Case Interview 2021 – The Ultimate Guide for Your Case Prep

A case interview is a type of job interview in which the candidate must analyze and solve a problematic business scenario (“case study”). It is used to simulate the situation on-the-job and to find out if the respective candidate meets the necessary analytical and communications skills required for the profession. Case interviews are commonly and globally used during the selection processes at management consulting firms such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), or Bain & Company

Before the Case Interview
Tips for your preparation time
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Solve the Case Study
Solve the case in 10 steps
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During the Case Interview
13 tips for your interview day
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Table of Contents

Case Interview Questions and Answers 

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What Is a Case Interview?

case interview is part of the job interview process in which you as the candidate have to analyze and solve a problematic business scenario while interacting with the interviewer. The case study is often based on a problem the interviewer has worked on in real life. This part of the interview is intended to be more of a dialogue. You will need to be proactive and ask questions when attempting to close in on the correct conclusion. Oftentimes the consultant will attempt to guide you in the correct direction by asking questions himself.

During the entire application process, you will partake in up to six case interviews in two rounds or more. This is dependent on the position you are applying for. Most case interviews have the same underlying structure. An individual case interview may take up to an hour and usually consists of four parts:

Case Interview Format
  • ~ 5 minutes: Introduction and small talk
  • ~ 15 minutes: Personal Fit Interview
  • ~ 30 minutes: Case Interview
  • ~ 5 minutes: Your questions to the interviewer

Who Uses Case Interviews and Why?

Case interviews have always been a part of management consulting interviews. Nowadays, also marketing, strategy, operations, or retail positions tend to use similar formats because they are a great tool to probe the quantitative and qualitative skills of an applicant. It allows interviewers to get a deeper insight into how you present yourself as a candidate and apply the limited amount of information given to you.

The reason for the prevalence of the case interview format in management consulting is that the topics and themes handled in most cases reflect conditions close to the reality of the day-to-day activities of a consultancy. It requires the applicant to ask the right questions, apply structured frameworks, and think outside-the-box.

Case Interview Skills

What Are the Skills Required in a Case Interview?

A case interview has no “correct” or “standard” answer. There are often many solutions to a single case and in the end, what counts is your train of thought and how you got to your solution. The interviewer will evaluate you across five main areas:

1) Problem-Solving Skills 

The interviewer will analyze your ability to identify problems, isolate causes, and prioritize issues. During a case interview, you will be presented with a wide range of relevant and irrelevant data pieces. You must know how to use this data to make your recommendations and you have to prove that you are able to construct a logical argumentation without rushing to conclusions based on insufficient evidence.

2) Creativity and Business Sense Skills 

As a consulting candidate, you should know the basic business concepts as well as show a certain amount of business sense and creativity. If the interviewer asks you to find innovative ideas to increase the profitability of a hotel chain, you will have to come up with a range of ideas that make business sense. You are not expected to have deep knowledge on the hospitality industry, but to be able to ask relevant and insightful questions on the aspects important for you to solve the client’s issue at hand.

3) Structure 

Maintaining a structure means that you solve the question with a clear step-by-step approach that you communicate actively towards your interviewer. A good structure is the most important part of a case interview as it is the underlying base of your whole approach and argumentation. It is also the main reason why candidates fail their case interviews. A common mistake that candidates make is that they try to apply standardized frameworks to any case they are given. Instead, you should solve each case by creating a framework specifically tailored to its needs – as you would do as a consultant on the job.

4) Math Skills 

As a consultant, part of your job is number crunching and interpreting data. Therefore, it is important that you have a good feeling for numbers and have great mental math skills. You should be able to perform simple calculations in your sleep.

5) Communication Skills 

In times of digitalization, soft skills become more and more important for management consultants. On the job, you will be in contact with high-level CEOs, clients, partners, and colleagues. Strong communication is crucial for you to get your work done efficiently. Thus, your interviewer will pay close attention to the way you communicate and present yourself during your conversation. Always be professional, answer concisely, and communicate the key message first (see Pyramid Principle).

