Consulting Case Interviews: How Well Am I Really Doing?

Written by . Posted in Case Interview Prep, Consulting Application

Congratulations

Firstly, if you’ve made it to the final phase of the recruitment process, you’re on the right track. This means that you have the credentials, as well as the mental and social capacity to fill in the vacant consulting position. However, the case interview can get the best out of anyone. Applicants have been known to buckle under pressure, making the process extremely unbearable.

Even if you think you are on the right track, misleading questions can easily make you question whether or not you are really qualified for the position. Furthermore, the body language of the recruiter can be influenced by a number of external factors that may not be related to the case interview.

As confusing as these elements might be, there are ways to tell how well you’re doing during a consulting case interview.

Clear Signs

In most cases, the signs of how well you’re doing are obvious. Interviewers don’t have much time to entertain applicants who they see are not fit for a spot in the firm. Case interviews normally take some time to complete. If your interview was cut or seemed noticeably short, this could be a sign that you did not do so well.

If you aced the case interview, interviewers may talk a bit longer about what it’s like to work in the firm, or more about the vacant position. They will be specific about the steps ahead, such as providing specific dates on when you should come back or set an appointment with the secretary for your next visit. If he or she willingly gave you a personal business card without you asking for it, you may very well be in the running to become part of your target firm.

Body Language

The interviewer’s body language can also be used to tell if you’re in the clear or in a hole. As mentioned earlier, body language may not be an entirely reliable method due to external factors. If the interviewer is having a bad day or is burned out from the week, he or she may naturally look stressed even while giving you praise.

Body language that is directed towards the applicant in a blunt manner should be taken in consideration. If the interviewer makes direct eye contact with you and rolls his or her eyes, this could be a sign that you need to do some serious catching up. Furthermore, if the interviewer shows clear signs of boredom and is uninterested in your answers chances are you are not doing so well.

If you catch yourself in this unfavorable position, it is best to make some adjustments. Don’t continue to go in the direction you’re heading and hope that something you say will turn things around. It usually never happens, because one right phrase doesn’t make up for several wrong answers.

The Role of the Interviewer

The interviewer serves a strong purpose during the case interview. They are there to guide applicants through questions and facts. They drop small hints, which will let you know if your answers are sufficient, or are running cold. If the consulting interviewer asks the same question in several different forms, this is a sign that you need to elaborate more in your answer. When this happens, simply take the time to recompose yourself and provide a thorough solution. Repeatedly guessing in small phrases is not advisable, as it can make you appear unreliable.

If the interviewer moves on to a new question in a positive manner and stops providing hints, then chances are you were able to steer clear of trouble. On the contrary, if he or she gives up and provides you with the answer in a condescending tone, then you can’t afford to make any more mistakes.

Signs of Success

There are several ways to tell if you are on the road towards a successful case interview. If you have the undivided attention of the interviewer and he or she apologizes for distractions, such as notifications or phone calls, then it shows that you are providing the right answers. Part of the recruitment process usually includes a tour of the firm. If the interviewer casually introduces you as the next person to fill in the open consulting position in a non-joking manner, then it is safe to say that you left a striking impression during the interview. Although these are clear signs of success, it is never final until you’ve signed the employment contract.

How Did Everyone Else Do?

In some cases, you did well and were scheduled to return in a few days. Then you received a call the following day saying that they already found a candidate to fill the position. Your case interview wasn’t cut short and the recruiter praised you for a job well done. What happened?

The margin of error during the case interview is incredibly thin. If you were part of a very competitive batch, simply providing the right solution or meeting the interviewer’s standards won’t do. If everyone else did the same, and the applicants before you set the bar extremely high, you need to exceed the expectations of the interviewer. Additionally, if the other applicants who came after you aced the case flawlessly, then it could also be a reason why the firm had to reconsider in choosing you as the final candidate.

It’s not recommended to form small groups in the lobby immediately after the case interview to discuss how everyone did. Instead, leave the premises and evaluate yourself personally before contacting the other applicants. Did you miss any signs or hints the may have predicted the results of your case interview?

Are You the Perfect Candidate?

Interviewers are looking for not only looking for the smartest applicant, but also one who has exemplary social skills. Because consulting is a team-oriented profession, recruiters need to be sure that the candidate has the personality to rub shoulders with the other consultants. Each member of the firm, from partner all the way to the IT staff, was handpicked to represent the company.

During the case interview, you would be able to gauge if you are able to connect well with the recruiter and everyone else whom you had an encounter with, such as the secretary and other consultants. That connection matters. If you felt that despite providing correct solutions, you and the interviewer are not on the same wavelength or line of thought, then something might be off.

It is normal for the first few minutes of the case interview to be awkward or a bit shaky. After all, it’s your dream job on the line and interviewers can understand what you’re going through. From here it’s up to you to break the ice quickly. Make the necessary adjustments to not just think about yourself, but also from the point of view of the recruiter.

Personal Evaluation and Reassessment

How an interviewer is assessing your performance during the case interview is not a complete mystery. Taking a few minutes to evaluate yourself on a personal level can help you determine how well you actually did. While it is best to be optimistic, a reassessment of your performance can help you patch up gaps in your character, career and personal development.

For example, if you struggled when selecting a framework to apply during the start of the business case, then (even if you were given the position) it would be a good idea to go back and review that key aspect of the case. Because the entire consulting interview process is highly structured, the results are also somewhat predictable.

If you’re coming in with the exact same educational background and credentials as the other associates in your target firm, it is likely that you will be favored compared to an applicant who has a number of questionable components in his or her resume. Additionally, if you’re hoping that the interviewer will overlook some of your answers during the case and focus on your strengths, it is a sign that your preparation was lacking in some crucial areas. When it comes to the case interview, if you were unable to direct yourself towards find the right solution in the first 5-10 minutes, it would be nearly impossible to suddenly stumble upon the solution during the latter parts of the process.

