Is industry insight / knowledge critical in case interviews?

industry knowledge
New answer on Jun 06, 2021
3 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 05, 2021

Hi, guys, I know this question has been asked a few times, and some replies state that having a "general understanding" of different industries is enough.

However, in my last round interview, a major failure factor was I wasn't familiar with the industry of the case I was given to. I was unclear about the revenue source, and didn't come up with a key issue in this industry (distribution channel: b2b/b2c/b2b2c/omni chanel). Based on my interview experience, is seems to me having industry background knowledge is critical in delivering insightful recommendations. As I have several years of work experience and already got my MBA, I feel that interviewers will have higher expectation of my "business sense / industry knowledge".

Could you let me know, how specific and depth of industry knowledge should a candidate possess (experienced hire)? Given that there's so many different industries, I would need to spend my time efficiently. Another question is, do interviewer always give a case of an industry he / she covers? The local office focuses on TMT and financial industry, so I'm thinking of spending more emphasis on accumulating industry knowldege of these 2 sectors specifically.

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Ian
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updated an answer on Jun 05, 2021
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Hi there,

A few points to make here:

1) Not understanding the fundamental types of distribution channels (b2b/b2c/b2b2c/omni chanel) is not a failure to understand industries but a failure to properly understand business/casing. You were not prepared if you didn't know about b2b, b2c, etc. Own this and understand that you need to build up your business (not industry) knowledge more!

2) The more we know already, the easier a case is. You can 100% solve a case without knowing the industry/business model before the case begins (more on this in point #3). However, if you already know the industry, doesn't that make the case a lot easier? I always encourage my candidates to do industry deep-dives AND get exposed to a lot of unconventional case types. This is because, the more you already know/see, the less you have to work in the case. I spent about 30 hours during my prep to do industry deep-dives - it 100% paid off

3) You do not need to know anything about the industry/case type BEFORE the case, but you better know it DURING the case. What do I mean? You need to ask questions! Clarifying questions are about figuring out the answers to things you don't know. Don't understand how mRNA vaccines are made? Ask! Don't understand the supply chain to produce them? Ask! As a strategy consultant you are going to be put onto projects you have no prior knowledge of (heck, I was put onto an LNG project!) However, you need to identify your unknown unknowns, (make them known unknowns), then ask questions that turn them into known knowns. Practice here is critical. Coaching helps immensely as well

So, in summary, knowing as many industries as possible (through industry deep-dives and daily reading) is super helpful. However it is not necessary...a good caser/consultant can solve any problem on any topic without any prior knowledge!

(edited)

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Adi
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updated an answer on Jun 06, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hey, unless you are going for a specific experienced hire role, generally they dont expect you to have detailed prior knowledge of an industry & function. The idea is to test your structured problem solving in unknown scenarios. So dont worry about it. While reading and getting a generic overview of industries is good, focus on getting comfortable with solving cases. Dont get biased if you come across a familiar industry but really focus on being 100% comfortable with your systematic approach to solve the case.

Have a look at this thread for some generic tips on broad industry types:https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/hi-i-have-a-question-regarding-cases-on-new-industry-8899

(edited)

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Francesco
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replied on Jun 06, 2021
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Hi there,

I agree with Ian.

  • Does it help to know more about the industry of the case? ⮕ YES. 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.
  • Is it necessary that you know well the industry of the case? ⮕ NO. Unless you are interviewing for an expert role, you are not supposed to be an expert in any industry. However, if you are not familiar with an industry, you are supposed to ask for information on the industry to clarify what is not clear (at the bare minimum the revenue model).

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.

In terms of your second question: it is more likely that you get a question on the sectors covered by the interviewer. However there is no guarantee you will necessarily get a case based on that particular sector.

Hope this helps,

Francesco

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Ian

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