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What is the best way to prep for a case style interview at a big four accounting firm?

What is the best way to prep for a case style interview at a big four accounting firm?

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Amanda’s Answer

Hey Matthew,

I have both done case interviews myself as well as conducted them. The key for being prepared is checking out sample case interviews online and practicing as much as you can. There are certain structures for how to conduct case interviews in the most effective way, so check those out as well. It's always important to take your time, ensure you are communicating clearly to the interviewer what your thought process is, and making sure you ask any clarifying questions if needed.

In terms of practicing, choose some sample case studies, grab a friend, and run through the case with them. It's important to practice cases out loud as this can make a big difference in how you practice your communication and articulate your thoughts. Lastly, I would take into account what type of consulting you are interviewing for. For example, if you are interviewing for a technical consulting position, you may have a case study that also has questions on how to introduce or implement a new technology and what your strategy for that would be. If you are looking at management consulting, it might be more financial and numbers focused where you might have to do some quick math during the case study.

At the end of the day, practice is very important and remembering that a case study is just a problem you are being asked to solve- which you do everyday!

Good luck!
Amanda
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Ryan’s Answer

The key to a case interview is to give insight into your thought process, and how you address a problem. Honestly, I don't think churning through tons of case study questions will help you significantly. They'll all be different scenarios and, very honestly, the scenario itself doesn't matter at all. Do one or two case studies and practice breaking down the problem and structuring your thought process, questions, and how you describe your thoughts. You do need to be verbal, so get used to it, rather than just writing things down. Talk out loud -- for example "After introductions with the CEO, and maybe a little small talk (maybe I see a picture of one of her kids playing sports and ask a question about that, to break the ice a little). I'd mention that we received the background info her team sent over, and had reviewed it together. I'd start with open ended questions if she could tell us more about how this idea came to be, and what was the impetus for it. My goal would be to learn more about her strategy, and why this new idea was important to them."

Your interviewer will likely ask for a couple illustrative questions from you. A good case interviewer will respond as if they are the client. A great case interviewer will also sidebar with you and try to understand more about what's going on in your head -- to understand how you got to that question, what your thoughts are -- and answer your question to keep you moving forward.

The only person I ever completely failed on a case interview gave me a definitive answer only minutes into the interview. Realize that you've been given 2-3 pages of information, typically set out as a brief before a meeting with an executive at one of your clients. It's typically an early-stage meeting and the case lays out a high level problem they have, some initial actions they may have taken to date, and other relevant information. You're likely "meeting" with a senior executive at the company. They know far more than what's on the brief you were given and, more importantly, there is info "between the lines" that is important (and potentially more important) than the info you've been given.

You want to ask open ended questions. You should verbalize why and what types of questions you would ask.

For example, you may be given a case study of a cellular provider who is considering launching a new service or a new type of device. The case may describe info about their subscribers, growth or challenges they've had in the market, and what this new service/device would entail. You're going to meet with the CEO to learn more and understand how XYZ company may help them. The case may seem like it's trapping you to give an answer (like, should they start this new service?).

I'd want to know what the impetus is for this new service/device. What's their ultimate goal here? This is incredibly important -- what it may seem their goal is, is often different than what the goal actually is. Everything will tie back to WHY they want to do this. You should ask a lot of questions around why. Are competitors offering this new type of service, or is our client trying to be a first mover? Is the goal to raise more revenue (more $ from current base), new revenue (new subscribers), higher margins, better tech offerings to subs, better brand recognition, the list goes on?

Is that goal in line with their corporate brand, are they known for this? This seems like a new opportunity, and potentially a great one, but are there concerns in executing it? Do they have enough people to commit to this effort? What's the pricing model and has that been fully flushed out, is there incentive pricing (tie this back to their goal -- get more subs, more revenue, higher margin, better brand recognition [these don't always correlate to each other]). What other considerations would there be -- marketing adjustments, call center education on the new service, sales force or store employee education, etc... have these been considered or roadmapped?

