Case Study Consulting Interview Practice

Wednesday, August 18, 2021 4:12:06 AM

Case Study Consulting Interview Practice



As Graduate audit associate cover letter result, it Uc application essay questions 2011 contemplating store closings. However, whilst several different segmentation schemes might be equally How much does it cost to write a business plan, it is crucial to Case study consulting interview practice the specific Graduate audit associate cover letter best Lab report order of reaction to the question you have to answer and to leveraging the data you have available. Which segment has shown the decline in volume? Get started. Join Deloitte. Organizational behavior.

Profitability Case Study Interview Example - Solved by Ex-McKinsey Consultant

In this article, you shall find the best case interview resources for your practice. These cover interactive case interview samples provided by consulting firms. Use the resources available in this blog to prepare for your case interviews. The case collection includes cases which have been used in actual case interviews in the past. Solving cases on your own can give you a first feeling for them. The best way to improve your case interview skills is to put yourself in a case interview situation. The more perspectives you can get, the better. Experience solving as many cases will help you improve your case interview skills. You can practice with as many cases as you like, but if you do not learn from them, you will not improve your case performance.

The more you practice, the more confident you will automatically feel. Most of these case study examples are based on case interviews used by consulting firms in real job interviews. As a result, you can have a good idea of the case study questions you can have when interviewing at these firms. Please download the complete archive here password: thinkinsights. This is a good introduction to a very common type of case profitability, or more specifically declining sales here. I liked the solution presented for this case, in particular how it started first by isolating the problem of declining sales what range of products?

Volumes or prices or both? This is an investment case should you invest in a new bar. Even if the solution presented in this case book is not MECE, it covers the most common quantitative questions you might have in such a case. I recommend doing this case. This is a profitability case. I liked the solution presented in this case because it illustrates how specific good candidates should be. This is a typical market sizing question. How to answer this type of questions is a must-know before going to your interviews. Again, this is a very common type of case how to reduce costs. This case study asks you to help your client assess different business models.

I liked this case because the range of issues to tackle is quite broad. Consultants want a structured, quick, and concise recommendation for their business problem they can implement the next day. Fact-based : Consultants share CEOs' hatred of opinions based on gut feel rather than facts. They want facts first, to make sure you are in control. Always back up your conclusions with the relevant facts. The MyConsultingCoach team, a group of seasoned McKinsey, Bain, and BCG consultants with experience on both sides of the interview table, has developed a new, proprietary approach to case cracking which replicates how top management consultants approach actual engagements. The key is decoupling problem solving, business concepts and analysis tools to achieve the necessary modularity to apply the same overarching method to solve any case.

The synergic action of these three elements will allow you to tackle any case interview question. Let's look at these elements in more detail. It works by generating a bespoke framework for each individual case question and is a simplified version of the roadmap McKinsey consultants use when working on engagements. The canonical seven steps from McKinsey are simplified to four as the analysis required for a six-month engagement is clearly different from that of a minute case study. However, the underlying flow is the same.

Let's take a look. Many candidates will manage to irretrievably mess up their cases within the first few minutes of starting off. Often, these candidates will not realize what they have done until they are getting near the end of their analysis. It is then that they suddenly see that they have misunderstood the case prompt — and have effectively been answering the wrong question all along! With no time to go back and start again, there is nothing to do. Even if there were time, making such a silly mistake so early on will also make a terrible impression on your interviewer, who might well have written them off already.

The interview is scuppered and all their preparation has been for nothing. This error is so disappointing as it is so readily avoidable. In this context, it is an inherent advantage that our case method places huge importance on laying the foundations for analysis by ensuring a full understanding of the case prompt. Once we have identified the fundamental, underlying problem our client is facing, we focus our whole analysis around finding solutions to this specific issue. Now, some prompts are easy to digest. How can we bring them up?

In the lesson on identifying the problem in our MCC Academy course, we teach you how use a structured, hypothesis-driven approach to quickly circumscribe the key issue facing the client. We provide you with a systematic, four step approach to identifying the problem as well as running through common errors to ensure that you start off on the right foot every time! As a final point, it goes without saying that showing this level of diligence early on where so many other candidates do not is a great start in terms of impressing your interviewer! After you have fully understood the problem, it is time to move to draw up a bespoke structure to capture all the unique features of the case and to guide your analysis. This is precisely the same method used by real consultants working on real engagements.

