A Guide to Cracking Case Interviews
If you’re dreaming of a job at any of the big consulting firms like Bain, McKinsey or BCG, then there is one bridge you have to cross – the case interview. Clearing this step is the only way for you to get recruited to a top consulting job. You need to show your value in this round to stand out from the crowd.
What is a case interview you ask?
Well, think of case interviews as a simulation of the job you’re aspiring to do. The interviewer will give you a challenging scenario in business and you are required to put on your thinking hats, use your analytical and problem-solving skills to investigate the case and give a suitable solution.
Besides the case interview, the interview process itself has different components in it. First, you will have to go through a fit interview, where you will be evaluated based on your motivation and other criteria of suitability to work in the company. Following this, you will have the case interview which will test your skills for around 30-40 min. Finally, you will have another fit interview in the last five minutes. This is just a time for you to ask your questions, but hey, you can always make yourself stand out even through those one or two questions you ask, so don’t completely belittle this part.
As you can see for yourself, there is only a short amount of time to prove yourself in these interviews – which are one of the most difficult ones to clear. If you’re racking your brains because it all seems too much then you’re in the right place. Here’s a step-by-step guide of everything you need to keep in mind to ace your case interview.
Step 1: Woo the Interviewer
As the old saying goes, well begun is half done. While you might have practiced your skills day and night, you need to present yourself well in the interview for the interviewer to see your worth.
The interviewer will initially give some basic information about the background and the challenge. The best practice would be to repeat back what you understood about the case and clarify the situation so that you do not make any mistakes later on.
Also, make sure to ask questions that are relevant. These steps are important to let your interviewer see your mentality early on. It also projects you as a consultant who is attentive to the needs of their client.
Step 2: Don’t Lose Structure
Having a structure is like having a map with all the necessary landmarks and directions to reach your destination. Without it, you will be completely lost.
Similarly, you need a proper structure to solve your problem. If it feels too awkward to sit silently and plan out your structure for a minute or two, you can also do it in a conversational manner and involve your interviews. As we said before, case interviews are all about showing your logic.
Keep in mind that case types and readily available frameworks are only a guide. They are useful to help you break your problem into smaller parts or Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive (MECE). But they are not a one size fits all solution. Some situations may require you to approach the problem from other angles.
Also, in case interviews, they are looking for your unique creativity and your approach to different scenarios. So simply delivering pre-made solutions without even a single tweak may not be the best thing to do.
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Step 3: Keep up with the Numerical Game
At some point in the interview, you will have to face another thing that many dread – maths.
There are two types of quantitative questions that you could be provided with – those with data and those without data. In all these cases there are only a few steps you need to follow – be thorough with the formulas, learn any shortcuts beforehand, ask for any relevant additional information, practice, and most importantly be calm.
You don’t need to be a human calculator and answer right away to impress your interviewer. Chances are you will mess up if you try to do so. Just take your time and respond carefully.
Step 4: Be Up to Date
As a consultant, your job is to help your client and provide information that is as relevant as possible. This is why it’s best to keep up with the different industries as well as the latest news related to the field. This will help you to tailor your answers better to the industry and situation at the time.
Step 5: Hone Your Skills
While all these tips do hold true, don’t forget that there is no substitute for hard work. The saying practice makes perfect stands true even for case interviews. It’s only when you practice many types of questions that you will become comfortable and confident for your interviews.
In addition to that, if you can convince a friend to tag along to your practice sessions then even better. After all, there is a difference between planning out the solution in your brain and explaining it to someone else. You’ll have to face a couple of these case interview rounds, around 4-6, before you qualify for the job. And for this, you’ll need all the practice that you can get.
Most importantly, remember that case interviews are not just about delivering the correct answers. You are also being tested for your analytical skills, client-friendly approach, and your soft skills.
Yes, you heard that right – your soft skills are also being tested!
After all, interacting with your client is a crucial part of being a consultant and only your interpersonal skills can help you out hear. Don’t approach your case interview like a written exam. You will not get anywhere with just simply memorizing data. What you need is the presence of mind to apply your knowledge and the skills to present them well.
There is only one way for you to get better at this – Learn, Practice, Improve and Repeat!