf" and find some of those books.

Once you have a set of these, you should find some like-minded classmates/friends that are interested in joining consulting, and systematically role play practicing some of the interviews.

Remember that the interviewer will ask tough questions, but they are really on your side, they WANT to find someone great and really WANT you to succeed. It is a great day for an interviewer if they find a number of great candidates. So relax and try to envision having a business conversation. Try to take the lens of practical solutions you would discuss with a business owner, vs. theoretically perfect solutions you might investigate with a professor. These are not school assignments but business conversations. So if you know any business owner, try to envision having that conversation with them about their own business.

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Carlos’s Answer

Hi Rebecca - One more thing I would add is that there are a number of folks on YouTube who will walk you through how to tackle a case for your interview. Just one more resource you can use as you begin your journey. Happy casing!

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Yair’s Answer

which areas of management interest you?  

The people factor (team work, leaders)

Governance and control (KPIs, processes improvements)

The go to market approach and strategies

Program/project management .....    

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Aria’s Answer

If you have an interest and understanding of business then use this to help you figure out how you’d approach a problem or situation. There will always be some component of team work/collaboration, commmunication, and problem solving in the solution. If you include those you should be ok. I would also encourage you to google consulting case studies and see if you can find some to practice. Find friends that are business majors and run your thoughts by them.

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Adam’s Answer

In addition to all the other advice, I'd like to emphasize that case interviewing is a skill that can be learned. Some people need more practice than others, but it's something you can work on. In the months leading up to case interviews, I would devote as much time to case prep as you would to a normal class as the benefits of getting a job at a good consulting company are out-sized vs the effort.

Adam recommends the following next steps:

Get a case interview book
Find clubs and practice groups that will help you practice
Make a study and practice plan

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Anthony’s Answer

The consulting case interview can be both the most stressful part of an interview, as well as the most fun part. If you are a student, then you may not have too many actual client stories to pull from, but that's okay. Employers typically don't expect that everyone comes in with a ton of consulting experience. They will look for people who can share what they have done at internships, clubs, activities or even volunteering. What I wouldn't do is make up anything that isn't true or that you haven't done. People will readily see through that. Just be honest and share what you have gone through vs. what you think they want to hear.

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Nikki’s Answer

This is a great question Rebecca because learning how to answer consulting case questions will be beneficial for interviews in any career, not only in consulting.

I also recommend the book Case In Point and using it to learn how to frame your answer in an organized way quickly and effectively for a case interview. What the interviewer is looking for is your ability to approach the case in a systematic and methodical way by identifying what is being asked, breaking up the case into what is known and unknown and solving for the unknown.

One recommendation given to me was to articulate your thought process as you answer the case and ask specific questions that will help you get the missing information.

And of course, as recommended above, practice how to do mental math to quickly estimate some of the unknowns. It will take practice but focus on building the "muscle memory" to answer case questions. Good luck!

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Rose’s Answer

Hi Rebecca! In addition to recommending the book Case in Point, I would suggest brushing up on your mental math skills. Not every case interview will require you to do math, but sometimes you will have to estimate numbers and it's more difficult under pressure. You will definitely improve at case interviews over time - as cheesy as it sounds, practice makes perfect until you know what to expect. Take a deep breath and believe in yourself - you got this!

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Swarnadeep’s Answer

Hi Rebecca,

Some great advice above. I would also add that the casing interview is geared towards having a dialogue to know the candidate. In most cases, there are no right or wrong answers- the interviewer is looking for your interpersonal skills, thinking process and ability to make a strong case for your recommendations.

Make sure that you listen to the interviewer when he/she presents the case problem and ask relevant questions. It is never a good idea to rush into trying to solve the problem without understanding the nuances of the case/problem. While doing the case, structure the problem by what is known as a case framework and generate a hypothesis.

My last advice would be to practice cases regularly with other students as well as any alumni in consulting world and keep track of how you are improving incrementally.

Swarnadeep recommends the following next steps:

Find any case study bank online. There are plenty of free materials to get started
Identify a partner to case with. The case interview practice can't be done alone.
Practice, practice and practice again.