Of course, it might be easier to simply roll out one old-fashioned framework or another — it is true that it would be faster at least at this stage and requires less thought than the problem-driven structure approach. We are honest that our approach requires more work from you. However, our method comes with the crucial advantage of being able to accommodate the most difficult and irregular of cases exactly the kind you can expect at an MBB interview.

Since we start from first principles every time, we can tackle any case with just the same overarching method. As we note in the relevant section here, is a huge advantage over frameworks, which cannot be relied upon to work in any case which departs from their very rigid schemes. In practice, structuring a problem in line with our method will generally mean - either an issue tree or a hypothesis tree, depending on how you are trying to address the problem. These trees break down the problem into a set of smaller problems , which you can solve individually. Representing this on a diagram makes it easy for both you and your interviewer to keep track of your analysis.

These can be segmented as the number of customers multiplied by the average ticket price. The number of customers can be further broken down into a number of flight times the number of seat times average occupancy rate. The node corresponding to the average ticket price can then be segmented further. A good structure meets several requirements , including MECE-ness , level consistency, materiality, simplicity, and actionability. It is worth noting, though, that the same problem can be structured in multiple valid ways by choosing different means to segment the key issues. It is important to master segmentation so that you can choose a scheme which is not just valid, but actually useful in addressing the problem. After taking the effort to identify the problem properly, an advantage of the problem driven structure is that it will help ensure that you stay focused on that same fundamental problem throughout.

One issue which occurs quite often — and tends to be an issue with certain frameworks — is that the candidates come to the end of their analysis and, even if they have stuck to the initial question, have not actually reached a definite solution ; perhaps generating a laundry list of pros and cons with no single recommendation for action. Clients employ consultants for actionable answers and this is what is expected in the case interview. The problem driven structure excels in ensuring that everything you do is clearly related back to key question in a way that will generate a definitive answer.

Thus, the problem driven structure builds in the hypothesis driven approach so characteristic of consulting practice. You can learn how to set out your own problem driven structures in our article here and in our MCC Academy course. Now, a problem driven structure might ensure that we eventually generate a solution, but how do we actually get there? We call this step " leading the analysis ", and is the process whereby you systematically navigate your structure, identifying the key factors which are driving the issue we are addressing.

To see this process in action, we can return to our airline revenue example. We then look closer at the drivers of average ticket price and find that the problem lies with Economy Class ticket prices. We can then further segment that price into the base fare and additional items such as food. Having broken down the issue to such a fine-grained level, solutions occur quite naturally. In this case, we can suggest incentivizing the crew to increase onboard sales, improving assortment in the plane, or offering discounts for online purchases. Our article on leading the analysis is a great primer on the subject, with our video lesson in the MCC Academy providing the most comprehensive guide.

Now you need to deliver that solution as a final recommendation. This should be delivered as if you are briefing a busy CEO and thus should be a one minute, top-down, concise, structured, clear, and fact-based account of your findings. The brevity of the final recommendation belies its importance. In real life consulting, the recommendation is what the client has paid thousands for - from their point of view it is all that matters.

So how to we do it right? Barbara Minto's Pyramid Principle elegantly sums up almost everything that required from a perfect recommendation. The answer comes first , as this is what is most important. These are the then supported by a few key arguments - which are in turn buttressed by supporting facts. Across the whole recommendation, the goal is not simply to summarise what you have done, but rather to synthesize your findings so as to extract the key "so what?

All this might seem like common sense, but it is actually the opposite to the way we relay results in academia and other fields ; where we typically move from data through arguments and eventually to conclusions. As such, making good recommendations is a skill that will take practice to master. To this scheme, we suggest candidates add a few brief remarks on potential risks and suggested next steps. This helps demonstrate the ability for critical self-reflection and lets your interviewer see you going the extra mile. In the final recommendation in particular, the combination of logical rigour and communication skills which are so definitive of consulting is on full display.

