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Casual Cases

By Kim Tran June 24, 2015Case InterviewNo Comments
case interview videos

Casual Cases

By Kim Tran | Case Interview | No Comments

Hi there,

A week ago, I got a very interesting message from an anonymous customer through our Live chat system. It goes like this:

“Hello, I absolutely love your site. The case interview videos are especially helpful, although I found them to be particularly focused on external, supply chain problems. I understand these are the most important, but I was wondering how one would approach a case study about internal, long term, social consulting. For example, internship programs are a key way that companies attract top talent and shape their culture. How would you approach an interview question that asked you to build a framework for let’s say, a big tech company trying to attract the best developers through an internship program?”

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Put simply, what you were trying to ask is: “How in the world do I deal with weird-topic cases?”

* * *

There are so many ways a topic can be weird. Like you said, one way is for it to be about internal & social topics. But there are others. Some of them are hilarious actually. A few of my favorites:

  • How does my company beat the competitor … in the soccer tournament?
  • How do our young executives get girlfriends?
  • How can BCG take McKinsey’s No.1 spot?
  • How can I eat more & not gain weight?

You may laugh at these, but there is a real chance of you getting a casual case like this in real interviews.

So, what’s the strategy for acing them?

1/ Don’t panic, these cases in fact are easier.

Why do I say this? Reason #1 is that the interviewer is probably in a good mood, which makes the whole process much more bearable. Reason #2 is that the interviewer probably doesn’t know more about the topic than you. Reason #3 is that these cases really take away the difficulty of business knowledge and solely focus on mythology and creativity.

2/ Approach them with a serious and professional manner as if this were a real business problem.

This somewhat feels like a game of pretend … but you are expected to play it. The purpose of casual cases is to wash away the difficulty of business content to focus on your problem solving and other soft skills. One of those soft skills is professionalism, make sure you show it.

3/ Regarding content …

This is important.

The thing I really love about case interviews and consulting problem solving mythology is that it can be applied REGARDLESS of CONTEXT, CONTENT, & PROBLEMS.

If I struggle with weird cases, it’s not because something’s wrong with this format. It’s probably something about my case interview mythology.

Here’s an interesting example of how consulting mythology can still be perfectly applied to a casual case:

To make this point even stronger, let me try tackling your example of a fairly unconventional case.

* * *

Problem: “a big tech company trying to attract the best developers through an internship program”

Part 1: Define the problem / clarify objective:

  • How do we define “best developers”? The smartest and most skilled ones or simply the most appropriate for the job?
  • Is money an important factor? Can we overspend to make the most awesome program possible or do we have a rather tight budget?

Part 2: Set up a structure:

There is more than one way to be right, but to me, this is a good way to do it.

A perfect internship program must have certain characteristics depending on two 2 parties:

  • Branch (a): Does the internship program offer value those “best” (a.k.a: appropriate) developers’ desires?
  • Branch (b): Is the internship program something feasible that the client can implement in a sustainable fashion?

* * *

When I tackle this example, my mind process doesn’t change at all. If we can get to the point where any context, any case, any problem doesn’t bother us regardless of what they are, … we are really in good shape!

I hope this article is helpful to you. Comment below should you have any question or suggestion, ok?


 

Tags: Case Interview, Case Interviews

mconsultingprep.com

Dresscode for Case Interview – Management Consulting Interview Prep

By Kim Tran April 9, 2015Case Interview3 Comments

Dresscode for Case Interview – Management Consulting Interview Prep

By Kim Tran | Case Interview | 3 Comments

You hear everywhere that the case interview is about making a difference; how to make the interviewer like and remember you, how to make yourself look outstanding, and how to tell unique stories that impress?

However, unlike all the above areas, there is one thing you don’t want to stand out and that’s your attire!

Yes, the perfect outfit is one that the interviewers don’t have to take notice of. Of course one way to make that happen is to not underdress, and the opposite is also true. Don’t overdress too much as well (a little overdress is fine).

So the best way to do that is to call the recruiter and literally ask about the dress code of the interview. Compared to how much effort you spend for case interview prep, this one simple act is trivial and I strongly recommend everyone of you to do it.

So if you do that, there are 2 popular answers from the recruiter. And I will explain below what each of them mean.

