Case Types, Case Examples and Advice – from Marc Cosentino’s Case in Point
Case Interviews: A Complete Guide
Case Type: Entering a new market
Step 1: Investigate the market to determine whether entering the market would make good business sense Assess market attractiveness
Step 2: If you decide to enter the market, you need to figure out the best way to become a player
- Start from scratch
- Acquire an existing player
- Form a joint venture or strategic alliance with another player
Case Type: Developing a new product
Step 1: Think about the product
Step 2: Think about your market strategy
Step 3: Think about your potential customers
Step 4: Think about financing the project
Case Type: Pricing strategies
Step 1: Investigate the product
Step 2: Choose a pricing strategy
Cost-based pricing vs. Price-based costing
- Cost-based pricing: Determining the cost of a product, choosing a desired profit margin, and generating a sales price
- Price-based costing: Choosing a desired sales price and costing out production to meet that sales price with a desired profit margin
- Supply and demand forces
Case Type: Growth Strategies
Step 1: Ask feeler questions
- Ask questions to determine the nature of growth that your interviewer is looking for (focusing on product, division, or the entire company)
Step 2: Choose a growth strategy
- Some options are increasing sales, increasing distribution channels, increasing product line, invest in a major marketing campaign, diversify products/services, or acquisition of another firm
Case Type: Growth Strategies
Step 1: Investigate the market to make sure that entering the market makes good business sense
Step 2: Look at the project from a VC’s point of view
- Management team
- Market and strategic plan
- Distribution channels
Case Type: Competitive response
Step 1: Ask probing questions
- What is the competitor’s new product and how does it differ from ours?
- What has the competitor done differently?
- Have any other competitors picked up market share?
Step 2: Choose a response action
- Examples: Acquiring the competitor or another player in the market, merging with a competitor, copy the competitor, hire the competitor’s top management away, use marketing and public relations to increase your profile
Case Type: Increasing Sales
Step 1: Ask probing questions to gather information about the market and our product line
Step 2: Determine a strategy to increase your sales
- Increase volume
- Increase revenue from each sale (make buyers buy more)
- Increase prices
- Create seasonal balance
Case Type: Reducing Costs
Step 1: Ask for a breakdown of costs
Step 2: If any costs are out of line, determine why
Step 3: Benchmark competitors
Case Type: Increasing Profits
Step 1: Look at revenues
Step 2: Look at costs
Step 3: Determine whether you want to increase volume and how to do so
- Example actions include expanding into new areas, increasing your sales force, increasing marketing, reducing prices, and improving customer service
Case Type: Turnarounds
Step 1: Gather key information about the company and its situation
Step 2: Choose an appropriate action
- Be creative, but base your action upon a structured and well thought-out plan
Case Example Introduction
The following case samples are provided to facilitate first-level analysis. For each case, practice setting up the high- level tree that could be used to attack the problem (as shown earlier):
- Place the key question for the case at the root of the tree
- Break the problem into a set of solvable components and assign those components to the tree branches
- Your client owns a professional football team that has just won the Super Bowl. Despite the Super Bowl victory, the team finished the season with a financial loss for the 5th season in a row.
- What could be the cause of the team’s profitability problems? What would you recommend to reverse this past season’s financial performance?
- You are the owner of a small, but relatively successful, towing company with a handful locations throughout the Southeastern U.S. Two recent MBA graduates have approached you about purchasing the company.
- Should you accept the offer to sell your company?
- Your client is an industry-leading security software company that is considering acquiring a data management software company.
- Should the client go through with the acquisition?
- Your client is a national chain of fitness centers with locations in 35 major cities. The company is thinking of creating a sub-brand of gyms for the small-town market.
- Should they do it? What issues come into play when making this decision? Under what circumstances could the venture be successful?
- A publishing company that has traditionally created news and entertainment magazines is thinking of introducing a new sports-focused magazine.
- You have taken over as the Executive Director of a non-profit that has had trouble raising enough money to fund its programs.
- What could the problem be? What can be done to resolve the issue?
- You have just accepted a job as the Superintendent of city school district where more than 90% of the students have scored below proficient in English and Math for the past 15 years.
- How will you solve this long-standing academic performance problem? What resources would you need to implement your plan?
- Your client is a beverage company that was excited to see its sponsored cyclist win the Tour de France. That is, until authorities announced that the cyclist had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
- What sort of “damage control” does the company have to do in light of this event? Will there be any negative effects on the company’s brand as a result of this discovery?
- Your client is an enterprise software company that has spent over $100M developing a new product that isn’t selling well.
- What could the problem be and what can they do to resolve the situation?
- A friend of yours is considering becoming a franchisee of a national fast-food chain.
- What issues should he be thinking about in making his decision? And, do you think he should open the franchise?
