Case Interviewing Overview
What is a Case Interview?
Case interviews simply stated are real-time problem solving scenarios that aim to replicate the approach and types of interactions consultants have with clients. They typically take approx. 30-45 minutes in an interview setting (possibly longer when practicing). Examples of case questions include:
- Sales of a popular movie theater chain are decreasing? What is causing the sales decrease?
- A national nonprofit hoped that their annual campaign would continue to fund their efforts, however donations have decreased dramatically. What should the organization do to ensure they can continue providing support to the community across the US?
- A national grocery chain is trying to determine whether it should eliminate more name brand products for its in-house brand. What would you recommend?
These may seem like big questions, and ultimately there is not one correct response. What a consulting firm is hoping to learn from engaging with you in a case interview is how you analyze quantitative/qualitative information, think creatively about solutions, and present your ideas. Much of what you will do as a consultant requires skills and industry specific knowledge you will gain on the job. Preparing for the case interview process is about demonstrating your transferable skills and interest in learning how to work in the way that consultants help their clients each day.
Common Types of Cases
The subject matter of a case will often fall into one of the following categories:
- Profitability – based on profit loss/gain
- Business situation – conceptual/qualitative
- Mergers & Acquisitions – acquiring or merging with another company
- Market Sizing – estimating potential for new product or service
Many of the resources included below will provide a basic understanding of casing structures. Below are two “formulas” that order the steps you will take in a case interview:
- Establish hypothesis + problem solve + synthesize
- Understand problem + ask questions + develop solutions
Preparation Tips and Resources
By understanding the structure of a case interview, frameworks utilized when responding to a case and tips for evaluating quantitative and qualitative information, you can develop the skills and approach that works for you.
- Case in Point: This book will provide a foundational understanding of what a case interview entails, frameworks to utilize and provide sample case questions.
- CaseQuestions: This resource includes math drills, interactive cases and more. This site was built to supplement the strategies and skills you learned while reading Case in Point.
- Vault: Search Vault Guides > Consulting for case guidance as well as information on top firms.
Practice Cases with Peers and/or Alumni
While reading about the structure, process and strategies of casing can be helpful, actually practicing cases will allow you to develop the necessary skillset. Peers can be incredibly helpful with this. Additionally, while networking or engaging with alumni you may find consultants willing to either practice cases with you or provide advice.
Those who help you prepare for cases may be your future colleagues – so work to be an excellent case partner! Make practice a two-way street – especially when practicing with your peers.
- Ask what types of cases they would like to practice/share a case you would like them to present.
- Review cases you present in advance so you are familiar with the structure and suggested “answers” prior to leading your partner through a case.
- Consider if you and your partner would like to record your practice cases to review later.
- Provide detailed feedback based on any area they mentioned wanting to focus on, and share what areas you would most like to improve/discuss.
- Practice with those who are less experienced, more experienced and at the same point as you in terms of preparation - remember you can learn a lot from observing how others respond to and approach cases.
- If practicing with an alum consider your relationship with them and the impression you make. If you do not know them well you may not want your first time casing to be with someone who works for your desired future employer. Consider practicing with them once you have a few practice cases completed.
Resources that include sample cases: consultingcase101.com, Kellogg Consulting Club Case Book (PDF), Wharton Consulting Club Case Book (PDF), employer sites also often share sample cases - visit the BCG Interactive Case Library for an example.
Attend Employer and NCA Hosted Events
Employers often host case workshops (mostly during spring/summer quarters) that will explain firm specific structure for case interviews. They may also host case competitions that allow students to form teams and practice case scenarios (these most often take place winter/spring quarters).
NCA provides opportunities for you to engage with employers/alumni for case practice. Annually NCA facilitates alumni mock case interviews and hosts “Case Interviewing with the Pros” (both are typically held in summer prior to the start of formal consulting recruitment). For alumni mock cases students “apply” via Handshake to be matched with an alumni case partner. The alumnus will present the student with a case (typically virtually/via phone) in a mock interview setting. The Case Interviewing with the Pros event allows small groups of students to rotate through several (in-person or virtual) sessions with employer/alumni guests who facilitate small group practice cases.