Below are 40 case interview tips to help give you an edge over other candidates. Use these tips to nail your consulting case interviews and land your dream consulting job.
Case Interview Preparation Tips
Tip #1: Start preparing early
Mastering case interviews takes time. Many of the skills and techniques needed to solve case interviews can’t be learned in just a day or in a week. Ideally, start preparing for your case interviews at least a month or two in advance to give yourself enough time to learn and practice.
Tip #2: Learn the right strategies the first time
It is much more effective to learn the right case interview strategies the first time than to learn poor strategies and then trying to correct them later. Building good case interview habits takes time, so you want to develop good habits from the beginning.
Tip #3: Be consistent with what strategies you use
Whichever strategies you decide on using for case interviews, make sure that you are consistent in using them. The more you use the same strategies, the better and more comfortable you will get using them. On interview day, you’ll have confidence that these strategies will help you nail your case interviews.
Tip #4: Practice with high-quality cases
After learning the right strategies, practicing case interviews is the most important aspect to getting better. However, not all practice is the same. When practicing mock case interviews, make sure you are using high-quality cases. These cases need to be representative of the types of cases you’ll actually see on interview day. They should also be challenging such that you learn something new after each case.
Tip #5: Practice with a case partner
Practicing case interviews with a partner is the best way to simulate a real case interview. There are many aspects of case interviews that you won’t be able to work on if you are doing mock cases by yourself. Casing with a partner lets you practice your communication, presentation, and collaboration skills.
Tip #6: Designate enough time to give feedback during practice cases
You can do many practice case interviews, but if you don’t take the time to collect feedback on what you can be doing better, you likely won’t get the maximum benefit from practice. For a 30- to 40-minute mock case, you should spend at least 15- to 20-minutes for feedback. Most of your learning and improvement will come from these feedback sessions.
Tip #7: Keep a list of feedback from each case
You should keep a journal or log of all of the different pieces of feedback you get from your case interview partner during practice. This way, you’ll be able to identify trends and prioritize what improvement areas to focus on. For example, if you consistently receive feedback in each practice case that you need to structure your answers, that should be your top area to focus on.
Tip #8: Focus on improving one thing at a time
After doing some practice case interviews, you’ll likely have a long list of feedback and improvement areas. Try to focus on improving one thing at a time. Before each practice case, decide on the one thing that you really want to focus on and nail. This will be much more effective than trying to improve everything at once.
Tip #9: Don’t burn yourself out
Once you feel confident in your case interview skills, they key is to not burn yourself out by doing too many unnecessary cases. While each practice case should make you slightly better, there is a point when doing too many practice cases will give you case fatigue right before your interview.
Case fatigue can negatively impact your interview performance. Therefore, in the weeks leading up to your interview, do no more than two or three cases per week.
Case Interview Tips
Tip #10: Make sure you understand the business problem and objective
The quickest way to fail a case interview is to answer or address the wrong business problem. Therefore, when the interviewer starts the case by reading the case background information, it is imperative that you identify what is the business problem and what is the primary question you are trying to answer. You should always verify the objective of the case with the interviewer.
Tip #11: Summarize the case background information and verify the objective articulately and confidently
Typically, after the interviewer reads the case background information, you’ll be expected to summarize the case background information and verify the objective of the case. This is the very first impression that you’ll make on the interviewer. Therefore, it is important that you articulately and confidently summarize the case and verify the objective. This step of the case interview is not difficult, making it an easy opportunity to make a great first impression.
Tip #12: Ask clarifying questions if needed
Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions. You will not be penalized for this. If there is a term that you are unfamiliar with, ask for the definition. If you don’t understand the objective of the case, ask questions to clarify this. If there is important information that you were not able to write down, ask the interviewer to repeat specific pieces of information.
All of these questions will help strengthen your understanding of the case situation and make it easier for you to solve the case.
Tip #13: Ask for time to develop a framework
Don’t be afraid to ask for a few minutes of silence so that you can organize your thoughts and ideas into a framework. No interviewer expects you to instantly have the perfect framework after they finish reading the case background information to you. Developing a great framework takes time and interviewers know this.
Tip #14: Don’t use memorized frameworks
The issue with using memorized frameworks is that they aren’t tailored to the specific case that you are solving for. Many times, some of the elements of your memorized framework will not be relevant or important to the case. Additionally, interviewers can easily tell when you are regurgitating memorized information and not thinking critically. Therefore, learn how to create unique and tailored frameworks for each case.
Instead of memorizing frameworks, memorize a list of 8 – 10 broad business areas, such as the following:
When given a case, mentally run through this list and pick the 3 to 4 areas that are the most relevant to the case. If the list does not give you enough framework areas, brainstorm and add your own areas to your framework.