1. Business Professional / Business Formal

“Business formal” is essentially the same as “business professional” but with a little fanciness added. In this setting, I’ll refer to both as one big group. Here is a checklist you can go through yourselves. If you can check all items here, you are good to go:

  • Have a suit
  • Suit color should be dark. In fact, to be safe, just do black so you don’t have to worry about how dark your gray, brown, or navy looks.
  • Suit pattern should be simple. In fact, to be safe, just do solid colors so you don’t have to worry about how simple this pattern looks.
  • Shirt is classic and button-down type.
  • Shirt color should be bright and muted. In fact, to be safe, just do white … you get the idea.
  • Have a tie.
  • Tie pattern should be subtle.
  • Your tie is long enough to touch your belt.
  • Pants color and pattern should match your suit (a.k.a: it should be black with no pattern). No jeans please.
  • Shoes should be leather.
  • Shoe color should be black or brown. In fact, to be safe, just do black.
  • Belt color should match with the shoes (a.k.a: black it out, too)
  • Socks color should match your suit and pants color (a.k.a: black it out)
  • Your face should be clean.
  • Your hair should be in place.

2. Business Casual

The checklist looks the same as the above except that:

  • No tie
  • The suit is optional, either way is fine
  • Khaki and dress pants are acceptable. Still, no jeans.

All of the above are for men. Usually, the dress code for women is less well defined. So if you happen to be a woman, please follow your women’s intuition and choose an appropriate  outfit.

* * *

If you have any other questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Also don’t forget to check out our Youtube Channel for a lot more visualized content. I’ll see you there!


 

Tags: Case Interview PreparationCase Study Interview Prep

Questions to ask in Consulting Interviews

By Kim Tran April 1, 2015Case Interview3 Comments
Consulting interview uestions

Questions to ask in Consulting Interviews

By Kim Tran | Case Interview | 3 Comments

Dear Kim,

Thank you for your videos on  case study interview prep. I watched every one of them. They are much of help.

However, as I go through all of the channel as well as your website, I can’t seem to find any information as to what should I ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. Please notice that I am not referring to those questions everybody has to ask during the case for content purposes. I refer to more of the behaviour part of the interview.

Can you provide a few thoughts on this?

Thanks

My reply:

Dear Aron,

Thank you very much for your strong support for our platform. I appreciate these questions because they help pinpoint me to areas of our site that I need to further improve.

Regarding questions to ask (not in the case part), there’s so many ways to be “right” here but there are also so many ways to be “wrong”. So rather than giving you some concrete questions, I would like to give you the principles. If you can firmly grasp them, you will always ask good questions and still have the flexibility to go with the mood and the style of each context and each interviewer.

I am in the  mood for some DOs and DON’Ts so let’s do it that way.

DON’T be generic …

Consultants don’t like generic stuff. In fact, we hate them. Once in while I get generic questions like “Hi Kim, how to prepare for case interview?”. As much as we love to talk about consulting, we just can’t stand those. So the basic rule is: don’t ask questions that people can write a whole book to answer.

Bad example:

  • How will I be trained in this job?

Good example:

  • Of the various training opportunities that I will be very thankfully getting, would you like to tell me about the coaching culture of the daily tasks an analyst get from other team members?

Ask open-ended questions

Being specific doesn’t mean not asking open-ended questions. Please notice that in the above good example, I still left just about enough room for the interviewer to elaborate and go on as much as he / she likes.

DON’T be cliché

The best way to make the case interview session entertaining for the interviewer (trust me, they may be bored to death interviewing dozens of folks each week), and to make you memorable, is to ask interesting and unique questions. Don’t ask questions the interviewer has probably heard millions of times before. Go for those that he / she has never gotten before!

Bad examples:

  • What does a consultant’s typical day look like?
  • What is the company’s culture look like?

Good examples:

  • What is one important thing consultants do every day that most people don’t know about?
  • I know consulting has a very unique and strong culture, but what makes this office, culturally, different from any other?

