Cracking the Consulting Case Interview

by Jaineel Aga

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Getting Consulting Jobs In India.

Lets face it, case interviews eventually decide whether or not all that  hard work on crafting the perfect resume, cover letter and networking actually pays off or no. Concentrating on case interviews and consistent practice from the start is what will eventually get you through your case interview. However, first it is important to dispel some misconceptions around case interviews -

1) Reading "Case in Point" is all I need to crack the case interview:  I like Case in Point, I read it while I was preparing, but it was also one among ten other books/case packs that I had read. However, if I relied on that book alone.. I don't think I would be writing this blog!  This is analogous to all those "fat loss pills" that exist in the market which still make millions! Just cause people are buying it, does not mean it is effective! If cracking cases was all about reading a single book, no one would ever get dinged in a case interview! One needs to practice with either a room mate, colleague or a career coach to best identify your weaknesses. I practised cases with my flatmates, with seniors from Fuqua who were part of the consulting club as well as career coaches. The most effective case practice would be with someone who is already in the industry and knows the common mistakes that interviewees make.  Case advice  from a  management consultant is invaluable: Unfortunately, they do not have too much time and it is most likely that you have already taken some of their time during your networking!

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Lets face it, case interviews eventually decide whether or not all that  hard work on crafting the perfect resume, cover letter and networking actually pays off or no. Concentrating on case interviews and consistent practice from the start is what will eventually get you through your case interview. However, first it is important to dispel some misconceptions around case interviews -

1) Reading "Case in Point" is all I need to crack the case interview:  I like Case in Point, I read it while I was preparing, but it was also one among ten other books/case packs that I had read. However, if I relied on that book alone.. I don't think I would be writing this blog!  This is analogous to all those "fat loss pills" that exist in the market which still make millions! Just cause people are buying it, does not mean it is effective! If cracking cases was all about reading a single book, no one would ever get dinged in a case interview! One needs to practice with either a room mate, colleague or a career coach to best identify your weaknesses. I practised cases with my flatmates, with seniors from Fuqua who were part of the consulting club as well as career coaches. The most effective case practice would be with someone who is already in the industry and knows the common mistakes that interviewees make.  Case advice  from a  management consultant is invaluable: Unfortunately, they do not have too much time and it is most likely that you have already taken some of their time during your networking!

2) Learning frameworks is the key to cracking a case:  Another novice mistake. There is so much material floating in the market today that it is easy to be swamped with case materials from business schools, consulting clubs and various career coaches.   Exposure to  various frameworks is always beneficial, however,  holding onto them as an answer to every case question is the BIGGEST mistake that interviewees make. PLEASE DO NOT FORCE FIT a  framework during a case interview - Remember the consultants on the other side of the table have gone through this process - they want to test your thought process not your ability to conjure up a framework.

3) I need to start answering the question as soon as the interviewer has finished asking the question: We expect you to think through the problem and give an intelligent structure and answer. It is perfectly okay to take a couple of minutes and structure your thoughts, pen your structure and walk us through your solution in an organized manner.  One of the mistakes that applicants make is that they start rambling something only to change their structure after hitting a roadblock.

4) I cannot ask questions during the case interview: This is a tricky one. This completely depends on the type  of interview - Whether it is a market estimation or a business case interview.  During a market estimation, you are supposed to make intelligent assumptions and provide the answer. The maximum you should ask is to check with the interviewer if your assumptions seem alright especially on macro factors such as population, number of households etc. In a business case, you have to ask the right questions at intervals based on which the interviewer will provide you with data to crunch. Therefore, do not ask  questions in a market estimation case but for a business case,  create a structure, ask the right questions and steadily work towards the solution.

5) I will practice for the case interviews after getting the interview call:  In my experience the number 1 reason why applicants come unprepared before any case interview. They start practising too late! They start on a frantic search for "last minute solutions" and "one fits all framework" for solving case interviews that are floating in the market!  There are many that come to me one week before their case interviews and then say "Make magic happen!"..... I say give me more than a week to fix the portion!

Case interviews is a science more than an art - By investing time early, having the right material and the right mentor, there is no reason why you can't crack that next Mckinsey case interview!

 

 
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