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?”
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?