How to Approach a Case Study - A Structured 4-Step Approach
- Last Updated February, 2023
The Internet is filled with frameworks on how to approach a case study. But which one will help you ace your case and land an offer at a top consulting firm?
At My Consulting Offer, former Bain, BCG, and McKinsey consultants have developed a proven 4-step approach that will help you tackle any type of case study. We’v helped over 600 recruits land the consulting jobs of their dream.
Want to know the secret? Keep reading!
In this article, we’ll walk you through our 4-step approach and talk about what the interviewer expects at each step, including:
- How to approach a case study.
- Clarifying the client’s objectives.
- Framing a logical structure.
- Making sense of the provided information.
- Giving a strong recommendation.
Let’s get started!
Approaching a Case Study
Analyzing the right case information, case interview opening: getting to know the key objective, concluding your case with a strong recommendation, framing a customized problem-solving structure.
A case interview always starts with a prompt. A prompt is the initial information about the case provided by the interviewer. It gives you a brief background of the client’s problem and the key objective.
Here’s an example:
“Your client today is an NYC-based violinist. She’s been saving up for her wedding, but she broke her leg and can’t leave her apartment. She’s got to find a new plan for coming up with her wedding savings now and needs help.”
In the above example, we get to know the background and the objective.
Background: Our client Maria is an NYC-based violinist and has been saving for her wedding.
Objective: Find ways for the client to increase her savings for her wedding without leaving her apartment.
After the prompt is given, you’re expected to drive the case forward. Our 4-step approach will help you do just that.
- Opening – Understand and reconfirm the objective and ask clarifying questions.
- Structure – Develop a problem-solving structure to answer the key questions.
- Analysis – Dive deeper into analyzing relevant issues and use data provided by your interviewer to make conclusions.
- Recommendation – Give a strong actionable recommendation by tying together the insights.
Let’s dive into each step of the 4-step guide so you can solve cases like a pro!
The first step to solving any problem is to know the key objective a.k.a. the “north star” which will help you guide the case in the right direction.
This seemingly simple, but it’s where many interviewees fail. They think the prompt has given them all the relevant information, so they rush to start solving the problem.
But, as you saw in the prompt, the objective is touched upon but isn’t clear or measurable . You got to know that the client is looking for ways to increase her wedding savings while staying in her apartment with a broken leg.
We still don’t know what the target is and how much of it is already saved. Additionally, as there were no clarifying questions asked, no other details were shared by the interviewer.
Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.
What should the Case Opening Look Like?
It’s important to ask questions like:
- What does success look like for the client? Does she have a target in mind for her wedding?
- How was she making money before she broke her leg?
- What are her income streams?
- Is she willing to cut her expenses to increase savings or is she looking only for ways to increase her income?
These questions help us understand the following:
Tangible or Measurable Objective – What is the target in the client’s mind?
Additional Information – prior income sources, income source while stuck in her apartment, her focus on increasing income rather than reducing costs.
What does the interviewer expect from you in the case opening?
- Restate the prompt in your own words
- Confirm the key objective
- Ask a few key clarifying questions (3-5) to know more about the overarching context of the case – making sure you understand the client’s product, business model, or geographic focus
Now let’s learn how to create a comprehensive and customized problem-solving structure.
The internet is filled with problem-solving approaches and frameworks, like:
- The BCG 2 x 2 Matrix
- The Profitability Formula
- McKinsey’s 7S Framework
- Porter’s 5 Forces
These frameworks help break business problems into smaller parts that can be analyzed to figure out a solution. But as these frameworks are generic, it might feel like they are being force-fitted to the problem in your case. No standard framework will ever fit all situations.
Creating a case-specific problem-solving structure isn’t difficult and with the right approach, you can create it with ease.
How to Create a Customized Structure
Start with the key objective, increasing Maria’s savings for her wedding. How can we break this problem down into sub-parts? If you were using a generic framework, you might use the 3C + P framework and break the problem into:
You could then think of questions in each bucket that would help Maria understand potential opportunities to expand her income.
But, with this approach, you wouldn’t be likely to stand out! Lots of candidates will approach this case with the same 4 buckets. This is why a customized approach is important.
While creating your structure, there are a few things that you should do to ensure that your structure touches on all relevant points and helps you to drive the case forward. Your structure should be:
- Logical – Each bucket in the structure should logically align with the key objective.
- Personalized – As you are creating the buckets, personalize them to the case at hand.
- MECE – MECE stands for “ Mutually exclusive, Collectively exhaustive .” This helps you ensure that there are no overlapping buckets and you cover all the key aspects of the problem.
- Depth – As you dig deeper into each bucket, ask yourself if you have covered all possible questions in the bucket. Create sub-buckets of the main buckets wherever necessary.
You can read more about structuring your analysis of business problems in our article on issue trees .
What does a Good vs. Great Structure Look Like?
Comparing the two structures above, we can see that Candidate B has created a better structure than Candidate A. Although Candidate A covered all important aspects, Candidate B has personalized their structure to Maria’s problem.
Communicating the structure in an easy-to-understand manner is as important as creating a robust structure. When communicating the structure:
- Ensure that the interviewer can follow your structure.
- Communicate one level at a time.
- Use a numbered list to walk through the structure.
After walking the interviewer through the structure, you should choose the bucket that should be explored first to answer the key question. You could say something like –
“Now that we have walked through the opportunities for increasing her revenue, I’d like to dive into the skills Maria has that she could leverage.”
The interviewer could either agree or disagree with the first bucket that you want to dig deeper into. Some companies, like McKinsey, use interviewer-led case interviews and will lead you through the case following a specified path. Others, like Bain and BCG, will let you lead the case and just nudge you if you seem to be veering off-path. In either case, you’ll need to start by brainstorming and providing ideas on the first bucket or you’ll need to analyze data and derive conclusions.
There are 3 main types of analysis you may need to do to answer the key question:
Market sizing, exhibit reading.
Let’s see how each of these would help us drive the case forward and derive conclusions.
In a brainstorming exercise, a strong candidate will generate 8-10 ideas bucketed into categories. In the current case example, you could be asked for ideas on how Maria could make more money.
One set of categories you could use to generate ideas follows what we call the “X-not X” approach. Essentially, you start with a bucket like “playing music” and generate ideas in that bucket. Then switch to “not playing” and generate ideas for this bucket. This will help you in generating at least 2x ideas you otherwise would and will look more impressive to your interviewer because it is MECE and structured.
Let’s see how brainstorming plays out in our case example.
“Maria likes your approach and wants to start right away. Because she is currently not making any money, she would like some ideas. What are some ideas you have on how she could make money? She only wants to focus on leveraging her violin talents.”
The above example shows how you could use the “X-not X” approach to generate a lot of ideas – and how you could even further structure the ideas into “online” and “offline” categories to make it an exceptional brainstorming example.
You may also be expected to calculate the size of a market for your client’s product or service – after all, one of the most important things to know before pursuing an opportunity is the size of that opportunity. In the current example, you could be asked to calculate the income that Maria could earn by offering online violin classes.
