“How should I prepare for a case interview?”
For anybody considering a career in management consulting, this question would’ve popped up at one point or another. I’m often asked this question by eager beavers raring to don the consultant suit. As all management consultants will tell you, preparing for a case interview and cracking one can often be different experiences.
Here are four keys (because you do need all of them) to cracking the case interview:
- Define the Problem Situation
To be able to define the problem as accurately as possible, call in your listening skills. When in doubt about what you’ve heard, seek clarifications. Your aim will not be to gather deep understanding of the industry in question, but to gain a reasonable appreciation of the critical business decisions that must be made.
Once you have assimilated the information, verbalise your understanding of the problem situation. Let the interviewer know that you will be driving the interview from here on; summarize the problem statement and proceed.
- Solve the Problem
Take a minute or two to think through the key issues at hand. Identify at least two and at most five issues for the deep-dive.
Now, think aloud. Here’s where the ‘S’ word figures – Structure your analysis of the issues, ideally 3-4 levels deep, not more, based on a flexible framework. Where frameworks are concerned, incorporate them, adapt them, merge them, but do not be constrained by them. Do ensure, however, that your issue tree is mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE). Hypothesise the direction of the solution and begin your analysis of the issues.
Bear in mind that you are not only a problem solver but also a presenter all this time. The interviewer needs to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ how you are thinking. Take her along with you in your analysis. Signpost as you pass each step of your journey.
Collect evidence for each issue by seeking more information. Where it is unavailable, explain the assumptions you would be making. Be data-driven; correct your course if the information provided is contrary to your hypothesis.
- Make Recommendations
Develop (ideally) more than one solution and provide the ideal scenarios for use of each. Step through the key actions required to execute each solution.
End well. Finish in time, without requiring prompting. Summarise the case problem, what issues you identified, what evidence you collected for your analysis, what your key findings were, and what your key recommendations are.
Throughout the interview, remember to stay composed, look confident, and make eye contact. Show strong logic and stick to your guns.
Go ace that case!