To think there is a finite list of specific case studies able to be committed to memory is a mistake. Even a familiarity with a number of broadly defined "types" of case studies will not make a candidate able to breeze through a consulting interview.
The cases presented to interview candidates at top tier consultancy firms are intentionally unique in their complexities. The odds are the cases used won't be like any specific examples a candidate has studied before their interview.
There are a few reasons for this:
Interviewers know how candidates prepare.
The majority of interview candidates seen by McKinsey and their counterparts have prepared using either the Ivy Case System found in Cosentino's Case in Point or some similar guide. The unifying factor between these systems is the claim that any case given can be solved by fitting it into one of a small number of broadly defined frameworks. (12 in the Ivy System)
Further, these systems have been around for quite some time, and interviewers are well aware of them. The competitive, highly contested nature of the consulting field with its range of more-than-qualified candidates drives the recruiter to weed out the best and brightest with cases more difficult than those readily cracked by the kind of system which they know the majority of the applicants will use.
In short, interviewers find it exhaustive and frustrating to deal with endless candidates who parrot information learned by rote. Top firms look for thoughtful employees capable of adaptation; mindless restatements of memorized material proves the opposite.
Real cases are unique
As working consultants, interviewers will know these framework-based case systems simply are not equipped to handle the intricacies of real world problems.
A practicing consultant will never open Case in Point on a project. Think about this: if a problem a business brought to a consultant could easily be solved with the contents of a book readily available in the public domain, why wouldn't that business find an in-house solution rather than pay the $5k+ per day for a consultant.
Consultancy firms want to see the wheels turning upstairs on the kind of problems they actually work on. With that in mind, an interviewer will typically give cases based on the most recent project they worked on. This could anything, and as mentioned above, are highly unlikely to conform to a standard system.
What are my options?
Despite the challenges we discussed above, it is still completely possible to arrive very well prepared to a consulting interview. While true a candidate cannot know in advance the kinds of cases they will be given, they can learn the general skills that allow them to conquer any case.
This is how a real consultant works. The skills developed in their training and experience allow them to approach unique projects with confidence. They note the specific goals and challenges of the situation and devise a fully tailored solution for the client. So how can we help you?
Our case interview method
Our case interview course has been developed by MBB consultants with clear goals in mind - To teach you how to think, act and communicate like a world-class strategy consultant. By going through it you'll become equipped not only to ace the interview process, but also to be a top performer at your firm.
Other methods focus on helping you memorize dozens of frameworks and pre-packed structures. We take a different approach. We believe that distinctive candidates and distinctive consultants don't rely on crutches and that they use their own minds to solve the toughest problems. We're here to help them master the concepts and processes they need to be able to shine. We can support you in:
1) Understanding business fundamentals: Get your mini-MBA with our Marketing, Strategy and Economics, Accounting & Finance modules
2) Learning how to crack a case: Identify the problem, Build a problem driven structure, Lead the analysis and how to provide recommendations.
3) Shaping your approach with our building blocks: Master profitability analysis, competitive dynamics, pricing discussions, among others.
Our coaching sessions
Coaching can help the best candidates to pinpoint their development points and turn them into strengths. They will give you self-awareness about your profile and how to best position yourself for that MBB offer. Equally importantly, they will give you the confidence to know you can succeed in such a challenging process.