Case Interview Prep: The Why And The How

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Landing a consultant job at one of the leading firms such as McKinsey or Bain and Company is a very popular dream among young (and old) consultants. This, however, means that the competition will be stiff and that you will have to do everything in your power to stand head and shoulders above the rest and get picked as the top candidate. 

Preparation is Key

As we mentioned before, competition for these jobs is overwhelming, and more than half of the applicants will not even make it past the first stage, which means their resumes will end up in the bin. Having an eye-catching resume and an excellent cover letter is an absolute must-do. 

Even this will not guarantee that the recruiter will read your resume fully and pick you for the second stage, but it will certainly increase your chances.

The second stage is the screening test. Same as with the first step, less than half of those who made it to this stage will make it further, to the final step – the case interview. For a more detailed guide and coaching options, visit the myconsultingcoach.com/case-interview-coaching.

Coaching services

Lots of people are beginning to go through with this choice for their case interview prep. Paying for private coaching sessions might be more expensive than just preparing alone, but it is the best form of preparation you can acquire. 

Coaches are mostly ex-consultants from top firms, with lots of experience and inside knowledge that they share with you to give you the biggest chance you’ll get for passing through all the steps of recruitment.

Case interview prep sessions are held one-on-one and will not be sugar-coated or adjusted to your needs, but will be focused on being useful and helping you achieve your goal. Coaches will often act as your interviewer and ask the types of questions an interviewer would ask, as well as give you cases, to give you the full case interview experience before the actual interview. 

Aside from obvious problem-solving and communication advice and preparation, these sessions include working on your resume and cover letter. As we mentioned before, if those are not top-notch, there is no point preparing for the interview anyway, as you will not get picked for further selection.

Case solving

Generally speaking, this is the most feared part of the whole process. The day you step in front of the interview panel and put your skills to the test. Should you make it this far, keep your confidence high, as less than 20% of all applicants are lucky enough to make it to this stage.

You will be handed a business problem to solve in a limited time frame. You are given additional data to help you, charts, and statistics, whatever is deemed necessary. Now in some firms, such as McKinsey, the interviewer will lead the process and ask you questions, they will keep control of the interview so to speak.

In other firms, such as Bain and Company, they use the candidate-led approach. In this case, you will not be directed in any way. It will be up to you to do your work and lead the interview panel through your whole thought process and solution.

Whichever approach you get, never hesitate to ask for additional data when required, or have any questions to clarify a part of the case. Also, take your time and don’t rush into answers. You may have a time limit, but if you let it get to you too much, your answers will likely be more chaotic and your chances of error will increase.

Concerning your preparation for this part, most top companies have examples of cases on their websites that you can look at and use. We will list a few from McKinsey, Bain, and BCG below:

Whichever company you’re applying for, going through all of these can only do you good, so don’t limit yourself to just your chosen company’s cases.

Communication

As important as your problem-solving and business-related skills are if you do not know how to communicate and present them to the panel, it won’t bode well for you. Your sentences and speech need to sound organized, thought through and show logical thinking.

It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is not to skip this part during your case interview prep. If possible, work with a friend and speak your answers out loud while preparing, as doing everything inside your head will likely not be enough when the interview day comes. 

The more you go through it and practice presenting everything you know, the easier it will be to do it in front of the interview board. As they say, practice makes perfect. Work on your sentence structure and your body language until you feel confident enough to step out and impress them.

Cultural fit issue

As much as your technical aspect of the job is crucial, you must not forget that any serious company will want to make sure that you fit in with their values. Questions about you as a person will often be brought up, as well as the famous “Why did you pick this company out of all others” question as well.

These questions may come up at any time, often catching you off-guard, so make them an integral part of your case interview prep. Know what to say about yourself or how others would usually describe you, know why you picked that company in particular and why you would be a great fit there.

There are lots of positives in being a good fit with a company, but one of the biggest is certainly mutual job satisfaction. If both sides are happy working together, it increases the chances that you will stay there for a long time, which reduces employee turnover costs for the company. So do your best to show how great you would fit in there, or how quickly you can adapt to changes if necessary.

All things considered

We hope this article helped you understand that case interview prep is a lot of work. You can cut a few corners here and there, mostly by hiring a consultant to avoid doing most of your research alone, but you still have to acquire all the necessary knowledge and communication skills to make it through all the stages of applying for this job. Start planning on time, give it your all, and hopefully, it will all be worth your effort in the end.

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