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Case Study Interview in 2 Weeks

Daniel asked on Sep 10, 2018 - 4 answers
Looking for Experienced Partners, Currently a Novice Preparing for Interviews

Hi All,

In just about 2 weeks I will be interviewing for consulting with 2 firms that are industry-specific strategy consultancies. Unfortunately, I have not prepared at all because, quite frankly, I was not expecting a single interview this year for strategy consulting.

Are there any approaches to how should I structure these next 2 weeks to study efficiently and effectively before the interviews? I already understand that I will not be fully ready prior to the interviews, but I'd still like to try to get as far as I can go.

I'd appreciate any comments / feedback, and thank you in advance!

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Vlad replied on Sep 10, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School
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Hi,

I recommend the following approach:

1) Start with "Case in point" book - you can download this book for free everywhere. It's not the best guide on how you should approach the cases, however, it will give you the basic understanding.

2) Start practicing cases with partners here or find them locally. !!! Find experienced partners or coaches who can provide a good feedback!!!

3) Purchase and read Viktor Cheng Book (Amazon Kindle store) and listen to LOMS (his website). I recommend to reread the book and listen to LOMS every 15 cases. Every time, having more experience, you’ll be finding something new.

4) Practice fast math

  • Learn how to multiply double digit numbers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ndkkPZYJHo)
  • Learn the division table up to 1/11 (i.e. 5/6 = 83.3)
  • Learn how to work with zeros (Hint: 4000000 = 4*10ˆ6)
  • Use math tools (Mimir math for iOS), Math tool on Viktor Cheng website to practice

5) 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 specific to the case (e.g. How to enter?"). 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 here: https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/operations-cases-mck-1105#a2134
  • 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

6) Also, I would try to focus on the most common industries in the following priority(sorted by probability of getting a case): 1-retail and CPG; 2-airlines; 3-Telecom; 4-banking; 5-natural resources; 6-tech

7) ! Important: don't forget about the FIT interview part. Crafting you stories and backups stories will require a couple of weeks!

PS

Here is a good list of articles regarding the different parts of the case:

1) Start with clarifying questions:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/clarifying-questions-1786#a3956

2) Communicating while structuring. Here is a long post by me on how to communicate the structure during the case study:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-communicate-its-structure-for-the-case-study-1313#a2806

3) Using hypothesis. I made a post about hypothesis here:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-state-a-hypothesis-and-match-to-the-structure-1156#a2268

4) Communicating while making calculations:

  • Always tell the interviewer your approach
  • Check with the interviewer that your approach is correct
  • Come to the interviewer with some preliminary answers
  • Check your assumptions with the interviewer

5) Communicating during the analysis of graphs / tables

  • Take a minute to look at the graph. Read the graph title. Look at the graph type and define the type (pie chart, line chart, etc). Look at the legend (ask for clarifying questions if necessary). Identify whats going on on the graph. Look for: Trends, % structures. Look for unusual things - correlations, outliers,
  • Make 3-4 conclusions from the graph. Think out loud on potential hypothesis on what could be the root cause / what are the consequences
  • Prioritize the most important for your current analysis and move forward with the case

6) Communicating while having questions on creativity

  • Ask an interview for a minute to think
  • Think of several buckets of ideas (e.g. organic growth / non-organic growth / differentiation). Remember to think as big as possible
  • Narrow down to each bucket and generate as many ideas as possible
  • Present the structure (buckets) and then your ideas

7) Communicating your conclusion. You can find a good example I've posted here:

https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-much-answer-first-should-the-conclusion-be-1231#a2493

8) Communicating your FIT stories

Use the top-down approach while communicating your stories. "The Pyramid Principle" is the must-read by ex McKinsey on this topic.

I recommend using the STAR framework:

  • In Situation, you should briefly provide the context, usually in 1 or 2 sentences
  • Task usually includes 2 or 3 sentences describing the problem and your objective.
  • Then you provide a list of specific actions you took to achieve the goal. It should take 1 or 2 sentences per action (Usually 3-4 actions). Note that the interviewer can stop you any minute and ask for more details.
  • The results part should have 1 or 2 sentences describing the outcomes. This part is finalizing your story - make sure it can impress the interviewer and stay in the memory.

