Solving a case interview is no different from the approach a consultant uses in real life to solve clients’ problems. You will need to:
- Develop a structure and overall approach that will guide you throughout the case interview efficiently. The structure ideally will tell you where to look for the solution of the problem
- Develop a hypothesis early on and prioritize the information you need to gather. Apply the 80/20 rule to figure out which answer to what question will have the biggest impact on the case solution i.e. focus on where it matters
- Ask questions and gather information but know why you need the information and what conclusions you can draw from it to solve the overall case
In a case interview, your only source of information is often the Interviewer. Hence, it is important that you establish an open two-way communication and build rapport with the interviewer right from the start. Note that doing so effectively, should make the interview process feel like a dialogue, not a mechanical exercise or question-and-answer session
Make sure you ask for only relevant information. Ideally, communicate to the interviewer why you need a particular piece of data. Be as open and transparent in your thought process as possible. Say “I am thinking…” to let the interviewer know your thinking process including your current hypothesis.
The Interviewer will provide verbal information or charts based on your questions.
The foundation for a successful case is set at the beginning so follow these steps every single time you do a practise interview
1. Restate the question and make sure you understand the problem statement by confirming with the interviewer
Understand the problem really well before structuring or asking for data. Do not simply repeat the question but rephrase it in such way that it would avoid misunderstandings. This is important because in consulting, it is crucial to understand the needs of the customers.
2. Clarify the goals
Ask specific questions to clarify goals. “So our objective is to increase the bottom line. Are there any other objectives I should know of?” If there is more than one objective, do not try to solve them all at once, instead, break the problem into pieces and solve one piece at a time. This will allow you to stay focused.
3. Write out your structure
First, ask your interviewer for a minute or two to prepare your structure since this part is extremely important and determines whether you will succeed in solving the case. Don’t be afraid of the silence! Practice structuring the case! If you have a good structure that is Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive (MECE), you do not have to worry about running into dead ends because even if you do, you can dig down an alternative branch that will ultimately help you solve the case. Use an issue tree to help in customizing your structure.
4. Ask questions to understand the trends of the company, industry and product
Ask questions about the firm’s business model, the state of the competition and its substitutes, the firm’s position within the industry, and the product. Make sure to ask about changes (or deltas) [how/if things have changed]. Example categories
- What is the current situation of the client
- What has changed from previous years
- What are the financial (& non-financial) predictions given the current situation
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the business model. Even if you have graduated with a business degree, it is impossible to know a company’s business model without investigating details. Thus, solving a case based on false assumptions is worse than asking a question you think you should know beforehand. Typically, you’d want to know:
- What type of a business is it – product, service or asset business
- The size of the company
- What exactly does it offer
- Does the company play in one or more segments / markets
- High level, how is the company doing financially