DON’T ask questions for which you yourself can find out the answers

Bad examples:

  • How long have you been with the firm? (you can ask the HR person for that)
  • How many people are there in this office? (yes you can ask the HR person that too)
  • How many interview rounds will I have left? (you got the rhythm)

Implicitly show off your consulting skills and knowledge

Good examples:

  • Why you haven’t quit? (implicitly showing that you are well aware of the consulting culture that everybody leaves, the question is just when)
  • Take notes while listening! (this is not a question, but is definitely a strong action to implicitly convey that you know the culture and the consultant’s job well)
  • Number your questions! (Again, this is not a question, but this speaks volume. It shows that you are well prepared and very structured)

Questions to ask in Consulting Interviews

Center questions on the interviewer

Everybody loves talking about themselves, regardless of whether they admit it or not. It’s just  basic psychology that every brain subconsciously does. So your job is to take advantage of that.

Don’t ask too many questions about the project, the office, or the other partners. Ask about the interviewer!

Good examples:

  • What brought you into management consulting in the first place?

Not-as-good examples:

  • What are some reasons that make management consulting an attractive field?

* * *

I hope (in fact, I believe) that this has been a fun and informative article for you. You can see that there are so many traditional “good questions to ask” being criticized above. Consulting is a unique field and so the questions for it need to be different.

So with all of that said, what do you think? What are some good questions to ask in a consulting interview that you can think of? Comment below and we can have a wonderful discussion.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to subscribe to our mail list and our Youtube channel. We will see each other again!

Case Interview Prep for Lateral Recruitment

By Kim Tran March 30, 2015Case InterviewNo Comments
Case Interview Prep 

Case Interview Prep for Lateral Recruitment

By Kim Tran | Case Interview | No Comments

Dear Kim,

Thanks for your website, it’s extremely interesting.

I met with one of the MC firms a couple weeks ago, almost not prepared but with what I read / watched here.

I received very positive feedback in general, but on the cases …

…While the approach seemed the right one, they explicitly mentioned that (on top of being a bit hasty in jumping to the solution), I too often took a “junior approach” compared to what they expected from my level.

Having 10+ years experience, mainly in business IT consulting, I am applying for a senior position. Browsing your website again, I could not find material which would help me practicing on the cases from an experienced level perspective (eg: engagement management, “lead” the case resolution rather than “executing” the resolution).

Would you have any suggestion on how to progress in that space before my next rounds?

My Reply:

Hi Nicolas,

Thank you for your trust in using our materials. Phew … this is such a difficult question but let me tackle it as best as I can.

First of all, regarding “case approach”, there’s no junior vs. senior. It’s just right vs. wrong and appropriate vs inappropriate. Going into case interviews, candidates are supposed to tackle cases mainly from the engagement manager’s perspective. There’s no such thing as “since he is going to be an analyst, he is allowed to do it more like a junior than others”. I am sure that every management consultant in the world would share this view with me. This is why your question surprised me a little bit.

Why did you get that feedback from your interviewer?

I didn’t directly talk to your interviewer so there are so many possibilities of what could’ve happened. But my hypothesis is this:

What your interviewer was really saying was: your “business intuition” is at a junior level compared to the expectation.

Case Interview Prep for Lateral Recruitment

If you watch several of my Youtube videos, you would know that I divided the case interview into 3 equal aspects: Math, Tips & Techniques, and Business intuition. For a basketball player, “Tips & Techniques” may be equivalent to dribbling skill, shooting skill, passing skill, etc. while “Business intuition” may be equivalent to athletic ability, body strength, or basketball IQ.

In a case interview, having a “junior” business intuition may cause you to:

  • Speak in a less professional and consulting-like language. And I am not talking about those cliché consulting jargon words where every other resource over-estimates their importance. I’m talking about those content terminologies that real consultants and experienced strategists use in their daily working environment, both verbal and written. I’ve put together a very nice list of those, check it out!
  • Use an over-simplified issue tree or framework (but please be careful not to use those over-complicated ones, too). To fix this, refer to our framework / issue tree resources.
  • Not effectively coming up with realistic hypotheses and only going for those often found in textbooks or schools’ case studies.
  • Not creatively proposing realistic and diversified solutions for identified root cause problems.
  • Millions of other symptoms …

Well, the best way to improve business intuition is from real experience over a period of time, but in your case, you need to get ready for the next round soon. I would recommend you to refer to the two links above for 2 simple quick-wins. Also, spend a significant amount of  time reading materials on the Big 3 websites:

This is a good way to surround yourself with deep and senior consulting content and materials. If you do that every day, your business intuition will improve a great deal.