What Are the Differences Between …?

First and Second Round Interviews 
 

 

 First round

 Second round

Format

 Identical

 Identical

Seniority of the interviewer

Associates or Engagement Managers (up to 4 years of consulting experience)

Partners (more than 10 years of consulting experience)

Difficulty

 Lower

 Higher

Importance

 Lower

 Higher

 

While the format of the first and second-round interviews stays the same, the seniority level of the interviewer differs. The person interviewing you in the first round is usually more junior having up to four years of consulting experience (Associates or Engagement Managers). The second round is led by Partners who have more than ten years of experience and tend to drill you to understand how you cope with challenges. Therefore, second rounds are perceived as more difficult by candidates. Since partners have a stronger voice when discussing an applicant, your performance during the second round of case interviews carries also more weight. For more information on the different positions, please read McKinsey Hierarchy: The Different Position Levels.

Candidate- and Interviewer-Led Case Interviews
 

 

Candidate-led

Interviewer-led

Type of question(s)

Very general initial question or no question at all (just broad description of a situation)

Very specific questions throughout the interview

Interviewer’s behavior

The interviewer gives you complete freedom in terms of the approach and the structure 

Interviewer-induced interruptions with turnarounds not resulting from the candidate’s analysis

Data

Data and information are mostly provided at your request

A lot of data will be given throughout the case, e.g. tables or graphs

Company

Most consulting firms

Commonly used at McKinsey

 

In candidate-led cases the interviewer expects the candidate to lead him/her through the case. As a candidate, you can do so by asking relevant questions, and by developing and testing your hypotheses. Candidate-led cases are the most common types of cases. You will encounter them at the majority of the big consulting firms such as BCG, Bain, and occasionally at McKinsey.

Interviewer-led cases are most frequently used at McKinsey. As the title suggests, the interviewer’s guidance through the case interview is firmer.

You can find more information on the two different interview styles in our BootCamp article: Interviewer-Led vs. Candidate-Led.

Case Interview Examples from McKinsey, BCG, Bain and Other Top Consulting Firms

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In the following, you can find some examples of initial case interview questions:
 

Bain & Company Logo Bain Case: Old Winery

PrepLounge Case Bain & Company Rating
Difficulty: Intermediate | Style: Real CaseCandidate-led (usual style) | Topics: Growth strategyMarket analysisMarket sizingMergers & Acquisition
You have inherited the “Old Winery” from your grandfather. You do not intent to run the winery operatively, given your limited knowledge of winemaking, but find the idea of owning a winery exciting. Your plan is to give the winery some fresh impetus. ➡ Read the full case

 

Deloitte Logo Deloitte Consulting case: Footloose

PrepLounge Case Deloitte
Difficulty: Intermediate | Style: Real CaseCandidate-led (usual style) | Topics: Market analysisCompetitive response
Duraflex is a German footwear company. They have always relied on the boot market for the majority of their volume. One of Duraflex’s competitors launched a new line of aggressively priced work boots. The management team approached you and asked for your advice. ➡ Read full case

 

Roland Berger Logo
Roland Berger Case: Online Star

PrepLounge Case Roland Berger
Difficulty: Intermediate | Style: Real CaseCandidate-led (usual style) | Topics: Profitability analysisMarket analysisGrowth strategy
Online star, an online retailer of furniture and garden products. The financial ratios have deteriorated in recent years. In particular, the gross profit margin decreased significantly. The board of Online star asks you for an analysis of the reasons for the negative result as well as a derived recommendation for action. ➡ Read full case

Practice More Cases Now!

You can find more than 160 case studies including cases from real companies and our consulting coaches in our Case Library!

Case Interview Frameworks 

Case Interview Frameworks

Case interview frameworks are the perfect tool to structure your thoughts during the interview. They help you break down a problem into its basic components, so you can go through the case and business problem in a structured and methodical way. This will convince your interviewer that your success in the case interview can be repeated on the job.
 

