Difficulty of Case Interview and Interview Tips

Case interviews are among the hardest job interviews for business candidates. Passing rate is only 10% to 20%, with each candidate facing 4-6 case interviews for one consulting recruitment process. With questions and processes entirely different from other job interviews, passing case interviews without training is near-impossible.

But why are case interviews so difficult, and how difficult are they? In this article, I’ll answer these questions and provide some useful tips to nail the case interview. Let’s get started!

What are case interviews?

Case Interviews are essentially job interviews where candidates are asked to solve business cases or problems. Here are a few example case questions:

  • “We have a restaurant called “In-and-out Burger” with recently falling profits. How can you help?”
  • “The CEO of a cement company wants to close one of its plants. Should they do it?”
  • “A top 20 bank wants to get in the top 5. How can the bank achieve that goal?”

How hard are case interviews?

Case interviews are difficult in the sense that 99% of those without training will get stuck. Fortunately, they are also predictable and become easier with patience and systematic training. Start preparing early, as mastering problem-solving techniques and developing automatic intuitions take time.

Systematic training is the keyword here. Without it, your prep process can take arduous, unnecessarily long months- I’ve been there as an ex-McKinsey consultant. To save your time, check out my Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program, where I’ve broken down every step you can take to master the case interview!


Why are case interviews hard?

Case interviews are difficult partly because they test a wide range of skills: ability to solve cases structurally and analytically, as well as social skills to convince the interviewer to assist in the problem-solving process; these skills are essential for consulting work. Additionally, to maintain their reputation, major consulting firms must keep an extremely high recruitment standard (with less than 1% acceptance rate)

Hence, there’s no compromise – candidates must train extensively for the case interview, learn the fundamentals along with tips and techniques to improve performance, or get eliminated. 


Case interview tips

Case Interview preparation is a long and tough process. In an ocean of books, videos, programs, how can you navigate to maximize learning? Most materials floating around are quite good, at least in terms of substance. But the timing and the organization of them can be confusing.

That said, here are 6 tips to help you prepare for case interviews:

Tip #1: Learn the basics of case interview theory

Never start tackling cases without learning the basics first. Jumping right in runs the risk of developing bad habits, which eventually costs more time to unlearn. Beware, though, too much theory right off the bat can burn brain power very quickly.

My advice is to start reading this article: Case Interview 101, and then watch the video below for a more detailed visual breakdown.

Tip #2: Practice cases that match your level

Even for candidates with cases coming up urgently, I still strongly recommend spending the most valuable time practicing cases that match your level.

This is because cases are just the context. What you will be evaluated on is your approach, your skills, your techniques, etc – which can only be developed if you stay on one level at a time until ready to move up. 

Tip #3: Improve your business intuition

Business intuition is like your natural sense of the business world: to be habitually insightful and creative in various business contexts, to feed the “content” into your approach, etc.

Think of this as a basketball player trained for muscle strength, agility, or durability. Intuition can be improved gradually by constantly exposing yourselves to a wide range of business situations and contexts. 

You can do this by:

Tip #4: Start training consulting math 

Math is essential in management consulting due to the large amount of quantitative data involved in consulting projects. Consultants must be comfortable with mental calculations prevalent in brainstorming sessions and client meetings.

To practice case interview math effectively, follow these two steps:

Tip #5: Practice mock cases

The goal of practicing mock cases is to observe case interview skills and knowledge applied in action – and practice them. These are also good opportunities to improve behavioral skills – an increasingly important part of case interviews.

This can be done by either:

  • Hire a coach. 
  • Find another partner to practice with. Just make sure you both watch this Guide on how to conduct a case. A bad coach is always more harmful than not practicing at all.
  • See another example in the End-to-end Program. Like the previous one, try actively solving the case as you see it! Say out loud your version, then listen to the candidate, then hear the feedback!

Tip #6: Read theory, watch examples, practice, and repeat!

A good study plan is constantly switching between 3 activities: reading theory, watching examples and practicing with cases increasing in difficulty level. Doing these activities interchangeably and for every case level will ensure a natural build-up of habits and skills.

Read next

Scoring in the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment

The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment

Scoring in the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment

The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment

Related product