In our Case Interview E2E program, we devote a big portion to business intuition. You may check that out as well. But if you just follow my above instructions, you will be just fine too, assuming my hypothesis is true!

I hope this answers your question!

* * *

Have other burning questions? Send it to Kim, your question may very well be featured in a future “Dear Kim” post.

If you enjoyed this article, never miss another by subscribing to our newsletter. Don’t forget to do that for our amazing Youtube channel too!


 

Tags: Case Interview Prep, Case Interview Preparation

How long does the Consulting Case Interview Prep process take?

By Kim Tran March 25, 2015Case Interview3 Comments
Case Interview Prep process

How long does the Consulting Case Interview Prep process take?

By Kim Tran | Case Interview | 3 Comments

Dear Kim,

Thank you for developing remarkable consulting case interview prep materials, especially those videos. They are such good sources of motivation.

I am a third year student in one of the top universities in India. Is it too late to start my consulting case prep? I know a number of peers and alumni who started their consulting prep even from freshmen or sophomore year. And everybody I talked to said it takes quite a long time preparing for case interviews. This worries me a little bit.

Can you provide a view on this?

My reply:

Hi Subh,

Thank you for following our channel. I am glad you found some inspiration from it.

My question-to-answer on queue list gets longer and longer each day but yours really stood out because this is something I have a very strong opinion on. So allow me to make it all clear now.

There are people who start their prep work really early on and it works for them. Most of them have the tendency to generalize that and popularize the idea that case interview prep MUST take a long time.

Yes, when it comes to case interview preparation, the longer the better. Some skills and habits take time to be fully developed…

But… I think people way over-estimate the importance of prep time length. In my own situation, I didn’t know anything (Yes, absolutely nothing) about the case interview 4 months before my actual interview. But I went on to get 4 “strong hire” ratings on my 5 cases and, of course, the job offer from McKinsey. One of my interviewers, who later became my manager on a real project, even told me that he hadn’t seen anyone who did that well on cases before.

And I know many other examples from various colleagues.

consulting case interview prep

I am not here to tell you to procrastinate because a long prep time isn’t necessary. What I am saying is that if you happen to discover your interest in consulting later than others, don’t be overly stressed about it. There are so many things that are much more important than having a long prep period. One of which is the study methodology. With the right study plan, you can overtake/surpass so many candidates out there. Because trust me, most people just don’t study correctly.

Proof?

When I make videos and various contents for this Management Consulting Prep platform, I see many important topics which always get less views and attention than other popular but less important ones, no matter how hard we try pinpointing, redirecting, and referring people to those important topics. For example, my “Case Interview Logical Foundation” post always gets way less views than the “Case Interview Framework post. How in the world is the surface more important than the foundation?

So Subh, I hope you get a key take-away out of this article. Just go for it! Ignore those idiots telling you that starting in junior year is too late! I wish you the best of luck on the process and to always study with an amazing flair, desire, and method!

* * *

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you would also enjoy my other thoughts. Subscribe to my newsletter and Youtube channel. I will see you there!


 

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Tags: Case Interviews

How to practice case interviews … in bed

By Kim Tran March 18, 2015Case InterviewNo Comments
case interviews Practice

How to practice case interviews … in bed

By Kim Tran | Case Interview | No Comments

Dear Kim,

I enjoy your newsletter on “Practice Case Interview Questions everywhere” and ever since, I have been getting every bit of practice in every possible situation.

Just a fun question, I wonder how to practice case interviews alone, what sort of practice you do while in bed … about to go to sleep?

My answer:

Hi Martin,

Thank you for your support in following every post and video we make. This is an interesting question and I bet every person has a different style.

My perspective is that on one hand, we like to get as much practice as possible but on the other hand, we don’t want to disrupt our daily sleep routine either. So I would choose the types of practice that are not only helpful but would also help make me fall asleep.

For me, a heavy strategy, and problem solving structure don’t do that. I like it so much that doing it would excite me and keep me awake. I usually practice mental math instead!