What Does a Successful Case Interview Look Like?

A successful case interview is one that goes very smoothly. The applicant’s answers are in sync with the interviewer’s guidance. It will almost seem like the applicant is not trailing too far behind in the progress of the case. When an interviewer knows that the applicant is right for the position, they tend to let their guard down a little. A smirk, off-topic joke or a simple nod may be a way of subtly saying congratulations, you have the job.

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Best Ways to Practice Case Interviews

Written by . Posted in Case Interview Prep

case interview

Many aspiring consultants get anxious about the case interview stage of the recruiting process. The good news is, with proper preparation you can definitely ace your case interviews.

You see, management consultants spend most of their hours understanding and analyzing businesses, problems, solutions and communicating with clients and team members. Case interviews provide a great setting to assess whether or not you’re suitable for a job that requires structured, logical and analytical thinking skills. Case interviews allow the firms to get a firsthand glimpse of how you’ll handle a real case or situation.

The key to a successful case interview is to prepare – practice, practice, practice. But how exactly is the best way to practice? Here are some guidelines:

Start Practicing Cases Now – Not Tomorrow, Not in a Week

Procrastination is often the cause of one’s failure. So start your case interview prep as early as possible. The earlier you start, the more cases you are likely to get familiar to. Get your hands on many different cases. There are plenty of books and websites and other valuable resources that can help you in your case prep. Your confidence will increase as you work on more cases.

Assess Your Competency

It is important that you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, evaluate your skills and focus on improving on the things where you are not good enough. This will help you complete all the competencies needed to deliver what is expected from you as a consultant. Self-awareness will help you identify and hone the skills that you lack. For instance, if you don’t feel confident about reading financial statements through graphs and tables, then invest more on time on improving your graph and table analysis skills.

Don’t Read Cases as You Would Normally Read a Book

If you opt to read cases first, make sure you you read the intro, and reflect what clarifying questions you would ask. Take note of these and then compare with what the book says. Doing cases involves on the spot thinking and requires the ability to create structure from ambiguous details. Remember that it is still best to do practice cases. If you only read cases you might not be able to replicate their process during crunch time.

Improve Your Quantitative Skills

Whether you like it or not, case interviews will contain a lot of numerical calculations. That’s why it is important for you to hone your mental math skills as well as your tables and graphs data analysis. If you feel that your quantitative skills are not that sharp, take the time to improve. Try simulating the actual case interview so you can gauge your speed in performing numerical calculations.

Case studies are likely to include quantitative questions involving tables and graphs, so be ready for them too. Don’t worry if you are not that good yet with data interpretation presented through tables and graphs. As with anything else, you can be good at it with daily practice and persistence.

Master the Frameworks

You should know the consulting frameworks by heart. While having the ability to think logically is great, you still need to master the consulting frameworks. This will even more guide you in structuring your answer within the specified time. Sometimes, aspiring consultants find it hard to determine where and how to start. And this problem can be solved by applying frameworks.

Mastering frameworks will help in determining which approach to use in different situations. Train yourself by applying different frameworks to various cases. You’ll learn how to identify the possible contributing factors and ultimately, generate sound recommendations. Frameworks can be used to check the completeness of your solution and to give data-driven support to your conclusion.

Simulate Actual Case Interviews

 

Working through a case within time constraints is very much different from reading a case at a leisurely pace. Simulating your case interview will not only help you in gauging your speed. This will also help you learn how to handle pressure well. Apparently, the amount of time you spend answering questions is a critical consideration. Ideally, you should practice with someone who has experience and knowledge in consulting.

Practice with a Qualified Person

Conducting a mock interview is a great way to prepare for a consulting interview at a top firm. While it is important that you study on your own too, you need to do a mock interview with good people to verify if your efforts have been fruitful.

Remember, only do mock interviews with qualified people – those who have sufficient knowledge about the industry. You need to spend time with people who are better than you. Why? Because you need to spend more time thinking about what mistakes you have made and which areas need improvement. And those realizations can only be given to you by people who know better than you.

There are many people on consulting forums who are willing to devote their time to do Skype interviews. You could also ask the help of some alumni from your school in consulting (does not have to be Bain or McKinsey as most young alumni in consulting would be willing to help out).

Although you may also ask the help of less experienced family or friends, the best people still to have your mock interview with are those who are used to work or are currently working at a consulting firm.

Ask for Detailed Feedback

After the mock interview, ask your practice partner for a detailed feedback. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. For instance, your practice partner may notice that have no problems with personality questions but struggle with the market sizing calculations. Then consider this feedback and hone your quantitative skills. Focus on the improving the negative comments.

Set Up Informational Meetings or Phone Calls with Former and Current Consultants

Informational meetings with past and current consultants can help you learn more about real cases and real problems. Remember, practice cases are seldom used in real life interviews. Current and former consultants may provide you with tips on what consulting firms are truly looking for in responses. The more you understand about case interviews, the better are your chances of acing your interview.

Moreover, meeting consultants will also provide you a great feel for the types of people you’ll likely to work with. This will help you manage your expectations and decide whether or not it’s the right path for you.
This is invaluable not just for networking purposes, but more importantly for industry and job familiarization. The more you know about consulting – the lingo, the lifestyle, challenges, and rewards – the better you’ll do in the interview.

Scan the News in the Morning before Your Interview

As an aspiring management consultant, you must know your target audience. So make sure you are very well informed on the latest business news, and have a good grasp of politics and international affairs. You must be updated about the key issues of the moment.

