Case Interviews: all you need to know

What is a Case Interview?

Case interviews are simply word problems based on real client projects on which the interviewers themselves have worked. The interviewer will be assessing you on several areas that characterise a good consultant, that can be summarised in your ability to solve problems and translate solutions into actionable insights for clients.

Is case interview the same as consulting interview?

No, it’s not. You will generally have 4-6 interviews in two rounds, with each interview lasting approximately 50-60 minutes. Here’s the typical breakdown of each interview:

  • First 15-30 minutes: Fit Interview, assessing your motivation to be a consultant in that specific firm and your leadership and teamwork traits. Learn more about the fit interview on our article.
  • Next 30-40 minutes: Case Interview
  • Last 5 minutes: Fit Interview, again. This time it’s about your questions for the interviewer.

Both the Case and Fit interviews plays a crucial role in the finial hiring decision. There is no “average” between case and fit interviews: if your performance is not up to scratch in either of the two you will not be able to move on to the next interview round or get an offer.

A few examples of cases?

Several self-proclaimed consulting gurus made fortunes out of creating long laundry lists of case types and selling a ready-made recipe for each of them. The truth is simpler: cases are extremely varied but they are usually built around few common topics:

  • Estimates, i.e.  being able to combine the “guess factor” and the quantitative factor to come up with reasonable estimates of unknown facts. 

Example: How many bank branches are there in Italy?

  • Business analysis, i.e. understanding how a business makes money, what is its value proposition to its (existing and potential) customers and how it compares/competes with other players. Several cases will include elements of market entry, new product development, pricing that broadly fall into this category. 

Example: Should we export our peanuts butter to Tunisia?

  • Profitability, i.e. understanding the key drivers that enable a business to make (or lose) money: revenue and cost base (e.g. is it a fixed cost-business like an airline or a variable cost business like a grocery?). 

Example: Despite steady growth in customer flow, Walfort supermarkets has seen its profitability declining over the last year. What is the reason of such decline?

As a matter of fact, each case will include a one or more the three above common topics.

What skills are being tested in a case interview?

In Cases there is no right or wrong answer, what really matters is the way you think the problem through, how confident you are with your conclusions and how quick you are with back of the envelope arithmetic. Broadly speaking, your interviewer will be evaluating you across 5 areas:

#ONE: Probing mind

Showing intellectual curiosity by asking relevant and insightful questions that show critical thinking and a proactive nature. For instance, if we are told that revenues for a leading supermarket chain have been declining over the last 10 years, a successful candidate would ask

We know revenues have declined. This could be due to price or volume. Do we know how they changed over the same period?

instead of a laundry list of questions such as

  • Did customers change their preferences?
  • Which segment has shown the decline in volume?
  • Is there a price war in the industry?

#TWO: STRUCTURE

Structuring means creating a framework, i.e. a series of clear consecutive steps in order to get to a solution to the problem. The focus of a framework (and of the whole case in general) is not on the solution itself but rather on how to get there.

This is the trickiest part of the case interview and the main reason for candidates failing the case interview. Millions were made by selling books describing 10 or 12 standardised frameworks, which were said to be the passkey to solve virtually any case on earth. Unfortunately this approach simply does not work, for a few reasons. First Consultants are not naïve enough to hire people who are just good at memorizing 12 schemes, second because you are expected to think exactly in the same way a real consultant would do in a real case. And, since no consultant uses pre-packaged frameworks in real projects (feel free to ask all your friends in consulting), do you think they expect you to use them in an interview which is set to represent as closely as possible their work?

This is why we created the Priority Driven Structure. As ex-consultants, we aim to teach candidates what real consultants do in real projects, i.e. crafting a tailored framework for every case. The key pieces of your structure should be:

  • Proper understanding of the objective of the case. Ask yourself: "What is the single crucial piece of advice that the client absolutely needs?"
  • Identification of the drivers: Ask yourself: "What are the key forces that play a role in defining the outcome?"