The Best Frameworks When Solving Cases 

A framework may help you to solve the business problem in your case interview in a more structured and concise way. You should know the most common types of cases in order to determine which might be a suitable framework you can apply. Our coaches Guennael and Vlad explain their approaches:

Guennael
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

What does a framework really have to do? Basically, 3 things:

First, be MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive); Second, help you go through the case in a structured and methodical way to not only allow you find the best answer; Third, convince your interviewer that your success is repeatable and that you will crack this case and the next and the next.

Back when I was prepping for my BCG interview, I ended up falling back on just two frameworks, which I'd then tweak to fit the actual case: First, a version of the profitability model (Profit = Revenue - Cost, and Revenue = Price x Quantity); Second, a basic version of (Product, Price, Client, Competition, Company). Are these 2 frameworks optimal in every instance? No, they are not. Did they do the trick? I have used them in the 10+ practice cases with former BCGers, as well as in my 5 BCG cases... and I got in, so there's that :) I would even argue that every case can be solved by using either or both of these frameworks. Learn them, keep them in your back pocket, and be ready to use them. If you find a better one, great! But I'd rather you started with an "ok" framework and focused on solving the problem than spending 30 seconds at the beginning of the case to find the "perfect" framework, failed, and found yourself having to think on the fly as your start the solving process.

Vlad
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

There is no one-fits-all structure. You should have some patterns in mind for specific case types, however, you should change them depending on the:

  • Objective
  • Additional details of the case
  • Industry
  • Etc

Below you can find a list of the most common case types and some high-level recommendations on structuring:

  • Market sizing - structuring from the supply or demand side. Structuring using a formula or using an issue tree
  • Profitability - basic profitability framework. Remember about different revenue streams and product mix
  • Market context cases (Market Entry, New product, Acquisition, etc). Always start with the big picture "market". Finish with something the specific strategy to answer the objective of the case (e.g. "Entry strategy" - for market entry. "Exit Strategy" for PE case. "Go-to-market strategy" for a new product case). Structure it as if you are defining the work streams for the real project.
  • Operational math problem (e.g. Should we increase the speed of an elevator or just buy a second one? How should we reduce the queues? Etc.) - Structuring as a process/value chain, with inflows, operations, and outflows
  • Cost-cutting - I provided the recommendations on structuring it:

Structuring:

  • What is the cost composition and what are the biggest costs
  • Benchmarking of the biggest costs to find the improvement potential
  • Process improvements to meet the benchmarks
  • Costs and benefits of the proposed initiatives

The key concepts that you have to learn:

  • Internal / external benchmarking
  • Idle time
  • Core processes (usually are optimized) and the supporting processes (usually are cut)
  • Math structures (Frequency of operations * time per operation)
  • Other useful structures (e.g. people - process - technology)
  • Valuation - Purely financial structure with cash flows, growth rate, WACC / hurdle rate, etc.
  • Synergies - revenue synergies (price, qty, mix) and cost synergies (value chain).
  • Social/economics cases (e.g. How to improve the quality of life in the city? How to increase the revenues of the museum?) - huge variability. Practice 3-5 social cases before the interview

Besides that, there is a bunch of useful frameworks that you can apply in the middle of the case to find the root cause of a problem. E.g.

  • People - Process - Technologies
  • Capacity - Utilization - Output rate
  • Product - Distribution - Marketing - Price
  • Value-based pricing - competitive pricing - cost-based pricing
  • etc.

You will learn these frameworks while solving the cases. It's useful to have a bunch of them in mind to be able to identify the root-cause quickly.

How You Should (Not) Use a Framework

With frameworks, you are structured in every case. They give you a helping hand and guide you like a red thread through your case.  However, you should not be too fixated on specific frameworks. A framework should always be adapted to the respective situation. Our coach Sidi explains why:

Sidi
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 200+ candidates se

You can (and should) get acquainted with all of these frameworks. But you should NOT use them as blueprints to structure your approach towards ANY given case! One big misconception that I, unfortunately, see with many many candidates needs to be called out again and again:

Structure DOES NOT equal frameworks!

