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Written interview

Anonymous A

Hi folks,

I am looking for some advice regarding the written/presentation case (i.e. the one where you are provided with a bunch of paper, have 30-60 mins to make something out of it and subsequently present it). I cannot find an aweful lot of info.

Will the objectives still be the same as the 'regular' interview cases (interviewer/ee-led case)? Like, what's causing the decreasing profits? I read that it might be best to stick to something like (please only mind the order, not the allotted time):

- 5 minutes of skimming docs

- 5 minutes of laying out your structure/approach

- 15 minutes to process the case (come up with a recommendation)

- 5 minutes to make slides

And the slides on which you will present this, will be about five total (so I've read) probably structured as:

1. Conclusion/recommendation

2. Argument 1

3. Argument 2

4. Argument 3

5. Conclusion + main limitations/remarks (short)

Can anyone comment on this? My main 'concern' is where (or whether) I include the framework I used (for example a tree where I dismantly the costs or profits). Do I include this at the "Argument-slides"?

Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks in advance

replied on 10/11/2016
Experienced consultant, now running own consulting business

Hi Anonymous,

that is an excellent question. A few comments from my side:

In general, there are two types of presentations: "Answer first" and "Answer last".

  • AF presentations lead with the answer / hypothesis and then add a bunch of material that supports the initially made statement.
  • AL first provide a bunch of material (results of analyses, research, blabla) that then logically lead to a final conclusion.

Both types of presentation have their merits and are appropriate in different situations.

As you have probably guessed by now, the Answer First presentation is better suited for interview situation. The main reason is that you will be hard pressed for time. So it is essential to at least get your key message accross. Not good if you present tons of good analysis and then have to rush through the conclusion.

So the structure you are proposing is entirely correct. Regarding the process, I suggest the following:

  1. Skim through the presented material quickly - on a 30 mins case 5 minutes max. Make sure to immediately write down key points of information (and the page you found them on!) to not waste time searching for them later on . Also important: Probably 90% of the material will not be relevant for the question at hand. This is also an exercise to see if you can focus and distinguish the important from the unimportant.
  2. Then immediately formulate your hypothesis on the question.
  3. Now come up with your line of argumentation / framework and design rough slides on paper once you have that nailed down. Then fill in the relevant data.
  4. Adding a framework slide makes sense if you intend to walk the interviewer through a framework. But, to be honest, in 30 mins you most likely will not have time for that. If there is an obvious framework to pick and you see that you will not have time for the entire framework, mention the framework and then say that you will limit your presentation to whatever makes most sense (2 of the 5 forces, only the "new customers" area of the Ansoff matrix, only the cost branches of a value driver tree, etc...). If you make this transparent and show that you are aware that you are not covering the entire framework, you should be ok.
  5. Do not try to come up with a new comprehensive framework on your own. You will get killed on time. If no framework with a good fit comes to mind, just use the arguments you have and present them in a structured manner (most important first)

One more comment on timing: Unless you are a slide-drawing wizard and have done a TON of presentations, you will have a hard time coming up with 4-5 meaningful (and legible) slides in 5 minutes. So do not allocate time at the end, coming up short. Rather once you have settled on a structure, immediately start in building the slides.

Hope that helps,