At first sight this concept looks pretty intuitive. However this is a radically different from the typical one-size-fits-all framework approach, trying to force-fit a random framework into a case. Let’s understand why with a simple case question.

Our client is PharmaCorp, a Dutch pharma company specialized in researching, developing, and selling “small molecule” drugs. This class of drugs represents the vast majority of drugs today, including aspirin and blood-pressure medications. PharmaCorp is interested in entering a new, growing segment of drugs called “bionics”. These are complex molecules that can treat conditions not addressable by traditional drugs. R&D for Bionics is vastly different from small molecule R&D. PharmaCorp wants to jumpstart its biologicals program by acquiring BioHealth, a leading bionics startup from the Silicon Valley with a promising drug pipeline. Should PharmaCorp acquire BioHealth?

Check out the difference between the standard framework-based approach and our Priority-Driven Structure.

#THREE: Problem solving

You’ll be tested on your ability to identifying problems and drivers, isolating causes and effects, demonstrating creativity and prioritising issues. In particular, the interviewer will look for the following skills:

  • Prioritising: Can you tell a relevant from an irrelevant fact?
  • Connecting the dots: Can you connect new facts and evidence to the big picture?
  • Establishing conclusions: Can you establish the right conclusions without rushing to conclude facts not supported by evidence?

#FOUR: Numerical agility

In case interviews, you are expected to be quick and confident with (precise and approximated) numbers. This translates into:

  • Performing simple calculations quickly: essential to solve cases quickly and impress the clients with quick estimates and preliminary conclusions)
  • Analysing data: extract data from graphs and charts, elaborate it and draw insightful conclusions.
  • Solving business problems: translate a real world case to a math problem and solve it.

#FIVE: Communication

As in the real consulting life, coming up with the best ideas in a case interview is necessary, but not enough: you must be able to turn it into a compelling recommendation. Otherwise your days and nights of hard work have been totally wasted. 

So, how do you make sure that your recommendations come across as relevant, smart and engaging? By mastering CEO-level communication. It sounds easier than it is, since speaking like a CEO often entails doing exactly the opposite of what you would do when telling a story to your mum. Here are 3 key areas to focus on in your communications:

  • Top down: A CEO wants to hear the key message first, and then, if and only if she finds it useful, she’ll ask you to provide details. Always think about what is absolutely critical for the CEO to know, and start with that. You can read more on our section about the Pyramid Principle.
  • Concise: This is not the best time for boiling the ocean or going through an endless number of possible solutions. Consultants want a structured, quick and concise problem recommendation they can implement the next day. 
  • Fact-based: Consultants, as CEOs hate opinions based on gut feel rather than facts. They want facts first, to make sure you are in control. Always back up your conclusions with the RELEVANT facts.

what is the Difference between first and second round interviews?

Despite interviews in the first and second round follow the same format, seniority of the interviewer, time pressure (with usually three interviews in a row) and value at stake make the second round potentially one of the most challenging moments of your working life. There are three key differences between the two rounds:

  1. Time pressure: the Final Round tests your ability to perform under pressure, with 3 interviews in a row and often very small breaks between them
  2. Focus: Since interviewers in the Second Round tend to be more senior (usually partners with 12+ years experience), they will be more interested in your personality and ability to handle challenges independently. Some partners will literally drill down into your experiences and achievements to the extreme. They want to understand how you react to challenges and your ability to identify and learn from past mistakes. 
  3. Psychological pressure: while interviews in the first round are usually more focused on simply cracking the case, second round interviewers often use the "bad cop" strategy to test the way candidates react to challenges and uncertainty

is there a difference in case interviews between mckinsey and other firms?

Most cases test your ability to crack a broad problem, with a case prompt often going like: “How much would you pay for a banking licence in Ireland?". You, as a candidate are expected to identify your path to solve it (structure), leveraging your interviewer to collect the data and test your assumptions.