The different frameworks that you can find in pertinent case literature provide a very good basic toolbox in terms of which areas to look into for certain types of problems. However, they are very poor regarding HOW TO APPROACH a case and HOW TO DRAFT A ROADMAP for solving the case. This approach and roadmap need to be rooted in a rigorous and specific logic. Unfortunately, the "framework learning philosophy" brought forward by, e.g., Case in Point, is the very reason why an overwhelming majority of candidates will not get an offer.

By and large, most (or probably all) casebooks on the market are teaching a fundamentally flawed way how to think about business/strategy / organizational problems! A framework as such is worth nothing if it is not embedded into the specific context of the situation! This means each element that you want to scrutinize ("building blocks" of the framework so to speak) needs to clearly relate to the question that you want to address! This principle should form the basis of any structure.

This is why you ALWAYS start from the specific question that you want to answer! From there, you define the criterion or criteria that need to be met to answer this core question in one way or another.

In 95% of cases, value creation will be the central element. Ultimately, this is nothing else than profit generation over a specific time frame. You then draw a driver tree for profitability to isolate the numerical drivers for your solution. And then, only after you have drawn out the driver tree, you can map out the relevant qualitative "framework elements" to the sub-branches. This approach, visualized by means of a rigorous driver tree, is much much clearer than any framework you will find in any case book. And, contrary to such frameworks, which are hanging in the air and do not logically relate back to the specific question, this is a bulletproof approach when done rigorously.

The caveat is: this requires time and qualified coaching to internalize. But ultimately, this is how consultants think about problems - how can we optimize for value creation?

How to Develop Your Own Framework in 4 Steps 

In order to address unique issues in case interviews, it is important to develop your own frameworks. Our expert Benjamin gives you tips on how to do it:

Benjamin
ex-Manager - Natural and challenging teacher - Taylor case solving, no framework

1. (almost) Never use a standard framework taken from the books. Strategy consulting is about helping clients facing unique issues with a tailored answer. Forcing your approach in a standard framework is unlikely to be relevant

 

2. Project yourself in your client's shoes and show empathy for its problems. By doing so it will be much easier for you to understand what are the key topics to cover to formulate a recommendation and make sure you don't forget anything. I always ask myself "what would I do if this was my business and my own problem? What do I need to know/understand to make a decision ?"

 

3. Make sure every topic you want to cover is relevant for the final recommendation. A simple check is to ask yourself "If I spend time on this specific topic, and get some answers to my questions (ex. market sizing, competition, etc.), will this bring useful element for the final recommendation given my client's problematics"? If the answer is no, then you should drop this sub-issue.

 

4. Practice a lot, with any daily case you can set up on your own. The above tips are taken from my own experience doing my best to build MECE structures, but keep in mind that it takes a lot of practice to achieve a satisfying performance here. I have developed an exercise called structuring drills, that focus your effort on learning to build a structure. This is usually very appreciated by candidates.

Case Interview Preparation: 9 Tips for a Successful Case Prep 

1. Learn the theory

By reading this article, you have already taken the first step of getting to know what case interviews are all about. Well done! You can now proceed by learning the theory you need to know to solve them. In general, you should learn how to:

In our BootCamp, you can find all the necessary basics.

2. Gradually develop your business intuition

As you need to have a good business sense to successfully pass your case interview, you should dedicate some time before to gradually build up your business intuition. The earlier you start doing this, the easier it will come to you. All you have to do is make it a habit of regularly reading business publications or magazines. You can choose new insights by McKinsey, Bain and BCG or find other sources that appeal to you. While you do that, try to develop a basic knowledge of business, strategy and industries, such as retail, airlines, telecom, banking, natural resources and tech.

3. Bring your mental math up to speed

All case interviews involve doing math without a calculator which is why brushing up your math skills should be a constant part of your daily prep plan. Practice until you are a hundred percent comfortable doing basic additions, subtractions, divisions, multiplications and growth rate calculations in your head. Read our article on Fast Math and make use of our mental math tool in order to practice your efficiency. This will greatly ease the pressure if confronted with a math problem in your interview.