Despite it only lasting 60 seconds, to deliver a really excellent recommendation and leave your interviewer with a good final impression of your case solving abilities, you will need to leverage a full set of key consulting skills. Our specific article on final recommendations and the specific video lesson on the same topic withing our MCC Academy are great, comprehensive resources, but our lesson on consulting thinking and our articles on MECE and the pyramid principle are also very useful. Now, the whole case cracking method we have set out thus far emphasises starting from first principles to develop a fresh approach to each and every case question you are presented with.

However, since we have also identified a number of common topics popping up in case interview questions, you might well ask if we really need to spend the time required to work up from first principles in every single case. Indeed, this is what the case interview frameworks promoted elsewhere will claim to do for you — to save you precious time by zeroing in on the kind of question you have been asked. This is where we introduce our Building Block concept.

We have devised modular building blocks to capture the commonalities between cases identified in each of the five key topics outlined above. These building blocks are designed as modular, off-the-peg elements which allow you to leverage the symmetries between different cases to structure problems more quickly and effectively. Now, building blocks might ostensibly sound a lot like the case interview frameworks we have railed against above. Sounds just like Case in Point! Indeed, we can introduce the unique features of building blocks by considering exactly how they differ from old-fashioned frameworks.

Framework-based approaches identify a set of strictly-defined case types and then provide a single generic scheme for each — apparently able to solve all instances of that case type. By contrast, building blocks embrace the infinite variety and complexity of cases and the fact, as noted above, that the different question themes we have identified can all run into one another. Building blocks do not claim to capture the entirety of any one case and intend only to provide a strong starting point when you encounter each of these question topics , rather than to dictate your approach right from A to Z.

Think of frameworks as a flatpack, fibreboard coffee table from Ikea. Our building blocks are more like standard planks of wood. You can use them to make multiple different structures and the end product is going to be sturdy and reliable. We noted above how different topics can easily overlap in the same case interview question — with the example that a pricing decision might affect how a company competes with other market players, which will in turn affect profitability and valuation.

Overlapping topics mean that it is quite natural to structure a case with the deployment of two or more building blocks. In particular, we can expect to have to make estimations as part of pretty well any case interview question , so this is a building block which we will leverage constantly. Our Our Building Blocks allow you to retain the time-saving benefits of frameworks, but without inheriting their fatal flaws in terms of inflexibility.

Let's take a look at our five key building blocks below, with a brief introduction to how you might use each. Estimation questions can often seem very daunting on the first impression. Where would we even start in working out how many cars are sold in Berlin, for example? The key to estimation case questions is the ability to logically break down the problem into more manageable pieces. In consulting case studies, this will generally mean segmenting a wider population to find a target group.

For example, starting from the total population of Berlin and narrowing down on the cohort of individuals who will buy a car that year. There are many ways to segment the same starting population. However, whilst several different segmentation schemes might be equally valid, it is crucial to choose the specific method best suited to the question you have to answer and to leveraging the data you have available. Segmentation must be allied with assumptions in order to arrive at an estimation. Assumptions cannot just be plucked from thin air, but must always be reasonable.

The example below showcases both the segmentation and assumptions made in an estimation of the size of the wedding planning market in London:. Our articles here on the MECE concept and estimation are great starting points in learning the relevant skills to make estimations in consulting case questions. However, the best place to learn how to make estimations is with the dedicated building block video lesson in our MCC Academy course. Understanding profitability ultimately means understanding the various components which go to determine the profit of a company.

Thus, you will learn to decompose profit first into the revenues and costs of which it is the synthesis and then — crucially — to further segment , distinguishing different revenue streams and separating various fixed and variable costs. To take an example, just to take revenues as a fraction of profit, the incoming revenues for an insurance firm might be broken down as follows:. To solve profitability problems, we will thus have to understand the various means at our disposal to minimize different forms of cost as well as ways to drive sales or optimize pricing to increase revenue. Importantly, you must be able to judge which of these options is best suited to address different scenarios.