But McKinsey interviews, especially in the first rounds are slightly different, with the interviewer controlling the pace of the conversation much more than in aother case interviews. Easentially your interviewer will ask you a set of pre-determined questions, regardless of what your initial structure is. You will have to understand the problem, come up with a mini structure, ask for additional data (if necessary) and come to the conclusion that answers the question.

Essentially interviewer led cases are big cases with lots of mini-cases within them. The method you have to follow is basically the same as in the standard (or the candidate led cases), the main difference being that instead of solving one big case you are solving several mini cases.

How to get ready

Case interviews is an art that can be mastered. We developed a wide array of resources to put you in the best position to succeed. Here, a few tips that might be of use:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the basics of the case interview. There are some good videos by Bain that filming real case interviews.
  2. Understand key concepts: On our website you can find advanced deep dives for all the main skills tested in case interviews. Our aim is helping you to build a solid skillset that enables you to crack all cases.
  3. Become quicker at math: Getting simple calculations wrong is not a good enough reason to fail a case. We developed a section of our website to teach you tips and tricks that will speed up your calculation power.
  4. Practice with your friends or even on your own. Important caveat: when you read a solution that is different from your solution don't panic: potentially they might be equally good. Focus on structure, objective and drivers. Those are the important factors, not the final result. 
  5. Get a coach: On the internet you'll find lots of material (recordings, guides, videos...) teaching the art of case interviews. However learning a theory is different from practising it.  Our Mentors are ex-MBB (McKinsey, Bain, BCG) consultants who each have at least 2 years of experience and all secured a promotion to the next level in the organization. Not only do we ensure that you acquire a sound technique to solve all cases, we also train you to handle pressure and uncertainty, so that no interviewer will take you by surprise. 
  6. Keep track of your progress: At My Consulting Coach we strongly believe that your mistakes can be your best source of learning. After every case practice with us you'll receive the Performance Radar, a written report with feedback and scores for all key areas (Problem Solving, Structure, Communication, Numerical Agility). The scores will enable you to track your progress and the written feedback will help you pinpoint the areas where you should focus your efforts as well as those where you have improved.  You'll always be in control.

How to make the best of the 80-20 rule

Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who was able to establish, factually, that 80% of lands in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population. Even though the Pareto's principle is only an observation, it has proven itself to be valid in the biological world. In management, for example, it has been observed that 80% of the job is done by 20% of the people, as stated by a quality control expert named Joseph Juran with what he called the rule of the “vital few and the trivial many”.

In the consulting world, the Pareto principle is not a business rule but rather a mantra. You could hear things like “We have no time to boil the ocean. I think we should apply the 80-20 rule”. This is not about the way you split the workload in your team (with you taking 80% of it). The Pareto rule is all about thinking smart. The best consultants are the ones who excel in planning their work in a smart way, not necessarily workaholics who spend their Sundays in the office.

Let’s take a real example:

The City country club is a premier golf club in central Aberdeen. After seeing a dramatic drop in the membership figures, the management of the club hired your firm to determine why around 1,500 of its old members are not renewing their membership.  

Consultants have can use a few approaches to solving the problem, let’s consider two:

Approach 1:

Call, email or visit all the old members who did not renew their membership. After all, their contact details are already with the management. You can ask them why they are not renewing, build a dataset, analyse the data and reach a conclusion

Approach 2:

Segment the old members based on critical factors (e.g. age, income, location), build some sub-groups and contact only 10-20 old members per sub-group; then analyse the data and reach a conclusion

The second option above would be the more 80/20 one: it is more time efficient, it provides valuable insights and information that the client would be interested in. It is likely to take you to the same result with one tenth of the effort – and it always allows you to proceed to the more granular option 1 if ever needed. Moreover, given the short time frame (all your consulting projects will have a stretched time frame to complete all the analyses needed!) going for option 2 will probably save you a few nights of sleep.