Be Ready to Ask Intelligent Questions

As you practice for your case interview, don’t forget to prepare to ask some intelligent questions for the interviewer as well. Although you are the one to be interviewed, it is critical that you know what questions to ask your interviewer so as to impress him/her as much as your answers do. You may ask for additional information or for clarification on key points. Don’t be hesitant to ask as the interviewer is not there to trick you into going to the wrong path.

Remember, case interview is not just about answering questions, it’s also about asking the right questions to draw important information out. Plus, confidently asking the right questions will demonstrate your strong communication abilities.

Maintain a Positive Energy

It is important to have a proper mindset to pass the case interview. You see, even the most experienced interviewers can be a bit anxious when asking questions. Realize that you and the interviewer are in the same boat. Project a great energy to maintain a calm situation for the both of you. Never underestimate the power of good vibes. However, do not overdo this. Practice will help you do this right of course. Also, practice your smile as you need to smile a lot.

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How Should I Prepare for Interviews at Top-tier Consulting Firms?

Written by . Posted in Case Interview Prep, Fit Interview Prep

Business interview

So, you’ve decided to pursue a management consulting career. You’ve successfully created and submitted an impressive resume, and your favorite suit is pressed and ready to go. Now all you need to do is ace that interview. But how? Consulting interviews are tough, and many aspiring consultants feel intimidated by the thought of interviewing at world-renowned consultancies, but if you prepare accordingly you’re sure to come out on top.

Here are some practical tips to help you prepare.

Before the Interview

Before you face the interviewer, you should do the following:

Research the Company

Do your homework and find out everything you need to learn about your prospective firm. Familiarize yourself with all relevant information before you go to the interview. Know who their clients are and research them, find out what problems they handle as well as their preferred methodologies, and visit their website and follow their social accounts in order to connect with people who are associated with them. This information will give you some helpful insights which you can use during the interview.

Prepare Questions

Yes, it’s important to know how to answer questions during the interview. However, at some point you’ll be asked if you have any concerns, which is your chance to ask insightful questions. Knowing how and what to ask will show your genuine interest in the job. You can ask about the interviewer’s experience with the firm or what it’s like to work as a consultant.

Evaluate Your Competencies

Assess your skills and reflect on how suitable you are for the job. Identify your weaknesses and focus on improving them in the weeks before the interview. You need to prove that you have the capability to perform the responsibilities of a consultant. Self-awareness is key to success; if you feel that you lack a few critical skills, work on honing them.

Learn the Consulting Frameworks

Memorize consulting frameworks. If you master the frameworks, you’re likely to arrive at a pragmatic solution to any given problem. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the large amount of data presented; you may be confused about where and how to start. Understanding business frameworks can definitely guide you in generating sound recommendations. Make sure to take the time to master and apply different frameworks to various cases

Read the Material Posted on the Recruiting Website

Top-tier consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Booz ,and Bain provide information for candidates on their websites about what they are looking for in an applicant. You can also take advantage of the review materials that they offer.

Follow Current Events in the Industry

You won’t demonstrate to recruiters that you have what it takes to be a consultant if you don’t stay on top of current events. Equip yourself with industry knowledge by reading news and magazine articles about the finance and politics sectors, both domestic and international. Also, and most importantly, keep yourself updated about the company that you’re interviewing with.

Network, Network, Network

Build strong relationships with industry professionals. Networking is a powerful tool that can help you effectively prepare for the interview. The experts among your contacts can definitely guide you on how to break into this industry. Courteously ask for their advice. If lucky enough, you might even have the chance to make friends with someone who’s worked there or is currently an employee in your target firm. Referral strategy has been proven to be a great way to land a job, so make an effort to grow your network of professionals. Join organizations and participate in LinkedIn and other networking sites.

Improve Your Mental Math

Consultants are expected to know how to make calculations and estimations; therefore you’ll be presented with a great deal of numerical data in your case interview. Thus, it’s imperative that you hone your mental math skills. Simulate the actual interview as you practice so you can gauge your speed and continue to improve.

Know How to Read Charts, Graphs, and Tables

To be a good consultant, you must be excellent at interpreting charts, graphs, and tables. Regardless of how the data is presented, you should be able to come up with accurate recommendations. This is crucial to acing your interview with top-tier consulting firms. Devote ample time to reading graphical charts or data spreadsheets so you can improve your data analysis.

Look for Case Interview Review Sessions

If you’re still in school, you can look for consulting clubs and career service centers that offer case practice sessions. Take advantage of these events—they will help you further prepare for the interview and may even provide some good review materials.

Practice with Someone

The best way to prepare for a consulting interview at a top-tier firm is to conduct a mock interview. Yes, it’s important that you study on your own first, but to test whether all your hard work is paying off, you need to conduct a mock interview with a qualified person. This is important to remember: Conduct mock interviews with people who have knowledge about the consulting industry. This will help you improve your ability to convey structured ideas as well as your ability to handle pressure. Take it seriously and simulate the interview conditions. Afterwards, ask for some valuable feedback that will help improve your performance.

Start as Early as You Can

The key to being prepared for the interview is to start early.  The earlier you prepare, the more cases you’ll be able to study. Take your time learning how to approach and solve different types of cases. Remember, procrastination is often the cause of one’s failure.

Prepare, Don’t Over Prepare

Indeed, you have to thoroughly prepare for your consulting interview. However, be careful not to over prepare. This requires some judgment on your part. Practicing is great but not to the extent that you’ll sound  rehearsed. You don’t want to demonstrate to your interviewer how good you are at memorizing a rehearsed speech. Top firms want to know how you think, so be careful not to make the script too obvious.

