If you’re interviewing for a life sciences consulting firm, expect to be given several case interviews, or case study interviews, during your interview process.
A case interview is a special type of interview that nearly every single consulting firm uses, including life sciences consulting firms. Firms that use case interviews include: Clearview Healthcare Partners, Putnam Associates, IQVIA, ZS Associates, Simon Kutcher, and Health Advances.
Case interviews simulate the consulting job by placing you in a hypothetical business situation in which you are asked to solve a challenging problem. These interviews typically last between 30 to 45 minutes and you’ll be working closely with your interviewer towards developing a recommendation or answer to the business problem.
Case study interviews are so widely used by life sciences consulting firms because they assess many of the qualities needed to become successful consultants. With just a 30- to 45-minute exercise, an interviewer can gauge your analytical capabilities, business acumen, communication skills, and cultural fit with the firm.
If you have an upcoming case interview at a life sciences consulting firm, we have you covered. In this article, we’ll cover in detail:
- Essential life sciences industry knowledge you should know
- The 6 steps to solve any life sciences case interview
- Life sciences consulting case interview examples
- Life sciences consulting case interview tips
- Recommended resources to prepare for your case interview
Essential Life Sciences Industry Knowledge You Should Know
The life sciences industry covers all of the businesses, organizations, and research institutions that are dedicated to protecting and improving human and animal life. There are various types of companies included in life sciences:
- Pharmaceuticals: Roche, Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, Eli Lily
- Biotechnology: Novo Nordisk, Regeneron, Alexion, United Therapeutics
- Medical equipment: Stryker, Medtronic, Thermo Fisher, Siemens
- Cosmeceuticals: Johnson & Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, Unilever
- Healthcarefacilities: Lab Corp, HCA Healthcare
- Managedhealthcare: UnitedHealth, Anthem, Aetna, Cigna, Humana
The life sciences industry is exciting in that it constantly sees significant changes and technological advancements every few years. Below are a few trends that you should be familiar with. They are summarized from two sources, Straits Research and Deloitte.
Artificial intelligence in biopharma: AI-driven tools is now leveraged at all phases of drug research and development. AI-driven software can assist in planning possible synthesis pathways in chemicals to obtain compounds of interest. AI is also leveraged in research areas such as phenotypic drug discovery programs to analyze data through advanced screening approaches.
Revolutionizing supply chains: There has been extensive remodeling of supply chains for strategic products, such as drug, medical equipment, diagnostics, food, and chemicals led by the national regulatory activities in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Automation and modernization: The majority of big pharma companies have been established through different mergers and acquisitions and have adopted portfolios of IT applications in different phases of modernization. Top companies are standardizing business processes, measuring manufacturing, focusing on visibility, and leveraging the right software. They are using industrial automation to overlook processes and drive business value.
Big data: Digitalization in the life sciences industry has resulted in the generation of huge volumes of data, which have to be stored and analyzed accurately to realize their full potential. Many big data techniques can transform unused data into valuable insights.
Blockchain and wearables: Wearable technology is altering the world and has paved the way for many people to monitor health, including sleeping patterns and overall fitness. Blockchain has helped wearable devices and mobile applications connect to a patient hub with all health records, allowing doctors to access a new level of visibility in real-time.
Outsourcing: Pharmaceutical companies are starting to outsource research programs to academic and private contract research organizations (CROs) to stay ahead of the competition in the world of rapidly growing knowledge and advanced technologies. Companies are choosing to outsource certain research and development activities such as clinical trials, efficacy tests in animal models, and assay development.
Telemedicine: Progress in telemedicine is one of the biggest sources of substantial change in the healthcare ecosystem. It is improving the quality of diagnosis and treatment by allowing patients to get proper access to healthcare professionals.
The 6 Steps to Solve Any Life Sciences Case Interview
There are typically six steps to solving life sciences consulting case interviews.
1. Understand the case
Your life sciences case interview will begin with the interviewer giving you the case background information. While the interviewer is speaking, make sure that you are taking meticulous notes on the most important pieces of information. Focus on understanding the context of the situation and the objective of the case.
Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions if you do not understand something. You may want to summarize the case background information back to the interviewer to confirm your understanding of the case.
The most important part of this step is to verify the objective of the case. Not answering the right business question is the quickest way to fail a case interview.
2. Structure the problem
The next step is to develop a framework to help you solve the case. A framework is a tool that helps you structure and break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components. Another way to think about frameworks is brainstorming different ideas and organizing them into different categories.
