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Emily

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Case Practice Questions

I am practicing for case interviews and after reading Case in Point (PhD candidate here) one cannot deny that it is very helpful to discover different scenarios of the case interview but I had some questions:

1- what if my structure does not tap into what the real solution is all about? example: let's assume we are looking into meeting a sudden increase/high demand for a product problem and we are dealing with an industrial good manufacturer and the solution lies in the production process (let's say I mentioned improve bottlenecks , manufacturing efficiency problem, Add new production technologies but the solution is adding a production shift) and my structure does not mention that, there is so much that could be presented in a structure upfront, Is that negative or will the interviewer guide me to the path?

2- I have read multiple threads and questions and mostly they say "case in point" is basic but not the best and when I read cases or even comments they all reference the same structure offered in the book and even same bucket list to be included in the structure depending on the case type. Even the flow of the interview (from how to lay a structure to verifying the objective, clarifying questions to the closure). I am not being able to see the difference or what they mean by basic if all solutions (even cases on the MBB websites) do use the structure in that book !

3- is the 1 min (60 seconds) to lay a structure a real and reasonable time ? I cannot lay a full structure with 2 or 3 levels down under each category in 1 minute ! unless I am a robot jotting down a memorized structure !! because I want to make my structure customized for the problem !

I am not MBA, so I do not have educational references that I can fall back to ! and based on the resources I collected I do not see the difference or what is a better reference to use to build my structures for various problems. I also have Victor Chang's book !!

I am practicing for case interviews and after reading Case in Point (PhD candidate here) one cannot deny that it is very helpful to discover different scenarios of the case interview but I had some questions:

1- what if my structure does not tap into what the real solution is all about? example: let's assume we are looking into meeting a sudden increase/high demand for a product problem and we are dealing with an industrial good manufacturer and the solution lies in the production process (let's say I mentioned improve bottlenecks , manufacturing efficiency problem, Add new production technologies but the solution is adding a production shift) and my structure does not mention that, there is so much that could be presented in a structure upfront, Is that negative or will the interviewer guide me to the path?

2- I have read multiple threads and questions and mostly they say "case in point" is basic but not the best and when I read cases or even comments they all reference the same structure offered in the book and even same bucket list to be included in the structure depending on the case type. Even the flow of the interview (from how to lay a structure to verifying the objective, clarifying questions to the closure). I am not being able to see the difference or what they mean by basic if all solutions (even cases on the MBB websites) do use the structure in that book !

3- is the 1 min (60 seconds) to lay a structure a real and reasonable time ? I cannot lay a full structure with 2 or 3 levels down under each category in 1 minute ! unless I am a robot jotting down a memorized structure !! because I want to make my structure customized for the problem !

I am not MBA, so I do not have educational references that I can fall back to ! and based on the resources I collected I do not see the difference or what is a better reference to use to build my structures for various problems. I also have Victor Chang's book !!

(edited)

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Hi there

1) It is okay if you structure is not the same as the solution to the case. What the interviewer is looking for in your opening structure is whether you have a good approach to assess the problem at hand and systematically discover the real issue. We are not looking for shortcuts. That said, the solution should be related to certain part(s) in your structure / issue tree, though. Otherwise you are likely missing a key component in your structure.

2) Personally I don't recommend "case in point". I think Victor Cheng's book is much better and more practical.

3) It is okay to take a bit longer time (under 2.5 mins) as long as the outcome is of high quality. Get down to 2 levels, and have solid reasons backing up why those points in your structure matter (e.g. how does it relate to your hypothesis).

Hope it helps.

Emily

Hi there

1) It is okay if you structure is not the same as the solution to the case. What the interviewer is looking for in your opening structure is whether you have a good approach to assess the problem at hand and systematically discover the real issue. We are not looking for shortcuts. That said, the solution should be related to certain part(s) in your structure / issue tree, though. Otherwise you are likely missing a key component in your structure.