On the Day of the Interview

Here are some tips to remember on the day of the interview:

Dress Accordingly

To give your confidence an extra boost, you should wear standard professional business attire to your consulting interview. Be neutral and try to keep your fashion as simple as possible. Avoid wearing flashy ties or accessories. Based on CareerBuilder.com’s annual survey, 51% of hiring managers said that dressing inappropriately is the most common and damaging mistake a candidate can make during the interview. So in order to make a good first impression, you need to convey a polished and professional look.

Keep Your Poise

The interview process in top-tier consulting firms is very intense. You need to remain poised. Don’t let them upset you with abrupt or unfriendly behavior—keep a positive and professional attitude and smile! Remember, you’re not there to make friends; you’re there to impress them and get the job. Besides, they might be testing your ability to deal with nasty clients and co-workers.

Make Eye Contact

Be confident and maintain eye contact. According to an infographic titled, “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview,” 67% of managers said that failure to make eye contact is a common nonverbal mistake applicants make during interviews. (The statistics were taken from a survey of 2,000 managers.)

Think and Listen

Many aspiring consultants fail to do this during the interview. Keep your focus so you won’t miss important hints or questions that are dropped during the discussion. One common issue among interviewees is writing too much. Don’t get too fixated on the details. Write down only a few words, not everything. Some words and phrases are there to confuse you. Remember, good consultants can easily spot the key facts. Listen and think carefully about the implications of the details presented.

Keep an Open Mind

Don’t sound defensive. If your interviewer seems to challenge your recommendation, acknowledge that what he or she said may be a relevant viewpoint that you haven’t considered. Good consultants know that there are many potential solutions to a single problem, so try to keep an open mind during your interview, and trust your instincts when presenting a persuasive proposal.

Ask Questions

After you’ve been provided with information about the case, be sure to ask intelligent questions. It’s best to start an engaging  dialogue. Consultants are expected to be engaging in team problem solving situations. Be inquisitive as curiosity is a persistent trait of successful consultants, and add some intelligent thoughts in order to generate hypothesis driven questions.

Take Time to Structure the Problem

Structure the problem using your own methodology. You can (and should!) use a consulting framework as a starting point, but no framework will fit your case problem to a tee. You may ask the interviewer for a minute to formulate your thoughts before you answer. As you think it through, try your best to systematically break the question down into digestible pieces. Make sure your structure is logical and each piece doesn’t overlap the other. Although what you learned in class or from a book may guide you, try to incorporate your own method of showcasing your problem solving prowess, and try your best to sound original.

Take a Stand

Toward the end of the discussion, be prepared to take a final stand. Yes, you might have been provided with limited data and time to tackle the underlying issues, but never hesitate to make a call. Consulting firms want to know how you’ll draw a sound recommendation based on the information you were given.

Preparation is a fundamental requirement to success, particularly in a very competitive industry like management consulting.

Learn More

For more helpful insights on how to craft a winning job application, download our free guide to consulting career and learn how you can outshine the competition!

References

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Booz Case Interview

Written by . Posted in Case Interview Prep

Booz-Logo

Booz & Company is one of the leading consulting firms in the world. They work closely with top businesses, governments, and organizations across several continents and have 57 offices around the globe. This established firm is also recognized as one of the most prestigious management consulting firms in the world by Consulting Magazine, and Time Magazine once dubbed the organization as “the world’s largest, most prestigious management consulting firm.”

With such an esteemed reputation and extensive expertise spanning a broad range of sectors, it’s not surprising that many aspiring consultants want to work at Booz. However, like in any top-tier firm, the application process is challenging and the competition is tough. As Booz is one of the highest regarded consultancies in the world, they only accept candidates who effectively demonstrate key skills and competencies.

Booz Interview Process

Booz & Company’s interview process is generally conducted in two rounds. Each round usually consists of two 45-minute interviews, each of which engages the candidate in a general introductory discussion as well as a case discussion, the later of which takes up the majority of the interview time.

The case discussion is nerve-racking for most aspiring consultants. You’ll be evaluated based on how you approach real-world business problems. This is where candidates’ business acumen and logical skills are put to the test. As an aspiring consultant, you should diligently prepare so you can structure your thoughts on any issue that may be presented. The cases given to applicants are frequently based on a real client engagement that the interviewer at Booz has worked on.

How to Effectively Prepare for a Case Interview

Increase your chances of acing your case interview by doing the following:

Master Consulting Frameworks

You’ll find these very helpful in structuring your answer.  Mastering consulting frameworks will guide you in finding the most suitable approach to any given situation and help you identify underlying issues and generate practical recommendations.

Hone Your Mental Math Skills

Case interviews generally contain a lot of graphs and numerical calculations. You will need to analyze large sets of numerical data, so it’s critical that you improve your mental math. Practice this skill and try to simulate the actual case interview so you can really gauge your speed in performing mental calculations.

Familiarize Yourself with Charts, Graphs, and Tables

If you are serious about pursuing a career in consulting, you should be able to read charts and tables and interpret data, regardless of how it’s presented. To reiterate, this is a critical skill of any management consultant as an erroneous interpretation will lead to the wrong conclusion, which can be costly to the firm and to your career. Devote ample time to enhancing this skill; make it a habit to read graphical charts or data spreadsheets in order to get used to analyzing such information.

Practice as Many Case Studies as You Can

The best preparation is of course to practice as many case scenarios as possible. This will help you hone your skills in developing defensible hypotheses and solutions.

Firms like Booz, Bain, and McKinsey offer practice interactive case studies as well as interview preparation tips—take advantage of these materials. There’s also plenty of case study practice guides available on the Internet. However, be picky; you don’t need to purchase every single study guide out there, simply choose about three reputable guides to help you with your interview preparation. The more exposure you have to various cases, the more prepared and competent you will be. Explore as many cases as you can as you never know what type of problem you’ll be presented with during the actual interview.