The key to tackling the complex kind of profitability questions given by MBB-level consultancies lies in proper segmentation. Many old-fashioned case interview frameworks will simply have you look at aggregate cost and revenue data and then simply have you recommend generic cost-cutting or revenue-driving measures based on that. However, this will often lead to negative outcomes, making matters worse for our client company. For example, it might well be that a company makes a loss when it serves a certain cohort of customers. An airline, for instance, might be losing money on economy class customers but making a healthy profit on each business class customer. Attempts to boost revenue by increasing sales generally might actually have suppressed profit further by increasing the number of economy class customers.

You can start to learn more about how to segment these questions properly, as well as getting to grips with the other ideas mentioned here, in our article on profitability , with the best way to master profitability being our full lesson on the subject in the Building Blocks section of our MCC Academy course. These basics are shown in the diagram below:. This might seem simple enough, but the exact level at which prices are set is determined by a whole host of factors , including product availability, market trends, and the need to maintain a competitive position within the market. If we are changing the price of an existing product, we must consider how the price elasticity of demand might cause sales to fluctuate in the face of altered prices.

A summary of this method is given, along with an overview of pricing in general, in our article on the subject. The most complete resource, though, is our pricing building block lesson in the MCC Academy. There are multiple different ways of calculating value. These include asset-based valuations and the multiples method. Thus, you will need to master the NPV equation:. However, NPV is far from the last word in valuation. The fact is that the worth of any asset will be different for different buyers , depending upon what the buyer already owns. In just the same way spare clutch for a Ford will hold much more worth to someone restoring the relevant classic car than to a cyclist, so a courier business will be more valuable to an online retailer than to an airline.

This is shown in the useful structure below:. This will be essential, as you will often have to estimate rational values for these rates for different investments and then plug those values into the NPV equation. You can learn more about all aspects of valuation in our article here and in our dedicated video lesson in MCC Academy. These include guides to the kind of interest rates which would typically be required for financing different kinds of investment. Your eventual solutions as to how a company should react to a changing market might be highly creative and sweeping in their prospective effects. However, the process by which we understand competitive interactions and thus move towards such solutions is typically highly systematic — indeed, algorithmic - as we move through the limited dimensions in which it is possible for a company to take action.

The following structure neatly encodes the general options open to responding to new sources of competition:. Of course, we would never suggest that you blanket-apply any strict, inflexible methodology to a whole swathe of case questions - this is precisely the approach that causes so much trouble for candidates using old-fashioned frameworks. This structure is only a starting point — a shortcut to a bespoke framework, specific to the case question in hand. You might have to alter the details of the structure shown and you will almost certainly have to expand it as you lead the analysis.

How you lead the analysis and the solutions you provide are necessarily going to depend wholly upon the specific details of the case question. Thus, in order to deal with competitive interactions, you will need to put in the time understanding how the different strategies available function — as well as how competitors might then react to implementing such strategies. Learn more in our article here and in our dedicated video lesson on competitive interaction in the MCC Academy case interview course.

Companies hire consulting firms for their problem solving and communication skills. This is the reason why consulting thinking is a pillar of our method. The distinctive characteristic of a management consultant is that they have a problem-solving mentality. In particular, they focus on generating solutions to problems using a fact-based approach. This approach relies on 5 key elements:. These elements are intrinsically linked; our course elaborates on each in detail. As we have noted previously, old-fashioned case interview frameworks as found in Case in Point and Case Interview Secrets are unreliable and will not impress your interviewer. This might be a bitter pill to swallow if you have already waded through the relevant books and devoted time to rote learning these frameworks.

However, on reflection, the simple fact that using frameworks is indeed a matter of rote learning should be a huge red flag in itself. Rote learning solutions pre-supposes that the cases you encounter in the future will conform to the same basic mold as the previous cases those solutions were derived from. You then select the relevant framework and do the calculations recommended. Crucially, the frameworks are very fixed and do not allow for significant customization to accommodate unique features of problems. Frameworks rely on cases neatly dividing into distinct types, where each instance of a particular type is very much like the others.