It sounds a bit like a no brainer…However going for the 80-20 approach requires a lot of thinking and planning. When working on a massive project scope under tight deadlines the first thing that comes to your mind is jumping on the dataset and start investigating why members left, i.e. taking the first approach.  Solving a problem with the 80-20 approach often requires you to take a step back, a deep breath and think creatively of a time-efficient way of reaching the same result. That way, you’ll reach the same conclusions, enjoy a better lifestyle and learn an uncommon but valuable skill for your career.

The Consulting Coffee Chat Galateo

You have a look at your calendar and you see a meeting at 2pm, a lecture at 3pm and a consulting coffee chat at 4pm which you totally forgot about. 

It is not easy to get hold of consultants from top tier firms, so you need to make sure to make the best of this opportunity.

At My Consulting Coach, we like to begin with an end in mind. That’s why we would ask ourselves

What is the purpose of this coffee chat?

For most applicants, it will likely be:

1. Giving a good first impression: never forget that one of the most important tasks for a consultant is dealing with clients, so a good first impression is very important

  • Appearance: as obvious as it may sound, make sure clothing, make-up/grooming is on point. There is no need to overdo it, you will NOT be judged on how you dress, you just need to look tidy and professional
  • Soft skills: being friendly and pleasant to talk to is very important. The person on the other side of the table will probably think:
Can I work with this person 12 to 15 hours a day Monday to (if it all goes well) Friday
  • Avoid obvious questions: asking a consultant why they decided to work in consulting, despite being a safe question, does not show any intellectual curiosity. Never forget that you don’t have much time to impress so don’t waste your word allowance in dull questions. 
  • Don’t be boring: put yourself in the shoes of the consultant doing the coffee chat. Probably he’s got 10 candidates left who are most likely going to ask similar questions (plus 10 hours of work when he’s back in the office). Try to keep the conversation as natural and spontaneous as possible. 
  • Ask about herself: an introduction will give you some crucial insights about the individual you are dealing with and enable you to tailor your personal stories based on her perceived background, focus and interests. Try to make the conversation flow seamlessly between her story and your story.

2. Talking about your experience in an achievement oriented way: avoid bragging but make sure you highlight, subtly or not, your accomplishments as you are conversing, especially highlighting the impact you brought and the difference you made. For instance, if you are asked what you are doing and you are a PhD student working on racing vehicles 

Bad answer: I am doing a PhD at XYZ university, working on the mathematical modelling of driver vehicle interaction focusing on the behaviour of vehicles at the handling limit due to tyre non-linearity – which is a bunch of useless technical details no one cares about
Good answer: I am doing a PhD at XYZ university, where I developed improved metrics to quantify vehicles handling qualities, providing manufacturers with a starting point and benchmark to design safer and more comfortable vehicles- technical yet insightful information with emphasis on impact. 

3. Gathering information about the recruitment process
Again, try to ask meaningful questions about the recruitment. Avoid at all costs questions Google knows the answer to. It is both useless (you can get that information anyway) and, most importantly, shows that you are either not very interested or not capable of gathering information, which is a fundamental skill for consultants (and anyone in general really). Instead, ask questions relative to your background in an action oriented fashion. So, for instance, if you are an undergraduate who did an internship in the energy sector your questions could be:

Bad question: I am an undergraduate who did an internship in the energy sector. How should I include the skills I acquired on my CV? - The question is too broad, lacks background information and it will only annoy a busy consultant. 
Good question: I am an undergraduate who did an internship in the energy sector. I worked on a variety of projects, including strategic sourcing. I read that [your company] operation practice is heavily involved in procurement so do you think I should mention it on my CV and try to bring it up in a PEI interview?- Well posed, insightful question, useful for you and impressive for the consultant.