There are 2 approaches to market sizing:
- Top-down: This is used when there are no constraints. In this approach, you start with the overall population that may be interested in the product or service and slice it down based on the segments of the market most likely to purchase. The top-down approach is best for national and global markets.
- Bottom-up: This approach is used when there are some constraints, like supply constraints, a limited number of hours, etc. In this approach, you start with the limiting factor and try to estimate the maximum that can be achieved based on the constraints.
Let’s see how we can use market sizing to help our client.
“Maria likes the ideas you came up with. She thought about being a violin teacher at one point since she had a great one when she started as a kid and is curious, how much could she make if she were to teach one-on-one Zoom classes for the next month? She wants to start small before she goes to group classes and, in the beginning, it will be just her teaching.”
Here’s an example of how you could work through this question:
The above shows how you could estimate the income which our client can expect to make in the first month.
Follow up your analysis by giving your answer the “sniff test.” Does it seem right at a high level? Here we see that $4,000 is the estimated first month’s income, but as this would be the first time Maria will be taking online classes, she won’t be working at full capacity from the start. Her earnings will probably be lower than $4,000.
But, in the long run, it’s a good idea to start offering lessons because at full capacity, Maria will be able to earn $8,000 per month.
In case interviews, you’ll be expected to derive conclusions based on tables or charts provided by your interviewer. In the current example, you could be asked to help the client prioritize which type of client should she target for her violin classes.
Let’s see what data is available and how we can conclude which segment to go after.
“Maria is happy to know that you think providing 1:1 violin lessons over Zoom is a viable idea.
She knows that a lot of people are interested in violin lessons, but to make sure she can tailor her marketing and lessons, she is interested in only going after one or two segments.
Which one should she go after?”
The first step to deriving insights from an exhibit is to read it thoroughly and ideally interpret it aloud as you go for your interviewer. This chart has data about willingness to pay and competitiveness across various segments. It gives an idea about the level of competition from other violin instructors. The market size of each segment is portrayed using the size of the circle. At first glance, it might seem that the client should go ahead with the segment which has the lowest competition and highest willingness to pay, which is the “Adult-Advanced” segment. But, that segment has a really small market size and Maria would need extensive teaching experience to cater to advanced students.
This is the first time Maria is getting into this market, but she also wants to have a high earning potential. The optimum segment would be one with a good market size and a reasonable trade-off between willingness to pay and competitiveness.
Based on this, Maria should go with the “college-intermediate” and “adult-intermediate” segments. She would be able to cater to both these segments with ease. Additionally, the combined market size is considerable and the relative trade-off of competitiveness and willingness to pay is suitable as well.
What does the interviewer expect when you are doing analysis and deriving insights?
- Pause to think about the structure for marking sizing or ideas for brainstorming. If you’re asked to read an exhibit, take a moment to understand it and lay out what it says to your interviewer before interpreting the data it provides.
- Offer insights into your client’s problem as the data presents them and draw conclusions.
- Drive the case forward based on the insights. What does this data mean for solving your client’s problem?
Maria came to you with a problem in hand and won’t be thrilled to just get the insights in bits or pieces. Pull your problem-solving together for her with a persuasive recommendation.
Think of the case interview as baking an amazing cake. While the structure and derived insights form the main ingredients for baking the cake, the recommendation is like the cherry on top. It helps in creating a lasting positive impression.
Similar to the opening of the case, the recommendation can seem relatively straightforward, but it is definitely nuanced. MCO’s 5R framework could help you deliver great recommendations for every case.
How should you present your recommendations?
MCO’s 5R Framework:
- Recap: As consultants, you deal with CXO (e.g., CEO, CFO) level clients who are busy with many projects, so recapping the problem you’re solving is essential to set the tone of the meeting.
- Recommendation: State your recommendations clearly without any additional detail to showcase clarity.
- Reasons: Follow this with logical reasons for your recommendations to provide context and show the credibility of the recommendations.
- Risks: Every decision has risks associated with it. Just lay them out so the client knows what to watch out for during implementation.
- Retain: End the recommendations with key next steps to pursue the opportunity, ensuring continuous engagement with the client.
Let’s see how to give a strong recommendation for our case example.
“Your client calls you and wants to know what you recommend.”
What does the interviewer expect when closing the case?
- Keep the recommendation clear and succinct keeping the audience in mind.
- Explain everything with a reason and point out risks associated with the recommendation.
- Be presentable and communicate the recommendations with confidence.
- Ensure that the next steps are clearly laid out.
A final note: Not all cases have a “Right” and “Wrong” answer. In some, the math is very cut and dry but in others, there is a mix of evidence and it is a judgment call on what to recommend. Remember that a well-defended recommendation is more important than the “exact right answer.”
– – – – –
In this article, we’ve provided frameworks and tips to ace the different sections of a case interview. You are now equipped with the knowledge to:
- Approach a case study.
- Clarify client objectives.
- Frame a structure for effective problem-solving.
- Analyze the right information.
- Give a recommendation.
Apply these tips by practicing sample cases with case partners as much as possible so you’ll be ready to ace your next consulting case interview.
Still have questions?
If you have more questions about how to approach a case interview, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.
Other people preparing for consulting case interviews the following pages helpful:
- Our Ultimate Guide to Case Interview Prep
- Case Interview Frameworks
- Issue Trees
- MECE Case Structures
- Case Interview Examples
- Case Interview Formulas
Help with Case Study Interview Prep
Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on case study interview prep. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 89.6% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Sharmeen was able to get her offer at BCG.
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The Ultimate Guide to Acing the McKinsey Case Interview (Problem-Solving Interview)
The McKinsey case interview, also called the Problem-Solving Interview by the firm, is a crucial and defining element of the consulting recruitment process for one of the world’s most prestigious management consulting firms. This unique type of interview assesses a candidate’s analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills, as well as their ability to think critically under pressure. With a reputation for being challenging and rigorous, the McKinsey case interview is often seen as a significant hurdle for aspiring consultants to overcome. Forbes ranked McKinsey’s interview process as the most difficult across all firms globally and the case plays a crucial role in that evaluation, besides the Personal Experience Interview .
Recognizing the importance of thorough preparation, this article aims to become the go-to resource for candidates worldwide who are seeking to excel in the McKinsey case interview and want to kickstart their McKinsey careers. By providing comprehensive insights, practical tips, and concrete examples, our goal is to equip you with the knowledge and confidence required to stand out in the competitive world of management consulting.
As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we have specialized in helping our candidates to effectively tackle this part of the McKinsey assessment. We found that the information on the McKinsey application process and specifically the case interviews is often wrong, outdated, or assumed to be the same as for every other consulting firm, and written by ‘experts’, who have never conducted an interview at McKinsey or even seen a McKinsey office from the inside.
As a consequence, the advice given can be detrimental to your recruiting success with the firm. In this article, we want to shed some light on this mysterious, often-talked-about, even more often misunderstood interview.
McKinsey’s Interview Process
Overview of the recruitment process.
The McKinsey recruitment process typically consists of the following stages:
- Application submission: Candidates submit their resume, cover letter, and academic transcripts online.
