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What is the best way to prepare for a case where you are provided materials 15 minutes before the interview?

Case Interview
New answer on Nov 12, 2020
5 Answers
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James asked on Nov 11, 2020
Current Big 4 Consultant, preparing for upcoming interviews in November

I have an upcoming interview where we will be provided the materials 15 minutes prior to meeting with the case interviewer. I am struggling to find information online on how to approach these sort of cases? How do they differ from your usual consulting cases on PrepLounge? Should your approach/structure be any different, especialy when you'll likely be asked to consider multiple questions in those 15 minutes. Thank you

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Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 12, 2020
#1 Coach for Sessions (3.900+) | 1.400+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (www.case.tools/results) | Ex BCG | 9Y+ Coaching

Hi Justin,

It depends on the material they will send you. Usually, the key areas to prepare are the following.

1. Learn how to define a plan of action and stick to that

The first thing you should do in a written case is to define a plan and allocate in the best possible way your time.

Assuming 15 minutes for the analysis, a good approach would include:

  • initial quick reading – 2-3 min (this may depend on the amount of material)
  • structure the approach – 1-2 min
  • make slides/answer to the questions adding detailed analysis and math – 10-12 min
  • final review – 1-2 min

You should practice to stick to the time allocated to maximize your final performance.

2. Practice graph interpretation

You may have to analyse graphs as part of the data provided. The best way to practice is to take graphs from online sources and use a timer to test in how much time you can understand the key message. McKinsey PST graphs are good practice for that.

3. Work on quick reading and quick understanding of key information

You won’t have time to read and prioritize everything, therefore you have to understand where to focus. The ideal way to practice is to use long cases such as HBS ones. You should then learn to absorb the key information of the case. Quick reading techniques could also help.

4. Practice quick math

You will probably have some math to do as part of the data analysis. GMAT and McKinsey PST math should work well to prepare on this.

5. Learn how to communicate your slides/answers

When you have to present your findings in the second part, I would suggest the same structure used for a conclusion in a live interview, that is:

  1. Summarize the main questions you have to answer
  2. Present your proposed answer and detail the motivation behind
  3. Propose next steps for the areas you have not covered

As you will not be able to double-check hypotheses with the interviewer while you prepare the presentation, you should clearly state when you are making hypotheses and that you will have to verify them with further analysis.

If you have to prepare slides I would also recommend to work on:

A) structure the order of the slides

Normally the structure for a 5-slide presentation is the following:

  • First slide summarizes the question and provides the answer
  • Second, third and fourth slide have the supporting arguments for the first slide
  • Fifth slide has the next steps

B) structure the content of each slide

There are three basic components for slides:

  1. Title
  2. Chart or data
  3. Label for chart

Many people structure the title as the mere description of what the chart is about.

A great title instead shows the implication of the graph as well.

Example: say the graph is showing a cost structure for a division.

  • A bad title would be: Cost structure from 2005 to 2015.
  • A good title would be: Cost structure of Division XYZ is not sustainable”.
  • A great title would be Cost structure of Division XYZ is not sustainable due to ABC, assuming you have insides on the cause.

The rule of thumb for the title is that if you read all the titles of the slides together you should get a clear idea of what is going on.

C) present the slides

When you present, I would suggest the following steps for each slide:

  1. Introduce the slide:Let’s move to slide 2, which will show us why we have an issue with this division
  2. Present the main message of the slide: “As you can see, we have a cost structure which makes unfeasible to be competitive in this market
  3. Provide details: “The graph, indeed, shows how our fix cost is XYZ, while competitors can benefit from economies of scale. Indeed…

In terms of how to prepare, I do a session exactly on that.

Before the session, I can send you the data source to work on. We can then simulate the panel during the class, reviewing step-by-step all the improvements needed.

Please feel free to send me a message in case you have any questions.

Best,

Francesco

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Adi
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 12, 2020
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hi Justin,

The way you will approach the case is the same as you have been learning & practicising.

Its not a memory test, but take good notes while reading the case. Jot down key numbers and watch out for decoy information.

Otherwise, no need to do anything different. Follow the interviewers lead (if interviewer led) otherwise run the show.

Good luck.

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Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 12, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Skillset needed is the same.

However, look for the keywords "written case" in this Q&A, since you will find supr insightful threads with examples and hints.

Best,

Clara

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Nov 12, 2020
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi Justin,

If you think about it, the skills they're testing the are the same!

As in, can the candidate quickly figure an approach from solving a complicated/vague problem, figure out what matters (and what doesn't), pull out key insights that support the answer, and clearly + concisely communicate their view/findings?

So, the same principles apply! As in:

  1. Be super super clear on the objective. Focus on this at all times.
  2. Figure out what are the key pieces of information that will lead to answering the objective....i.e. what key levers/decisions
  3. Ruthlessly cut out any information that doesn't help and figure out which information does (to do this, skim all the materials quickly first...quickly identify what each exhibit is showing, and which don't matter)
  4. Grab your insights from the data provided
  5. Form a clear recommendation w/ supporting info

Just like a live case!

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Ken
Expert
replied on Nov 12, 2020
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

It does depend on the firm but generally speaking it is driven by the following:

+ Allow the candidate to think through the case in advance where the case intro does not need to be read out by the interviewer

+ Assess how a candidate sifts through large amounts of information in a short time and picks up on the key insights

+ Expect the structuring to be more targeted based on the provided information than a purely hypothesis-driven and first principles approach

I wouldn't worry too much about it where I would prepare by practicing to read through the case intro quickly (I assume you are already doing this) and reading through lots of exhibits so that you are able to pick up on key insights quickly.

Good luck!

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