Business case interview help

business case marketing
New answer on Mar 03, 2020
4 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Mar 02, 2020

Hey, I have a business case interview at a big tobacco firm in a few days (Applied for the position as a Brand Manager) Unfortunately I have little experience in such interviews.

I would like to ask for tips for such an interview. Possible suggestions on how I should prepare myself, things I should pay special attention to. In the best case someone has direct information about the procedure at big tobacco firms.

I will be on site for 3-4 hours. With about 1.5 hours for preparation at the beginning and then the interview. Of course, I wonder what kind of "complicated" case this should be, if I have 1.5 hours preparation time...

Thanks a lot!


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Content Creator
replied on Mar 02, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut
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Anonymous A on Mar 02, 2020

Thank you!

Content Creator
replied on Mar 03, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.000+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

first of all, I would suggest to write to HR and ask what the case will involve. It seems you will have to analyze some material at the beginning, it would be useful if you get more information on that.

Assuming you have to work on written material, I would recommend the following:

1. Learn how to define a plan of action and stick to that

The first thing you should do in a written case is to define a plan and allocate in the best possible way your time. Assuming 90 minutes for the analysis, a good approach would include:

  • initial quick reading – 20-30 min (this may depend on the amount of material)
  • structure the approach – 10 min
  • make slides/answer to the questions adding detailed analysis and math – 40-50 min
  • final review – 10 min

You should then practice to stick to the time allocated, in order to maximize your final performance.

2. Practice graph interpretation

You will normally have to analyse graphs in a written case. The best way to practice is to take graphs from online resources and use a timer to test in how much time you can understand the key message. McKinsey PST graphs could be good practice for that.

3. Work on quick reading and quick understanding of key information

You won’t have time to read and prioritize everything, so you have to understand where to focus. The ideal way to practice is to use long cases such as HBS ones, and practice on reducing the time needed to absorb the key information that can answer a defined question. Quick reading techniques could also help.

4. Practice quick math

You will normally have some math to do in a written case. GMAT and McKinsey PST math should work well to prepare on this.

5. Learn how to communicate your slides/answers

If you have to present your findings at the end of the case, I would apply here the same structure used for a final sum up in a live interview case, that is:

  1. Sum up the main questions you have to answer
  2. Present your proposed answer and detail the motivation behind
  3. Propose next steps for the areas you have not covered

As you will not be able to double check hypothesis with the interviewer as in the live case before the presentation, you should clearly state when you are making hypotheses and that you will have to verify them with further analysis.

When you have to prepare slides I would also recommend to work on:

A) structure the order of the slides

Normally the structure for a 5-slide presentation is the following:

  • First slide sums up the question and provides the answer
  • Second, third and fourth slide have the supporting arguments for the first slide
  • Fifth slide has the next steps

B) structure the content of each slide

There are three basic components for slides:

  1. Title
  2. Chart or data
  3. Label for chart

Many people structure the title as the mere description of what the chart is telling. A great title instead tells the implication of the graph. Eg say the graph is showing a cost structure for a division. A bad title would be: Cost structure from 2005 to 2015. A good title would be: Cost structure of Division XYZ is not sustainable”. A great title would be Cost structure of Division XYZ is not sustainable due to ABC, assuming you have insides on the cause. The rule of thumb for the title is that if you read all the titles of the slides together you should get a clear idea of what is going on.

C) present the slides

When you present, I would suggest the following steps for each slide:

  1. Introduce the slide: “Let’s move to slide 2, which will show us why we have an issue with this division”
  2. Present the main message of the slide: “As you can see, we have a cost structure which makes unfeasible to be competitive in this market”
  3. Provide details: “The graph, indeed, shows how our fix cost is XYZ, while competitors can benefit from economies of scale. Indeed…”

I do a specific session on written cases where I send you in advance material to prepare and we then simulate the presentation part during the class, please feel free to PM me for more info.



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Content Creator
replied on Mar 02, 2020
BCG |NASA | SDA Bocconi & Cattolica partner | GMAT expert 780/800 score | 200+ students coached


COnsidering the time that you have, it's probably gonna be a written case.
In that case you will receive a pack of 20-30 slides that you need to analyse to answer questions using 4-5 slides and present them to your interviewer.

In order to crack the interview you should consider the following points:

  • Prepare as for a traditional case interview: the competencies and the problem solving skills requested are pretty much the same
  • Define a plan of action according to the time given: one of the most important aspect of these cases is the ability to manage your time. You should consider the following steps: Initial reading, decide the approach, analysis, slides and final review.
  • Train quick reading skills and maths: there are a lot of good sources online, even the GMAT integrated reasoning section could be good.
  • Train slide-making skills: this is a crucial part because, as consultatn, slides are your most important communication tool. Be aware that there are some "golden rules" that you have to consider for making slides as a consultat. You can find something online but feel free to contact me for a quick analysis.
  • Learn how to present slides in an effective and professional way

You can find some good examples of written cases online, but I could forward you what I have. Contact me if you are interested.

Hope it helps,

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replied on Mar 02, 2020
McKinsey | BCG | CERN| University of Cambridge

Hello there,

Given that the position is a Brand Manager, most likely the interview will consist of case discussion surrounding branding / marketing strategy for tobacco products (for new market entry or product launch, can also revolves around a novel digital marketing strategy).

I suggest going through case examples focusing on this specific case types.

Also, given that the tobacco industry is operations-heavy, it would be good to familiarize yourself with operational elements of the industry and see the connections from marketing perspectives between the 2 functions, to ensure cross-functional alignment.

Hope it helps.

Kind regards,

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Anonymous A on Mar 02, 2020

Thank you! What do you mean exactly by „operations-heavy“?

Clara gave the best answer


Content Creator
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut
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