Start as Early as Possible

The earlier you start, the more cases you’re likely to crack. To be successful in this field, you need to develop a proactive review schedule. Don’t postpone your preparation; procrastination is often the cause of failure, and you don’t want to end up cramming the day before your interview.

Join Consulting Case Interview Review Sessions

Students can take advantage of campus consulting clubs and career service centers that organize case practice sessions. Visit your consulting club or career center and ask for some useful review materials.

Conduct Mock Interviews

Practice with someone. The best way to improve your critical thinking skills and ability to convey structured ideas is through mock interviews. Conduct simulated interviews with someone who can provide you with valuable feedback. Consider the following:

Find a qualified person to practice with For better results, schedule your mock interviews with people who have sufficient experience and knowledge about consulting. It may be a friend who is currently working as a consultant, a colleague, or someone from your network who used to work at a top firm such as Booz. You may also ask the help of your associates who have been through the case interview process. However, be considerate of their time. Request their assistance only if you  feel that you are ready and that you have sharpened your skills through self-study.
Don’t joke around Take the mock interview seriously, even if you’re conducting it with a close friend. Try to simulate the stress that you’ll experience during the day of your interview. This will help you learn how to effectively handle pressure.
Listen to feedback After your mock interview, ask for feedback. Listen to what your practice partner has to say and take notes—you can gain some valuable insights on how to improve your performance.

Tips during the Case Interview

To help you succeed in your Booz case interview, we have provided some valuable insights below:

Listen Carefully and Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions

Don’t be ashamed to clarify things that you don’t fully understand. Once the interviewer provides you with the case details, take some time to think and digest the case parameters. Next, summarize the case to the interviewer so you’re sure that you clearly understand the problem. Remember, some interviewers may not reveal all the necessary information unless you ask for it. If you feel you need to ask some questions to help you solve the case, go for it. Remember, the case interview assesses your questioning skills.

Structure the Problem

To guide you in your discussion with the interviewer, it’s recommended to briefly describe the framework you plan to use, then give the interviewer a chance to offer comments. It’s generally best to use the simpler frameworks. Once the interviewer approves your framework, stick to it. Work through the answer out loud so the interviewer can likewise assess your analytical structure and perhaps help you along.

Be Aware of the Time

Move through your framework at a pace that will allow you to tackle all the elements you mentioned at the start of the case discussion. Also, make sure you pause periodically during the discussion so as to give your interviewer a chance to make comments. If the interviewer provides you with advice, take it. Don’t be defensive and keep an open mind throughout the discussion.

Take a Stand

Be prepared to offer a recommendation toward the end of the case discussion. Although you may have been provided with little data and little time in which to discuss the underlying issues, don’t be afraid to make a call. That’s the essence of the exercise. You should be able to formulate your recommendation based on the information you were able to collect from your discussion.

Be Confident and Relax

It may seem difficult, but if you thoroughly prepared before the interview, you can definitely pull it off. The interviewer is not only evaluating your answer to the question, but also the manner in which you answer. Trust your instincts, but be careful not to be overly confident as you may be seen as an arrogant candidate.

Dress with Confidence

Ensure you’re dressed professionally. Dressing affects your attitude,  so wear something that will boost your confidence.

Maintain a Positive Energy

Booz and other top consulting firms want somebody who projects enthusiasm and has positive energy. Try to have some fun. Indeed it’s a very important interview and you should take it seriously, but don’t take the fun out of it. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer and keep a pleasant expression on your face throughout the entire process, just  don’t overdo it.

Remember that There Is No Single Right Way to Answer a Case

Don’t get too fixated on finding the correct answer. Good consultants always have more than one solution to any problem. As an aspiring consultant, you should know that there are many ways to craft a sound recommendation. The more important part of the case interview is how you demonstrate your thought process. If you are able to come to a logical and reasonable conclusion, then you have probably cracked the case.

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How Much Time Should Be Spent Preparing for Case Interviews?

Written by . Posted in Case Interview Prep

Happy young woman being interviewed

It’s critical to prepare for the consulting recruiting process, particularly case interviews. This is how prospective firms really gauge your problem solving skills, strategic and critical thinking skills, as well as your business judgment and numerical reasoning.

Landing a consulting job at top-tier firms like McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) can be tough. The competition is steep, especially for undergrads. Compared to candidates from business schools, undergrads often lack  necessary credentials in their resume, particularly in regard to work and leadership experience. As employers will most likely rely on the applicant’s performance during the case interview to assess a candidate, intense preparation for undergrads is a must.

Undergrad consulting applicants are not the only candidates who need to diligently prepare. Every aspiring consultant should be properly equipped for a case interview as lack of practice is the most commonly cited reason for failure.

Positive Effects of Preparation

Sometimes aspiring consultants neglect the importance of due preparation, even if they are aware of the tough competition. Acing your case interview is crucial to breaking into management consulting. If you thoroughly prepare, your prospective firm will perceive you as an eligible candidate who possesses the capabilities required for the position.

Hard work is a must. Due preparation will hone the key skills needed to nail down the interview. Practice will help you learn how to break down a problem and identify contributing factors for evaluation, thus, enhancing your analytical skills.

Being familiar with various cases will also improve your ability to generate sound conclusions and practical recommendations, which establishes problem solving skills.

In addition, diligent preparation can help you learn how to clearly and confidently express your ideas under pressure. Thus, you’ll be able to demonstrate exceptional communication and stress management skills. You need to strengthen all of these abilities in order to be successful in a mentally-stimulating work environment.

