Hardest cases to excel in

Case Case Interview case study Cases
New answer on Nov 17, 2020
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Anonymous A asked on May 02, 2018

What type of cases, industry, question do candidates generally over look or feel they did well, when in fact they haven’t?

Or what hat cases are the hardest to do well at?

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replied on May 02, 2018
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

From my coaching experience it is generally cases where the central objective is not a financial KPI (like profits, revenues etc.) It can for example be social/political topics or change/cultural topics. I find candidates who are not very advanced in their skillset often struggle to transfer their skills to such settings.

Cheers, Sidi

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replied on May 02, 2018
Former BCG Principal and decision round interviewer

Industry wise I see candidates struggle the most with the following: any industry that is B2B, banking/finance, pharma. This because usually candidates are not familiar with how financials for these industries work.

Type of case wise: M&A, pricing and restructuring are the ones candidates tend to drive not as well. This because either they are not familiar with how companies think about financials in context of M&A or a restructuring case (closing down a plant comes with a cost in year 1) or because they have never been exposed to concepts like elasticity curves etc.

Hope this helps,


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replied on May 02, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


Based on my experience the candidates deprioritize the following cases:

  1. 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.) - candidates rarely finish this cases and bring back the right numbers from the interviews. Thus the sharing of these cases is limited.
  2. Cost Cutting - case books don't cover these types of cases
  3. Non-profit / social / unothrodoxcases (How you will improve the life expectancy in the city? How would you design a bankruptcy law? etc.)- candidates miss that these cases have much in common and you can prepare for them as well
  4. Market sizing, profitability - candidates think it's too basic and miss potential pitfalls
  5. Private equity due diligence, Synergies - Candidates miss the specifics of these cases


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Anonymous replied on Nov 10, 2016

Completely agree with Guennael especially on use VC frameworks and enjoy the process!

To my experience as expert, what people are often forgetting is the following (put in very simple terms)

Consulting is about improving the clients situation. Therefore, you need to understand the situation of the given business. And at the very basic of every business is the question "How do you make money?"

Once this is really understood (and given it sounds so simple many people actually forget about it), the rest of the case becomes much easier... Then just be client-friendly and you ace it!


P.S.: Do understand many business types, regularly pick up business journals (WSJ, FT,...) and make your own cases!

P.S.2.: the question also includes "how do you add value?" :)

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replied on Oct 31, 2016
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

To those of you concerned about learning the framework... throw that "case in point" book in the garbage (ok, you are allowed to keep the section about companies and the one about market sizing".

There is no 1-size fits all in strategy consulting. you may want to understand how to approach a case, but will probably never be able to just apply a cookie-cutter framework. My own approach is to reuse Victor Cheng's 2 frameworks (profitability and business), then adapt them to the case. I have cracked all my practice cases that way, and even got into BCG so that was good enough then too.

Remember, less is often more. Keep it simple (and MECE), and don't forget to enjoy the process.


Guennael -

Ex-BCG Dallas

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Anonymous replied on Oct 31, 2016


Here, I would say it depends on the stage of learning. ​

  • 1 Stage: Learning all frameworks. Good overview/understanding what framework is required in which situation.
  • 2 Stage: Being able to use and adjust the framework. Recognizing that a standard framework does not always work and then know how to deal with it.
  • 3 Stage: Structure thinking throughout the process (pyramid), this is especially helpful for conclusion.

On top of that it is helpful to know what kind of calculations can be expected.

Personal Fit:

  • Find answers to questions that show personality but also implicitly demonstrate that the applicant has the desired skills.
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Content Creator
replied on Nov 17, 2020
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies
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Anonymous C replied on May 02, 2018

Not sure. For me I think was the market size estimation.

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Anonymous B replied on Oct 31, 2016

For me, trying to absorb all the different structures and methods into my thinking

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Sidi gave the best answer


McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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