If you are interested in joining a consulting firm such as McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, PwC Strategy& etc, you will need to prepare for case interviews. Case interviews include two portions, solving cases and FIT.
When solving cases a job applicant is presented with a challenging business problem, usually an actual problem the interviewer faced with current or prior clients. Case interviews are designed to test a candidate’s problem-solving skills and what we call business judgment, which is the ability to make educated assumptions and inferences.
The case portion can be done in two formats, candidate-led (interviewee-led) or interviewer-led. The candidate-led case means it is up to the candidate to keep pushing the case forward. This format can be difficult for beginners. But once you develop case interview skills this type of case interview becomes very intuitive. Interviewer-led interviews are easier for beginners. In such situations, the interviewer is pushing the case forward and primarily controls the case-solving process. In this type of case, it is important to focus on the specific questions the interviewer is asking and providing insightful clear answers versus getting lost in the overall case.
Most cases fall somewhere in the middle so you will need to be comfortable with both candidate-led (interviewee-led) and interviewer-led cases.
The second part of the case interview process is the FIT/PEI portion, also called behavioral interviews. The FIT/PEI portion tests a candidate’s fit with the firm and includes questions such as what is your biggest strength, why consulting, why McKinsey/BCG/Deloitte, etc.
In this article we would like to share with you 3 quick tips that will help you prepare for case interviews.
1) Develop your own unique framework
It is very important to not just apply some framework you memorized such as the 4 Ps of marketing (product, place, price, promotion). If you do so you will likely fail. Clients pay millions of dollars for consulting projects. If solving problems were as easy as buying a textbook and copying the frameworks, no one would pay a consulting firm’s ridiculous fees. Therefore, do not waste your time memorizing frameworks. Learn how to define the problem statement and how to solve the case from first principles by building your own frameworks.
2) Never just give an answer during a case interview
It is important to never blurt out an answer during a case interview. The interviewer is testing your ability to solve problems, not your ability to guess the right answer. McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte and other consulting firms do not want candidates to know the answer, they want to see what will be your thinking process to get to the answer if you don’t know the answer.
As you build your unique framework, explain what you are doing. If the interviewer does not know what you are doing he or she cannot help you. Also, if you do not understand something the interviewer said, ask for clarification. Lastly, as you are applying a concept, such as 80/20, don’t say you are doing so. Just do it.
3) Know the basics
While you may not have a business background you need to know and understand basic concepts and techniques, such as what is MECE, a decision tree, and how to develop hypotheses.
Preparing for case interviews is difficult, especially if you are doing that while completing an MBA. You have very limited time and energy. But it is not impossible.