On the case interview preparation

Top consulting firms such as McKinsey, Bain and BCG rely heavily on case interviews for selecting candidates. The process is also used by the Big 4 firms when hiring for their consulting practice. And it also forms an integral part of the selection process employed by some other niche consulting and analytics firms (like ZS, EXL and Smart Cube). Case interviews are actually one of the few shortlisting processes which actually simulate the job to which you’re applying to. It offers the firms a great way of knowing whether you’ll make a good consultant or not.

Case studies test the candidate’s business sense and logical thinking abilities. Ideally, the interviewer gives you a problem statement and you’re expected to extract relevant information for solving the problem from the interviewer by asking questions and further use it to formulate your recommendations. For example, a problem statement looks something like this – “Your client is an electric car manufacturer who wants to enter the Indian market. How should he go about evaluating whether it’d be a profitable move or not? What should be his market entry strategy?”

A good way to start the case is by reiterating the problem statement to the interviewer so that you’re sure of solving the right problem. It also displays that you are a good listener and you understand the problem first before starting to solve it. I have listed down a few resources that you can use to get well-versed with the process. I’d recommend going through them and getting an idea of the various frameworks. Post that you’ll be able to come up with your own unique approach to solving the problems.

  1. Reading business news helps, period. Newspapers like The Economic Times and The Mint offer great insights into business situations. Follow the startup section as they contain a lot of news around expansion, initial public offerings, organisational structure, portfolio diversification, mergers & acquisitions, profit & loss and how the companies and their competitors react to critical situations.
  2. Victor Cheng’s videos offer a great starting point for the interview preparation. Download the frameworks from his website and learn it exhaustively.
  3. Once done with this, follow it up with this 5-video series by two IIT Bombay students. They have also published a book called “Case Interviews Cracked” and it is a great book for becoming proficient in solving cases. They have developed an evolved approach which is based on Victor Cheng’s frameworks but is more methodical and intuitive. The other good thing about the book is that it also contains some very good guesstimate questions. I’d highly recommend it to everyone.
  4. Consulting contains a lot of jargons and knowing them comes in handy during the interviews. Here are a few links that can be referred ~ Consulting Glossary  | Consulting Content Terminology
  5. Practice in groups of 2 or 3. That is the only way to improve. Focus on solving diverse high-quality cases. Casebooks from top business schools such as Harvard and IIM A are very good resources. “Case in Point” is a great book for practising purely qualitative cases like those involving growth strategy or market share protection.
  6. Always have the mindset that you’re discussing a problem with someone. The interviewer is there to hire you and not reject you. There are many ways of reaching the right answer, what they want to check is how structured and how MECE is your approach. It is important that you keep making sense to yourself.
  7. Write legibly and make sure that you back your assertions/recommendations with solid data and reasoning.
  8. Miscellaneous resources for further understanding the intricacies of the case interview process ~ Shine at a Bain InterviewInterviewing with McKinsey: Case study interview

For me personally, the entire preparation phase and the interview process was a great experience. I developed a structured approach to solving problems and I was able to apply it to various other endeavours as well. I was able to make it to PwC Advisory which is the consulting arm of the organisation.

All the best for your preparation! Feel free to reach out for any queries that you might have.

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