Presentation on Case Interviewing: Notes from Marc Cosentino
Case Interviews: A Complete Guide

Case interviews try to determine how a person thinks. Firms like it when a student takes a “rip right through it” approach – eager to get into the question and work on it. Questions may be based on real recent cases; firms compare the student’s approach with want the consultant actually did in real life.

  • Consulting firms want “low risk” hires
  • people who like consulting, like travel, have already done consulting
  • good quantitative and analytical skills
  • able to articulate thoughts under pressure
  • Maturity – how would you do in front of our clients?

The Three Phases of a case interview:

  1. “Airport Test” (cultural fit) – if stuck in an airport together for 9 hours, would we get along?
  2. Market Sizing – ex. How may disposable diapers were sold in US last year?
  3. Factor Question – ex. What factors would you have to consider when bringing a new drug to market?

First four steps:

  1. Summarize questions – restate info back to the interviewer
  2. Verify objectives – what’s the goal? What are we trying to get out of this? (“Besides increasing sales, are there any other objectives I should be aware of?”)
  3. Ask questions ( 4-6 max)
  4. Identify and label the case – create your structure

Some helpful tips:

  • Students should take copious notes. PRACTICE is always key. Read as many cases as possible, because many of them are similar.
  • Students need to have questions written out in advance. Always ask for clarification.
  • Think before you open your mouth!!
  • There is a lot of math in these questions and you can’t use a calculator.
  • bring in graph paper instead of regular lined paper; you will need to draw graphs and it will help you line up your zeros. It also Makes your notes look neater.
  • It’s OK for students to not be accurate with their numbers, but they need to show their PROCESS and LOGIC.
  • “Guess the #” questions (Market sizing) questions are very common.
  • Students need to ASSUME as they tackle the answer. (“Assuming the population is X and the average life expectancy is Y…”)
  • Students need to stay at the MACRO level, don’t try to get too specific; that’s when you run into trouble. Use simple logic.
  • It’s OK if your assumptions are off; it’s the PROCESS and LOGIC that matter.
  • When in doubt, use 100 million households in the US – easier to do the math with this #.
  • Be CREATIVE and BRAINSTORM “without commitment” – throw out your weak ideas later.
  • Case Scenarios – pretty balanced between operations and strategy scenarios.
  • International students tend to overuse buzz words – they need to get clarification up front.
  • Students need to be careful about using existing frameworks–they need to be able to show they can think on their own. If using an existing framework, don’t announce it up front.
  • Student will always be asked to summarize the case at the end.

The interviewer will take your notes from you at the end of your interview. The applicant should mark off any key points, to help summarize the answer at the end of the case interview. Students may have to actually draw up charts (ppt style) at end of interview.

It is very common for interviewers to spontaneously add new data, charts, info to the mix while the applicant is already working on it. Student needs to be prepared that this might happen and not freak out.

Note: Adapted from Case in Point by Mark Consentino