4. Expanding your network
If your network is your net worth, you want to make sure that the consultant on the other side of the table will remember you. The best way to make your coffee chat memorable for consultants is finding a common interest outside of work you are both passionate about. Beside this, you should:
a.    Have a business card ready.
b.    Have a copy of your CV ready
c.    Send a follow up e-mail after the call thanking the consultant for their time
d.    Keep them updated every month with a short email on how you are doing (Only if you managed to establish a good relationship)

On top of what you should do, there are also some DON’Ts to remember.

1. Rudeness                                                                                                                    Being late, checking your Facebook, yawning, swearing and so on is as obviously wrong as damaging for your reputation so we thought we would just include it. No need to add anything here.

2. Displaying your ignorance
Again, for every question you have in mind, just ask yourself if Google knows the answer. If it does, move on to the next one.

Being late, checking your Facebook, yawning, swearing and so on is as obviously wrong as damaging for your reputation so we thought we would just include it. No need to add anything here.

3. Selfishness
Consulting is about teamwork. Never try to talk over anyone and avoid any attention seeking behaviour.

4. Appearing low energy and lacking confidence
A good team player is not an arrogant attention seeker but at the same they are enthusiastic, interesting to talk to and very assertive. Make sure you are not the indifferent, low energy type who sits in a corner and does not talk to anyone. 


Now that you know what to do and what to avoid, how do you prepare? 

  1. Do some research on the company recent projects
  2. Prepare some insightful questions about the company and about yourself
  3. Review your CV, thinking about the achievements you want to highlight. If you are not sure your CV is up to scratch, you can download My Consulting Coach guide for free
  4. Print a copy of your CV and have a business card ready. 
  5. Hope this helps. Feel free to visit MyConsultingCoach blog for more on soft skills in consulting

Three things I wished I knew before my Final Round at McKinsey

I am Edlyn, a recent graduate from University College London determined to become a top strategy consultant. About a year ago, I had my final round at McKinsey and I failed. The reason why I am writing on this blog is that after getting rejected at McKinsey I reached out to My Consulting Coach and they helped me secure an offer from BCG, where I've been working for the last 3 months. So, all's well that ends well? Yes, but I am still disappointed in my performance on the day of the McKinsey Final Round and I feel there are some good suggestions I could give to other candidates. Some of them might be obvious, others might be marginal; nonetheless, if I knew all of them I would probably be now sitting in the McKinsey office. First of all let me introduce the key difference between the first round and the final round:

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FIRST ROUND AND FINAL ROUND INTERVIEWS?

  1. Focus: Since interviewers in the Final Round are senior (usually partners with 10+ years experience), they will be more interested in your personality and ability to handle challenges independently
  2. Time pressure: the Final Round tests your ability to perform under pressure, with 3 interviews in a row and often very small breaks between them
  3. Psychological pressure: while interviews in the first round are usually more focused on simply cracking the case, second round interviewers often use the "bad cop" strategy to test the way candidates react to challenges and uncertainty

THREE THINGS I WISHED I KNEW BEFORE MY FINAL ROUND AT MCKINSEY    

#1: LEARN TO STAND PEI DEEP DIVES

Some partners will literally drill down into your experiences and achievements to the extreme. It does not necessarily mean that your experiences are weak or irrelevant, it's simply their style. They want to understand how you react to challenges and how reflective you are with regard to what you have done in the past. My mistake? I was explaining the way I reacted to an unexpected challenge as the leader of a club and, asked why I chose that course of action vs. a different (better) alternative, I was overly defensive and began rambling about the reason why the course of action that I picked was better. The interviewer got really disappointed. They don't expect you to be dismissive, but thoughtful and open to re-thinking yourself. Not being open to feedback is clearly a no-go for consultants.

