How to Prepare for Consulting Case Interviews in 2020


There is a plethora of case interview guides and resources on the internet. In this guide, I’ll reveal the most efficient way to learn case interviews and the best resources to use.


Step One: Understand What a Case Interview is


Case interviews are a special type of interview that every single consulting firm uses. They typically take 30 – 60 minutes and involve you working with the interviewer to solve a business problem and provide a recommendation.


The first step in preparing for case interviews is to understand exactly what these interviews look like.


Read this case interview guide, which will walk you through a case interview step-by-step.


If you are completely new to case interviews, also watch a few videos of people doing an actual case. A couple of great videos to watch:


 

 


Now that you are familiar with what case interviews are, it is important to know what a great case interview performance looks like.


Bain has a helpful video that shows how different candidates solve the same case. When watching this video, note what qualities make one candidates’ answer better than others.


Knowing what a great case interview performance looks like will facilitate how quickly you learn case interview strategies in the next step.


Before continuing onto the next step, you should be familiar with:


  • The overall objective of a case interview


  • The structure and flow of a case interview


  • The types of questions you could get asked


  • What a great case interview performance looks like






Step Two: Learn the Right Strategies


Now that you have sufficient background knowledge on case interviews, it is time to learn the right strategies to build good case interview habits.


It is much more effective to learn the right case strategies the first time than to learn poor strategies and try to correct them later.


The quickest, most efficient way to learn these strategies is to go through the One Week Case Interview Online Course.


If you prefer reading case interview prep books instead, the three I recommend are:


 

 


Hacking the Case Interview provides strategies on exactly what to do and what to say in every step of the case interview. It is a concise and straight to the point guide. I recommend this book as the first book to read for beginners.


Case Interview Secrets teaches core concepts such as the issue tree, drill-down analysis, and a hypothesis driven approach. It illustrates these concepts through stories and anecdotes. If you have read Hacking the Case Interview, I recommend also reading this book to get perspectives from a second author.


Case in Point provides a ton of specific and complex frameworks. However, you likely won’t be using many of these in an actual case interview because many of them are overly complex and specific. If you have time, it may be useful to skim through this book.


At the bare minimum, read either the first or second book. If you have the time, read the first two so that you can get strategies from two different authors.


Make sure to spend sufficient time learning the right strategies before starting to practice cases. It is ineffective to practice cases if you have no idea what strategies to practice and refine.


Before moving onto the next step, you should at least have strategies for the following parts of a case interview:


  • Developing unique and tailored frameworks


  • Solving quantitative problems


  • Answering qualitative questions


  • Delivering a recommendation






Step Three: Practice 3 – 5 Cases Independently


Once you have learned the right case interview strategies, now is the time to practice.


When practicing case interviews, it is usually better to practice with a case interview partner than to practice by yourself. Casing with a partner better simulates the real case interview experience.


However, when you are just starting to practice, I recommend doing the first 3 – 5 cases by yourself.


There are three reasons for this:


  1. You can get the hang of case interview structure and format much more quickly working by yourself rather than having to wait to schedule a time with a partner.

  2. There are many aspects of case interviews that you can practice without a partner, such structuring a framework and solving quantitative problems. You can get much more practice working through these parts by yourself.

  3. You may have difficulty finding a case interview partner if you are a complete beginner. Without having done any cases, you likely won’t know how to properly give a case or provide good feedback.


There are several sources to get cases that you can practice individually:


  • The books and online course I previously recommended all have practice cases




 


After doing the first 3 – 5 cases independently, move onto practicing cases with a case interview partner.






Step Four: Practice 5 – 10 Cases with a Partner

 

Casing 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 improve on unless you practice live with a partner.

 

If you have finished all the practice cases in the previous step, you can find many more cases in various MBA casebooks.


One big caveat for using these MBA casebooks is that the cases are often hit-or-miss in terms of quality. Many cases provide poor frameworks, solutions, or explanations. Many are also not representative of actual case interviews since they are outdated.