Knowing the shortcuts for a wide range of calculations will help you simplify math problems. For example, break down complex math problems into multiple smaller operations:

97 x 53

= (100 - 3) x (50 + 3)

= 5000 + 300 - 150 - 9

= 5141

 

4. Practice makes perfect 

Take a look at our vast Case Library with which you’ll be prepared for all possible case types. Our case collection includes cases which have been used in case interviews in the past. Solving cases on your own can give you a first feeling for them, but the only way to improve the skills you need to pass your interview is to put yourself in a case interview situation. Find a few outstanding candidates you can practice with and practice cases on a regular basis. The more perspectives you can get, the better. Feedback will help you improve. 

On PrepLounge, the world’s largest case interview community awaits you. Simply schedule or accept a mock interview with another candidate on our Meeting Board! Here is how it works:

  1. Schedule: After you and your case partner have confirmed the mock interview on the Meeting Board, your meeting is set and should be visible on your dashboard.
  2. Communication: We recommend you to directly get in touch with your case partner to confirm your method of communication during the interview (e.g. Skype) and case preferences.
  3. Interview: During the back-to-back meeting you will take turns with your case partner in order to play both interviewer and interviewee roles. Don’t neglect the part of the session where you play the interviewer role. It will help you notice points of importance and adapt your approach accordingly.
  4. Case: There will be two PrepLounge cases randomly selected by default, but you can also change them and pick one of our other 150+ cases or use your own case.
  5. Feedback: This is the most important part of your mock interview as it helps you to improve your case performance. Please give valuable feedback to your case partner. You would want them to do the same!

5. Get support from experts 

To make your case interview preparation as effective as possible, we recommend you to also invest in coaching sessions with experienced top consultants. Our experience shows that this will be worth it, as it significantly increases your chance of getting your dream job offer (by four to be exact). Our experts know exactly what interviewers want and can work with you on every aspect of your case performance, whether it is structure, personal fit, confidence or communication. They can even give you valuable networking tips and help you getting a referral.

We offer you a transparent list of all experts, including their professional and educational backgrounds, top skills, individual approaches, reviews and recommendation rates. This allows you to individually choose the perfect experts for your coaching sessions. You may also benefit from our CoachingPlus Package that comes with an overall discount.

6. Learn and keep track of your progress 

You can do as many cases as you like, but if you do not learn from them, you will not going to improve your case performance. This is why you should do the following: At the end of each case that you solve, whether it is on your own, with a case partner or expert, write down in your own words what mistakes you have made and what you learned. After a few days, redo the case and apply your learnings to ensure that you are making progress. Keeping track of your improvements will keep you motivated and make sure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

7. Don’t forget about the personal fit

It doesn’t matter how much you ace the case, but if you are not a personal fit to the company, you will not get the job offer. After all, consulting is a people’s business, that includes teamwork and spending a lot of time with your colleagues. In order to ace the personal fit part of the interview, it is important that you understand what any interviewer is looking for in a candidate to decide that he or she is a personal fit. Typically, the interviewer has three primary questions in mind.

Then, you have to learn how to convey to the interviewer that you comply with what he or she is looking for. Practice your answers to personal fit questions with other candidates or experts:

  • Why management consulting?
  • Why company x?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Tell me about yourself!
  • Give me an example of a time that you have led a group to achieve a difficult goal!
  • Find more Stress Questions

8. Practice confidence 

The more you practice, the more confident you will automatically feel. However, feeling confident is not equal seeming confident. Sometimes you can come across as insecure without even noticing and this can be due to minor communication style habits. Therefore, you should ask your PrepLounge case partner or expert to take your verbal and non-verbal communication into account and to give you feedback on your level of confidence or insecurity. Try to focus on the following aspects during your practice:

