How to Crack the Management Consulting Case Study Interview

Case study interviews test potential management consultants in various ways through giving candidates a small problem to work through in an allotted period. First, they test the strength of a potential consultant’s problem-solving abilities. Second, they test how new consultants deal with unexpected and unfamiliar situations. Third, they evaluate how well the interview subject processes information. Finally, case study interviews were designed to demonstrate how well potential consultants work as a team.

What to do in Advance

Some firms, like Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company, and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) provide practice case studies and offer advice for interview preparations. It is advisable to do background research in advance. Before an interview is scheduled, already known facts should include the consultancy’s preferred methodologies, the names of the key players at the firm, and the types of clients and cases the firm works on. Recent press releases are helpful for researching the company and its current projects.

In addition to case studies found on websites, the business section of your local newspaper (or The Wall Street Journal) is helpful. Many news reports in this section provide case study preparation materials. Practice answering questions about how you would advise the company, what this advice would be based upon, and what would have to be worked out before continuing the process.

How to Prepare

In addition to collecting news articles, sample case study questions, and background information on any of the firms you will interview with, it’s important to practice how you would answer questions during the interview. Here are a few tips.

1. Use online, interactive, practice cases studies. You can find great case studies on company websites. For example, Bain & Company offers three practice case interviews to practice with in their applications area. Use case studies from the companies you will be interviewing for.

2. Look at recent press releases from the company you are interviewing at. What sort of work will be involved? Who will the clients be?

3. Practice creating a case from a newspaper article. If this company were your client, what would you advise them to do? Why? Work through the case as if you were in the interview situation.

4. You may want to purchase a book of case interviews such as How to Get into the Top Consulting Firms: A Surefire Case Interview Method by T. Darling or Case in Point: Complete Case Interview Preparation by Marc. P Cosentino and work through their example cases. These books will also give you additional tools to help you work through the cases.

5. Find a partner to practice with. Perhaps you have a colleague, friend, or family member who is willing to walk you through some of the cases in the books. The Cosentino book features a guide for those helping you to practice, instructing them on how to ask questions and reveal new parts of the problems.

6. For team work cases, organize a group to work through cases together. This is best when you are in an MBA program, or if you have a group of friends who are applying to work as consultants.

7. Speak answers into a digital voice recorder, play back the tape, analyze what could be better, and what worked.

On the Day of the Interview

During the interview, it is vital to come off relaxed and confident. Make sure the question and example are understood. Restating the case can be helpful. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Be ready for anything. Additional information regarding the case may be presented at any time. Speak slowly and clearly. Finally, structure the argument so that it is easier for your interviewer to understand your position.

Example Case Studies

Your client is a large bank is purchasing a large rewards credit-card franchise. They have two competing teams arguing about the new acquisition: either they can turn this franchise global, offering reward incentives to those with exclusive bank accounts, or they can keep the franchise open to any who buy into the program. To help your client, you will need to compare the potential for profit on both options and decide what would make the better outcome for the company. Be sure to list your reasons for your decision.

Your client is a realty company hit hard by the current recession. They hired you to recommend strategies to make the economic downturn profitable for them. You will need to work out ways they can market and position themselves for long-term growth and recovery. Once the problems with their current approaches have been identified, work out a strategy that will have the realty company bounce back.

Your client has been making sports apparel for adults for years and wants to open a new, children’s division. They hired you to find out whether this would be a profitable decision. Assess the potential for income from this business. Explain what areas you would need to explore to determine whether this would be a profitable business venture. What potentials for growth will your client have if they expand? What are the most cost effective ways for your client to expand? Why do you choose these methods?