- Online assessments: Selected candidates may be invited to complete an online assessment, the McKinsey Solve Game (previously known as the Imbellus test, or Problem Solving Game/PSG)
- First-round interviews: Successful candidates progress to first-round interviews, which typically involve two separate interviews, each consisting of a Personal Experience Interview (PEI) and a case interview.
- Final-round interviews: Candidates who excel in the first round are invited to final-round interviews, which usually consist of two to three separate interviews with more senior McKinsey consultants or partners, again featuring a PEI and a case interview in each session.
- Offer decision: Following the final round, the firm makes a decision on whether to extend an offer to the candidate.
The Personal Experience Interview (PEI)
The Personal Experience Interview (PEI) is a critical component of McKinsey’s interview process. During the PEI, the interviewer will ask the candidate to share a specific example from their past experiences that demonstrates one of McKinsey’s core values, such as leadership, personal impact, or the ability to deal with change. Candidates should prepare concise and compelling stories that highlight their achievements, challenges faced, and the lessons learned. The PEI aims to assess the candidate’s interpersonal skills, self-awareness, and overall fit with McKinsey’s culture.
The Case Interview (Problem-Solving Interview)
The case interview is the centerpiece of McKinsey’s interview process. In this interview, the candidate is presented with a real-life or hypothetical business problem, which they must analyze and solve. The interviewer will assess the candidate’s ability to structure the problem, analyze data, generate insights, and communicate recommendations effectively. During the case interview, candidates should exhibit strong problem-solving, analytical, and communication skills, as well as the ability to think critically under pressure. Preparing for the case interview involves practicing a variety of cases, developing essential skills, and understanding the McKinsey case interview framework (more on that below).
McKinsey Interview Video Academy
Look behind the curtains and understand how to ace McKinsey Case and Personal Experience Interviews with our 40-part video academy. Curated by former McKinsey consultants and interviewers with the best track record in the industry.
Understanding the McKinsey Case Interview
What is a case interview.
A case interview is a unique type of job interview that tests a candidate’s ability to analyze, solve, and communicate complex business problems. During a case interview, the interviewer presents a real-life or hypothetical business scenario, and the candidate is expected to analyze the situation, identify the key issues, and propose a strategic solution. The case interview format allows the interviewer to evaluate a candidate’s problem-solving, analytical, and interpersonal skills, which are essential for a successful career in management consulting.
Why does McKinsey use case interviews?
McKinsey & Company uses case interviews as a key component of its recruitment process for several reasons. First, the case interview format closely simulates the work environment and tasks that consultants face daily, providing the firm with a more accurate assessment of a candidate’s potential performance. Second, case interviews allow McKinsey to evaluate a candidate’s ability to think critically, structure complex problems, and communicate effectively under pressure—skills that are crucial for consultants who must deliver high-quality solutions to clients. Lastly, case interviews serve as a consistent and objective measure of a candidate’s capabilities, enabling the firm to compare candidates from diverse backgrounds fairly and accurately.
What is different in McKinsey’s interview format?
The McKinsey Problem Solving Interview is a typical case interview as it is employed by most consulting firms to test the analytical capabilities and communication skills of applicants. However, it comes with a twist. The interview simulates a client situation, where you are tasked to solve a specific business problem that they are facing. You will have to answer a succession of several questions rather than driving the case yourself as would be the case in other consulting firms. Within the interview, which is a dialogue between you and the interviewer, you need to structure problems, propose concrete ideas, gather information, spot insights in data and charts, solve quantitative problems, and communicate in a professional and calm manner.
The case is the hardest part for most candidates since it involves a number of different skills that need to be demonstrated consistently across all questions and across multiple cases in succession. Depending on the office, applicants need to go through four to six case interviews before receiving an offer. They need to convince the interviewers in all cases to start their McKinsey careers.
Types of cases you may encounter
During a McKinsey case interview, candidates may encounter a variety of case types that cover different industries, functions, and challenges. The following is just a selection of potential case problems that you would need to solve.
- Market entry: Evaluating the attractiveness of entering a new market or launching a new product or service.
- Growth strategy: Identifying opportunities for a company to grow its revenue, market share, or profitability.
- Mergers and acquisitions: Assessing the feasibility and potential value of merging with or acquiring another company.
- Cost reduction: Identifying areas for cost savings and efficiency improvements in a company’s operations or supply chain.
- Pricing strategy: Determining the optimal pricing structure for a product or service to maximize revenue or profit.
- Organizational restructuring: Evaluating changes to a company’s organizational structure or management processes to improve performance.
- Operational improvements: Figure out and improve operational issues.
While the specifics of each case may differ, the core skills required to tackle these cases—such as structuring, data analysis, and problem-solving—remain consistent across all case types.
On top of that, McKinsey cases have become much more creative over the last couple of years, hence, using memorized and established frameworks will never serve you well . Rather it is important to approach every McKinsey case from a first-principles approach.
For instance, consider the following real McKinsey case example.
You are working with an operator of a specific type of machines. They break down at different rates at different locations. What factors can you think of why that would happen? Example of a McKinsey Case Interview Structure Questions
There is not a single memorized framework bucket that would work here. Let us look at an example answer for this prompt.
Less than 1% of candidates make it through the recruiting filters of McKinsey. You want to provide insights that the interviewer has not heard before and not be just like the other 99% that fail to impress.
What is the format of the McKinsey case?
A typical McKinsey case follows the PEI in a one-hour interview session. It lasts for 25 to 30 minutes in an interviewer-led format , meaning that the interviewer takes the lead and guides you through the case. Your role as the interviewee is to answer the questions asked by the interviewer before they will move on to the next question. While it is the interviewer’s responsibility to provide hints and move you through the different questions, you should take the lead within each question.
Depending on your performance and speed, you will be asked three to six questions . Only receiving three questions is actually a positive sign since the interviewer was happy with your answers to each question. Going above three questions usually happens when the interviewer wants to dig deeper into a specific question type to see if the quality of a previous answer to a similar question was just an outlier or can be confirmed with a second question. Most candidates need more than three questions to convince the interviewer, so don’t be scared when your case gets a little bit longer and consists of more than three questions.
Some offices also offer a McKinsey phone case interview as a first screening device, which follows the same structure as an in-person interview.
Is the McKinsey case interview different from a BCG or Bain interview?
While there are many similarities in McKinsey interviews and interviews with other firms, McKinsey interviews are interviewer-led, while other firms employ a candidate-led format .
McKinsey, BCG, and Bain cases have certain things in common:
- The elements of the cases are the same. You will have to structure problems, interpret exhibits, and work through some calculations, come up with recommendations or implications, etc.
- The skills that are assessed are the same. You need to exhibit strong problem-solving skills, creativity, ability to work under pressure, top-down communication, etc.
However, there is one key difference:
- In interviewer-led cases, you take ownership of every question and go into greater detail here, while the interviewer guides you from question to question. In the interviewee-led case, you drive the whole case and have to move along, get the correct information to work with by asking the right questions, and analyze the problem to then deduct a recommendation
In a McKinsey case, the interviewer will guide you through a series of connected questions that you need to answer, synthesize, and develop recommendations from. There are clear directions and a flow of questions, which you need to answer with a hypothesis-driven mindset . These are arguably easier to prepare for and to go through since the flow and types of questions will always be the same.