Tip #15: Make your framework as MECE as possible
Your case framework should be as MECE as possible, which stands for mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Mutually exclusive means that none of the different parts of your framework overlap with each other. Collectively exhaustive means that all of the different parts of the framework account for everything that you would need to know to solve the case.
Tip #16: Structure your approach before doing any math calculations
Before doing any math calculations, lay out an upfront approach or structure to walk the interviewer through what you are about to do. Developing a structure will help you avoid making unnecessary calculations or reaching a dead-end. If the interviewer approves of your approach, then the rest of the math problem is simple arithmetic.
Tip #17: Choose easy numbers to work with
It can be very difficult to do case interview math quickly and accurately under high pressure situations. Therefore, if you get the opportunity to make assumptions or estimates, choose round numbers that are easy to work with. Why make the calculations more difficult for yourself? Using precise numbers neither makes your assumptions better nor makes your final answer more correct.
Tip #18: Round when appropriate
Look for opportunities where it may be appropriate for you to round numbers to make the calculations easier for yourself. For example, if you are multiplying 19,999 by 201, ask the interviewer if could round these numbers and multiply 20,000 by 200 instead.
You do not want to round numbers in every single step because that may indicate that you are uncomfortable with doing math. However, the occasional rounding is usually acceptable.
Tip #19: Use abbreviations for large numbers
If you are working with large numbers in the thousands, millions, billions, or trillions, use abbreviations rather than writing out all of the zeroes.
For example, 10,000 can be expressed as 10K, 200,000,000 can be expressed as 200M, and 300,000,000,000 can be expressed as 300B. This reduces the chances that you’ll accidentally add or drop a zero in your numbers.
Tip #20: Talk through your calculations out loud
Talking through your calculations out loud provides two benefits. One, it decreases the likelihood that you’ll make a mistake. Two, it makes it easier for the interviewer to follow what you are doing. If you happen to get stuck or make a mistake, the interviewer can jump in to offer suggestions or guidance. The interviewer cannot do this if you are not communicating exactly what you are doing.
Tip #21: Keep track of your calculations
It is important to keep your calculations neat and organized to prevent making math mistakes and to prevent repeating calculations you have already done. First, do your calculations on a separate sheet of paper to give yourself more space. Second, as you calculate different numbers, circle important numbers that you are likely to use over and over again. Third, draw a box around your final calculated answer to make it easier to find later.
Tip #22: Sense check your numbers
Accidentally missing zeroes or adding extra zeroes during your case interview calculations is the most common math mistake. To avoid this, you can do a quick sense check after each calculation to confirm that your answer is the right order of magnitude.
For example, if you are multiplying 115 million by 22, you should expect your answer to be in the billions because 100 million * 20 = 2 billion.
Tip #23: Talk through the axes of charts and graphs
When given charts or graphs to interpret, the very first thing you should do is to look at the axes. This is the most effective way to understand what the chart or graph is showing. When you are given multiple charts or graphs, this will also help you understand how each chart or graph relates to each other.
Tip #24: Structure your answers to qualitative questions
During a case interview, you may be asked to brainstorm ideas. Instead of listing the first few ideas that come to your mind, use a simple two-part framework to answer the question in a more organized way. This will help facilitate brainstorming and demonstrate that you are a logical, structured thinker.
Use one of the two-part frameworks below, which are all MECE:
Tip #25: Answer “so what?” after every question
When the interviewer asks you a quantitative or qualitative question during a case interview, don’t just answer it and stop there. After answering the question, ask yourself: “so what?” How does your answer help you solve the overall business problem? What implications does your answer have for your potential recommendation? You should be tying each answer that you give back to the case objective.
Tip #26: Predict what the interviewer is going to ask you next
A great way to stand out in a case interview is to answer the interviewer’s follow-up questions before they even get the chance to ask them. After each question that you answer, try to think of what follow-up questions may be asked. Answer or address these questions immediately after giving your answer.
Tip #27: Ask for time to develop a recommendation
At the end of the case interview, the interviewer will ask you for a recommendation. Don’t be afraid to ask for a minute to gather and collect your thoughts before delivering your recommendation. No interviewer expects you to instantly have the perfect recommendation when prompted for one. Developing a great recommendation takes time and interviewers know this.
Tip #28: Have a firm recommendation
You do not want to have a flimsy recommendation in which you switch back and forth between two different recommendations. Instead, have a recommendation that takes a firm stance. Remember that there is no right or wrong recommendation. As long as your recommendation is supported with data and evidence, your recommendation will be accepted.
