How to Shift Your Mindset to Ace the Case And Land the Offer at Top Consulting Firms

Interviews were fast approaching and I knew I wasn’t on track. Nothing was working until I finally had a few key insights. These insights led to a 100% hit rate at my consulting and tech interviews, which included BCG, Strategy&, AT Kearney, Amazon, Cognizant, and several boutique consultancies.

What I discovered is that the interview outcome, a response of “We’re excited to tell you…” or “We regret to inform you…”, depends on just a few key factors.

Despite this, students are inundated with advice – often contradictory – about what to do and what not to do. Entire books are written about mastering the 30-minute case! Why? Content equals money. If experts were to make the process as simple as possible, they would see their revenue drop. They want to give you more advice, not better advice. That’s not my incentive, so here I’m laying outkey things you need to know.

So, what are these required mindset shifts? From my experience as a case coach for hundreds of candidates over the past few years, I’ve come across a few major things preventing interviewees from reaching their full potential. Here are some of those major mindset shifts needed to unleash your casing excellence.

Case Interview Coach Ian

By far the most self-reported struggle for candidates is coming up with a strong framework. In order to move past this, candidates need to practice, build their background knowledge of the world and business (through reading The Economist, The Financial Times, etc.), and be hypothesis and objective-driven.

However, just as important is the following mindset shift: everything you do should be structured like a framework. This means, most of your answers and thought processes should have buckets, or steps, that are clearly articulated and get you to an answer.

For example:

When reading a chart: You should be thinking and saying “I see x information, which gives me the 3 following possibilities. Possibility 1 is the most likely due to y, but to weigh the 3 options I would need to understand a and b”.

When responding to a brainstorming question: You should organize your response categorically. I.e. “There are probably 3 main ways x company could reduce operating expenses. They are a, b, and c. Within “a” they could…”

When responding to a Fit/Behavioral question: Different parts of your story should use the bucketing and signposting concepts. If asked about a time when you turned around a project, you should say “I identified 3 main issues: a, b, and c. To resolve “a”, I did x. To resolve “b” I did y. To resolve “c” I did z.

To summarize, leverage the framing mentality in the majority of your interactions with the interviewer. This means categorizing your response into buckets, staying MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive), sign-posting, and directly addressing the objective/question at hand.

Too often, candidates approach a case like a test. Few resources emphasize the fact that a case is real life – it actually happened, albeit during a much more complicated and lengthy period. With few exceptions, interviewers have designed their own cases. They do so based on a selected project. After writing their case, the case goes through an internal review process before being approved to be used in interviews. All of this means the interviewer lived this case!

As such, it’s extremely powerful to put yourself in the mindset of physically being at the client, hearing their question, and working with a team to brainstorm and find the answer. What framework would you really create if you were at the client site? What would your hypothesis really be? How would you actually go about proving/disproving this hypothesis and what information could you reasonably get? What would your recommendation to the CEO and/or senior executives really look like?

Just as importantly, what does the interviewer want to see from you? In 30 minutes you are trying to demonstrate to him/her what you would be like on an 8-week project. On day 1 you would be in a room, whiteboarding and brainstorming through frameworking. Are you coachable? Do you drive your own module and come up with your own possible solutions? Can you identify key takeaways from sparse or overwhelming amounts of information?

Picture yourself at a real company, with a real problem, as part of a real team, and your casing will become that much more real and effective.

I used to like the expression “the case is a behavioral and the behavioral is a case,” but I’ve realized over time that everything is a behavioral interview. Yes, you need to have organized thoughts. Yes, you need to solve the problem. Yes, you need to get the math right. But we know this already. Everyone who walks into the interview should get those things right! This does not differentiate you from other candidates.

To get there, many candidates practice into a coffee-induced comatose state and forget the big picture. The interview is about who you are. Can you work in a team with others? Can you be put in front of a client? Is the person interviewing you left curious and wanting to get to know you more, or left gasping for social air?

So, how does this translate into acing a case? Be normal. I don’t mean act stock standard and boring. Instead, be who you would be at work. Ask those tough questions, show curiosity, and don’t be afraid to say you haven’t encountered a problem like this before or to make a light joke (ok, maybe not if it’s McKinsey). Respect the interviewer like you would a manager, but show them you are a person. They don’t need you to know the decision tree of a case (there isn’t one) or to be an expert in the industry in question. They just want a break from the monotonous, banal garble that is most interviewees in a case. Show them who you are so they can see why they want to work with you instead of another candidate.

Make sure consulting or tech is right for you. Do you enjoy casing (at least did you enjoy it before you reached your 50th case)? Do you like dealing with ambiguity, solving problems, and understanding the world? If yes, you’ve got three major benefits:

  1. Interview preparation won’t feel like an uphill battle
  2. The interviewers will be able to sense your interest and excitement and you will be more likely to get an offer
  3. You’ll actually be glad you got an offer once you hit the trenches!

Unfortunately, many people only realize what they truly want during the interview. Try not to be one of them!

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If you want to move from just solving the case and being a good candidate to being an excellent one, the above mindset shifts should get you there.

Always be organized and MECE in your thoughts and explanations. Keep in mind that bucketing, signposting, and being hypothesis-driven are critical not just during the framework but throughout the entire case.

The case represents a real project and gives the interviewer an idea of how you would perform. Think about the case in this way and you can transform yourself from one candidate among many into a practiced consultant ready to hit the ground running from day one.

Properly preparing for strategy consulting interviews doesn’t just mean learning the process, memorizing frameworks, and casing all-out; in order to ensure success it’s also critically important that a mindset shift occurs. Good candidates get the right answer. Excellent candidates do so in a very particular way – and this is the best way to ensure an offer.

I want to re-emphasize that you still need to use the right framework, understand industry dynamics, research your company, solve the problem, be structured, and get your math right; the fundamentals have to be there. However, don’t lose sight of the big picture! If you understand that the case is real life, that the job you are applying for will be an extended case, and that the interviewers want to see that your personality is right for the job, then you’re ahead of the rest. If you recognize this and also confirm that this is what you want and where you know you’ll thrive, then hello MBB and The Big Four.

About the Author


BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

  • Professional Experience: Boston Consulting Group, Appian Corporation
  • Languages: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Location: USA

Ian started his career at Appian, an IT Consultancy, where he realized how great a company they were (great people, interesting work, and great company and personal growth prospects). He signed on the dotted line and, 4 years later, he had been promoted twice, moved to Australia, and learned a plethora of valuable skills (Client and project management, leadership, database design, IT architecture, coding, etc).  This experience built the foundation for who he is today both professionally and personally. Ian joined PrepLounge as more of a "side hustle". He read a lot on personal finance and it has also been drilled into him to have diversified income streams. 
However, what started as a 1 or 2 session per week gig turned into something far more - it turned out that he gets immense joy and satisfaction from teaching! Now, he focuses a lot more on what he loves to do - contracting/consulting has now ironically become the "side hustle"!