2) Personally I don't recommend "case in point". I think Victor Cheng's book is much better and more practical.

3) It is okay to take a bit longer time (under 2.5 mins) as long as the outcome is of high quality. Get down to 2 levels, and have solid reasons backing up why those points in your structure matter (e.g. how does it relate to your hypothesis).

Hope it helps.

Emily

(edited)

Thank You ! — Kass on Apr 05, 2020

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Hi Kay,

great questions, please find below the answers to them.

  1. Your structure should not include all the possible solutions as there are normally too many! Moreover the real case solution depends on the problem, which of course initially is not clear, so listing all the possible alternatives in detail won’t even be efficient. Instead, your structure should include the basic buckets you can use to identify a solution. For example, if you have a profitability problem to identify and fix, you can mention you want to look at either ways to increase revenues or decrease costs, but there is no need to mention all the possible ways to increase revenues.
  2. Case in Point includes a lot of buckets that are not useful to solve a case and that if presented to the interviewer will give the impression you have pre-memorized a structure. What I would recommend is to (i) use the structure there as starting point, do several cases and develop your own structures or (ii) get a coach that can help you to set up quickly better structures based on his/her experience
  3. Two levels are fine for most cases and one minute should be fine to structure cases in that way. To avoid to sound like a robot, you should personalize the wording when presenting the structure (eg instead of price and volume mention the number of beauty creams sold and price per cream). Moreover, you don’t have to take the 1 minute literally – if you spend few more seconds that’s still fine. Finally, remember that you can use 1 minute to structure, but then you have additional time (I would recommend up to 1.5 min) to present.

Best,

Francesco

Hi Kay,

great questions, please find below the answers to them.

  1. Your structure should not include all the possible solutions as there are normally too many! Moreover the real case solution depends on the problem, which of course initially is not clear, so listing all the possible alternatives in detail won’t even be efficient. Instead, your structure should include the basic buckets you can use to identify a solution. For example, if you have a profitability problem to identify and fix, you can mention you want to look at either ways to increase revenues or decrease costs, but there is no need to mention all the possible ways to increase revenues.
  2. Case in Point includes a lot of buckets that are not useful to solve a case and that if presented to the interviewer will give the impression you have pre-memorized a structure. What I would recommend is to (i) use the structure there as starting point, do several cases and develop your own structures or (ii) get a coach that can help you to set up quickly better structures based on his/her experience
  3. Two levels are fine for most cases and one minute should be fine to structure cases in that way. To avoid to sound like a robot, you should personalize the wording when presenting the structure (eg instead of price and volume mention the number of beauty creams sold and price per cream). Moreover, you don’t have to take the 1 minute literally – if you spend few more seconds that’s still fine. Finally, remember that you can use 1 minute to structure, but then you have additional time (I would recommend up to 1.5 min) to present.

Best,

Francesco

Thank you for the information ! Very Helpful — Kass on Apr 04, 2020

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Hi Kay!

Let me try to answer your questions:

1. I think you misunderstand what a structure is. A structure is not meant to mirror a "solution"! So structuring a case does not mean to brainstorm all sorts of buckets and possible answers and then hope that one of these is actually "correct". A structure is meant to explain, how you will answer the precise question asked by the client. So a structure is a logic! And you are asked to lay out this logic, according to which you will answer the question. If you follow this principle, then the problem you described completely vanishes. A sound top-down logic includes (i) the question, (ii) the criterion to answer this question (derived from the underlying objective!), and (iii) the logical disaggregation of the criterion's elements to eventually test if it is met or not.

2. The "process" on how to start into the case is (mostly) exactly as described in Case in Point. However, the actual approaches ("frameworks") are very weak in this book - mostly due to the fact that they ignore what I outlined under 1. above. Just laying out buckets and areas to look into is a purely explorative way of working (defining areas, and then looking into these areas in the mere hope to find something interesting that will lead you on the right track towards solving the case; another word for this approach is 'guessing') - and if one is mean one could say that this exactly how your should NEVER work as a strategy consultant. That being said, the frameworks are still quite helpful for beginners in order to get a good feeling for the areas that will most probably be relevant in the actual analysis in certain contexts.

