The guest post below is by the staff at ConsultingFact.com, which was founded by Daniel Stefanac, a former McKinsey management consultant. He went through the consulting recruiting process and landed a position at McKinsey, where he worked with strategy formation, mergers and acquisitions, corporate turnarounds, and cost reduction programs.
He wanted to help others pursue their careers in consulting, so he founded ConsultingFact.com.
How to Ace Consulting Case Interviews
The case interview is considered to be the most complicated part of the consulting recruitment process. While your personality and a sharp resume carried you through the first part of the interview, this part requires more technical and analytical skills.
There is more to the case interview than the right solution. In most cases, it’s your thought process that counts. Recruiters will ask a lot of questions along the way, not to confuse you but to better understand how you’re arriving at conclusions and possible options for the consulting case provided. Because of this, it is recommended to grasp the nature of the case well, instead of simply applying the normal “known” methods.
There are several tried and tested frameworks that an applicant can rely on during the case interview. Frameworks such as SWOT Analysis can be applied as a general framework to organize the details of the case. Some frameworks are limited to the type of case being presented, such as The Four Ps (best for marketing business cases).
Each consulting firm has its own set of preferred frameworks. BCG has the 2×2 matrix that they have developed, while McKinsey & Company has been known to be fond of using the Seven S. It is best to research which set of frameworks your target firm uses and, only if possible, use them. This can also give you a clue on what type of consulting cases (due diligence, startups, and organization are the most common) the firm gives their applicants, as some frameworks are very limited.
During the case interview, consulting frameworks serve as a guide or checklist to point you in the right direction. You should never force a framework to suit the problem. Applicants should be flexible in applying what works and discarding methods that simply do not fit. This can be easily avoided by familiarizing oneself with the entire case before diving in to take it apart.
You should never force a framework to suit the problem.
Critical thinking is the product of accurate analytical skills. Be as thorough as possible in providing options. In a real life setting, the owner of a failing business is going to want as many options as possible to avoid downsizing or further losses.
The Importance of Communication
The recruiter plays an essential role in the case interview. Apart from presenting the details of the case, he or she is there to help you. As mentioned earlier, the interviewer will most likely ask you questions along the way. You should also be able to think out loud during the case, as this helps the individual know where you’re at in arriving at a solution.
In a professional setting, one cannot stay quiet for 30-45mins and suddenly provide a drastic, unfavorable solution. The client may become very skeptical, making the process very difficult to manage. Your solution maybe correct, but how you delivered it would be incredibly hard to swallow. By explaining and guiding the client (or in this case, the interviewer) through the process, he or she will be able to understand why the option you provided is the most ideal.
Mock interviews are still considered to be the best way to prepare for a consulting case interview. This is a great way to apply your research, frameworks, and communication skills. It is likely that you will go through more than just one case, as some interviews go through as many as 6. Prepare for the grind and stay consistent. Recruiters want to make sure that you are able to deliver the same quality of service (should they hire you) throughout the process.
Mock interviews are still considered to be the best way to prepare for a consulting case interview.
Dealing with the Pressure
Most applicants have prepared well in advance for their case interview. So how come some are unable to do math problems under pressure? Failing to accurately come up with the answer isn’t always the culprit. Due to what’s at stake, some applicants miss key information, which will result in a wrong answer every time.
A way to keep a clear mind during the case interview is to slow down and verify the problem being presented to you by the interviewer. Once you get the confirmation that what you heard and understood is correct, proceed to find the correct answer or solution. This applies to other aspects of the case interview, where the problem being presented contains several supporting facts.