I challenge myself by doing random calculations I can think of and work my way to the answer. No need to have a real calculator to check your answers. The sake of trying to do maths mentally helps already.

* * *

Well if you have interesting ideas on how to prepare for a case study practice questions, send them all into the “practice case interview questions everywhere” post.

Also don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list as well as our amazing Youtube channel. More great content is coming!


 

Tags: case interview practice

Asking yourselves practice case study interview questions on the move

By Kim Tran March 12, 2015Case Interview2 Comments
Case study interview

Asking yourselves practice case study interview questions on the move

By Kim Tran | Case Interview | 2 Comments

Hi there, in the Practice Case Interviews everywhere post, I asked you to think of every little possible opportunity in everyday life to get better at case interviews. You can definitely do a ton of learning and improvements seamlessly out of no spare time.

Now in this post, let me share with you a very specific example of that.

practice case study interview questions

I was driving on an interstate freeway and was caught in a traffic jam. I could have easily wasted all of that time listening to music or letting my mind flow to helpless thoughts. But I recognized my “learning everywhere” spirit and began to ask myself practice case study interview questions. The first one obviously was this simple big case study practice question:

What can the city government do to reduce this traffic jam?

I seriously treated this question just like a real case and asked the imaginary interviewer for a minute to brainstorm some thoughts. I began to analyze the case and implicitly formed an issue tree in my head:

  • A traffic jam is like an over-demand or under-supply in any other market, except that here, “supply” is the road capacity and demand is the number of cars.
  • The supply is fixed in the short-term. And in many cases, it is not very flexible even in the long-term.
  • So solutions have to be on the demand side. We may use fees or taxes to artificially reduce demand … but this hurts people’s utility and possibly the city economy.
  • How can we reduce demand while not hurting the economy and people’s utility? This led me to define “demand” in more detail. “Demand” here is the number of cars on this freeway at this moment (and broadly rush hours).
  • And to reduce that “demand”, we look for substitutes which would still fulfill the needs of commuting:
    • People may use other roads (other than this freeway)
    • People may travel in other times (i.e: in non-rush hours)
    • People may travel by other vehicles as opposed to using their own cars. This may include buses, train, or others’ cars (shared car).

The bullet points above are literally the thoughts in my head, but in a real case I’d need to deliver a much more structured pitch. So I practiced that! After the “1 minute to gather a few thoughts”, I imagined myself sitting in front of the interviewer and literally saying it out loud as if it were real:

“Mr. Interviewer, thank you for your patience. This is such an interesting case study and I am happy to solve it. I looked at the problem through the lenses of the supply-demand framework. We can think of this traffic jam like an over-demand or under-supply of road. So there are two buckets in my analysis: Supply and Demand … “

Then I keep drilling down, throwing different twists and scenarios at myself, what if this, what if that … E.g: what if the city has tried the car sharing program in the past but did not succeed due to fraud committed by people taking advantage of the program’s incentive? What if there’s a report saying that 30% of the traffic in this freeway is non-civil (e.g: commercial trucks)? Etc.

Now what if I completed the imaginary case and I was still stuck in traffic?

I would ask myself a new case question and begin the whole process again. An example of another case question?

Would I be better off taking this freeway or the longer (and smaller) city road?

Considering my hourly salary at the time, the cost of gas, and even the depreciation of the car, we have ourselves a hell of an estimation question! You may disagree with me on the framework I used above or you may have better insights. But what I would like you to get out of this article is the spirit to practice case interview questions! If you are like me, trying to do this every day, then before you know it, you will be a master case interviewee yourself!

If you want to know more about case interview practice, click here!

If you liked this article, check out others and subscribe to our mail list. Don’t forget to check out our awesome Youtube channel too!

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Tags: Case interviews, practice case interviews

Case Studies for Interviews conducting – Preparing for case interviews

By Kim Tran March 5, 2015Case InterviewOne Comment

Case Studies for Interviews conducting – Preparing for case interviews

By Kim Tran | Case Interview | One Comment

I mentioned in the Case Interview Prep article that practicing cases with partners is a great way to improve your skills. You will learn by roleplaying: the candidate and also the interviewer.

