Anyone aspiring to become a professional management consultant knows what a case interview is. It’s the biggest hurdle in the way, and without passing it, there’s no career in consultancy. That’s why proper case interview prep is a huge deal and why it can get you the job.
Case interviews have the reputation of being extraordinarily hard. In order to truly prepare for such a difficult challenge, candidates spend endless hours practicing.
Today, we’ll show you exactly what it is that you need to do in order to prepare for a case interview.
Case Interview — What Is It?
The case interview is a special part of the interview that you usually get when you apply for a job at a management consulting agency. Recently, investment bankers and tech corporations have gotten around to using similar tests. But overall, it’s still the consulting firms that apply it the most.
A case interview is a simulated business situation, or more precisely, a hypothetical problem that the company’s facing. The interviewer will tell you what the issue is and ask you to find a solution to the problem.
Usually, the case has something to do with profitability issues or entering new geographical markets. But it can also be anything in between as well. That’s the trick — problems that businesses face are quite unique and sometimes very unusual.
You have to think on your feet and come to a satisfying conclusion, or at least try and get into the ballpark of the correct answer.
The interview process for a consulting firm usually takes about an hour. Most of that time (anywhere from 20-40 minutes) will be spent on cracking the case. Before that, you get to talk to the interviewer, say something about yourself, and talk about why you want to go into consulting. That’s called the fit interview.
After the case interview, you’ll have a couple of minutes left to ask your interviewer any questions you might have.
As you can see, the case interview is the core component of getting a job in a consulting agency. That’s what makes the case interview prep so crucial. You can find a case partner to practice with here: myconsultingcoach.com/case-interview-coaching
What Is the Interviewer Looking for?
Of course, you need to know what your interviewer will be on the lookout for. That way, you can ensure you’re prepared for anything. In other words, the question is: what is the purpose of the case interview?
The purpose is to determine how agile you are, the way you structure and analyze problems, and how well you work under pressure.
The interviewer will like to see how dexterous your mind is, and if you have the right sort of mindset for the consulting business. They’ll be paying close attention to your thought processes, how you apply cold logic to real-world situations, and how accurate your final assessment of the problem is going to be.
It might seem like a lot, and it is. That’s why you need to prepare for the interview and work hard on multiple mock cases.
Here are a couple of things to get you started, and hopefully help you join one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Case Interview Prep
Follow the advice we provide here to maximize the gains from your case interview prep.
Frameworks Are a Place to Start
Frameworks are ready-made solutions to some of the more common problems of the business world. They are already structured for your convenience but limited in the scope of problems they can solve.
If you’re new to case interviews, then frameworks are a decent place to start. You’ll get an idea of what analysis looks like and how to organize the problems. Frameworks tear apart larger problems into smaller components that are then easier to solve.
Instead of memorizing frameworks by heart, you should instead learn how they’re structured and what the purpose is (fragmenting problems). Interviewers don’t like it when you try to jam real-world problems into pre-existing frameworks.
That only shows you’re good at remembering information, not solving problems. And the latter is the core strength of a consultant.
So you need to learn to think like one. Consultants are always on the lookout for new and practical ways to structure some business problem. The more you come to think like a consultant, the easier it will become for you to create custom-made frameworks to solve any unique problem out there.
Practice Makes Perfect
But how can you begin to think like a consultant? All it takes is an enormous amount of practice.
The more problems and business situations you face, the more confident you’ll be. There are many websites that offer you to practice case interviews with a partner.
Of course, if you already know someone who used to be a consultant, preferably for MBB or one of the Big Four, then, by all means, get them to help you. They’ll act as the interviewer and pose difficult questions for you to answer. The more cases you crack, the more comfortable you’ll feel when the time comes for the real interview.
You should have well over a hundred mock case interviews under your belt to be ruly prepared for the real thing.
When you find a partner to practice with, make sure to play the role of the interviewer yourself.
That will provide you with a unique perspective and help you see what it is that the interviewers expect. It will also show you what mistakes to avoid yourself.
Do the math, When the time comes for the real interview, you’ll have to work with large numbers in short time frames.
Learn some shortcuts to help you get to the result faster, as it’s something your interviewer will be grading as well.
Ask Questions and Take Notes
You can bring a piece of paper to the interview and write down the details as the interviewer present the problem to you.
It’s highly probable there will be too many bits of information to remember, so come prepared. Ask the interviewer if that’s alright, but in most consulting interviews it is.
Which brings us to the second point. Ask as many questions as you need. That way, you show the interviewer you’re paying attention and that you know how to ask the right questions. They’ll oblige and give you more information about the case.
You can do the same with your prep partner. Note down what they’re saying and ask them for more details when you need to. You can use those notes later to analyze the case you finished and see how you responded.
Case interview prep will take up a lot of time. You’ll need to go over a hundred cases with a skilled partner (or more of them if possible).
But it’s the necessary step if you want a job in consulting. Only by practicing day in, day out can you hope to become a management consultant. It’s a career path that requires a lot of hard work, and you need to show the interviewer you can handle that.