Tip #29: Include next steps in your recommendation
Including next steps in your recommendation is an easy way to help you stand out from other candidates. By including next steps, you demonstrate initiative and ownership over the business problem that you were asked to solve. To identify potential next steps, ask yourself:
- What areas of your framework have you not explored yet?
- What other open questions do you have?
- What else would you need to know to feel more confident in your recommendation?
Tip #30: Structure your recommendation
Your recommendation should be clear and easy to follow. Therefore, use the following structure:
- Clearly state what your recommendation is
- Provide 2 to 3 reasons that support your recommendation
- Propose potential next steps
Tip #31: Be coachable and easy to work with
During a case interview, you not only need to demonstrate that you can solve the case, but you also need to demonstrate that you would be a great fit for the consulting firm. At the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask themself: “Would I want to work with this person?”
An easy way to pass this is to be coachable and easy to work with. When the interviewer provides suggestions or guidance, take them. When the interviewer challenges your answer, politely provide your rationale but acknowledge that you understand the interviewer’s points.
Tip #32: Use a hypothesis-driven approach
During the case interview, you should have a hypothesis of what the answer to the case is. A hypothesis is simply an educated guess based on the knowledge that you have. As you analyze data and gather more information, make sure to be constantly changing and refining your hypothesis.
There are two benefits to using a hypothesis to drive the direction of the case. One, it ensures that you are focusing on relevant areas that will help you solve or answer the case. Two, by the time the interviewer asks you for a recommendation, you will already have a refined hypothesis on what the answer or solution to the case should be.
Tip #33: Be 80/20
You have limited time during a case interview to solve the case. Therefore, you won’t be able to cover all of the different areas in your framework and get answers to every single question that you have. Therefore, focus on the most important issues and use the 80/20 principle.
The 80/20 principle states that 80% of the outcome comes from 20% of your effort. During a case interview, focus on the most important questions or areas that will have the biggest impact or effect on developing your answer or recommendation.
Other Consulting Interview Tips
Tip #34: Know why you are interested in consulting
You will almost certainly be asked why you are interested in consulting at some point during your interviews. You should prepare a structured and compelling answer beforehand. There are a number of different reasons you could give:
- You want to make a significant impact by working with executives at large companies on their most challenging business problems
- You enjoy the diversity and novelty of solving business problems across different industries and functions
- You see consulting as the quickest way to build the skills to become a business executive
- You enjoy working closely with teams on tough, challenging business problems
- You want to get an insider view on how large companies are run and operated
Tip #35: Know why you are interested in the firm
You will also almost certainly be asked why you are interested in working at the firm that you are interviewing for. Prepare a structured and compelling answer beforehand. Potential reasons you could give include:
- You’ve loved the people that you’ve met from the firm and would enjoy working with them
- The firm has an amazing culture that you would love to be a part of
- The firm has deep expertise in a particular industry or function that you are passionate about
- There is a particular program or opportunity that the firm offers that you are excited about
Tip #36: Structure your answer to behavioral and fit questions
Behavioral and fit questions ask you to draw upon a time or experience in the past in which you demonstrated a particular skill or trait. To make your answer clear and easy to follow, use the following structure when sharing a story or experience:
- Provide a brief overview of the situation and any context needed to understand the story
- Describe what you were asked or required to deliver or achieve
- Explain what steps you took to handle the task or meet the objective
- Describe the outcome that your actions had and what you learned from the experience
Tip #37: Share your best stories and experiences
Since you can prepare answers to behavioral and fit interview questions beforehand, take the time to carefully select the stories and experiences that best highlight your qualities and accomplishments. Choose stories and experiences that are the most impressive, impactful, or memorable.
Tip #38: Research the qualities that consulting firms are looking for
In order to better demonstrate that you are a great fit for the consulting firm you are interviewing for, research what qualities the firm looks for. Many consulting firms explicitly state on their website the characteristics that they look for. When you answer behavioral or fit interview questions, focus on highlighting the qualities that the firm cares most about.
Tip #39: Ask questions at the end of the interview
Come prepared with questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. Asking questions at the end of the interview is a great opportunity to connect with the interviewer on a deeper, more personal level. Ask them how they got into consulting, what their favorite consulting project was, and what they are looking to do next in their career. The more you can connect with the interviewer, the more they will like you and push for you to get an offer.
Tip #40: Be enthusiastic
During the interview, display enthusiasm. This not only makes the interview more fun and interesting for the interviewer, but it also demonstrates that you are passionate about consulting and working at the firm. Interviewers want to hire candidates that love their job and work hard. Displaying enthusiasm is an indicator for these characteristics.
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