Length of Preparation

There is no fixed amount of time when it comes to case interview preparation. As there is no required length of time, it really depends on your dedication. However, many consultants would recommend a preparation period of three months. Again, there is no specific formula; you just need to keep practicing until you feel confident that you are ready for the interview.

Tips on How to Prepare

Here are some strategies on how to do well during case interviews:

Start as Early as You Can

The earlier you start, the more cases you’ll be familiar with. To be successful in this field, you need to be disciplined and follow a proactive review schedule. If you postpone your preparation, you might find yourself cramming at the end. Never underestimate the power of early preparation.

Attend Consulting Case Interview Practice Sessions

For students, there are consulting clubs and career service centers that organize review sessions. Take advantage of these—visit your consulting club or career center to ask for additional review materials.

Master Consulting Frameworks

The time constraints may cause some anxiety. If the case seems ambiguous, you may be overwhelmed and confused with where to base your analysis. That’s why it’s helpful to master consulting frameworks that can guide you in finding the solution.

Make Use of Available Materials

There are plenty of study materials available on the Internet, although some sites require registration. Study different cases and explore situations which involve business aspects such as marketing, pricing, competition, product development, etc. You never know what type of problem you’ll be presented with during the interview, so it’s best to read and study a variety of cases. The key here is to answer the review questions before you read the given answer.

Try the Interactive Case Interviews of McKinsey, Bain, and BCG

In order to land a job with these top-tier firms, you should consider reviewing their interactive case interviews. Their websites provide practice case interviews that may help you understand how they handle their projects. Although they don’t provide actual client assignments, you’ll get a good grasp of their approach to strategy consulting and what to expect during the interview. However, there is often no time limit in these practice exercises, so you may want to time yourself while taking them.

Try Mock Interviews

The best way to practice critical thinking skills and communicating structured ideas is through mock interviews. Practicing by yourself is necessary to hone your skills, but conducting simulated interviews with a friend will provide you with valuable feedback. Remember to:

Find experienced people to practice with. The best people to conduct your mock interview with are those currently working or who used to work at a consulting firm. You may also ask the help of those colleagues who have been through case interviews before. Be considerate of the person’s time; only ask for their help if you feel that you have sharpened your skills and are ready for the mock interview.
Be serious. Treat your mock interview as a real interview. Don’t joke around simply because it’s “only practice.” Try to simulate the stress that you’ll experience during the actual interview.
Ask for feedback. After your mock interview, ask for your friend or colleague’s feedback and their impression of the case. It’s important that both of you perceive the same problem. Take notes and ask questions. This way you can get more insight on how to improve.

No matter what you aim for, preparation should be an integral part of your plan. And if you are aspiring to become the next management consultant at one of the three top-tier firms, you must spend time practicing case interviews.

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How Is the Typical Bain Interview Different from the Other Top Consulting Firms?

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Bain & Co. is one of the Big Three management consulting firms. Thousands of aspiring consultants apply to this prestigious organization, however, only those who can efficiently articulate their thoughts and demonstrate sound logic are deemed best suited for the job.

Bain Case Interview Facts

Bain utilizes a point system to determine which applicants are eligible for an interview. The key considerations include academic background, work experience, and extracurricular activities. If you were able to pass this initial screen, you need to start preparing for the infamous case interview.

Generally, there is no significant difference between the Bain interview and that of the other firms, particularly with regard to content or what they are looking for. What Bain and any esteemed consultancy firms want is basically the same: an applicant who possesses the analytical and logical skills to solve any type of business challenge. In addition, top-tier firms are looking for people with excellent communication skills and professionalism.

Therefore, in preparing for your Bain interview, your goal is to demonstrate your skills in realistic client situations.

How to Ace Bain Case Interviews

So what should you expect from a Bain case interview and how can you ace it? Bain typically provides 20 to 30 PowerPoint slides that describe a company’s situation. You will then be given approximately 50 minutes to review the slides before the actual interview begins. In order to impress recruiters, you will need to:

Showcase Your Analytical Skills

Remember, whether or not you get the right answer, you need to be able to efficiently demonstrate your thought process. Don’t feel overwhelmed if the answer isn’t obvious— you are not expected to know everything. However, the interviewer wants to know about your approach to solving business challenges. You will be evaluated based on your ability to structure a practical and effective approach to resolving a problem. You must be able to clearly communicate your logic and fundamental assumptions.

Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions

Interviewers don’t always reveal all the necessary information unless it is requested. You may ask questions to elicit information you feel is needed to solve the case. It is essential that you determine which analytics are required for you to craft a recommendation. Remember, the case interview also evaluates your questioning skills.

Master Consulting Frameworks

In addition to logical thinking skills, you will need to master consulting frameworks in order to guide you in structuring your answer. You must know which approach to apply to different situations. Understanding these frameworks will help you identify contributing factors and generate pragmatic recommendations.

Improve Your Mental Math

Case interviews involve a lot of graphs and numerical calculations. It is therefore critical that you enhance your mental math. Take the time to practice this skill. It is best to simulate actual case interviews in order to improve your speed in performing calculations.

Practice Consulting Cases with a Friend or Professional

It is strongly recommended to practice consulting cases with someone, preferably a professional. Having someone to discuss your recommendations with or challenge your assumptions and interpretation of the data will significantly help you hone your analysis and comprehension skills.

Don’t Be Defensive

If your interviewer challenges your recommendations, don’t get defensive. Acknowledge the possibility that the interviewer may have brought up a relevant viewpoint that you have not considered. As there are many potential solutions, your goal is to be able to present a persuasive proposal best suited to the client’s situation. Trust your instincts and be open-minded.

Project Positive Energy

Top-tier consulting firms want applicants to be enthusiastic and energetic. Remember to be confident. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer and always have a pleasant expression on your face. However, do not overdo it. Project a calm, yet confident energy.

