It’s not uncommon for companies to test prospective employees by presenting them with a specific case to crack. The results show how quick on their feet interviewees are, and whether they possess the crucial skills to succeed in the industry.
When trying out for a position at a consulting company, case interviews are not just uncommon. They’re a fact of life. Suffice it to say that your ability to solve a case is paramount to landing a job in consulting.
Of course, what all that means is you need to be ready for the interview. There’s no winging it here, no matter how plausible it may seem. Preparation is key to getting any job, and for consultants, case interview prep is a must.
Find out here how to best prepare for a case interview and ensure your top performance. Given the competitive nature of consulting firms, you’ll need all the prep you can get.
What Is a Case Interview?
A case interview is a hypothetical situation, or more specifically, a problem that you need to solve.
It’s a business situation you’re faced with when applying for a position in a management consulting company. The goal is to put your problem-solving capabilities to the test right then and there.
Why is it so important for the consulting firms to test you in such a manner? And why do they challenge your answers so aggressively?
The answer to both questions is because they need to see how you handle real-world business issues. Consultants often have to work under a lot of pressure, especially when their clients give them very narrow timeframes. You need to be dynamic and quick on your feet if you’re going to succeed.
That’s what case interview prep is there for. You prepare for the interview with the consulting firm by tackling various issues that can occur in the world of business. For the best results, you should practice with a partner who’s willing (and capable enough) to shoot down your propositions and challenge you as much as possible.
Preparing for a Successful Case Interview
As we’ve already stated, preparation is the key to a successful case interview. But what (and how) should you prepare?
Only one out of ten interview candidates will get a job offer, according to McKinsey. If you want to be that one who makes it, you need to work hard and put in quite a bit of time. But you also need to be aware of the most common time traps of a case interview prep.
So, let’s see what you should (and shouldn’t) do in order to ace the case interview.
Don’t Just Memorize Frameworks
Case interview frameworks are solutions to problems that follow a certain defined structure. In other words, they’re answers to frequently asked questions. If you’re considering a career in consulting, it should be clear to you why frameworks are not the way to go.
Sure, it can be useful to memorize some of the frameworks. They give you a sense of direction and an insight into what some of the potential questions are. They can also help you find solutions to more common problems. Frameworks are a good starting point, but that’s about it.
When the time comes for the actual case interview, you’ll need to find a solution that’s unique to the problem that’s being presented. Interviewers are quick to spot candidates who rely on premade, one-size-fits-all solutions. It will not bode well for you. It’s just like sending a template of a cover letter along with your curriculum vitae.
Don’t harm your chances of landing a job offer. Be ready, and be unique.
Think Like a Consultant
Instead of memorizing dozens of frameworks, think like a consultant.
Put yourself in the shoes of a consultant that’s been hired for the purposes of solving some issue for a business. Don’t try and fit the problem into one of the preexisting frameworks. Go the opposite way — figure out what the problem is, and then create a framework that could work for it.
Easier said than done. But that’s why you’re preparing ahead of time. The best way to go about it? Find a partner that has some consulting background, or who at least has some experience dealing with business problems.
If you can’t manage to find someone, make sure to practice out loud. Communication is, after all, a crucial skill for a consultant. If you practice alone, put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and try to anticipate the questions they might ask you and the problems they could point out with your approach.
Analyze Each Case
Case interview prep involves a decent amount of problem-solving. You’ll go over case after case, figuring out all the ins and outs of each individual problem. But it won’t do you much good unless you keep a record of your progress.
It might be easy to remember the first several cases. It’s quite possible to memorize even ten to twenty of them. However, a serious case interview prep will amount to far more cases than that. At one point or another, it will become too difficult to keep track of all the problems.
That’s why you need to analyze each individual case and write your process down. Record your answers, both right and wrong. It’s just as important to analyze your mistakes as it is to think about all the cases you’ve handled well.
That way, you’ll have an overview of each and every case you’ve tackled so far. More importantly, you’ll have a massive database that you can study. Consultants need to know their way around stats and numbers, which brings us to the next point.
Do the Math
More often than not, case interviews include quantitative questions that you’ll have to answer without using a calculator.
For that reason, you’ll have to freshen up on mathematic operations and shortcuts. The latter is especially helpful since you’ll need to come up with results fast. Don’t doubt for a second that your interviewer is also rating how agile your mind is.
To solve this issue and prepare properly, you just need to practice. Train your mind to do quick calculations using handy shortcuts and cold logic. The more you do it, the faster your mind will become at dishing out numeric data.
The Bottom Line
Case interview prep is a process that you can’t afford to skip. It’s difficult and time-consuming, but the reward is more than worth it. Perform your due diligence, and you’ll increase the odds of landing a dream job in a top-class consulting company.