Before you start developing your framework, it is completely acceptable to ask the interviewer for a few minutes so that you can collect your thoughts and think about the problem.
Once you have identified the major issues or areas that you need to explore, walk the interviewer through your framework. They may ask a few questions or provide some feedback.
3. Kick off the case
Once you have finished presenting your framework, you’ll start diving into different areas of your framework to begin solving the case. How this process will start depends on whether the case interview is candidate-led or interviewer-led.
If the case interview is a candidate-led case, you’ll be expected to propose what area of your framework to start investigating. So, propose an area and provide a reason for why you want to start with that area. There is generally no right or wrong area of your framework to pick first.
If the case interview is interviewer-led, the interviewer will tell you what area of the framework to start in or directly give you a question to answer.
4. Solve quantitative problems
Life sciences case interviews may have some quantitative aspect to them. For example, you may be asked to calculate a certain profitability or financial metric. You could also be asked to estimate the size of a particular market or to estimate a particular figure.
The key to solving quantitative problems is to lay out a structure or approach upfront with the interviewer before doing any math calculations. If you lay out and present your structure to solve the quantitative problem and the interviewer approves of it, the rest of the problem is just simple execution of math.
5. Answer qualitative questions
Life sciences case interviews may also have qualitative aspects to them. You may be asked to brainstorm a list of potential ideas. You could also be asked to provide your opinion on a business issue or situation.
The key to answering qualitative questions is to structure your answer. When brainstorming a list of ideas, develop a structure to help you neatly categorize all of your ideas. When giving your opinion on a business issue or situation, provide a summary of your stance or position and then enumerate the reasons that support it.
6. Deliver a recommendation
In the last step of a life sciences case interview, you’ll present your recommendation and provide the major reasons that support it. You do not need to recap everything that you have done in the case, so focus on only summarizing the facts that are most important.
It is also good practice to include potential next steps that you would take if you had more time or data. These can be areas of your framework that you did not have time to explore or lingering questions that you do not have great answers for.
Life Sciences Consulting Case Interview Examples
Below are eight life sciences consulting case studies that you can use to practice your case interview skills. We highly recommend working through at least a few of these before your actual interviews.
- McKinsey pharmaceutical case: This is an acquisition case focused on whether a large pharmaceutical company should acquire a smaller startup
- BCG drug pricing case: This is a pricing case focused on helping a pharmaceutical company determine the optimal price for a new drug
- BCG medical device company case: This is a revenue growth case focused on helping a medical devices company that recently purchased an administrative systems software company
- Clearview pharmaceutical case: This is a market sizing case focused on helping a pharmaceutical company determine whether it can achieve its revenue target for an inhaled insulin product for the diabetes market
- Clearview biotechnology case: This is a quantitative case focused on helping a biotechnology firm assess its novel therapies for acute myeloid leukemia
- Deloitte federal health agency case: This is a non-profit case focused on helping a federal health agency manage the financial activities related to eliminating Ebola
- LEK medical consumables case: This is a market sizing case that estimates the market size for medical consumables by general practitioners in the United Kingdom
- Health Advances biotechnology case: This is a market entry case focused on helping a biotechnology company understand the market opportunity for developing a novel drug that prevents ear infections
Below, we have step-by-step videos showcasing how we would solve the McKinsey pharmaceutical case and the BCG drug pricing case listed above. The McKinsey case is an interviewer-led case while the BCG case is a candidate-led case. Together, these videos will give you an idea of what to expect in both styles of case interview formats.
We strongly recommend watching these two videos.
Life Sciences Consulting Case Interview 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: 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 #3: 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 #4: 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 #5: 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 #6: 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.
Recommended Resources to Prepare for Your Case Interview
We hope that you found this article on life sciences consulting case interviews helpful. If you are considering which resources to use in your case interview prep, we recommend the following:
- One Week Case Interview Course: A comprehensive case interview course that condenses all of the case interview strategies, techniques, and practice you need into a 15 – 25 hour course. Learn through 50+ concise video lessons and 20 full-length practice cases with detailed solutions.
- Hacking the Case Interview: In this book, learn exactly what to do and what to say in every step of the case interview. This is the perfect book for beginners that are looking to learn the basics of case interviews quickly.
- The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook: In this book, hone your case interview skills through 65+ problems tailored towards each type of question asked in case interviews and 15 full-length cases based on real case interviews. This book is great for intermediates looking to get quality practice.