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General Consulting Interview AdviceEdit

Approaches to a Case Interview

  • Practice extensively before undergoing a case interview. Use books and Web sites in our resources section for practice cases. Some companies that use case interviews provide good information on their own Web sites. Boston Consulting Group, for example, provides an interactive case you can work through for practice, as well as additional cases you can rehearse with friends. Vault.com, which has some of the best resources on the Internet regarding case interviewing, suggests starting out by practicing explaining something like how to change a tire. Move on to assessing a situation for friends or family members, such as which bank they should choose for a checking account. In all cases, try to avoid "um's" and other filler words. Practice summarizing in a minute or less, advises Vault.com. Boston Consulting Group notes that Harvard Business School produces numerous case studies that can be used for practice; the studies are likely available in your business-school or career-services library. Other experts suggest talking to alumni from your school or others who've been through a case interview, as well as reading business magazines and periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal to get a sense of how companies deal with the kinds of issues likely to be asked about in case interviews. Some universities offer case interview workshops.
  • Listen carefully to the question. Paraphrase it back to the interviewer to ensure your understanding. As StudentAdvantage.com puts it in its article on case interviewing, "Listening is the most important skill a consultant has. The case isn't about you or the consultant; it's about the client." You may also want to take notes; in most cases the interviewer will allow you to do so. Vault.com suggests bringing not only a pad of paper but a pad of graph paper in case you want to create a graph as part of your conclusion.
  • Silence -- but not too much of it -- is golden. The interviewer expects you to take a minute or so to collect your thoughts, so don't be afraid of silence. It's a nice idea, however, to ask the interviewer if it's OK to take a moment to ponder the case. And don't take too much time. Experts agree that five minutes would be excessive.
  • Remember that rarely is there one "right" answer for analyzing a case. Your process for reaching your conclusions is equally important to the interviewer as is the conclusion itself. In fact, the interviewer wants to observe as much of that process as possible, so it's important -- once you've taken the time to gather your thoughts -- to "think out loud" as you're working through the case. Although there is probably not one right answer, the McKinsey representative who spoke at Columbia warns against "wrong approaches," including "ignoring or forgetting important facts, defending impossible ideas, and force-fitting the wrong structure onto a problem."
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. The case interview is meant to be interactive, with lots of back and forth between you and the interviewer. Questions are expected, especially because the information provided about the case will likely be incomplete. The interviewer will be looking at your resourcefulness in collecting information. Make sure you ask your questions in a logical -- not random -- progression. Vault.com notes that it's helpful to adopt "the persona of an actual consultant trying to learn about the assignment" and warns that failing to ask questions is a fatal error in the case interview. Be sure, also, to listen carefully to the answers to your questions. And don't get rattled if the interviewer wants to know why you want the information you're asking for. It's all part of understanding your thought process.
  • Construct a logical framework with which to explore the critical issues of the case. Many of the principles you learned in business school can serve as a framework. Examples include Porter's Five Forces, the SWOT analysis, Value Chain Analysis, and the Four P's of marketing. If you have some business experience, you can can also draw on applicable situations you've encountered. Make sure your conclusion is grounded in action, not just theory. Be able to explain and defend your reasoning.
  • Prioritize the issues and objectives. Don't get bogged down trying to deal with every aspect of the case. As you ask questions, you should be able to pick up clues as to which issues are most important. Some of those clues might be meant to lead you back on track if you've gone astray, so be sure to listen carefully. If direction is not forthcoming, don't be afraid to take control of the conversation, advises Vault.com, to get to the meat of the case.
  • Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Creativity and brainstorming may be just what the interviewer is looking for.

Some of the standard advice about case interviews is the same advice that applies to any kind of interview:

  • Maintain eye contact. Eye contact will help you engage the interviewer, establish rapport, and contribute to the interactivity of the interview.
  • Project confidence. Your ability to work the case confidently, without getting flustered or frustrated, is key.
  • Demonstrate your enthusiasm. Behaving as though you feel it's fun to tackle this kind of problem is integral to showing how well you'd fit in as a consultant or whatever position you're interviewing for. Assure your interviewer though your enthusiastic demeanor that you are exactly the kind of person he or she would enjoy working with.

Types of case questions:

  • Calculation/estimation/guesstimate/numerical/market sizing case
  • Problem case
  • Probing case
  • Business operations case
  • Business strategy case
  • Resume case (case based on a company at which you worked)
  • Brainteaser/logical puzzle/IQ question


McKinseyEdit

Date Duration Questions Asked General Advice
2 Hours


Bain & Co.Edit

Date Duration Questions Asked General Advice
2 Hours




BCGEdit

Date Duration Questions Asked General Advice
2 Hours


Booz & Co.Edit

Date Duration Questions Asked General Advice
2 Hours


LEK ConsultingEdit

Date Duration Questions Asked General Advice
2 Hours


MonitorEdit

Date Duration Questions Asked General Advice
2 Hours


ParthenonEdit

Date Duration Questions Asked General Advice
2 Hours


Deloitte ConsultingEdit

Date Duration Questions Asked General Advice
2 Hours

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