#2: DON'T EXPECT TO USE COPY-AND-PASTE FRAMEWORKS

Before my McKinsey final round I prepped intensively using Victor Cheng resources and Case in Point. The truth is that those frameworks are great if you are dealing with a simple, open ended case like "We are starting to export Coca Cola in Burma, what should we think about?". However standard copy-and-paste frameworks are not that adaptable if you are getting a case like "Should I buy a house on the beach or should I rent it?". They expect you to come up with a structure that is simple, relevant, and which gets to the final answer quickly. And that's exactly what I did not do in the beach house case: faced with a case that I could not force fit into any framework, I was totally unstructured. It's about a way of thinking, not a collection of frameworks. The good news is that you can learn it, the bad news is that books are not enough. In order to get there you need to practice with experienced mentors.

#3: COMMUNICATE IN A TOP DOWN WAY

I heard a lot about top-down communication and it seemed intuitive and obvious. The truth, however, is that I was very far from being a top down communicator. When asked whether I would choose option A or B, I started explaining in detail what the consequences of both actions were on the business, and, after a long introduction I realized I didn't even answer the question. The interviewer was clearly disappointed and moved on to the final part of the interview. A clear no-go again: Partners are incredibly anxious to get to the punch line. Even if the answer is "it depends" you'd better start with it.

BONUS: NEVER SURRENDER

While in the first two interviews I clearly made some serious mistakes due to lack of preparation, the third one could potentially have been a success. "Potentially, because I was so overwhelmed and angry with myself for my mistakes in the previous two interviews that I felt everything was lost. So, I did not put enough effort, got simple calculations wrong, was not able to come to an obvious conclusion of the case. To be fair I am not sure whether a good performance in the last interview would have been enough to counterbalance the previous two, but I lost that tiny chance. And it was entirely my fault.

EPILOGUE

After my failed final round at McKinsey I had three more weeks to prep for my big day at BCG and after hearing a good review from a friend, I joined the Booster Mentoring programme. I can say it was the best investment of my life, for the three typical reasons that make investments good: yield, time, and cost. The yield is pretty straighforward: I managed to get the best offer I could ever get after being rejected at McKinsey. Time worked well: in less than three weeks the interviewers pushed me to understand the way a consultant would think about basically any problem. And cost. It's true: the Booster programme was about 2,200 USD, but several other programmes online were way more expensive and less structured. And in BCG I was able to recoup the money within a few weeks.

Six tips to succeed in the written case

One of our customers wrote us:

I have practised around 100 cases and feel reasonably confident about the verbal case interview. The written case, however, seems like a big and quite scary unknown. I didn’t have the chance to practice much on the written format, so I just hope that what I have been doing to prepare for the verbal cases will be useful.

The verbal case study and the written case study are essentially the same concerning logic, structure and analytical thinking. Hence, preparing for the verbal case will be extremely valuable for your written case. However, the difference in format will require you to complement the typical case interview skills with a more comprehensive set of skills, including communication, time management and lateral thinking. Based on my experience and those of colleagues, the following tips are helpful for a successful written case:

1. MANAGE YOUR TIME                                                           

Usually you’ll have 55 minutes to prepare, and while it’s enough, it’s not a lot. In those 55 minutes you need to get through about 30 slides, come up with a recommendation, and support that recommendation with facts. Candidates are also meant to go through a huge pile of data which could make them susceptible to mistakes. Proper time allocation is required in order for candidates to work quickly while also making sure not to commit errors.

2. BACK UP YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS

It is not enough to give recommendations based on sound logic, because at the end of the day, decision makers want to see (in figures) what effects your recommendation will have on their pockets. It is crucial that you back up your recommendations with actual figures as it lends better credibility to your work.

3. KNOW THE PROS AND CONS OF YOUR ANSWERS               

While writing your recommendations, thinking carefully about why you made certain decisions will help you write a more balanced report. Since there is no right answer for the case, it is crucial to anticipate what you could have done differently as the interviewer might decide to investigate your choices. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your recommendation going into the conversation, so you can have a good conversation about why you chose the path you chose, and what would need to be true to change your mind.