  1. Sound of your voice. A monotone voice or speaking too fast gives an impression of insecurity and a poor communication style. To avoid that, you can listen to podcasts with great speakers for about 30 minutes to one hour per day. After a couple of days, you will start to speak in a similar manner, as you will absorb their communication style.
  2. Smile. Smiling can be a powerful element to show that you enjoy the interview (and interviewer) and are not afraid. You can force smiles (obviously not too much) in case you get feedback that you seem too serious.
  3. Eye contact. You should do not need to constantly look the interviewer in the eyes, but you should not look away when he or she asks you something and you should not stare, either.
  4. Ability to break the ice. Confident people are not afraid to start small talks with interviewers from the beginning. Keeping silence create less connection and may be considered a sign of lack of confidence.
  5. Posture. You should try to keep straight in the chair most of the time. Leaning too much towards the interviewer can be seen as a lack of confidence.

9. Take breaks 

In total you should prepare for well over 50 hours in an up to 6-week time period, practicing on a daily basis. This can be exhausting, and we know that a lot of candidates struggle with lack of motivation and focus, especially after an intense period of case prep. This is usually because they forgot to implement regular breaks in their prep plan. Professional athletes will always take time to rest to give their muscles time to regenerate, and so should you for your brain muscle. A good strategy is to develop an evening and morning routine that gives you time to relax and maximizes your energy level for the prep during the day. Here are some examples of what you can do:

  • 15-20 minutes of exercise in the morning or evening
  • A cold shower in the morning
  • Meditation or writing a journal
  • Define three important things to do for the next day and allocate the time for all activities while doing the most important ones first
  • No social media one hour after you wake up and before you go to sleep
  • Get enough sleep (at least 7 hours)
  • Take breaks between each case or intense case practice session and do something totally different (e.g. workout, play video games)

How to Solve a Case Study in 10 Steps [Infographic]

10 Steps to Crack the Case Interview Infographic

Step 1: Listen actively and take notes. Write down every piece of information, especially numerical data.

Step 2: Restate the question. Pause, paraphrase, and make sure you understand the problem statement by confirming with the interviewer.

Step 3: Clarify the objectives and identify the problem. Ask specific questions and double-check on objectives. Make sure you completely understand the problem.

Step 4: Write out your structure. Ask your interviewer for a minute to prepare your structure and organize your notes. Identify your case type and use an issue tree to customize your structure. The branches of your issue tree should be MECE.

Step 5: State your hypothesis. Now that you have set up the issue tree, your task is to test each branch to see if it is the root cause of the problem. Where to begin? A hypothesis based on an educated guess helps here.  (e.g. "Since you have mentioned that revenues are more or less flat, my hypothesis is that the problem is mostly driven by the cost side of the business. If it is okay with you, I will start by […]")

Step 6: Think out loud. Sharing your thoughts allows the interviewer to interact. Refine or rebuild your hypothesis as you find out more.

Step 7: Gather more data in order to test your hypothesis. Proactively ask for relevant data and always segment it (e.g. using the ABC analysis). Try to evaluate whether trends have been company-specific or industry-wide.

Step 8: Dig deeper while staying structured (MECE!) throughout the case. Always refer to the structure you have set up at the beginning of the case but be flexible as the case evolves. If you conclude that your hypothesis is false, eliminate that branch and go to the next one. Summarize findings when switching major branches. If your test confirms your hypothesis, go deeper into that branch, and drill down to the lower levels until you identify all proven root-causes.

Step 9: Choose a recommendation and use the Pyramid Principle to structure your conclusion. Ask for a minute to gather your thoughts and then state your recommendation. You need to deliver a one minute, top-down, concise, structured, clear, and fact-based summary of your findings.

Step 10: Stand by your conclusion. Your interviewer will likely challenge your recommendation (either to see if you can handle pressure or to assess if you really believe in what you are saying).

Case Interview Secrets: 13 Final Tips for Your Actual Case Interview 

1. Focus on the task at hand 

Don’t think too much about the approach your interviewer is taking. It should not matter much if the conversation is interviewer- or candidate-led. If you go into your interview with a profound understanding of how to handle even a difficult case, the format of the interview should not be an issue. Keep a cool head and structure your thoughts.

