You have inherited the “Old Winery” from your grandfather, a winery which has been family owned for five generations and can be dated back to the 16th century. Half of the eleven hectares are used to grow white grapes, the other half to grow red grapes. They are grown in the conventional way, i.e ... Open whole case
Mastery of an Art - 10 Vital Tips to Ace your Case Interview
A step into the world of consulting is a step onto the path of ceaseless learning. No other industry is as diverse and widespread in the fields that they deal with. It comes as no surprise that the recruitment process is accordingly very thorough and extraordinarily challenging. Even individuals with impeccable academic credentials may falter at the challenge of a case interview.
Your knowledge and character will be put to the test
Recruiters will push you to your limits, put you into unconventional situations and force you to think on your feet. After all, you are a candidate for working with some of the best brains in the industry. You will be tested in multiple interviews, with the smallest details making the difference between advancing to the next round and being ousted.
How do I keep my cool and not crack under the pressure? What framework is best suited to structure my thoughts for this particular case? These are the kind of questions the PrepLounge community can give unparalleled insights into.
The tips contained here are compiled by our most experienced consultants and will bring you closer to a job in consulting. However, before delving into this area, it is important to understand the nature and fundamental components of what a case interview is and why they are conducted.
Case Interviews: What you need to know
First and foremost, consultancies utilize case interviews with the intention of probing the quantitative and qualitative skills of an applicant. The way you present yourself and apply the limited amount of information given to you will also be analyzed as these represent crucial qualities of any aspiring consultant. The reason for the prevalence of the case interview format 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 out-of-the-box.
A case interview may take up to an hour. 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.
What challenges await you
Most case interviews have the same underlying structure. After an initial, light conversation in which the interviewer will evaluate how good the personal fit between you and the company is, you will be presented with the case question. You will have time to solve the question and will subsequently need to present your findings. 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. Often times the consultant will attempt to guide you into the correct territory by asking questions himself.
Apart from this style of interview, a case can be interviewer-led or candidate-led. Our BootCamp deals extensively with the differences between interview-led cases and candidate-led cases. The three core types of cases you will be confronted with are business cases, estimating cases and brain teasers. All three types of cases will require a sophisticated approach and a thorough analysis.
The different case types
A business case usually revolves around the estimation of a company’s profitability and investment opportunities. It portraits a business problem that requires solving. Estimation cases (also known as market sizing cases) pose a similar challenge. Here you will need to evaluate the potential and profitability of a certain market or a specific product. Brain teasers are usually a riddle which will need an out-of-the-box approach to solve. However: It’s important to not get hung up too much on the frame of the interview. Which brings us to our first suggestion:
Case Interview Tips
- Focus on the task at hand
- Ask the right questions
- Buy time with repetitions
- Only form a hypothesis with sufficient information
- Utilize data for your analysis
- Take clear notes
- Sometimes there is no clear answer
- Bring your mental math up to speed
- Practice makes perfect
- When in doubt, reschedule
Tip 1: Focus on the task at hand
Don’t think too much about the approach your interviewer is taking. It should not matter if the conversation is interviewer or candidate-led. If you go into your interview with a profound understanding on how to handle even a difficult case, the format of the interview shouldn’t be an issue. Keep a cool head and structure your thoughts.
Tip 2: Ask the right questions
Ask your interviewer questions in order to clarify the case. This is expected behavior. Make sure you understand what the business model and your objective in the respective case is (regarding both money and the timeline). If there are any other possible limitations you are unsure about, ask your interviewer in a concise away. Asking unnecessary questions will raise doubts about your ability to work efficiently under pressure.
Tip 3: Buy time with repetitions
A common trick consultants use is the repeating of facts or overall goals. By doing this you’re showing a fundamental comprehension of the case and 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 more quickly form solutions.
Tip 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 should you frame a structure and formulate a hypothesis.
Tip 5: Utilize data for your analysis
Taking wild guesses is a death sentence for you 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.
Tip 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 don’t lose your footing during the interview. Place your sheet horizontally in order to maximize your space and jot down the key question of the case. This way you will never lose sight of the case’s main objective.
Tip 7: Sometimes there is no clear answer
In many cases 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 which may differ from the interviewer’s expectations. In the end, what counts is your train of a thought and how you got to your solution.
Tip 8: Bring your mental math up to speed
Break down complex math problems into multiple smaller operations. For example:
97 x 53
= (100 - 3) x (50 + 3)
= 5000 + 300 - 150 - 9
Knowing the shortcuts for a wide range of calculations will greatly simplify math problems. 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.
Tip 9: Practice makes perfect
There is simply no way around it. You will need to invest a vast amount of time into preparation. Convincingly acing your case interview is no easy feat. In total you should prepare for well over 50 hours in an up to 6 week time period. Be sure to practice mental math and market sizing on a daily basis. Though this can be fatiguing at first, you will notice that gradually improving your performance will motivate and make you thirsty for more.
Practicing a variety of cases is paramount in your preparation. 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.
Tip 10: 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 suggesting 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.
