Get Active in Our Amazing Community of Over 457,000 Peers!

Schedule mock interviews on the Meeting Board, join the latest community discussions in our Consulting Q&A and find like-minded Case Partners to connect and practice with!

industry knowledge for case studies

articles Bain BCG Books Case Interview competence extra knowledge McKinsey reading reports
Recent activity on Jun 04, 2019
6 Answers
18.8 k Views
Alexander asked on May 14, 2017

Dear all,

I've been having some issues during case studies when it comes to making assumptions about different factors influencing a business, an industry or a market size.

As an example, when I get asked what 3 factors influence variable costs of a power plant or supply chain issues faced by an engine manufacturer, my brain freezes up because all I can think of is that I have never worked in this sector or done any research into this topic.

I have read CIP and Victor Cheng's book, as well as various online material, however, I feel like this point is rarely addressed.

Short from practising as many cases as possible to cover the majority of industries and business problems, has anybody come across a resource which provides a good breakdown of facts one should try to memorise for each industry / business type?

Thanks in advance!


Overview of answers

  • Upvotes
  • Date ascending
  • Date descending
Best answer
Anonymous replied on May 14, 2017

You are doing a lot of what I say "looking at the leaves" while you need to rise above and look at the whole forest. You cannot, ever, know about all the industries you may be questions on at a case interview. Your job is NOT to know everything about everything but to have the TOOLS to get you there ASAP. What does that mean? Your brain freezes because you've trained it to only answer things that you ALREADY know. You now need to train it to figure out what are the RIGHT questions to ask to get you to a place where you can accurately GUESS at what you don't know. Take your own Q: "what influences variable costs of power plants". I've never read a single document/article on power plants. Here's how I'd approach it.

1. Do I know what variable costs are? Yes. OK, next:

2. Do I know what generally happens to get me power@home? Yes (coal/hydro/solar --> magic happens --> electricity --> national grid --> power lines --> regional grid --> more power lines --> .... -> home). OK, next:

3. Do I know what happens in ANY generic plant/factory? Yes (source --> raw material --> lots of magic --> finished material --> destination). OK, next:

4. Do I know, approx, what the "magic" is? Yes (material, machines, people, etc). OK, next:

Now, TUNE the above to "power plants". Thinking through this, the variable costs are likely going to be:

1. Raw material (if there's no demand, you don't supply == no raw material costs)
2. Transport (see above -- things like people, fuel, etc)
3. Seasonal labor, if applicable (likely -- summers in hot country == more AC; winters in cold countries == more heaters), so more people to dig coal, or transport, etc etc..

That's all I can think of without knowing ins and outs of the industry. You can probably rattle these off without knowing ANYthing about ANY industry and you'll likely be right but your goal is to show you aren't just guessing and have thought through and customized your answer to the industry in question.

So, fun fact: After writing all that above, I just googled up "variable costs of power plants" and came up with this link: and you'll note, I was almost 100% right. And THAT's how you crack a case interview. Good luck!


Was this answer helpful?
Alexander on May 14, 2017

Thanks, that was very insightful! I will definitely try to approach unknowns from the perspective of trying to get the right questions rather than collecting all the answers.

Content Creator
replied on May 25, 2017
5+ Years at BCG & Kearney Dubai & Istanbul | 400+ Trainees | Free 15-min Consultation Call

Hi Alex,

I completely agree with you that the importance of sector knowledge is underestimated in case interviews. While most people would argue it is not as relevant, trust me it makes a difference. Just to give you an idea, I had a very hard time in one of the real life case interviews, simply because I wasn't familiar with the revenue streams of private banking.

I would advise to get familiar with some most common aspects of sectors e.g. revenue streams, main products, consumer behaviour, logistics and key trends. The most common sectors covered in interviews are banking, insurance, consumer goods, energy and TMT.

As mentioned by other experts, you can find some information in certain case books or via a simple google search.

Best of luck!

Was this answer helpful?
Alexander on May 28, 2017

Hey Deniz, thanks for your reply to my questions. I had a similar situation with a case in the insurance industry, which prompted me to pose the question.

Anonymous replied on May 14, 2017

Dear Alex,

Good point.

Some casebooks address this - Kellog and Wharton for example - they have industry trends, drivers and so on.

If you're not able to find it just PM me and I will send you.


Was this answer helpful?
Alexander on May 14, 2017

Hello Nuno, thanks for the answer! Found them in our consulting club repository and will check them out now =)!

Felix on Feb 02, 2019

Hi, could you please share the books with me? Thanks :)

Anonymous B on May 28, 2019

Hi, could you please share these casebooks with me?

Mona on Jun 04, 2019

Hi Alexander, could you please share the casebooks with me? Thanks a lot, it would be much appreaciated! I am experiencing the same issues as you described above

Rahul on Jun 09, 2020

Hi Alex, can you please share the book with me r************@s***************.com

Anonymous replied on May 23, 2017

Hi Alex,

I actually disagree with Heman a little bit here because I prepare my students on different industries. We discuss ideas and market trends for Banking, Products, Technology etc. and it helps when you bounce ideas, debate - you start to understand how you structure your thinking process.

The first step is read up a few bits about industries - I recommend Economist for general market overview. Wired and Tech crunch for new technologies out there, sometimes FT for market insights.

Prior to interviews - easiest way is obviously getting a coach to bounce ideas and discuss in prep or find a friend that works in industry that you can debate trends with.

It is true that with experience this knowledge is almost automatic but you can definitely prepare also and it doesn't hurt to have an idea about market trends for Pharma, Banks, Tech firms etc.

Hope this helps!

Was this answer helpful?
Alexander on May 28, 2017

Hello Victoria, thanks for your reply! I try to cram in an economist issue every few weeks and try to keep up to date listening to various news podcasts. It definitely did help me to consciously take in information and think about how this could come up in a case. I understand that some individuals are able to calmly look beyond the problem in industry specific terms and break down issues with pure logic. However, as a person that gets rather nervous when faced with an unexpected situation in an high stakes interview situation, it helps me to have at least an inkling of what companies in various industries do.

How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or fellow student?
0 = Not likely
10 = Very likely
You are a true consultant! Thank you for consulting us on how to make PrepLounge even better!