2. Ask the right questions 

At the beginning of the case, your interviewer will present you with the situation of the client. Don’t rush into the analysis without developing a deep understanding of the problem first. Ask your interviewer questions to clarify the case. This is expected behavior that also takes place later with the client. Make sure you understand what the business model and your objective in the respective case are (regarding both money and the timeline). If there are any other possible limitations you are unsure about, ask your interviewer in a concise way. Asking unnecessary questions will raise doubts about your ability to work efficiently under pressure.

3. Buy time with repetitions 

A common trick consultants use is the repeating of facts or overall goals. By doing this you are showing a fundamental comprehension of the case and are emitting an aura of control, gradually heading towards a solution. This technique can give you more time to think. Articulating the facts of the case can also be a source of clarity and allow you to form solutions more quickly.

4. Only form a hypothesis with sufficient information 

Do not state a hypothesis at the beginning, a stage in which you may still have incomplete information. Get a good sense of the case’s environment and ask sensible follow-up questions. Only then frame a structure and formulate a hypothesis.

5. Utilize data for your analysis 

Taking wild guesses is a death sentence for your case interview. Make sure your claims are backed up by the facts and remain calm when presented with new information. Consultancies will closely observe how you make use of new data and incorporate it into your hypothesis.

6. Take clear notes 

Taking structured notes is a highly underrated skill when dealing with a case. Making sure your notes are coherent and clear will make your thoughts easy to navigate and ensure you do not lose your footing during the interview.

  • Place your sheet horizontally to maximize your space and jot down the case’s key question on the left side of the page. This way you will never lose sight of the main objective. The remaining portion will be dedicated to the issue tree, with your hypothesis included above the issue tree.
  • Make sure that you highlight key pieces of information that add substance to your hypothesis.
  • When it comes to calculations, use a separate page but practice having it organized in case you need to go back through your assumptions or calculations.
  • Try to limit the number of pages you use to a maximum of three sheets. Otherwise, you will stress yourself out while trying to find what you are looking for.

7. Structure is key 

The most important aspect of a case interview is having a good structure. You can structure your case by following these four steps:

  • Craft an issue tree as the overall foundation for your structure. This is a customizable framework used to analyze the root causes of problems in a case. It helps you to break a complex problem down into its components.
  • Make sure that your issue tree is MECE to avoid inefficient dependencies between branches that will slow down your analysis. MECE is a way of segmenting information into sub-elements that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. 
  • Prioritize and concentrate on high impact issues of your issue tree that will create value for your client. Always make sure you explain the reasons behind your choices to the interviewer.
  • Use the Pyramid Principle to structure your conclusion, a three-step structure to present your synthesis in an effective and convincing manner. First, state the recommendation (What?). Second, provide three reasons supported by data (Why?). Third, provide information on how to implement the recommendation (How?). 

8. Don't force-fit frameworks

Standard frameworks can be a source of inspiration but should never be force-fitted to a case. They are very stiff and do not allow room for customization. If you use pre-defined frameworks, you run the risk of missing important elements of the specific problem you are trying to solve. A consultant would not just force-fit frameworks to their specific client’s problem, so you should not do this in your case interview, either. Each case is unique and requires an individually customized framework that is MECE as well as adapted to the problem you are trying to solve, the company, and the industry.

9. Don’t panic if you get stuck 

If you ever get stuck, don’t freak out – it happens. What counts is how you deal with the situation. Here is what you can do:

  1. Take a deep breath or a sip of water if you have a glass of water nearby.
  2. Take a moment to grasp the big picture, to recap what you have learned so far and what you still need to find out to address the main question at hand.
  3. Outline how these sub-questions can be answered, and what kind of data or information you will need to do that.
  4. Double-check whether data or information provided by the interviewer at an earlier stage is now getting new relevance.
  5. Think out loud and take the interviewer along with your thinking process. If you are puzzled by some obvious contradiction, actively discuss this with your interviewer. Oftentimes an interviewer will wait for you to explicitly verbalize your confusion before gently guiding you.