For McKinsey case interview examples, check the available interviewer-led cases here .
In a candidate-led BCG case interview or Bain case interview, due to the nature of your role as an investigator, it is much easier to get lost, walk down the wrong branch of the issue tree, and waste a ton of time. While the interviewers will try to influence you to move in the right direction (pay attention to their hints), it is still up to you what elements of the problem you would like to analyze. Each answer should lead to a new question (hypothesis-driven) on your quest to find the root cause of the problem to come up with a recommendation on how to overcome it.
What are the questions of a McKinsey case interview?
In the McKinsey interview you will have to answer three different questions types – broadly speaking:
- Structuring (includes creating frameworks and brainstorming questions)
- Exhibit Interpretation
Structuring includes both the framework creation at the beginning of a case as well as answering brainstorming questions (usually at a later stage of the case).
A case interview structure is used to break the problem you are trying to solve for the client down into smaller problems or components. It is the roadmap you establish at the beginning of the interview that will guide your problem-solving approach throughout the case. A strong initial structure should cover all elements of the situation AND allow you to understand where the problem is coming from. Read more about case interview structure and frameworks here .
A common question would be:
What factors would you look at to understand the problem better? McKinsey framework question
Brainstorming has you come up with specific ideas around a certain topic (in a structured m anner). Read more about brainstorming here .
What ideas do you have that could decrease customer check-out time? McKinsey brainstorming question
For chart or data interpretation , you are tasked to find the key insights of 1-2 PowerPoint slides and relate them back to the case question and the client situation at hand. Read more about exhibit interpretation here .
Case math questions have you analyze a problem mathematically before qualitatively investigating the particular reason for the numerical result or deriving specific recommendations from the outcome. Read more on how to ace case math here .
Now for structure and exhibit interpretation , there is no right or wrong answer in a McKinsey interview. Some answers are better than others because they are
- follow strong communication (MECE, top-down, signposted)
That being said, there is no 100% that you can reach or a one-and-only solution/ answer. It is important that your answers display the characteristics specified above and are supported well with arguments.
As for math questions , usually, there are answers which are correct (not always 100% the same since some candidates simplify or round differently – which is ok), and others that are wrong, either due to the
- calculation approach
- calculation itself
Now, for the interviewer, the overall picture counts. Mistakes in one area need to be balanced by a strong performance in other areas. McKinsey wants to see spikes in performance in certain areas and a good enough performance in other areas.
The most common example we see almost every day: You can be strong in structure and exhibit, yet make a small mistake in the math section – overall as you might consider 80% – and still pass on to the next round.
Be aware that in 99% of cases, there is no recommendation question in the end. The case just ends with the last case question. This is something many candidates are surprised by when they get out of their McKinsey interviews.
Mastering the McKinsey Case Interview Framework
In the sequence of questions that you receive, you need to demonstrate that you are able to
- identify the ask;
- structure the problem to investigate it;
- analyze data related to it;
- generate insight and recommendations;
- communicate effectively.
The first step in tackling a McKinsey case interview is to identify the core problem or question that needs to be addressed. Carefully listen to the case prompt and take notes, ensuring that you understand the client’s objectives, the scope of the problem, and any constraints. Clarify any uncertainties with the interviewer before moving forward.
Structuring the problem
Once you have identified the problem, develop a structured approach to address it. Break down the problem into smaller, more manageable components using logical frameworks. Tailor the chosen framework to the specific case, incorporating any unique factors or considerations. Present your structure to the interviewer, explaining your rationale and seeking their input or approval.
Data analysis and interpretation
As you proceed with your structured approach, you may be provided with additional data or information by the interviewer. Analyze the data, using quantitative techniques, such as calculating growth rates, market shares, or breakeven points, to draw meaningful insights. Be prepared to make assumptions or estimates if necessary but ensure they are reasonable and well-justified.
Generating insights and recommendations
Based on your data analysis, develop actionable insights and recommendations that address the client’s objectives. Consider the potential impact, feasibility, and risks associated with each recommendation. Think creatively and strategically, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative factors into your decision-making process.
Synthesis and communication
Finally, synthesize your findings and recommendations into a clear and concise conclusion. Use the “top-down” communication style, starting with your main recommendation, followed by the supporting evidence and insights. Demonstrate strong communication skills by articulating your thought process and recommendations persuasively and confidently. Be prepared to answer any follow-up questions from the interviewer and engage in a discussion to defend or refine your conclusions.
- Pyramid principle communication
- How to communicate in a case interview
In this format, McKinsey assesses in a case interview six skills that you need to demonstrate consistently in every case interview.
What skills are assessed by McKinsey?
- Problem-solving: Are you able to derive a MECE (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) framework, breaking a problem down into smaller problems, and accurately covering all aspects of the problem?
- Analytical rigor and logical thinking: Can you link the structure to creative thinking? Are you using a hypothesis-driven approach to your problem solving, i.e. have a clear picture of where you think the solution of the case is buried most likely? Do you qualify your thinking, follow your structure, tackle (likely) high-impact issues first, lead the interviewer, and ask the right questions?
- Mental math and basic calculus : Are you able to structure quantitative problems and comfortably perform calculations? Can you derive the correct approach to calculate the desired outcome variable? Can you plug in the numbers and perform the calculations, relying on basic pen-and-paper math, shortcuts, and mental math?
- Creativity: Do you think about a problem holistically, offering broad, deep, and insightful perspectives? Are you able to come up with different angles to the problem (breadth) and draft rich descriptions that qualify why these areas are important to investigate (depth)?
- Communication: Are you able to communicate like a consultant? Are you following a top-down communication approach similar to the Pyramid Principle taught by Minto? Do all of your statements add value and do you guide the interviewer through your thinking?
- Maturity and presence: Are you leading the conversation or are merely getting dragged along by the interviewer? Are you confident and mature? Are you comfortable with silence while taking time to structure your thinking?
- Business sense and intuition : Are you able to quickly understand the business and the situation of the client? Can you swiftly interpret data, charts, exhibits, and statements made by the interview? Are you asking the right questions? Are you able to make sense of new information quickly and interpret it properly in the context of the case?
Now, these skills are assessed in a very specific interviewing format, which is not natural for most applicants and needs significant practice to become second nature.
Key Strategies to Excel in a McKinsey Case Interview
Using the mece principle.
MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive) is a problem-solving principle that helps ensure your analysis is both comprehensive and well-organized. Apply the MECE principle when structuring your approach to a case by breaking down the problem into distinct, non-overlapping components while ensuring that all relevant aspects are covered. This method allows you to maintain a clear and logical structure throughout the case and reduces the likelihood of overlooking critical factors.
Applying the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, suggests that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the context of a case interview, this means focusing on the most critical issues or factors that will have the most significant impact on the client’s objectives. By prioritizing your analysis and recommendations, you can work more efficiently and effectively, demonstrating your ability to identify and address the most pressing concerns for the client.