Whether you will be interviewing with Bain or another top-tier consulting firm, it is important to devote ample time to preparation. A management consulting job interview can be a nerve-racking experience, but with proper training, you can definitely come out on top.

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Why Do Companies Use Brain Teasers and Logic Puzzles during the Recruitment Process?

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“Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your experience and strengths. Why do you feel you are the right person for this position?” 

These are the most common job interview questions. Most candidates have prepared and rehearsed their answers to such questions, making it hard for recruiters to truly assess their skills. That’s why more and more employers are using not-so-standard methods to filter  applicants. Brain teasers and logic puzzles are two of these unconventional and innovative strategies.

Brain teasers and logic puzzles may sound the same but there’s a significant difference between the two. Brain teasers involve unusual questions that you have to answer based on your assumptions of the problem. The goal of this test is to determine whether a  candidate has the ability to solve tough problems and to some extent, it can demonstrate a candidate’s confidence in thinking outside the box. In most cases, you are not expected to come up with the correct answer. In fact, the interviewer might not know the right answer either. Employers that utilize brain teasers are more interested in how you process your thoughts, how creative you can be, and your capability and audacity to present innovative ideas.

Logic puzzles, on the other hand, do have a concrete answer that can be deduced rationally. Usually, these puzzles have various valid solutions but you are expected to come up with the optimal resolution.

Basically, companies use these mind-boggling tools to discover the following:

How Do You Think?

Can you structure your thinking processes? Can you establish your assumptions before doing something? If you can effectively explain how you arrived at your recommendation,  you will most likely do well during the brain teasers and logic puzzles interview.

How Do You Identify Relevant Details?

Can you quickly distinguish which information is relevant to the solution? If you have a strong ability to spot superfluous materials, then you won’t have a problem with brain teasers and logic puzzles.

How Do You Deal with Ambiguity?

Can you handle vague and unfamiliar scenarios? More often than not, the subject of these tests are foreign to the candidate. Recruiters want to know how you cope with peculiar situations and if you have the grace and composure to handle them.

How Confident Are You?

How well do you cope with stress? Employers are looking for people who can exude confidence and who they can trust to represent them in a reliable manner.

How Do You Communicate?

Can you clearly and confidently express your thoughts? Can you convey your opinions using the right tone and volume to persuade clients? Recruiters want to find out if you are articulate enough to answer uncommon questions.

Remember, preparing for a job interview not only requires you to research the company’s profile, you also have to sharpen your cognitive skills, flexibility, and grace. Rehearsed answers will not impress your target employer. Take the time to practice brain teasers and logic puzzles.

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Preparing for an Interview at a Top-tier Management Consulting Firm

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Interview

Management consulting is a highly sought-after career by both fresh graduates and experienced professionals. This industry offers intellectually stimulating challenges,  generous compensation, and a strong sense of fulfillment. Thousands of applicants submit their applications to top-tier management consulting firms each year. Because the recruiting process is so competitive, you need to work hard and spend time preparing if you truly want to land a job in this lucrative industry.

First, you have to create a great resume and cover letter that are tailored to the goals of  your target firm and requirements of the position. Be sure to structure your relevant details in the most comprehensible manner. After submitting you excellent resume and cover letter,  you need to start preparing for the most crucial and, for some applicants, the most nerve-racking part of the recruitment process—the interview.

Evaluate Your Competencies

Before recruiters actually call you for an interview, evaluate your suitability for the job. Take the time to thoroughly read the job description and determine if you possess the competencies to meet the requirements of the position. Are you capable of analyzing and solving problems? Do you have the skills to clearly communicate your ideas to supervisors and colleagues? Are you genuinely interested in business operations? These are some of the questions that can help you assess your competencies. Remember, if don’t think you  you are ready for a consulting position, don’t waste your time applying. Develop  your skills and when you feel you have honed your abilities, you will be more confident during the interview.

Research the Company

If you really feel that you are properly equipped with the right credentials, then it’s time to conduct some research on your prospective firm. The information you can get by visiting their website, following their social accounts, and connecting with people who are associated with the firm will serve as your guide in preparing for the interview. To successfully get through the selection process, you should learn the names of key people at the firm, their preferred methodologies, and the types of cases they work on.

Reading press releases in the newspaper or online will provide you with the current status and projects of the company. Determine how you can contribute to the growth of the company and practice answering questions related to organizational improvement.

Practice as Many Case Studies as You Can

Case studies are an indispensable part of management consulting interviews. If you have chosen this field, you should know by now that the recruiting process involves more than the standard job interview. Recruiters in this industry greatly rely on case descriptions and  hypothetical and theoretical problems. Learning how to handle this type of interview will greatly improve your chance of landing a job at a top management consulting agency.

Firms like Bain and McKinsey offer practice case studies as well as interview preparation advice on their websites. The skills that you will use during a case study interview are the same set of skills needed to be an effective management consultant. Make sure you have a good grasp of basic business concepts such as market structure and financials. Convey  your value by demonstrating that you have the requisite knowledge and skills to perform the core activities of the firm.

There’s a plethora of case study practice guides available today. You need not purchase every study guide published; select three or four reputable ones. Remember, the more exposure you have to case questions, the more prepared and competent you will be during your interview.

Master Consulting Frameworks

Your ability to think logically is not enough to land a job in the consulting industry. You must be able to structure your answer within a specified time. Sometimes, knowing where and how to start is the biggest problem. This challenge can be overcome by applying different business frameworks to different situations. These frameworks will help you identify the possible contributing factors of the problem, generate sound recommendations, and build your confidence.