3. The time is not super critical. Crafting good and robust structures usually takes around 90 seconds for a well trained candidate. But even if it takes longer - I can promise you that, if your approach is a super clear top-down explanation of how you will answer the clients question, what you will analyze and what are the most important qualitative areas to explore in order to perform this analysis, then every interviewer will immediately forget about any doubts he might have had on your speed. My mentees usually take far more than a minute to structure, and it is never standing in the way of getting MBB offers.

Cheers, Sidi

Hi Kay!

Let me try to answer your questions:

1. I think you misunderstand what a structure is. A structure is not meant to mirror a "solution"! So structuring a case does not mean to brainstorm all sorts of buckets and possible answers and then hope that one of these is actually "correct". A structure is meant to explain, how you will answer the precise question asked by the client. So a structure is a logic! And you are asked to lay out this logic, according to which you will answer the question. If you follow this principle, then the problem you described completely vanishes. A sound top-down logic includes (i) the question, (ii) the criterion to answer this question (derived from the underlying objective!), and (iii) the logical disaggregation of the criterion's elements to eventually test if it is met or not.

2. The "process" on how to start into the case is (mostly) exactly as described in Case in Point. However, the actual approaches ("frameworks") are very weak in this book - mostly due to the fact that they ignore what I outlined under 1. above. Just laying out buckets and areas to look into is a purely explorative way of working (defining areas, and then looking into these areas in the mere hope to find something interesting that will lead you on the right track towards solving the case; another word for this approach is 'guessing') - and if one is mean one could say that this exactly how your should NEVER work as a strategy consultant. That being said, the frameworks are still quite helpful for beginners in order to get a good feeling for the areas that will most probably be relevant in the actual analysis in certain contexts.

3. The time is not super critical. Crafting good and robust structures usually takes around 90 seconds for a well trained candidate. But even if it takes longer - I can promise you that, if your approach is a super clear top-down explanation of how you will answer the clients question, what you will analyze and what are the most important qualitative areas to explore in order to perform this analysis, then every interviewer will immediately forget about any doubts he might have had on your speed. My mentees usually take far more than a minute to structure, and it is never standing in the way of getting MBB offers.

Cheers, Sidi

(edited)

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Hi Kay,

these are very valid questions. Please see my answers below:

(1) In general, a comprehensive structure should cover the main aspects of the solution and if you do it right, it will. Your structure should not just be a collection of possible solutions to the problem, but you would assess different parts of the business one by one, thereby identifying the root cause of the problem. What does this mean looking at your case: Use the production process itself as a structure and its different components, not only how it works but also what it depends on (e.g. time). You would then maybe identify that there is one 8h-shift only, which could be expanded. If the structure you decide to use does not cover the main aspects your interviewer will guide you to it, however, obviously the less help and guidance you need the better are chances to solve the case successfully and receive a positive feedback

(2) There is a very valuable case bootcamp here on Preplounge (Resources --> BootCamp), which - if you want to understand theory before getting practice - will be very helpful. However, it will to no extent replace the actual case meetings you need in order to practice solving cases. Do as many cases as you need in order to develop an actual "feeling" for solving cases, this is essential for when it comes to the actual interview situation. Both the candidate and the interviewer role will help you tremendously in understanding what is important when solving cases.

(3) Your structure does not need to be super detailed. 2 levels is appropriate in most cases, and you can still work on your structure while you work through the case. Creating the structure should indeed not take longer than about 1min, because this is the point where most interviewers will interrupt and ask you to start (and you don't want 5min of silence anyways). As you practice more and more cases (see (2)), you will get used to creating a structure and you will see that most of the time there is no need to reinvent the wheel - many times you will use the same basic structure, refining it based on case details.

