Do having deep knowledge about industries helps during cases?

1st round Bain case partners needed partner
New answer on Dec 10, 2020
9 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 30, 2020

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Francesco
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replied on Oct 30, 2020
#1 Expert for Coaching Sessions (3.600+) | 1.300+ Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG | 8+ Years of Coaching

Hi there,

Industry knowledge is useful for brainstorming during the case. If you can’t think about the importance of the load factor in an airline case, or that customers may not pay for prescription drugs in some countries as they are refunded by the government in a healthcare case, you may be at a disadvantage compared to other candidates.

Having said that, you are not supposed to be an expert in any industry for generalist roles. Moreover, you should be able to derive the main insights with the right clarifying questions.

If you feel you are not strong in some industries (eg financial services, healthcare) try to do more cases in that sector – after 4-5 you should have a good understanding of the industry and be able to do better when brainstorming.

Best,

Francesco

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Clara
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replied on Oct 31, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Personally, I never advise people to prep for cases looking at the industry.

There are few couple of insights regarding each industry, right, that can be useful. However, precisely the casing methodology is thought to test your ability to think, structure, problem solve... the way it is conceived is precisely not to give anyone an extra advantage for the fact of knowing the industry.

Hence, my advise would be to focus on the type of case (e.g., profitability, market entry, M&A, etc.) instead of the industry that is treated.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Anonymous replied on Oct 30, 2020

Hi,

I would definitely agree that having prior industry knowledge helps in solving cases because of the prior familiarity which ensures you are in a comfort zone. Knowing about industry value chain, industry structure, cost structure, market dynamics, key players and business models etc.

But having said that, it might act against you in the following ways.

1. You having relevant industry experience must be expecting questions/cases to your industry and in reality they dont even touch your industry and play around with cases from other industries to test your abilities to structure and analyze problems in unfamiliar territory.

2. You might be tested in depth within your own industry and failure to live upto the expectations goes against your credibility that you dont have good enough knowledge in the industry you are working in. Ideally its not possible to have indepth understanding on the whole depth and breadth of the industry. It is like asking a drilling engineer in oil & gas about latest challenges in decommissioning and how consulting companies can add value by advising from a capital project perspective.

Trust this brings about some clarity.

Thanks

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Pascal
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replied on Oct 30, 2020
Ex-Bain Manager | 10 yrs MBB experience | 250+ people interviewed | Written case expert | Open to give limited discounts

Hi Anonymous,

Having deep knowledge about industries always helps to solve cases, but that doesn't mean it is a prerequisite to be successful during your interviews. Hence, I would never advice anyone to just start "getting deeper knowledge about any industry".

Having said that, it can be a good exercise to list out 5-10 industries for yourself, and try to figure out for yourself how they are different in:

- Cost structure (fixed vs variable)

- Types of clients (and how to sell to them)

- Typical issues they have

You will be surprised by how much you will already deduct from just using your common sense. And these are exactly the types of insights that will help you to better solve your cases.

Other than that, I would say it is always a good idea to know what is happening in the world, for example by reading the economist every week and or by taking a subscription on the Financial Times for a couple of months.

Cheers,

Pascal

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Henning
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replied on Oct 31, 2020
Bain | passed >15 MBB interviews as a candidate

Absolutely! The two persons (out of >120) that absolutely rocked my interview case came from the same background as the company I'm discussing in my case, and yes: They background helped them tremendously.

But - can you practice that? No. Preparing for every industry to the level that it would actually help you in an interview is simply not possible. So I would not even try. Focus on building general case skills. That's time spent much more effectively.

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Rahul replied on Oct 30, 2020
McK 2nd round cases

During case interviews, you are often tested on your "creative" capabilities. However, "creativity" here is not in the sense of what you normally would think creativity means. Creativity in consulting means having the ability to search and understand available solutions and based on a project's requirements create a novel solution that is specific to the project at hand.

A creativity technique often used by consultants is structured brainstorming. It is a creativity technique whereby you gather a list of ideas to come up with a solution for a specific problem. In order to do so, having general knowledge (deep knowledge is not required) about industries definitely will help you significantly, as you have a broader understanding of potential factors that should be taken into consideration.

If you are looking to improve your business knowledge and case-solving skills be sure to check out https://leap-pro.strategycoglobal.com/.

It is a 4-weeks course where you will gain access to management consulting best practices and methodologies to excel at any consulting interview.

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Ian
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replied on Oct 30, 2020
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

100% I think it's a pretty overlooked knowledge building area. Yes, you do want to be able to solve any case for any industry without having any knowledge of it. However, the more you know about the major industries, the easier cases will be.

I have an industry template, so feel free to reach out if interested!

Some key tips:

  1. List all the major industries that you'll need to learn
  2. Create a template that you can fill in with research. This would include things like
    1. Industry summary
    2. Total market size
    3. Major players
    4. Cost drivers
    5. Revenue drivers
    6. Major trends
    7. etc.
  3. Fill in the template for each industry one by one. Use google to find the relevant information and piece it together. Over time, you'll get more and more efficient as you see which sites are good for what

Definitely a good idea to partner with someone equal to you! You can each research an industry and present it to each other.

Good luck!

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Ken
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replied on Oct 30, 2020
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

I would argue the opposite where breadth of industry knowledge and intellectual curiousity is much more helpful. Unless you have a prior background in that industry, there is no expectation that you have deep knowledge. On the contrary, I have been most impressed with candidates who can make meaningful inferences from industries they may know as well as their business acumen.

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Gaurav
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replied on Dec 10, 2020
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hello there!

It does help, but only when solving them, not during the interview itself.
But I wouldn't suggest you going deep into industries as there are many other factors that need to be considered, having a basic understanding about them is also enough.

Cheers,
GB

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Francesco gave the best answer

Francesco

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