4. ANSWER FIRST

When you present your findings to your interviewer, start with your recommendation. Then, you can walk through your reasoning, the risks, and any alternatives you considered.

5. AN INTERVIEW IS A CONVERSATION        

Although a written case is a formal presentation, make your presentations like a dialogue. Be ready to explain your assumptions and modify them if needed. Also, watch out for when an interviewer is giving feedback, and readily incorporate them. After all, that is how you would tackle it in a work setting.

6. RELAX                  

Getting overly tensed up would do you no good and you would be more susceptible to errors. The written case study is similar to what you would face on a daily basis at any consulting project. Let it flow in you naturally.

Starting a case interview on the right foot

Shortlisted candidates for a case study interview must have shown a lot of promise, at least, on paper. However, it is the way they handle small details that often separate the best candidates from “the very best” who manage to get the job. Let’s consider one of them.

After an interviewer gives out a case study question, it is a usual practice for candidates to confirm that they have captured all of the details of the case correctly. Some candidates will simply restate everything the interviewer had earlier said, as though they were replaying a recorded tape. An intelligent candidate who is thinking ahead of others will showcase her information processing capabilities by only highlighting the key pieces of information that are truly relevant to solving the case. The case study question that an interviewer would give the candidates are similar to what they encounter on a daily basis, on the job. These questions are meant to test the information processing speed of candidates and their ability to filter out irrelevant information. Every partner would rather pick someone who can think on their feet, understand what the question is all about and can readily bring out the most relevant information. Nobody is interested in a candidate who isn’t flexible, and who is merely repeating facts like a robot. 

Applicants often emphasize stress the importance of not overlooking an information or data as the reason why they felt it was better to ask interviewers to give a verbatim account. But then, there is still a way that a question could be structured intelligently while capturing every information that is uncertain. For instance, you may start by confirming the critical question of the case (often the final part the prompt) and then circling back to address the situation the client is facing. After you have established that you are thinking about the case correctly, you are free to confirm some of the detailed data that was provided to ensure that you have captured everything and ask any clarifying questions you may have. Let's see it with an example.

Case question prompt

M/B/B has been hired by Hotelopia, an small, affordable hotel chain with properties around London. Hotelopia prides itself on offering affordable luxury rooms with a price range of $80-100/night, about 25% lower than the main competitors in the market. After hitting record revenue two and a half years ago, top line has been declining in the past 18 months. However all their major competitors have been experiencing steady growth over the same period. The client does not know what is driving the revenue decline and has tasked M/B/B with identifying the root cause and helping them to turn the situation around.

Solution

STEP 1: KEY QUESTION

“Thank you. Let me just confirm with you that I understand the objectives and situation of the case. We have been hired by an hotelier to figure out the causes of the dwindling revenue and help them find ways to turn the situation around.. And while our client’s pricing is lower than competitors’ they have seen a steady revenue growth while our client has experienced a decline. Did I get that right?

STEP 2: CONFIRMING DETAILS

Great! Let me just confirm the additional details you mentioned and ask one or two clarifying questions before jumping in. You mentioned that our client is an “affordable luxury” hotel with prices in the $80-100 range and that sales peaked about an year ago– did I capture that correctly?

STEP 3: CLARIFICATIONS

Two quick questions before we move on –as there a major sporting event like the Olympics or a major world event like the UN general assembly around two to three years ago when they experienced the growth? Also, was there an upsurge of room-sharing services like Airbnb in the area where the hotel is located?”

Key takeaways

The above summary shows that you are focusing on the important points, starting with the critical strategic question the client is facing and then moving on to outlining key details about the situation. The key point is the start: instead of restating the problem in a narrative way as the interviewer did, you distilled all the information and extrapolated the main problem the client is facing. This is exactly what consultants are expected to do in their work everyday.

Of course there are many other aspects to nailing a case interview, including showing strong analytical, communication and interpersonal skills. Just remember that sometimes it can be the little things that really sets you apart.