You must master the case interview
to join the management consulting industry
Case interviews – essentially job interviews with business context where candidates are asked to solve a hypothetical business problem – are a signature of the consulting industry. In the recruitment process of top consulting firms, there are often 4-8 of these interviews – 4 times more than the number of interviews at most firms.
For the candidate, that means case interview prep is the single most important part of the whole study plan. Approaches differ from person to person, from website to website, but they can be summed up into 2 types: one is tips-and-techniques, the other is fundamentals-and-intuition. Both improve your performance considerably, but both have their own limitations.
The “tips-and-techniques” works well at the start…
This “tips-and-techniques” approach is basically learning interview tips and rehearsing answers. Because of the specific nature of these tips, help the candidate know when and how to apply, they tend to have effect very quickly – to the point that you can increase your case interview performance literally overnight.
… but the effect wears off just as quickly
Learning just the tips is scratching the surface of case interview prep – in the long run, it’s not a good alternative. You will come across cases where no off-the-shelve frameworks can apply, or questions no pre-made scripts can answer. To handle those situations, you need to learn the hard theory of case interview – which leads us to the second approach.
The “tips-and-technique” learning curve is steep and fast at the start, then quickly reach a plateau
The “fundamentals” learning curve has more potential later, but takes a long time to see effects
The “fundamentals-and-intuition” is great in the long run…
This route is about learning the hard principles of case interview – such as the consulting problem-solving methodology, the issue tree, the MECE concept, and the deepest roots of the frameworks, while also training to improve business intuition. Ideally, this approach equips the candidate with enough skills and knowledge to tackle any kind of case.
… but takes a ridiculous amount of practice
Mastering these principles could take months of intensive learning – months that might be used to quickly improve your performance with tips and techniques, months that a candidate might not have (many of my customers only look for prep materials weeks or even days before the interview – not the best approach, but it happens nonetheless).
The best case interview prep approach combines both elements
I’m Kim Tran, former McKinsey consultant and founder of this platform – MConsultingPrep. I used to be in your very position – wandering around the internet, looking for people and materials that would help me get into McKinsey. Eventually I was offered the position of Business Analyst, but the prep experience was not entirely satisfactory.
It was at that time that I laid the foundations for this program – the concept of breaking down each and every step of the consulting recruitment process. When I got out of McKinsey, I offered case interview coaching sessions for a few years – and the mistakes of my interviewees during those sessions solidified the idea that a comprehensive case interview prep package must tackle both sides of the problem – the tips and techniques, as well as the fundamental theory and intuition. Adding into the mix was something every candidate must master during the entire recruitment process and every McKinsey newbie must quickly get a hold of: consulting math.