So in order to participate in these sessions, the first thing you need to have is the ability to conduct a case interview from the interviewer’s perspective.

This is probably one of the most fun things to do during your process in preparing for case interviews. For once, you can step away from the intensity of being in the hot seat, see how the partner deals with it, and at the same time still  learn a ton.

This article will talk about how to prepare for a case interview with your partner, using sample case studies for interviews available on McKinsey, Bain, and BCG websites. If you are actually looking for materials on the other side (being the candidate), visit this Case study Interview article.

case studies for interviews

Step 1: Determine the type and focus of the case

Prior to the practice session, discuss with your partner about his or her preference for the case. Should it be a candidate-led or more of an interviewer-led case? How heavy should the case interview math be? How much business intuition will be involved? Etc.

If you are doing this with a moderate beginner (or someone who isn’t interviewing soon), he or she may not have a preference. That’s ok, it doesn’t hurt to ask. You can just give a balanced and mixed case.

Step 2: Pick a context and gather general knowledge and intuition

In consulting, whenever a consultant says “context”, he’s referring to the combination of three things: the industry, the function, and the location.

An industry is something like: cement, real estate, transportation, etc.

A function is something like: marketing, operation, organization, etc.

A location is something like: Germany, India, Singapore, etc.

It really doesn’t matter which one you pick. Just go for what interests you the most because after you have picked the context, you’ll need to learn a good amount of insights and knowledge about it.

On McKinsey Insights, BCG Perspective, and Bain Publications pages, you can find articles and PDF files nicely sorted by those three factors above. Also, on each “practice” or “client service” (i.e: an area the firm serves) page, there are some nice case studies too. Here is an example from McKinsey’s strategy client service:

http://www.mckinsey.com/client_service/strategy/case_studies

Step 3: Make up a hypothetical client and a key question

Sometimes you can find, right in the case studies themselves, the client and key problem they have. But if the article or case study talks about the general industry or market instead, you can make one up. Don’t worry, that’s the fun part.

Step 4: Don’t think of an issue tree or a framework, instead, gather facts on the case

As an interviewer, you don’t want to be biased and one-sided in conducting cases. It would be so frustrating for your partner. What I usually do as an interviewer is just gather (or make up) random facts about the case and keep an open and flexible mindset on how to structure the case… Sounds pretty much like how real clients think about their problem.

For example, if the case question is: how should the Utah Jazz get more fans to come and see games? Some seemingly-unrelated facts that you can gather are:

  • The Utah Jazz is a fairly strong team in the NBA, especially when playing at home
  • Ticket sales historically don’t correlate with team performance (Win/Loss)
  • Ticket sales seem to be positively influenced by new elements to the team (new players, new coaches, etc.)
  • Ticket sales is low on Sunday (most of the Utah population use Sunday for church activities)
  • The only way to commute to the arena is by car. There are some public transportation options but they are relatively limited in terms of reach.
  • The arena is right in downtown Salt Lake City.
  • Parking costs in the 3-miles radius from the arena can reach up to $30/ evening
  • TV broadcasts showcase almost 100% of the in-arena experience: the game, the player introduction, the halftime show, etc.
  • There are two ticket distribution channels: phone order and in-arena purchase. No online system yet.
  • Historical packaging promotions drive positive impacts on ticket sales

Feel free to gather the above facts in various formats: expert interview summaries, table / charts, etc. It will make the case much more interesting.

Step 5: Ready to go

Like I said above, have a bunch of facts and let the candidate discover them by himself / herself. It really doesn’t matter which framework the partner uses. The more important aspect is how he / she structurally approaches the problem and hopefully derives  the root-causes and solutions.

It’s up to you on how much you want to guide the partner or even how many facts you want to use.

Don’t forget to pay attention to the partner’s performance, what’s good about it, what needs to be improved. This is where you learn the most. You may use notes to track your evaluation of the partner’s performance and give feedback that’s as thorough as possible.

* * *

I hope this has been  an interesting and helpful article. If you like it, you may want to subscribe to our mail list and Youtube channel. I’ll see you there!


 

You may also join candidates around the globe in our amazing self-study prep program: Case Interview End-to-end Secrets. See you there!

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Tags: Case interviewsinterview case study