How to Prep for a Case Interview

Sponsored by, EY

One of the keys to becoming a management consultant is successfully navigating the interview process. This involves being able to talk about yourself and your experience during the fit (or experience) interview and also demonstrating your problem-solving abilities and analytical skills during the case interview. Although the case interview might seem a bit intimidating at first, with a good amount of practice and a structured approach, you can ace the questions and get one step closer to landing the job.

Here are some case study interview tips to help you prepare.

1. Know what to expect from a case interview

Case interviews consist of several questions designed to test your problem-solving abilities and your analytical skills. These questions come in three formats: 1) Creative questions such as, “What are the different segments of the wheelchair market in the United States?” 2) Market-sizing questions such as, “How big is the market for eyeglasses in the U.S. this year?” and 3) Analytical questions such as, “Given this data, synthesize and determine the best approach for entering the Indian market and doubling revenue of Company X.”

While there may be some people who have a natural ability to answer these types of questions, most people need to establish a framework for solving these sorts of problems. This is where having a structured approach comes in.

Here’s how to come up with your answer:

Frameworking: Lay out a logical path to the answer by analyzing each part of the question in turn and then looking at the question as a whole. You can use specific frameworks to do this (which you can find in prep books like Case in Point), but you should keep in mind that you need to be able to adapt these frameworks to the particular question you’re answering.

Data gathering: Ask questions that will give you a better understanding of the problem and use the answers to reframe your thinking. Once you’ve obtained some additional information, repeat it back to the interviewer to make sure that you didn’t miss anything. After all of the information has been presented and you’ve asked your follow-up questions, you can ask the interviewer a final catch-all question like, “Is there anything else I should know about?” This will give the interviewer a chance to offer you any remaining information before you begin your analysis.

Pro Tip: If you’re going to make an assumption during the data gathering process, you should be explicit and tell the interviewer the exact assumption you’re making. This will show them that you’re approaching the problem thoughtfully and filling in the gaps in a strategic way.

Analysis: Once you have your framework in place and you’ve gathered the necessary data, ask the interviewer for 30 seconds to analyze the information. Then, combine this information with your own assumptions about the problem to come up with your answer. Having sheets of paper in front of you and actually drawing out slides in front of the interviewer can be especially effective here since consulting relies heavily on presentations to deliver solutions to clients. Be sure to explain every step of your analysis as you go through it since this will give the interviewer a chance to step in if you make a mistake or go the wrong way.

Recommendation: Now take the output and turn it into something actionable that the client can use, ensuring that your insights are data-driven and your assumptions are explicitly stated. For example, if you’ve discovered that a client’s product does best with a millennial consumer base and millennials are much more likely to buy these sorts of products online, your recommendation could be that the client increase their eCommerce efforts, focusing specifically on promoting their products through Amazon and Facebook.

Delivery: The way you deliver the solution is as important as the solution itself. Combining an articulate, structured, confident approach with humility is key here since you need to be able to convince the client that your solution is both solid and data-driven, while also leaving room to make adjustments as needed.

2. Practice interviewing with other people

Being able to solve problems quickly and consistently is all about practice. This is especially true because case interviews don’t test what you know, they test how you think. The most important skills to develop are mental agility and consistency, and practicing with others is the only want to ensure that you can develop these skills effectively. This is for two reasons: The first is that you’ll get feedback on different aspects of your problem-solving and communication skills and the second is that you’ll learn how to communicate your answers clearly to a broad range of people.

3. Look at everyday problems as case studies

Analyzing case studies from a book will certainly go a long way towards preparing you for the interview process but to really train your brain to think analytically and creatively all the time, it’s important to start thinking about everyday issues in the same way you would a case study. To do this, it’s not necessarily important to create real-life scenarios that relate to specific types of questions (creative, analytical or otherwise) but to practice shaping your thoughts and decisions in a very structured way. It’s important to remember that practicing for the case interview is about training your brain to think of the world at large as a problem waiting to be solved.

By knowing what to expect from the interview process and coming up with a structured approach for analyzing case studies, you’ll be sure to navigate your case interview successfully and make a great impression on the interviewer.

Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 6 Things to Do in Your First Week at a New Job and find answers to common interview questions such as Are You Willing to Travel?

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