Using a hypothesis-driven approach means forming an initial hypothesis or educated guess about the potential solution to the problem and then testing it using data and analysis. By starting with a hypothesis, you can guide your problem-solving process more efficiently, focusing your efforts on collecting evidence that supports or refutes your hypothesis. Throughout the case, be prepared to revise or refine your hypothesis as new information emerges.
Incorporating creativity and business intuition
While frameworks and structured approaches are essential, it’s also crucial to demonstrate creativity and business intuition during a McKinsey case interview. This means thinking beyond the standard frameworks and considering innovative solutions or unique factors that may be relevant to the specific case. Use your knowledge of industry trends, best practices, and real-world business challenges to inform your analysis and recommendations. By combining structured thinking with creative problem-solving, you can showcase your ability to deliver well-rounded, impactful solutions for clients.
Preparing for the McKinsey Case Interview
Most candidates prepare using generic frameworks. Alternatively, they are looking for a McKinsey case book PDF or a case study interview questions and answers PDF with the hope that the cases will be the same across interviewers and interviews.
Do not learn case-specific frameworks by heart , expecting them to work for every case you will encounter. There is no specific McKinsey case study framework or McKinsey case study book. It is much more important to learn the right approach that will help you tackle all types of cases. This is even more relevant for McKinsey interviews.
What you need to do is to study each individual question type and the associated skills in a case interview and learn how to approach it, regardless of the client situation, the context of the case, the industry, or function. Your goal should be to learn how to build issue trees, interpret charts, and perform math no matter the context, industry, or function of the case and follow our McKinsey case interview tips.
Many candidates ask if there is a specific McKinsey implementation case interview, McKinsey operation case interview, or McKinsey digital case interview. In fact, the cases are usually a mix of cases in a domain-relevant context as well as cases set in a completely different context to the role you are applying for.
Be aware that frameworks were applicable in the 2000 years, the era of Victor Cheng and Case in Point. McKinsey has long caught up on this and the cases you will get during the interviews are tailored in a way to test your creativity and ability to generate insights on the spot, not remember specific frameworks.
In fact, it will hurt you when you try to use a framework on a case that calls for a completely different approach. Also, it gives a false sense of security that will translate to stress once you figure out how your approach won’t work during the real interview – We have seen this way too often…
Developing the right mindset
Success in the McKinsey case interview starts with cultivating the right mindset. Being mentally prepared involves:
- Embracing a growth mindset: Recognize that your skills can improve with consistent practice and effort. Stay open to feedback and learn from your mistakes.
- Building resilience: Understand that case interviews are challenging, and you may face setbacks during your preparation. Stay persistent and maintain a positive attitude.
- Adopting a client-first perspective: Approach each case as if you were a consultant working on a real client engagement, focusing on delivering value and actionable insights.
Learning the essential skills
To excel in the McKinsey case interview, it’s crucial to develop the following skills:
- Problem structuring: Break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components using frameworks and logical structures.
- Qualitative and quantitative analysis: Interpret and analyze data to draw meaningful insights and make informed decisions.
- Hypothesis-driven thinking: Develop and test hypotheses to guide your problem-solving approach efficiently.
- Communication: Clearly articulate your thought process, insights, and recommendations in a concise and persuasive manner.
Studying relevant materials and resources
Leverage various resources to enhance your understanding of case interviews and management consulting:
- Books: The most effective and exhaustive case interview preparation book is The 1%: Conquer Your Consulting Case Interview (shameless plug). It goes much deeper than the usual suspects which are outdated and provide faulty advice on case interviews.
- Websites and blogs : Websites like StrategyCase.com offer the latest case interview tips, practice cases, and industry insights. You can check out more free articles covering consulting applications and interviews here .
- Online courses: Enroll in case interview preparation courses to gain structured guidance and access to a wealth of practice materials. We have created several high-quality courses for all elements of the McKinsey interview (see below)
We are the highest ranked and most successful case coaches on the web and have helped 100s of candidates break into McKinsey. As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we have specialized in getting our candidates into the firm. We can help you by
- tailoring your resume and cover letter to meet McKinsey’s standards
- showing you how to pass the McKinsey Imbellus Solve Game
- showing you how to ace McKinsey interviews and the PEI with our video academy
- coaching you in our 1-on-1 sessions to become an excellent case solver and impress with your fit answers (90% success rate after 5 sessions)
- preparing your math to be bulletproof for every McKinsey case interview
- helping you structure creative and complex McKinsey cases
- teaching you how to interpret McKinsey charts and exhibits
- providing you with cheat sheets and overviews for 27 industries .
Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program.
Practicing with case partners
Regular practice with case partners is essential for honing your case interview skills:
- Find practice partners: Connect with fellow candidates through online forums, social media groups, or local consulting clubs.
- Set a practice schedule: Aim to practice at least a few cases per week, gradually increasing the difficulty and variety of cases.
- Seek feedback: After each practice case, discuss your performance with your partner, and identify areas for improvement.
- Alternate roles: Take turns playing the role of the interviewer and the interviewee to develop a deeper understanding of the case interview process.
Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
- Insufficient structure: Failing to break down the problem into manageable components can lead to a disorganized analysis and an inability to identify key issues.
- Overlooking the big picture: Becoming too focused on the details and losing sight of the overall objective or client’s needs can hinder the development of effective recommendations.
- Ignoring qualitative factors: Relying solely on quantitative data without considering qualitative aspects may result in an incomplete understanding of the problem.
- Ineffective communication: Struggling to articulate your thought process, insights, or recommendations in a clear and persuasive manner can undermine the value of your analysis.
- Failing to adapt: Sticking to a preconceived framework or hypothesis despite conflicting evidence may indicate a lack of flexibility and critical thinking.
Tips to prevent these mistakes
- Practice structuring: Develop your ability to structure problems effectively by practicing with a wide range of cases and familiarizing yourself with common frameworks.
- Stay focused on the objective: Periodically remind yourself of the client’s goals and priorities, ensuring that your analysis remains aligned with their needs.
- Balance quantitative and qualitative factors: Recognize the importance of both quantitative data and qualitative insights in forming a well-rounded understanding of the problem.
- Hone your communication skills: Practice speaking clearly, concisely, and persuasively, ensuring that your message is easily understood and well-received.
- Embrace adaptability: Be open to revising your approach, framework, or hypothesis in response to new information or feedback, demonstrating your ability to think critically and flexibly.
McKinsey Interview Course
Unlock the Secrets to Acing McKinsey Interviews with Our Comprehensive Training Program
Are you eager to dive deep into mastering the McKinsey interviews? Look no further than our extensive 40-part Ready-for-McKinsey Interview Academy . This exceptional video program features simulated McKinsey-specific case studies and in-depth coverage of all Personal Experience Interview (PEI) dimensions and stories. Our Interview Academy is the ultimate resource to prepare you for success in your McKinsey case interviews.