Ultimately, your line of questioning should focus on their strategy -- the WHY, their goals, their concerns, the potential market/opportunity for them, other players that need to be involved (these efforts usually include most parts of their org at some level). Also, you should lean more heavily on areas related to the role you're interviewing for. It would be weird to interview for a tech consulting role and ask only questions about HR. It certainly helps to ask one to show the breadth of your thinking -- great consultants know how to connect clients to other great consultants.
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Gloria’s Answer

Hi Matthew,

I have not done a case style interview. I am replying to your question since I feel that the answer to your question has at least one answer - make sure that you do actually prepare. My experience is with behavioral interviewing, where you are given situations and asked what you did or what you would do. In these types of interviews, you can never really know what you will be asked, however, you can guess. A lot of it has to do with thinking about the job that you are trying to get. And to prepare - both questions that you think that you will be asked and answers that you think that you would give.

I am not sure of your situation, but if you are in a college program for accounting, I am sure that you have access to individuals who can help you prepare. They can ask you case style questions and you can practice answering those types of questions. Your initial challenge will be to think about what questions you may be asked. You can research online about those firms that you want to interview with to get a sense of the types of questions that they may ask. In this way, you are putting yourself in the interviewer's shoes. What questions do you think that they would ask? What questions are you worried about not being able to answer? Prepare questions and then do several mock interviews and take them very seriously. If you know someone who has already experienced this type of interview, ask them how they did and what they would have done differently.

So preparation is like this: what do you think that you will be asked? How will you answer? What have others who have experienced this type of interview been asked and how have they handled it?

Good luck with your interviews. With preparation, you will always know that you have done your best.

Gloria

Gloria recommends the following next steps:

Research sites like: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/case-interview-examples
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Tammy’s Answer

Hi Matthew,

The best way to prepare is to practice and rehearse. One strategy that you may have heard of is called the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This can be used any interview, not only case studies. Always have an answer and tell a story to impress your interviewer. Explain your situation and the task that you were given to do through one of your experiences. Continue by showing how your actions impacted you and others around you in a positive way. Finally, describe how the situation and your actions led to the end result, which should complete your story and bring you full circle to solving an important problem. Try to anticipate what your interviewer may ask you and do research online such as on websites that your school recommends or through Glassdoor. Another great resource to try is Big Interview, which can help you prepare through a simulation of practice interview questions that you may encounter. The best part of the program is that you can practice on your own time when friends or family are not available to practice with you!

Hope that this helps and wishing you the best of luck for your interview.
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Patrick’s Answer

The biggest point to remember is that this is much more of a learned skill than an inherent skill. The best people at case interviews are almost always those who have practiced the most rather than just the "smartest." So regardless of what kind of practice you do know that you'll want to do a lot of it (several hours at least, more for most people).

In addition, a case interview can take very different forms depending on which company is doing it and what role they are hiring for. A lot of the traditional books on case interviews focus a lot on the kind of case interview given by strategy consulting firms, for example. While the lessons in these books (structured thinking, vocalizing your thought process, stating assumptions, etc.) are largely generalizable, you may want to try to find anything you can either online, or from anyone you happen to know at the company you're interviewing at, about the specifics of that company's case interview. Often a recruiter will have some approved prep materials they can share with you as well. These won't give you the "answer" but they will give you a more specific sense of the format of the case that you can likely expect, which will help with practice.

Also, as much as possible, do your practicing with another person acting as the interviewer, ideally somebody who has been through the process before. This will be much more effective than working off sample cases in a book by yourself.
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Saranya’s Answer

Hi Matthew,

Good luck with your preparation!

First of all, case interview is a for assessing your way of approaching the specific business situation and how you would like to handle this specific situation. On my case interview experience, Interviewer expectations was that there isn't really a right or wrong answer to the question, the interviewer is looking whether I'm able to come up with some solution. They might also expect how you ask a question and logic you use.
Make sure you completely understand the question before you work out your solution. Take your time and no need to rush through the case interview. If you don't understand anything at any point, just ask for clarification.

Here is link that might helpful of your choice

https://igotanoffer.com/blogs/mckinsey-case-interview-blog/case-interview-examples
https://igotanoffer.com/blogs/mckinsey-case-interview-blog/case-interview

Happy Learning!

Regards,
Saranya

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