10. Sometimes there is no clear answer 

Oftentimes a case interview has no “correct” or “standard” answer. The case may encompass you exploring the issues and walking down several paths. There are often many solutions to a single case that may differ from the interviewer’s expectations. In the end, what counts is your train of thought and how you got to your solution. You are not expected to know everything about business but demonstrate a logical judgment and a good approach to solve problems.

Nevertheless, you should always give a clear recommendation at the end of the interview when the interviewer will ask for your conclusion. The trick is to use supporting arguments based on what you have learned during the analysis, to point out limitations, and to also highlight additional areas to explore to confirm that your current understanding is the right one.

11. Engage the interviewer 

The interview should be a dialogue, so make sure to engage the interviewer and demonstrate not only your business judgment but also your communication and people skills. This gives the first insight into how you might interact with future clients and colleagues. How can you do that?

  • Explain. Share your thought process with the interviewer and always let them know what your next steps are.
  • Listen. During your case interview, the interviewer will usually give you hints and steer you in a direction. Notice that! If they ask a specific question, e.g. “Name three points about…”, answering in two or five points will mean that you didn’t pay attention.
  • Ask questions. Create a discussion, initiate small talk, and use your chance to make a positive connection with the interviewer, especially at the end of every interview when you get to ask final questions. Find a point in common and try to stand out. Here is a list of the best questions to ask at the end of an interview.  

12. Be confident 

You don’t necessarily need to be extroverted to be a top management consultant, but you need to be confident. Consulting is a people job as much as it is an analytical job. It is important for the client to feel that you know what you are doing. Thus, this is something the interviewer will take into consideration. Here are five things you can do during the interview to come across as more confident:

  • Try to enjoy the interview by focusing on the challenge, the satisfaction it brings you when you solve the case, and the joy of sharing your life experiences with someone else. If you have fun, chances are high that the interviewer has fun, as well.
  • Find your own style and don’t try to pretend to be someone that you are not. It is fine if you are not the most outgoing person. Just be genuine!
  • Sit up straight, but don’t be too stiff. Push your back against the back of the seat and don’t just sit on the edge of the chair.
  • Make eye contact, but don’t stare, either.
  • Speak in a clear, calm, and unrushed manner. Don't mumble or whisper but equally don't shout. Think before you speak!

13. When in doubt, reschedule 

If you’re not feeling confident about your chances, don’t hesitate to reschedule. If you take this course of action, take a few things into consideration. Make sure to suggest an alternative day and avoid rescheduling multiple times at all costs. The consultancy will be grateful for you to suggest an immediate alternative. Try to be transparent as to why you are rescheduling without going too deeply into details. However, rescheduling should only be used as a last resort.

PrepLounge: The Key to Your Success 

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To become the best, you must learn from the best. That is exactly what PrepLounge can offer you. The vast PrepLounge community makes it easy to find case partners with the same ambitions and goals as you. Whether you are looking for a professional case coach or other aspiring consultants, you will have no problem finding case partners in the build-up to your interview. Our PrepLounge coaches – from Bain to McKinsey – are uniquely qualified to provide you with insights into the mastery of a case interview.

Apart from case partners from every imaginable background, PrepLounge provides a colossal collection of online resources to give you the best preparation leading up to your case interview. We will provide you with questions and answers to the most important consulting case types and share in-depth knowledge for the best possible case interview preparation. You will be able to find case partners to practice online and always be on top of the latest insights and news regarding consulting jobs and top consulting firms.

As a PrepLounge member, you will receive access to all these perks. PrepLounge will accompany you all the way from your application through to your contract negotiation. You strongly diminish your chance of success without sufficient preparation. Invest in your future and give yourself the best chance at acing your case interview! Exchange your experience with peers from all around the world in our Consulting Q&A. Join our case interview community today and embark on your journey into consulting!

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