Best!

Thanks for the detailed reply. — Akhil Nemani on Sep 25, 2018

Francesco replied on Sep 10, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

I agree with Guennael, it makes sense to try to postpone the interview if you already feel you won't be ready. Besides that, I would recommend the following:

  1. Define a calendar for your preparation. Identify how many hours you have per week to dedicate to consulting prep and how many weeks in total you have before interviews, then allocate a time slot for preparation in your calendar for each day. It’s important you write it down to self-commit or you will start to skip some prep time pretty soon, in particular if you don’t have pressure for an interview scheduled soon – and it is definitely better to start slowly and constantly than rushing towards the end close to the interview. Ideally you want to have a minimum of 100 hours to dedicate to the preparation before your interviews.
  2. Read Case In Point or Case Interview Secrets for a general understanding of what a consulting interview is. Don’t focus too much on the structures proposed in the books though, as they are not good enough nowadays.
  3. Start reading MBA Consulting Handbook – you can find several for free online (Insead is a good one to start). Read the cases and try to apply your structure. Whenever you see there is something missing, upgrade your structure with the new insides. Try to read at least a new case per day – in this way you will absorb a lot better the information with constant learning. Structure your remaining daily preparation with 5-10 minutes per day for each of the following: market sizing, fit questions and mental math.
  4. After you have read the first 10 cases in books/handbooks and basic theory, start to practice live. There is a relevant part of the interview score that is based on your communication, which you cannot practice at all if you read cases only. Keep track of your mistakes and see if you repeat them. If so, try to identify the source of the mistake (feedback of experienced partners would be particularly useful for this). Be sure to focus on both fit and case.
  5. Once you feel you are not improving anymore, if you have a tight time constraint or if you want a realistic assessment of your level, consider using experts’ support to strengthen your performance
  6. Before the interview, be sure to prepare your questions for the interviewer –great way to show you prepare in advance and to connect more with the interviewer for a good final impression.

Best,

Francesco

Hi Francesco, Thank you very much for your helpful comment. I have searched for the Case in Point download and I have just found the 7th edition. Is it good enough? Or I should try to find a newer edition? Thank you — Marta Sáenz de Pipaón on Sep 10, 2018 (edited)

I also would like to comment your third point. You said that you recommend a daily preparation of 5 to 10 minutes for three different parts. Market sizing, fit questions and mental math. May you facilitate any link or book to train each of this part? Thank you in advance — Marta Sáenz de Pipaón on Sep 10, 2018 (edited)

Hi Marta, yes, version 7 should be enough, as mentioned the reading is just for general understanding of how the consulting interview is structured. As for your remaining points: Mental math - you should be able to find some resources to practice it daily on both Victor Cheng website and on PrepLounge. Fit: this is a bit different according to your current level. In general, the following could be a good link to start: https://bit.ly/2PGPgoq. Market sizing: Case in point has some suggestions on it, although not particularly great; still can be a starting point to create your own structures. Hope this helps! — Francesco on Sep 18, 2018

Guennael
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replied on Sep 10, 2018
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3 top recommendations that first come to mind:

1. Ask if you can postpone a little bit. Worth a shot, no real downside -> why show up if you are not ready, you'd waste both your time and theirs. Most consultancies will at least try to accomodate

2. Study as much as you can during the time you have left. Work with a coach (yes, I'm a coach - I'm not the only one though, and truthfully believe that'd be the fastest way for you to improve)

3. Leverage free and paying information on the web. PrepLounge obviously has a ton of material (top notch I might add - and I did not create it nor am I incentivized to say this, so that's just my honest opinion); Victor Cheng also has 6 hours of free YouTube videos on how to crack a case, well worth your time

Good luck, don't give up.

Anonymous A replied on Sep 23, 2018

Hi! How did your interviews go? I hope they went well!

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