How to prepare for the case interview and get into consulting

Consulting is a great place where you can learn how to understand and improve businesses. This is a pretty useful skill if you want to become later on a manager, a founder, or a CEO. If you get to the level of a badass consultant all of a sudden everything will seem obvious. Nevertheless, it is not easy to get into consulting. Only a small fraction gets invited. You have to pass logical / math tests and after that complete successfully the 3-5 interviews with experienced consultants that are hardly ever nice to you. The most difficult part for most of the candidates is the case interviews. You enter the room, you get some scarce information and you have to solve a problem in 5-10 minutes….to which quite often there is no one good answer. To help you with that I have decided to go through the types of questions you can expect during the case interview. More examples you can find in How to get into consulting fast and painless. Let’s discuss all sorts of questions you can get during the case interview:

  1. Evaluate a certain market size. The most common type of question is related to estimating the size of the market/market sizing. You may, for example, have to estimate the market of refrigerators, TV sets, videogames, the population of dogs in a specific area, number of priests, etc. For this, you need to apply well bottom-up and top-down approach. Have a look at an example of how to carry out market estimation – here is an example of the tile market.

    Check also presentation Market research – a practical guide for more tips.
  2. Logical questions. There is also a high probability that you will be asked a logical question that will require basic math and the proper approach to solve it. Below is an example of such a question – the famous bat and a ball problem that plenty of people get it wrong:
  3. Solve a problem the consultant faced once.  Many consultants will give you to solve a case study or a problem that they had to face on their own. In this way, they want to check how similar in thinking/problem solving you are to them. Those cases tend to be much more complicated and more realistic. The exact topic will depend on the consultant you are talking with and his inclination/experience – if he did a sales project in online business then with the highest probability this is what you will get. If you want to prepare for this sort of project check the background of your interviewer. Below are some examples of such cases with solutions. Some of them are more advanced than what you can expect during the interviews but they will give you a good idea of what you can expect:
  4. Location problem. Some consultants during the interview can ask you to find the best location for placing a specific business, factory, outlet (store). This can be solved in a general manner – naming what factors you would take into account, obstacles, barriers, saturation points. If you have more mathematical/analytical you can also go a little bit deeper and talk about methods you could use to calculate which location is the best. You can be asked to estimate i.e. how many stores we should have in country X, where to place warehouses, does it make sense to build a second factory, etc. Have a look at an example How to find the ideal spot for a new factory
  5. Improvement case. These cases are aimed at checking how fast you are in asking the right question and guessing what could be the problem without having all the necessary data. Examples of such questions:
    • How would you improve the work of … salesforce, planning department, category managers, finance department, etc.
    • How would you shorten the process of…..production, unloading packages, contacting customers, etc.
    • How could you increase the capacity of factory, warehouse, store, beauty shop?
    • What pricing we can use for products A and B

    Below is an example of such a case

    To know more on this you can check the following books: The Goal (how to use the theory of constraints and bottleneck analysis), Learning to see and The Gold Mine: A novel about Lean Turnaround (both on lean manufacturing), Critical Chain method (how to manage the project in real life without the PERT, CPM method), 6 sigma Revolution (very advanced method of improving the business process by going deep into the nature), The Machine That Changed the World (another great reading on lean manufacturing). Have a look at Essential Lean Manufacturing for Management Consultants.

  6. Business model cases. Some questions, cases are aimed at checking how much in general terms you know about specific business models. Interviewers can ask you about KPIs that you would look at in a specific business, or what do you think matters the most in a specific business model. They can also talk about specific challenges that the industry is facing and ask you to propose a solution. For this sort of question, you have to read a lot of case studies and things that describe in general the specific business model. An example of such a general overview you can found in this presentation: Online business models, low-cost business models, niche strategy, offline business models
  7. Strategic cases. In many consulting firms, you can come across cases interviews that are devoted to discussing the strategy of a specific industry/firm. You may be asked to define the strategy for introducing or scaling a product (i.e. introduction of an electric car, how to select the direction for further expansion of businesses, which product to select for brand extension etc. Below is an example of a case where you were asked to define the benefits from M&A: You can also check other strategic cases
  8. New business development. More and more cases are around creating new revenue streams or new business. Have a look at an example of innovative revenue streams 

Remember also to use top-down communication during the interview. Below a short movie showing you how it works:

In terms of preparations below are my suggestions:

Below the post in the form of a presentation;

In the end, I would really check whether consulting is something you would enjoy. Check my post on things that I hate in consulting

Enjoy and stay tuned for more interesting posts

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