However, and very unfortunately for the candidates that rely on them, this means that case interview frameworks will struggle with precisely the kind of question which are likely to come up in consulting interviews. There is a reason no working consultant ever uses frameworks! As is well known, consulting case interview questions tend to be based on a real project the interviewer has been working on recently.

Consultants are engaged by their clients to solve unique problems, which have proved resistant to standard solutions otherwise the client would have saved tens of thousands and dealt with the issue in-house. Thus, consulting case interview questions are going to be based on precisely the kind of unique problems that have refused to fit into standard frameworks or other off-the-peg solutions. Since frameworks do not have the flexibility to cope with these more complex scenarios , the unlucky candidates making use of them will simply be stumped. Despite all their hard work in preparation — and hours of rote learning — they will wash out of their case interview and will not be hired.

So, we have considered the demands of the question, but we should also consider the intention behind posing case questions. Remember that the whole point of case interviews is to assess the candidate's ability to think on their feet and come up with creative solutions to new problems. If consultancies wanted to simply test memorised knowledge, it would be a lot cheaper for them to set written tests, rather than divert working consultants to act as interviewers. Consulting firms are simply not interested in hiring candidates who distinguish themselves only by learning a dozen generic recipes!

Our innovative problem-driven structure approach takes a radically different approach to old-fashioned frameworks. For one thing, there are no generic sets of instructions to be precisely applied. Rather, we teach a set of skills with guidelines on how to apply those skills flexibly to any new problem. Indeed, our method was derived as a streamlined version of the seven-step system used by McKinsey consultants on real engagements. The first step of our method is always to understand the case you have been given in detail and on its own merits. From here you draw up a unique problem driven structure — which you can think of as building your own new framework for each individual question.

Clearly, this solves the problem of inflexibility which lets down candidates attempting to apply old-fashioned frameworks to unique, irregular cases. By contrast to such limitations, problem-driven structures - as a method for approaching issues from first principles - is sufficiently general that it can even be applied well outside the realms of business problems.

With the MCC approach, rather than rote learning a set of generic scripts, you learn genuine consulting skills and how to apply those to novel problems in just the same manner as would a working consultant. Far from being frustrated by watching a candidate operating on autopilot, your interviewer will be genuinely impressed to see you clearly tackle the case they have set using the same methods they would themselves. As an indicator of the value of our approach, not only does prepping our way increase your chance of being hired, but it also let's you hit the ground running on day one of the job itself , as you are already with the fundamental skills leveraged in real consulting work.

No real consultant uses frameworks, but all are united in applying those same methods and principles built into the problem-driven structure approach and taught in our MCC Academy course. You can learn more about why frameworks are unreliable and how our method works in this video:. Of course, all this theory is well and good, but a lot of readers might be concerned about what exactly to expect in real life. Indeed, it is important to think about your interview in more holistic terms.

One theme here is that getting the mechanics of analysis and getting the exact right answer is less important than the approach you take to reasoning and how you communicate — candidates often lose sight of this fact. As a supplement to what we say here, the following video from Bain is excellent. It portrays an abridged version of a case interview , but is very useful as a guide to what to expect - not just from Bain, but from McKinsey, BCG, and any other high-level consulting firm. Though you might be shown through to the office by a staff member, usually your interviewer will come and collect you from a waiting area. Either way, when you first encounter them, you should greet your interviewer with a warm smile and a handshake unless they do not offer their hand.

Be confident without verging into arrogance. Whether at a conscious level or not, the impression you make within the first few seconds of meeting your interviewer is likely to significantly inform the final hiring decision again, whether consciously or not. Your presentation and how you hold yourself and behave are all important. These things are part of the job! Much of material on the fit interview is useful here, whilst we also cover first impressions and presentation generally in our article on what to wear to interview.

As we have noted above, your interview might start with a fit segment — that is, with the interviewer asking questions about your experiences, your soft skills, and motivation to want to join consulting generally and that firm in particular. We have a fit interview article and course to get you up to speed here. Following an initial conversation, your interviewer will introduce your case study , providing a prompt for the question you have to answer.