Practice Case Interviews with Case Partners at PrepLounge.com
In order to become the best you must learn from the best. That is exactly what PrepLounge can offer you. Among our ranks are former consultants who themselves aced and in some cases even helped shape the application process at their respective firm. These PrepLounge Experts hail from the most revered consultancies the industry has to offer - from Bain to McKinsey - and are uniquely qualified to give PrepLounge users insight into the mastery of a case interview. The vast PrepLounge community makes it easy to find case partners. 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.
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’ll 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.
PrepLounge: The key to your success
As a PrepLounge user 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 into 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!
Start practicing now
The municipal utility Hamburg Energized is a local energy retail (power and gas) and distribution grid company active in the city of Hamburg. The majority of shares of Hamburg Energized is held by the city itself. As the distribution system operator of Hamburg, Hamburg Energized is responsible for t ... Open whole case
A leading online real estate marketplace in Germany – your-new-home.com – is struggling with stagnating sales after many years of high growth rates. In a preliminary project with Parthenon, the market environment has already been examined in detail – competitors, new entrants, customer needs, etc. ... Open whole case
The bank "His Earlship Charles", a domestic retail and private bank is in a difficult situation. Profits have been declining over the past years due to the ongoing low interest rates set by the central bank. Additionally, the bank is suffering from a decreasing number of customers. The boa ... Open whole case
Mrs. Robinson and Mr. Friday live on an island. Their only access to civilization and trade are the inhabitants of the neighboring island, a people of excellent engineers (they also have electricity). The island is quite large with a small desert in the middle, surrounded by stormy sea. Mr. Friday h ... Open whole case
I’m thinking about setting up a wine cellar in my basement. The way I see it, shelf space would be divided into two sections: (1) a “drinking” section where I store bottles for my own consumption and (2) an “investment” section where I store bottles that I intend to sell at a profit after they appre ... Open whole case
Your client, large automotive OEM WyCar, has developed its first fully electric vehicle (EV) and introduced it as a pilot on the Austrian market last year. However, sales have been far below the expected numbers. The management has engaged you to support them in understanding the reasons and advise ... Open whole case
TrainCo is a manufacturer of rolling stock, or trains, with production sites in three European countries. The company has seen declining profitability over the past years; however, they are currently in a very good position to bid for and win a big contract for regional trains for a Swiss national r ... Open whole case
A friend of yours recently got promoted to the position of director of a university library. Yesterday, your friend received a call from the Ministry of Education, who offered him to be part of a national RFID pilot with his library. As your friend is unsure if he should pursue this option, he asks ... Open whole case
LumCO, a company producing injection-molded components for lighting applications, has operated successfully in its native European market. The company wants to open up one production facility each in China and the United States and establish their own distribution network in both countries to serve ... Open whole case
Duraflex is a German footwear company with annual men’s footwear sales of approximately €1 b. They have always relied on the boot market for the majority of their volume. In this market they compete with three other major competitors. In the fall of 2013, Badger – one of Duraflex’s competitior ... Open whole case
LubricantsCo, a very successful Asian premium producer of lubricants in their native region, would like to further increase their revenue and profit. The product range ranges from lubricants in the automotive sector (e.g. motor and gear oil) to industrial applications (e.g. fats, heavy-duty oils). ... Open whole case
You have been hired to support the owner of a bike-shop as a business consultant. The bike-shop has suffered a significant revenue decline during the last year, and now the owner would like you to assess the situation and options for the way forward. They want to know last year’s profit, i.e. how i ... Open whole case
Private Bank Anytown disposes total assets of approx. EUR 3 bn on December 31, 2014. The growth strategy of the institution determined at the end of 2010, however, has a higher impact on the cost side than on the income side. Aggregated to the return on equity as defined central parameter of the ... Open whole case
Your client is a newly founded protein company. Its owners are two brothers. One of them is a chemist and the other one is a very famous fitness model and personal trainer on YouTube. They intend to enter the nutrition supplements industry where they want to focus on protein supplementation for body ... Open whole case
Your client is Madhouse Studios, one of the largest anime producers in Japan. The anime-industry is flourishing. Originally revenue was generated mainly in Japan but the trend is that revenues outside of Japan are growing at a steady rate of 15% a year as more and more non-Japanese people enjoy anim ... Open whole case
One day you are grocery shopping when you are approached by Barb B. Queue, the owner of the supermarket’s deli shop. Facing serious competition from other supermarkets and fast food chains, Barb is worried whether his shop is working alright, as lately profits have been stagnating. He had figured th ... Open whole case
As much as monopolists enjoy their monopolistic benefits, they live in outright fear once the market gets liberalized. Your client, GASolina, has decided to take precautious action and asked you to discuss the potential consequences of a market liberalization. You are speaking to the head of sales ... Open whole case
Your client is a large company in the Polish telecommunication sector, providing and maintaining the infrastructure for telephony and ADSL and offering services like phone & internet subscriptions and televison to consumers. As in most countries, the regulator has ruled that new entrants must be giv ... Open whole case
You have successfully completed your trainings for your new role as Consultant at a consulting firm from PrepLounge’s FastTrack Application pool. After a briefing done by the CEO of an internationally known, globally operating industry corporation regarding the upcoming examination of the commercial ... Open whole case