- RELAX!!! Don’t let yourself get too stressed out before, during, and after the interview — Succumbing to nerves is the quickest way to sabotage yourself. No matter how these interviews turn out, remember that you are driven and will have your degree before long…you’re going to be alright, whether you’ve got a Consulting job or not.
- Be confident but humble during the interview. When you’re as talented and qualified as all of you likely are, there is the risk of sounding a little stuck on yourself. Don’t let that happen because it can leave an interviewer with a terrible impression of you.
- Be sure to have a strong list of questions to ask the interviewer — This is your chance to gain insights from his/her experiences with the firms and show that you care enough about getting a position to ask insightful questions.
- If you make a mistake during some portion of the interview, learn from it and move on…Don’t let it fester in your mind because it’ll serve as a distraction later on.
- Make sure the interviewer understands your thinking at all times. Talking through what’s going through your mind (in general terms) can give the interviewer a chance to give you correct information if you’ve got something mixed up or ask follow-up questions to gain more insight about you as a candidate. This tip goes for when you’re doing your math, brainstorming, and providing some sort of insights in response to a question.
- Take time to think about what you’re going to say before you say it. There is nothing wrong with taking 5 or 10 seconds to think through something when the alternative is simply saying the first thing that comes to mind. Remember, you’re not in a race against the clock…you’re in a race to get a Consulting offer
Advice on Cases
- STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE!!! – Structure is the thing you should focus on most from the start of the interview until the end. Structure everything from the paper that you take your notes on…to the way you do your initial case issue breakdown…to your set up and execution of the math…to what you say in your final case wrap-up. Often, having a structured approach to everything you do in a case interview is just as important as getting the “right” answer to “crack” the case.
- Think about the “Big Picture” whenever you can…don’t dig too deep in the details until you have to. Digging too deep early and getting lost “in the weeds” can lead to missing out on information that might get you to the desired answer. If the first thing that pops into your mind is the details of what info you want, take an extra second to think about why you need that information and it will likely give you another layer of structure for your analysis. The “Big Picture” thinking should be the foundation of your approach at all stages of the case, but it is especially important when you’re doing your initial case “roadmap” and issue tree. The executives and managers that you’d be consulting to will likely have a “Big Picture” view of things, so you should train yourself to have the same sort of outlook.
- Make sure you bring out the “So what?” insights and not just surface level ideas. These firms likely know that you’re smart…otherwise, you wouldn’t have been invited to interview…so simply reciting facts likely won’t be enough to distinguish you from the pack. The thing that can truly make you look like a star is being able to look at that same set of facts and draw out some deep insights about the specific situation in the case and some larger business situation and/or context. It’s all about the “So what?”’s…
- Be as efficient as possible when doing the math on your cases. Writing out every equation may seem like a good idea, but it can use up a lot of time that would be better spent doing case analysis and gathering data. Try to find shortcuts to get through your calculations quicker, such as canceling zeros, using the units of measure in a problem for hints, and recognizing patterns in numbers.
- Make your notes as neat and clear as possible. Some firms collect the notes you take while doing the case for any number of reasons, one of which could be to gain insights on how you structured your analysis. In this case, it is important to have very clear notes so they can follow your thinking as they read the notes. A more practical reason for having clear notes is so that you don’t confuse yourself during interviews. When one is under the stress of an interview situation, it is easy to lose track of a number, a fact, or some piece of data that could help you solve a problem and the time it takes to find that lost data is time that you could be plugging away at your case analysis. Neat note-taking is a simple way to avoid that problem.
- Be creative. This is pretty self-explanatory, but try not to get bogged down and restricted to the format or ideas that a particular framework might lead you to. There are many ways to solve a problem and a little creativity may be just what it takes to get you over the top when the interviewers are doing their evaluations.
- Use assumptions to your advantage, but don’t overuse them. Finding the balance of when and when not to use assumptions is a tough one, so I always default to the following rule of thumb…If you need a piece of information during the case, ask for it. The worst that can happen is that the interviewer won’t have the info and you’ll have to make an assumption about it. The alternative to not asking is making an invalid or incorrect assumption and going down the wrong path when the interviewer had a ton of data waiting for you all along. Basically, use assumptions within reason and know that, in many cases, the interviewer likely has data that can help you crack the case wide open if you use it right.
Advice on the Fit/Experience
- The interview is not all about the case, the fit portion is highly important, as well.
- Focus on your role — The interviewer wants to hear about what YOU did; Don’t focus too much of your description on what your TEAM did.
- Have several stories prepared (I’d recommend at least four) that cover a wide range of anecdotes about your leadership experience (you should not repeat stories across interviews on a single day).
- Be concise and make sure you bring out only the most important points; There’s no need to get too detailed…just tell your story and bring out the “showstopper” ideas.
NOTE: Content adapted from “Case in Point” by Mark Consentino