Hope this helps!

Best
Dorothea

Hi Kay,

these are very valid questions. Please see my answers below:

(1) In general, a comprehensive structure should cover the main aspects of the solution and if you do it right, it will. Your structure should not just be a collection of possible solutions to the problem, but you would assess different parts of the business one by one, thereby identifying the root cause of the problem. What does this mean looking at your case: Use the production process itself as a structure and its different components, not only how it works but also what it depends on (e.g. time). You would then maybe identify that there is one 8h-shift only, which could be expanded. If the structure you decide to use does not cover the main aspects your interviewer will guide you to it, however, obviously the less help and guidance you need the better are chances to solve the case successfully and receive a positive feedback

(2) There is a very valuable case bootcamp here on Preplounge (Resources --> BootCamp), which - if you want to understand theory before getting practice - will be very helpful. However, it will to no extent replace the actual case meetings you need in order to practice solving cases. Do as many cases as you need in order to develop an actual "feeling" for solving cases, this is essential for when it comes to the actual interview situation. Both the candidate and the interviewer role will help you tremendously in understanding what is important when solving cases.

(3) Your structure does not need to be super detailed. 2 levels is appropriate in most cases, and you can still work on your structure while you work through the case. Creating the structure should indeed not take longer than about 1min, because this is the point where most interviewers will interrupt and ask you to start (and you don't want 5min of silence anyways). As you practice more and more cases (see (2)), you will get used to creating a structure and you will see that most of the time there is no need to reinvent the wheel - many times you will use the same basic structure, refining it based on case details.

Hope this helps!

Best
Dorothea

Thank you for the information ! Very Helpful — Kass on Apr 04, 2020

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Hi Kay,

Asnwering your questions below:

1) This will happen all the time. Cases as business problems ar always very unique and of course no framework will cover exactly what you are being asked (related to answer 2))

2) Case in point and any other book/guide/lecture on how to frame cases will give you frameworks and structures which are rigid. This is the important part of taking this as a basic. This means that it is comething that you need to remember to be quick at generating ideas but the framework that you apply to a case has to be tailored to what you are being asked (thus related to 1))

3) With regards to timing, the structure that you lay out has to be tailored and not over ambitious at the begining. With that I mean that if you have been aked: Our company, a retailer, is having profitability problems, what should we do?, you cannot go on and lay a super detailed structure... because you will probably not hit the correct spot and you will give the image that you laid out the framework by heart without thinking. Thus it is important to start by very basic outlines and deep dive by doing questions to the interviewer, that is the best problem solving approach and it is how it is done in real life

Hope it helps

M

Hi Kay,

Asnwering your questions below:

1) This will happen all the time. Cases as business problems ar always very unique and of course no framework will cover exactly what you are being asked (related to answer 2))

2) Case in point and any other book/guide/lecture on how to frame cases will give you frameworks and structures which are rigid. This is the important part of taking this as a basic. This means that it is comething that you need to remember to be quick at generating ideas but the framework that you apply to a case has to be tailored to what you are being asked (thus related to 1))

3) With regards to timing, the structure that you lay out has to be tailored and not over ambitious at the begining. With that I mean that if you have been aked: Our company, a retailer, is having profitability problems, what should we do?, you cannot go on and lay a super detailed structure... because you will probably not hit the correct spot and you will give the image that you laid out the framework by heart without thinking. Thus it is important to start by very basic outlines and deep dive by doing questions to the interviewer, that is the best problem solving approach and it is how it is done in real life

Hope it helps

M

Thank you for the simple yet great answer ! — Kass on Apr 06, 2020

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Hi,

in addition to the great points discussed by the other coach, I would recommend to stay max in 1,30 minutes for the opening structure

Best,
Antonello

Hi,

in addition to the great points discussed by the other coach, I would recommend to stay max in 1,30 minutes for the opening structure

Best,
Antonello

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