We take pride in our results: an impressive 9 out of 10 candidates who complete our one-on-one Ready-for-McKinsey Interview Coaching program receive an offer. This track record has earned us consistent recognition as the best McKinsey and MBB coaches on several platforms.
Don’t leave your McKinsey interview success to chance—invest in your future by exploring our top-rated Interview Academy and coaching services today.
In summary, acing the McKinsey case interview requires a deep understanding of the interview process, mastery of essential skills, and the ability to apply effective problem-solving strategies. By embracing the MECE principle, applying the 80/20 rule, adopting a hypothesis-driven approach, and incorporating creativity and business intuition, you will be well-equipped to tackle any case interview challenge.
Remember to invest time in preparing for both the Personal Experience Interview and the case interview itself, using the wealth of resources and practice materials available. Focus on developing a structured approach, honing your analytical and communication skills, and staying adaptable throughout the interview process.
As you embark on your McKinsey case interview journey, stay confident and persistent in your efforts. By applying the tips and strategies shared in this article, you will be one step closer to achieving your consulting career aspirations. We wish you the best of luck in your journey toward success at McKinsey.
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Florian spent 5 years with McKinsey as a senior consultant. He is an experienced consulting interviewer and problem-solving coach, having interviewed 100s of candidates in real and mock interviews. He started StrategyCase.com with the goal to make top-tier consulting firms more accessible for top talent, using tailored and up-to-date know-how about their recruiting. He ranks as the most successful consulting case and fit interview coach, generating more than 450 offers with MBB, tier-2 firms, Big 4 consulting divisions, in-house consultancies, and boutique firms through direct coaching of his clients over the last 3 years. His books “The 1%: Conquer Your Consulting Case Interview” and “Consulting Career Secrets” are available via Amazon.
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9 Types of Questions in Actual Case Interviews
Case interviews at management consulting firms are among the most difficult job interviews, but they are also quite predictable. Once you know the types of questions they ask, preparation is straightforward.
Using years of experience at McKinsey, as well as field reports from thousands of candidates, I’ve crafted a list of 8 common case interview questions, and in this article, I’ll show you how to answer each of them.
Case interview questions – Overview
Types of case interview questions .
Most questions in case interviews belong to one of these 9 types:
1. Framework/issue tree questions 2. Market-sizing and guesstimate questions 3. Valuation questions 4. Brain teaser questions 5. Chart insight questions 6. Value proposition questions 7. Information questions 8. Math problems 9. Solution-finding questions
In this article, we’ll discuss how to answer each question, along with the necessary tips and tricks.
How to answer case interview questions
There are the fo ur basic steps to answer case interview questions:
- Step 1: Clarify any unclear points in the question
- Step 2: Announce approach and ask for time
- Step 3: Draw issue trees to solve the given problem
- Step 4: Pitch your answer and end with a takeaway conclusion.
This general outline may vary depending on each type and each question – for example, brain teasers or information questions need only the last step, while market-sizing and framework questions need all four steps to deliver the perfect answer.
Type 1 – Framework/Issue tree questions
These are on top of the list among popular case interview questions!
If the interviewer asks you to identify factors contributing to a problem or to break down an entity (such as the revenue of a business), he/she is telling you to draw an issue tree.
And to draw a spot-on issue tree, you need to master consulting problem-solving foundations , the MECE principle , and common consulting frameworks . You should check out our other articles on these topics before moving on, because mastering the issue tree is the key to acing every possible case interview.
You also need good business intuition to draw good issue trees, so that’s all the more reason to start reading every day.
Gastronomia – a gourmet restaurant chain has found the turnover rate among its highly-skilled chefs increasing dramatically for the last 3 years; this has led to a noticeable decline in food quality and increased training costs, among other negative effects.
Which factors would you consider when tackling this turnover problem?
Job: Factors from the job itself. Further divided into 3 sub-branches
- Compensations: are the salaries, bonuses, and benefits attractive enough?
- Difficulty: is the job too difficult?
- Nature: is the job too boring, too unengaging, too repetitive…?
Company: Factors from the work environment within the restaurant chain, surrounding the affected jobs. Further divided into 2 sub-branches
- Cultural environment: is the culture at Gastronomia compatible with the chefs?
- Physical environment: is the physical working environment at Gastronomia safe, comfortable, convenient…?
Competitors: Factors from outside the restaurant chain, related to competing job offers. Further divided into 2 sub-branches.
- Inside industry: are other restaurant chains competing with Gastronomia for skilled personnel?
- Outside industry: are there new career options or changes in existing alternatives that draw chefs away from restaurant chains like Gastronomia?
For detailed guides on issue trees, frameworks and their principles, see the articles on Issue Trees , Case Interview Frameworks, and MECE Principle
Type 2 – Market-sizing & guesstimate
These questions go along the lines of “How many trees are there in Central Park?” or “What’s the market size of pick-up trucks in the USA?”
The key to nailing market-sizing and guesstimate questions lies in not the closest results, but the most logical and structured approaches. In fact, the interviewer expects you to follow these four steps:
Step 1: Clarify: Make sure you and the interviewer are on the same page regarding every detail and terminology, so you won’t be answering the wrong question.
Step 2: Break down the problem: Break the item in the question (number of trees in Central Park, market size of pickup trucks) down into smaller, easy-to-estimate pieces.
Step 3: Solve each piece: Estimate each small piece one at a time; each estimation should be backed by facts, figures, or at least observations.
Step 4: Consolidate the pieces: Combine the previous estimations to arrive at a final result; be quick with the math, but don’t rush it if you aren’t confident.
Unless you come up with something about 10 times the reasonable estimate, don’t worry about being “wrong” – the interviewer is unlikely to have a “correct” number in mind, he/she just wants to see your structured mindset.
This question type is so common, we devote a whole article to it, and our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program have a separate package on these questions. Check out our comprehensive guide on Market-Sizing & Guesstimate Questions for more details!
Now, here’s a quick example for you to try and get used to this type:
How many smartphones are sold each year, globally?
- Smartphones are phones using exclusively touch-screens.
- “Sold” means sold to the end-consumers.
- The market size is calculated at present.
Break down the problem:
The global smartphone market can be divided into three segments – developed countries, developing countries, and undeveloped countries.
In each segment, the annual unit sales of smartphones depend on four variables:
- The percentage of “phone-owning age” people among the population
- The percentage of smartphone owners within the “phone-owning age” group.
- The average, annual, per capita “consumption” of smartphones for those owners.
Solve each piece:
- The population is 1.5 billion in developed countries, 5.5 billion in developing countries, and 1 billion in undeveloped countries.
- 80% of the world population is in the “phone-owning age” (Global life expectancy is 70 and everyone older than 15 years counts towards the “phone-owning age” group)
- 100% of the phone-owning age in developed countries will own a smartphone; the figure in developing countries is 75%, while in undeveloped countries it’s 10%.
- The average smartphone user replaces their phone every 3 years – so they “consume” 0.33 phones each year.
=> Estimated global smartphone market: 1.53 billion units per year
=> Actual 2019 global smartphone sales: 1.37 billion units (error margin: 11.7%).