Some of the better MBA casebooks are listed below. They can be found at this link.

  • Wharton 2008 - 2010

  • Kellogg 2013

  • Sloan 2011

  • Harvard 2011


When practicing cases with a partner, ensure you are spending enough time after cases to deliver feedback.


For a case that takes around 30 – 40 minutes, spend at least 15 – 20 minutes for feedback. Much of your learning and improvement will come from these feedback sessions.


Do not move onto the next step until you have done at least 5 – 10 cases and are beginning to feel comfortable with case interviews.






Step Five: Practice with a Former or Current Consultant


At this point, I highly recommend asking former or current consultants to give you a practice case.


Doing a mock case with a former or current consultant is highly advantageous because they know exactly how to run cases and give feedback. You’ll receive incredibly helpful feedback that your previous case partners likely missed.


If you feel that you are plateauing with your case partner, that is a sign you should do a mock case interview with a former or current consultant.


You can find former or current consultants among:


  • Friends


  • Classmates


  • Colleagues


  • People you met during the consulting recruiting process


  • Your broader LinkedIn network


I would not ask a consultant that is involved with the consulting recruiting process for a case too prematurely. Although these practice cases are not evaluative, some firms will actually make note of how well you perform during the practice case.


At this point, you will have accumulated a long list of improvement areas from all of the different people you have cased with.






Step Six: Work on your Improvement Areas


In this step, you will work on strengthening and fine-tuning your improvement areas. Examples of common improvement areas include:


  • Creating a more complete and mutually exclusive framework


  • Performing math calculations quicker or more smoothly


  • Providing more structure to your qualitative answers


  • Leading the case more proactively


  • Delivering a more succinct recommendation


Try to focus on improving one thing at a time. This is much more effective than trying to improve everything at once.


For some areas, such as math, it will be better to work independently. For other areas, such as learning to proactively lead the case, it will be better to work with a case partner.


If you are looking for more cases, look at the resources listed in step four. If you are looking for specific drills or practice problems for a particular part of a case interview, check out The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook.


Do not move onto the next step until you have finished working on all of your improvement areas.






Step Seven: Focus on Demonstrating Fit


To receive a consulting offer, you not only need to crush your case interviews, but also need to demonstrate fit with the firm.


Although all consulting firms generally look for similar qualities, such as problem solving and team skills, they also look for certain personality traits or behaviors.


Bain, for example, highly emphasizes collaboration and a work hard, play hard personality. BCG especially values intellect and creativity. McKinsey looks for strong leadership and executive presence.


Once you have improved your case interview skills such that you can solve any case with ease, practice highlighting your personality and fit with the firm during cases.


For example, with Bain, you may want to practice using a bit of humor to showcase your personality and connect with your interviewer.


For BCG, you might want to focus on brainstorming creative ideas.


For McKinsey, you may want to work on developing a confident, assertive presence.


It can be very difficult to change your personality traits, but working to emphasize particular qualities that each firm values can make a big difference.






Step Eight: Stay Sharp


If you have progressed this far, congratulations! You are almost there.


Once you feel that you have no more improvement areas to work on, the key is to not burn yourself out by doing too many unnecessary cases.


While each case that you do makes you slightly better, there is a point when doing too many cases can create case fatigue right before your interview. Case fatigue can negatively impact your interview performance.


On the other hand, you also don’t want to go weeks without having done a case. You may end up forgetting strategies or become rusty and slow.


Once you have achieved case mastery, I recommend doing no more than 2 cases per week in the weeks leading up to your interview. This ensures that you remain sharp for case interviews, but don’t have case fatigue.






Next Steps


Preparing for case interviews takes significant time. If you’re looking for an efficient way to prepare, consider enrolling in our One Week Case Interview Online Course.


The course can quickly take you through the first four steps of preparation and provides all the resources you need in one place.