You will have a pen and paper in front of you and should neatly note down the salient pieces of information you should keep this up throughout the interview. Case prompts can be tricky and easy to misunderstand — especially when you are under pressure. Rather, ask any questions you need to fully understand the case question and validate that understanding with the interviewer before you kick off any analysis.

Better to eliminate mistakes now than experiencing that sinking feeling of realizing you have gotten the whole thing wrong halfway through your case! This process is covered in our article on identifying the problem and in greater detail in our MCC Academy lesson on that subject. Once you understand the problem, you should take a few seconds to set your thoughts in order and draw up an initial structure for how you want to proceed. You might benefit from utilizing one or more of our building blocks here to make a strong start. Present this to your interviewer and get their approval before you get into the nuts and bolts of analysis.

We cover the mechanics of how to structure your problem and lead the analysis in our articles here and here and more thoroughly in the MCC Academy. What it is important to convey here, though, is that your case interview is supposed to be a conversation rather than a written exam. Your interviewer takes a role closer to a co-worker than an invigilator and you should be conversing with them throughout. Indeed, how you communicate with your interviewer and explain your rationale to them is a crucial element of how you will be assessed. Case questions, in general, are not asked to see if you can produce the correct answer, but rather to see how you think. Your interviewer wants to see you approach the case in a structured, rational fashion.

The only way they are going to know your thought processes, though, is if you tell them! To demonstrate this point, here is another excellent video from Bain, where candidates are compared. Another reason why communication is absolutely essential to case interview success is the simple reason that you will not have all the facts that you need to complete your analysis at the outset.

Rather, you will frequently have to ask the interviewer for additional data to allow you to proceed. Note that your ability to quickly and accurately interpret these charts and other figures under pressure is one of the skills which is being assessed. You will also be required to make any and all calculations hat are required quickly and accurately and without a calculator! As such, you should be sure that you are up to speed on your consulting math.

Finally, you will be asked to present a recommendation. This should be delivered in a brief, top-down "elevator pitch" style format , as if you are speaking to a time-pressured CEO. Again here, how you communicate will be just as important as the details of what you say. Speak clearly and with confidence and take a look at our articles on the pyramid principle and providing recommendations , as well the relevant lesson within MCC Academy , for more detail on how to give the perfect recommendation. After your case is complete, there might be a few more fit questions — including a chance for you to ask some questions of the interviewer.

This is your opportunity to make a good parting impression — we deal with the details in our fit interview resources. It is always worth bearing in mind just how many candidates your interviewers are going to see giving similar answers to the same questions in the same office. A pretty obvious pre-requisite to being considered for a job is that your interviewer remembers you in the first place. Whilst you shouldn't do something stupid just to be noticed, asking interesting parting questions is a good way to be remembered. Now, with the interview wrapped up, it is time to shake hands, thank the interviewer for their time and leave the room.

You might have other interviews or tests that day or you might be heading home. Either way, if know that you did all you could to prepare, you can leave content in the knowledge that you have the best possible chance of receiving a call with a job offer. This is our mission at MCC — to provide all the resources you need to realize your full potential and land your dream consulting job! Too many candidates try to steam ahead into their preparation without having made any kind of plan to guide their efforts.

As a result, they will spend their time inefficiently and end up with a patchy case interview prep. To plan effectively, you first need to know what you are preparing for. As noted, consulting interviews have two sections: Fit and Case. Both are equally important, and to get hired you must be successful in both. The MCC Academy is a comprehensive, all-in-one package, teaching you everything you need to know about the case interview. We designed the course around a sensible suggested structure for a candidate with little business background.

While following that structure is the simplest course of action, a more experienced candidate can easily adapt it to their specific needs. Your case interview preparation approach depends on:. Background : whether you are new to consulting case interviews or not will affect the amount of background reading you need to do. In any case, you will need to learn about our problem driven structure approach. Timeframe : clearly time will affect your preparation. We usually advise our clients to prepare for around 60 hours, obviously the more practice you get the better it is.

For the mathematically inclined, time invested vs return approximates an S-curve. For solitary preparation, perhaps one of the best uses of your time is to work on your mental mathematics. This skill is neglected by many applicants - much to their immediate regret in the case interview.

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