This market-sizing question is solved using a four-step process, which is explained in this article: Market-Sizing & Guesstimate Questions
Type 3 – Valuation questions
Valuation questions are about estimating the monetary value of a business, and these are very popular in case interviews too!
Valuation questions are a blend of guesstimation/market-sizing, math, and business. They also require basic finance knowledge. There are three ways to estimate the value of a business:
- The NPV Method: take the net cash flow generated by the business, and discount it to the present to account for time value of money. Basically “this company is worth X dollars because it gives me Y dollars over Z years”. This approach works best when the cash flow from the business is positive and stable.
- The Market Method: take one index of the firm (which can be stocks or anything depending on the industry) and multiply it with an industry multiple (the value of one unit of the said index). In other words, “this company is worth AxB dollars because it has A traffic and each traffic is worth B dollars”. This approach works best when the market is transparent and data on similar firms are accessible – usually with major, established industries such as commercial airlines.
In real case interviews, you have to justify your approach then ask the interviewer to give you the necessary data.
Our client wants to sell his organic-food restaurant (called “Cato’s Cabbage Farm”) to retire. How much is his restaurant worth?
(Supposed the interviewer gives you the following data: his current income from the restaurant is $100,000 per year; two other restaurants in the neighborhood – one with 2 times more customers, and another about 0.75 times, have been sold at $1,800,000 and $1,000,000 respectively).
NPV Method: Cato’s Cabbage Farm value = $100,000 / 10% = $1,000,000
Assume the number of customers for Cato’s Cabbage Farm is 1 “customer unit”, then the two neighborhood restaurants get 2 and 0.75 “customer units”.
- Industry multiple: ($1,800,000+$1,000,000) / (2+0.75) = ~$1,018,182
- Cato’s Cabbage Farm value = $1,018,182 x 1 = $1,018,182
Type 4 – Brain teasers
Brain teasers are the least predictable case interview questions – but even these can be learned!
Brain teasers are riddles designed to test unconventional, creative, and logical thinking. A famous example of this is Accenture’s “How do you put a giraffe in a fridge?”.
Although not as popular as before, brain teasers might still appear in consulting interviews; therefore, you should spend some time to prepare.
Most brain teasers can be allocated into these seven types:
- Logical questions are pure logic riddles – there’s no trick, no illusion, no creativity.
In our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program , there are +200 brain teasers to help you prepare for these “unpredictable” questions. You can also read our article about Case Interview Brain Teasers for insights on all of these exciting brain teasers, as well as 30 example questions and answers!
How do you put a giraffe in a fridge?
Open the fridge, put the giraffe in, then close the fridge. The question never says how big the fridge or the giraffe is.
For the logic and approach behind each kind of brain teasers, see the article on Brain Teasers.
Type 5 – Chart insight questions
You can’t be a management consultant without mastering the use of charts – the complex, scary-looking real-world charts such as those included in our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program.
In management consulting and case interviews, most charts are one (or a combination) of these four basic types:
- Bar charts compare the values of several items at one point in time, or 1-2 items at several time intervals.
- Line charts illustrate time-series data, i.e trends in data over a continuous period.
- Pie charts illustrate proportions, i.e “parts of a whole” analyses.
- Scatter-plots use data points to visualize how two variables relate to each other.
To read these charts and answer chart-insights questions effectively, you must follow a structured, comprehensive process:
You can find a more detailed guide in the Charts section in our article about Consulting Math.
What can you draw from the following chart?
Trends in chart:
- Steady rise in the number of confirmed deaths to about 70-80 per million;
- Both changes started around March 10-11.
- These sudden rises can be explained by events occurring in early-March, and 2.
- If number of cases is kept low, the threat from COVID-19 will remain minimal, considering a mortality rate of only 2%.
Type 6 – Value proposition questions
No business or consulting candidate can succeed without understanding the customers!
Value-proposition questions are not only about correctly identifying customer preferences, but also about analyzing and delivering the answer in a structured fashion. The former relies heavily on business knowledge and intuition, but the latter can be trained methodically and quickly. Personally, I use a “double issue-tree” – essentially a table with customer segments on one axis and proposed values on the other:
For segmenting customers, you can use the following table. However, don’t over-rely on it, since there may be more relevant and insightful question-specific segmentations.
In some cases, clarification is also necessary – both to avoid “answering the wrong question” and to narrow down the range of customers/values you need to cover in the answer.
What will a customer consider when buying a Toyota sedan?
Clarification: A sedan must be branded “Toyota” to be a Toyota sedan – cars with other Toyota-owned brands such as Lexus or Ranz do not count in this question.
Toyota sedans occupy the entry-level and mid-range price segments, so Toyota customers will be more price-conscious than, for example, Lexus customers.
They are also less likely to lean considerably towards one particular factor, so achieving a balance is extremely important.
- Comfort: Toyota sedans are mostly for everyday use, so customers should feel comfortable being inside the car.
- Utility: Toyota sedans are used for multiple purposes, so convenience for a wide range of uses is important.
- Purchase price: A car can be an expensive investment while Toyota’s low-to-mid-range customers are more price-conscious, so having a cheap/reasonable price is important.
- Fuel and maintenance: Maintenance and fuel costs over time are likewise inversely related to the decision to buy a Toyota sedan.
- Performance: Customers are usually drivers themselves, who often pay attention to the technical characteristics of the car (speed, acceleration, handling, etc.)
- Visual design: The car should possess the same level of visual appeal as other competitors in the same segment.
- Build quality: Parts of the car should be assembled in a reasonably good manner.
- Branding: The car should come from a well-known, reputable brand
- Personal preferences: Some customers choose specific cars simply because they “like” the car.
Type 7 – Information questions
In any problem-solving process, information is one of the overarching concerns!
“Information questions” essentially ask if the piece of data you use is obtainable in the first place. In real consulting work, data is not always available – client team members may refuse to cooperate or there’s simply no data on the subject.
There are many kinds of information sources in case interviews/consulting works, but I’ll divide them into primary and secondary sources. Primary sources means you must do the research yourself (or pay someone else to do it for you), such as customer surveys or mystery shoppings. If someone already did that research, and you use their results, it’s called a secondary source – you can get these from the client , the consulting firm you work for, or third-parties such as market research firms or external industry experts.
You can find out more about these sources and how to cite them in real case interviews through this free Prospective Candidate Starter Pack, which contains a glossary of data sources in consulting.
Our Prospective Candidate Starter Pack has a sheet containing all the possible sources of information in case interviews and consulting projects, among numerous other free resources; you can download and use it to answer these questions, by subscribing to our newsletter at the end of this article.
How do you assess your target customer’s preferences for sports cars?
Primary sources: customer survey, customer interviews, Secondary sources: industry reports, client sales reports, third-party expert interview, client expert interview
Type 8 – Math problems
A lot of information in case interviews and consulting work comes in the quantitative form, so you won’t escape Math by joining the consulting industry!
When you have to do the math, perform back-of-the-envelope calculations in a structured fashion, and say out loud what you’re writing. For one thing, it’s safe; for another, you show that you’re careful, organized, and reliable – just like actual consultants.