Practice with Someone

It’s recommended that you practice with somebody who can walk you through the cases. Ask a friend, trusted colleague, or family member. There are some materials available to guide those who are helping you in how to ask questions or reveal other parts of the problem.

Network with Industry Professionals

Networking is another powerful tool that can help you prepare for the interview. Having experts in your circle of contacts can definitely help you break into this industry. You can ask for more tips and advice from these professionals. In addition, referral strategy is known as an effective way to land a job. Expand your network of professionals by joining organizations, LinkedIn, and other popular networking sites.

Wear Appropriate Attire

Present yourself in a neat and professional manner. Wearing appropriate clothing during your interview will make you feel more confident. If you want to be a reputable management consultant, you have to dress like one. Appearance always matters.

Breaking into the industry of management consulting can be quite challenging. Dedicate enough time and effort to preparing for the interview so that you can prove to the recruiter that you have what it takes to be the next sought-after consultant.

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How to Ace the Case

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If you ace the case during the interview, you’ve proven that you’re capable of analyzing and resolving a business dilemma in a reasonable manner. There’s actually no correct answer for the case; what’s essential is using logic in generating recommendations for the problem.

Practice Resolving Business Cases

A great deal of preparation is necessary to ace the case, which includes the following:

Familiarization with various cases Explore operations, marketing, product development, strategy, and other cases that companies and organizations regularly encounter. The more cases you review will increase your odds of receiving a similar case during the interview.
Case frameworks Master structures that provide detailed guidelines on how to investigate a business case in a rational manner. This will help you efficiently and effectively approach the dilemma from different perspectives.
Mental math Enhance your mental computation skills—you will deal with numbers during the interview. You can’t always use a calculator every time you need to add numbers or calculate ratios and percentages—this will consume your limited time.
Mock interviews Look for someone who is enthusiastic about taking on the role of an interviewer, and ask him or her to critique how you answer questions. Conducting mock interviews improves your communication skills and confidence level.

Understand the Problem Carefully

When the interviewer presents the case, listen to him or her attentively. If necessary, take down notes, paraphrase statements to validate your understanding, and ask probing questions for more details. Absorb the problem carefully; otherwise, your reasoning on how you arrived at the answer won’t make any sense. Don’t assume you have reviewed the same case during your preparation; the moment you become too certain is when you overlook important details.

Think Aloud

Don’t keep your thoughts to yourself. When you analyze the problem and come up with assumptions, discuss how you generated your statements, reasons for rejecting an idea, and recommendations for solving the problem. Thinking aloud is an excellent way to demonstrate your potential as a consultant because the interviewer can measure your problem solving, communication, and organization skills.

Watch Your Nonverbal Cues

Interviewers don’t only assess your cognitive processes; they also observe your confidence and grace under pressure. It’s vital that you maintain an upright posture, make eye contact, and use body gestures that communicate professionalism. Tapping your fingers or feet, playing with your hair, and cold facial expressions convey uneasiness, insincerity, and a lack of sociability. Be mindful of how you behave in front of the interviewer; your demeanor is crucial because you’ll be dealing with clients once you become a professional consultant. Sending the wrong signals will make the interviewers conclude that you won’t be able to competently represent the firm.

Believe that You Can Ace the Case

Sometimes, all it takes is the right mindset to ace the case. If you believe you can nail the interview, you will be more confident and do everything right. If you have apprehensions, chances are you will feel terrified and get lost in the process. When you have faith in yourself, you’ll stay calm, enjoy the process, and learn from your experience.

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McKinsey Case Interview

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Case Interview

Shortlisted McKinsey applicants undergo two types of interviews: experience and case interviews. In the former, your work history, education, and skills are assessed, and in the latter you will be given a business case to resolve within a limited period of time.

What the Interview is Used For

The McKinsey case interview is a tool to measure your capability to analyze a problem, break down complex components, and generate sound recommendations for a client. Most of the problems presented are actual cases that have been handled by professional consultants. The interviewers don’t expect you to provide accurate answers; they evaluate your thought processes and ability to communicate ideas in a stressful situation—attributes that are essential in the everyday life of a McKinsey consultant.

Practice

McKinsey has provided a few cases on their website for applicants to review. To ace the McKinsey case interview, take note of the following:

Think aloud. Interviewers are interested in knowing how you derive your conclusion and recommendations. Don’t keep things to yourself; explain your reasons for accepting or rejecting an option.
Ask questions. If you need additional information, don’t hesitate to ask the interviewer. Some won’t give additional details unless asked. It’s their way of checking your research skills.
Be efficient. A case interview only lasts for 30 minutes, so be sure to process all elements of the case during that period. If you practice  before the interview, you will learn techniques that will expedite the process.
Improve your mental math. You will most likely need to make calculations during the interview. If you are able to mentally compute, you will save time and impress the interviewer.

Case Frameworks

In order to structure your ideas logically for the McKinsey case interview, you should master various consulting frameworks which consist of detailed steps to guide you in approaching the problem. Three of the firm’s classic frameworks include:

7S Framework Developed by Robert H. Waterman, Jr. and Tom Peters, 7S is used to evaluate and keep track of the changes in an organization’s internal operations. 7S refers to the interrelated factors that affect those changes.
Industry Cost Curve This graph may be used in analyzing the dynamics of pricing and competition. It was formulated by Rob Latoff, a McKinsey director.
The Business System Kevin Coyne describes his concept as a framework that can formulate a business strategy.

When you practice resolving cases, apply various frameworks. The more frameworks you master, the easier it will be to identify the appropriate structure to use for a specific problem. However, during the actual interview, make sure you listen carefully to the presented business dilemma and don’t immediately relate the problem to a framework you have practiced; otherwise you will overlook essential details.

References

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