We have a Math Practice Tool right here! Use it every day, and you’ll be a master of mental calculations in no time flat!
We have a dedicated article on Consulting Math, which you should definitely read.
Type 9 – Solution-finding questions
What’s the point of analyzing a problem, if not to solve it?!
When dealing with solution questions, keep these four points in mind:
- Firstly, in case interviews as well as real consulting projects, solutions must always solve every root cause of a problem, so remember to check if your solutions are relevant and comprehensive.
- Secondly, every solution must be actionable – if your solutions are too expensive, too time-consuming, etc. for the client, they’re useless.
- Thirdly, the interview expects a highly-structured answer; so segment your solutions based on their characteristics (long-term vs short-term is the easiest segmentation)
Last but not least, deliver at least two solutions, preferably three to five. Otherwise, you’ll appear uncreative and lazy to the interviewer’s eyes.
Nailing these questions relies on having excellent business intuition; our Case Interview End-to-End Program has a dedicated Business Intuition package, but you should also train a habit of reading consulting and business articles daily, to sharpen your business mind.
A restaurant that relies solely on on-premise dining found the loss of adjacent parking space (due to termination of contract) harming their revenue. How can they fix that?
The solutions for the restaurant’s parking space problem can be divided into two types:
- Short-term solutions: Find new parking space around the neighborhood, or renegotiate for old parking space (possibly at a higher price).
- Long-term solutions: Introduce takeaway items and off-premise dining.
Reminders on case interview questions
The questions are not clear-cut in candidate-led cases.
There are two extremes in consulting case interview format: interviewer-led (McKinsey) and candidate-led (BCG, Bain).
Interviewer-led cases, on one hand, consist of multiple, clear-cut questions in a larger business case context; the candidate navigates through these questions to arrive at the solutions.
Candidate-led cases, on the other hand, have one big problem, which the candidate must break down into small pieces to identify the root causes and deliver solutions.
This list, therefore, is much more relevant to the interviewer-led format; nonetheless, this guide is still quite beneficial for candidate-led cases, because when solving that big problem, you’ll have to tackle small issues similar to the 8 aforementioned question types.
Mastering the fundamentals is crucial to consistent performance
Although it’s good to study the case interview questions, it is no substitute for mastering the fundamental principles.
Learning the exercises without the basics is like building a house without a foundation. My poor neighbor’s house developed a huge crack right down the center because of its weak foundation, so make sure to build your case interview prep a strong one by knowing the basics first.
Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you’ll become much more flexible – this quality is getting increasingly important because case interviews are getting less predictable, and more realistic.
If you haven’t, I advise you to read these articles (especially the first 4) before practicing the question types:
- Case Interview 101
- Issue Tree – The Complete Guide
- MECE Principle
- Case Interview Frameworks
- McKinsey Case Interview – Interviewer-led Format
- BCG & Bain Case Interview – Candidate-led Format
Expect the unexpected
If you study those nine question types, rest assured that you’ve covered the majority of questions in case interviews.
However, these are not all the possible questions you might be given. In actual cases, there are always questions that cannot be categorized neatly. If you do not prepare for these questions, it’s easy to be thrown off-balance.
So, how do you prepare for “the unexpected”?
- Master the basics: Focus your efforts on the basics, once you’ve mastered them it’d be comfortable to move on to higher, more sophisticated levels.
- Business Intuition : You need business intuition for a business-related job, it’s simple as that. Nearly every case concerns business in one way or another – even public sector cases. This is why we also teach business intuition in our Case Interview E2E Secret Program.
- Have mock case interviews : Practice case interviews with ex-consultants will help you get a sense of what might happen or how you might be evaluated in actual cases. Highly experienced coaches from MConsultingPrep will review your performance, giving you the most valuable feedback and actionable tips & techniques.
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The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment
Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program
Elevate your case interview skills with a well-rounded preparation package
A case interview is where candidates is asked to solve a business problem. They are used by consulting firms to evaluate problem-solving skill & soft skills
Secrets to a successful case-study interview
January 09, 2023
Prepping for (and maybe fretting) the case-study interview?
While this kind of interview may appear intimidating, consider this: The interviewer really wants you to do well.
So, shake off the nerves, relax and have fun.
Tips for standing out in the case-study interview:
- Take your time; don't rush it. Talk through the problem. If you can't make sense of it, take a moment and allow yourself some time to process what you've been missing. If you get stuck, get creative. Don't let yourself get bogged down; rely on your ingenuity.
- Ask questions. You can always ask your interviewer to define an acronym or to repeat or confirm details. If the interviewer asks, “How do we achieve success?”, don’t be afraid to ask, “What does ‘success’ mean to you? Is it turning a profit? Raising the company’s profile?” When you work on a client project, you need to ask questions to figure out what the problems might be, and the same applies here. The interviewer is your biggest asset in the room. They have the information you need to “solve the case” successfully. Use them wisely!
- Be flexible. The focus of a case-study interview may vary. So, be prepared to participate in whatever discussion the interviewer has in mind. They may spend the first half of the interview asking about your previous experience, or they may dive right into the case study at the start. The bottom line: Be flexible, and be ready to discuss the work you do and how you do it.
- Use visual aids. Don’t be afraid to use pen and paper, sketch out your thoughts, and talk through the problem at hand if it helps you get your ideas across. What matters most is demonstrating that you can solve problems.
- Focus on impact. Inventory the information you have, and then dive in where you can have the most impact. Don’t forget to discuss your thought process and explain your assumptions.
- Tell a story. Your experience has helped you progress in your career and education; use that experience. For example, in a business case study, you could bring your experience as a traveler to a case about a hypothetical airline. Your individuality is important. Your unique insights will serve you well when you’re interviewing.
- Pay attention to cues. If the interviewer says something, it probably means something. Don’t dismiss seemingly extraneous details. For example, the interviewer might say, “The case is about a retailer who wants to increase the value of a company it purchased, and the owner loved the brand when growing up.” The purpose of that detail is to indicate that turning around and selling the asset is not an option for making it profitable, because the owner is attached to it.
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Approaching a Case
How to solve a case study – a structured approach.
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- Follow the 4 Commandments
- Get a feeling and true understanding of the problem and the objective
- Lay out an exhaustive, well-thought-through structure
- Build an initial hypothesis and prioritize the different areas
- Gather data based on your hypothesis and priorities
- Evaluate the data keeping in mind your problem and goal
- Track down the root cause and the area which would have the biggest impact
- Develop possible solutions, weigh them, and choose the best one. Make sure your solution is based on the data irrespective of whether it is positive or negative. Keep in mind that the best feasible solution is truly the best solution!
Do you need more insightful tips on how to approach your case interview in management consulting? Read our comprehensive case interview guide that gives you tips for your case interview preparation, step-by-step explanations to solve the case, and lastly 13 valuable tips for your actual interview day.
Questions on This Article
Is there an easy way yo think about hypothesis:issue tree:proving&disproving ..., related cases.
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Bain case style - growth offensive at chemcorp [new], bcg case style - online groceries [new].