Case Interview – Tips and Tricks
8 mock case interview videos covering 5 case studies
100+ feedback and best practices
Full script in printable PDF format
In the last couple of weeks after we mentioned our amazing Case Interview End to End Secrets Program, there have been so many aspiring consultants around the world asking us about this.
Well, this program is designed to help build the foundation and skillset comprehensively in all three aspects of Case Interview:
- How to do Math better in cases?
- How to have a better business intuition? How to be more insightful in cases?
- How to build a strong set of consulting habits to demonstrate in cases? What are must-have Case Interview Tips & Techniques to apply?
In our program, we tackle the third aspect by conducting real case interviews with various candidates and show the audience the specific feedback in context. Because so many people are interested in knowing more about this, today I am happy to share with you a sample of how an interview in that third aspect of our program would look! We will go into the first half of the case in this example.
You are about to hear a really interesting performance!
There is a common Myth that Profitability cases are easier. Well, for beginners, that may make sense, but I would argue that Profitability cases can be really tricky and candidates without good foundation will make about the same level of mistakes regardless of the type of cases given.
The profitability case we are about to watch will show that. It’s a very unconventional Profitability. It started out like a typical one but got trickier and trickier toward the end.
The candidate is fairly good in terms of business intuition, but the Tips & Techniques aspect needs a lot of fine-tuning. Why don’t we all try to figure out where she can improve together? Watch the video and leave your ideas and insights below in the comment. I’ll be sure to check them all out!
For now, here’s a little sneak peek for you!
Interviewer: Ok. So your client today is an internet music broadcasting company. For simplicity reason, let’s call them Pandora!
Pandora broadcast music through couple of channels: the website, mobile apps, and built-in car radio.
In term of revenue model, Pandora gains case either from selling ads to partners or collecting royalty from listeners for the free-ad version.
Pandora is very large company in terms of market share, but they have been losing money. The company just raised a big amount of cash through IPO. Investors believe in the company’s future and its stocks is doing well.
However, the management would like to grow with a good foundation. Pandora has to make profit soon! How would you help your client?
Candidate: …Uhm, ok….First, may I have some questions to clarify the situation?
So the client’s business model is to deliver music to customers through 3 channels: internet website, mobile apps and built-in car radio. And … the client capitalizes by inserting ads while playing music or from the royalty fees from customers?
So … vendors… or partners, I should say, will pay the company for inserted ads, right?
Interviewer: Correct! Sometimes, the amount will be calculated based on the number of displayed ads but sometimes it is calculated as a certain % of the revenue that our partners generate through the ads.
Candidate: Ok, I see…. And this is a very large company but they aren’t making money? … And the CEO wants to at least break-even?
Is there anything else we should be aware of?
Interviewer: Hum… Yeah… the company needs to turn that over within 12 months. Otherwise, the CEO worries that the stock price may be hurt.
Candidate: Oh, Ok… So solutions… if any… have to work within…12 months? I see… Can I have a minute to gather my thoughts?
Interviewer: Sure! Go ahead.
Candidate: Ok, so clearly that the objective here is to have a break-even net income… within 12 months.
My plan is to look at the revenue and the cost. Compare that with historical data and data (if available) from the competitors. Uhm …Based on comparisons, I can draw conclusions as to why the company is losing money and propose solutions to turn over the company net loss….
Does that sound like a fair approach to you?
Interviewer: Fair enough.
Candidate: Thanks … So can i have information on the company’s revenue, any data on the revenue?
Tips & Techniques
Here we see a not really bad response that for sure could be much better. The candidate was going into the first branch of the analysis which is Revenue. I would fix this in 3 aspects.
- 1. Even though we just talked about the overall approach, it’s still better to briefly set up the issue tree first then clearly note that you are going into one branch.
- 2. This is not a must, but I always try to make my hypothesis as explicitly clear as possible. Here the candidate just implicitly made a hypothesis that the problem is on the revenue side. The best way to show our hypothesis-driven mindset is to explicitly say it.
- 3. You hear this a ton of times in our End-to-End program but I am going to repeat it again and again. It is better to show the habit of aligning here too. Don’t just go into revenue, before doing that, give the interviewer a chance to agree or to actually guide you to Cost.
So, summarizing the above insights, my pitch would sound something like this:
” So as we just discussed, a profit problem is either caused by revenue or by cost. Unless you would like to go into cost first, let’s hypothesize that the problem is on revenue side. I would like to look deeper into Revenue. Do we have any data on the revenue?”
And while saying this, you should literally draw an issue tree and point to each as you speak.
Interviewer: The 2013 revenue was $425 million. The year before was $275 million.
Candidate: And … do we have any data on the revenue of competitors?
Tips & Techniques
There is an interesting case interview tip I want to point out here. Notice how the candidate responds after receiving two data points from me. He went straight into the next question without at least acknowledging the data received and also without briefly analyzing it.
I am glad that the candidate makes this mistakes… well, not glad for him but for the greater audience of this program. I would like to introduce to you the perfect habit of what you should do EVERYTIME YOU have ANY PIECE OF DATA during case interviews. So three things you need to do:
- Step 1: Say that’s an interesting piece of data. This helps the interviewer acknowledge that you have received and understand the data. This also buys you a little time. And further more, it’s always a good thing to give out modest compliments to the interviewer.
- Step 2: Describe the data, how it looks, is there any special noteworthy trend? In this case, we should point out that revenue actually grew by more than 50%.
Also notice here that I immediately quantified the difference in specific quantitative measurement (in this case, percentage). Saying revenue went up is good, but it’s great to be able to say revenue went up by more than 50%.
- Step 3: Link the trend identified back to the original case question and the hypothesis you have. Does it prove, disprove, or open up new investigation to really test the hypothesis? In this case, this data piece actually opened up new investigating areas to test the hypothesis that the bottleneck is within revenue.
My sample pitch for this step 3 would sound like this: “It’s interesting that revenue went up quite a bit. However, to be able to fully reject our hypothesis on the revenue, I would like to compare our revenue to that of the competitors as well.”
Then only at this point, after going through 3 steps above, I ask for the competitors’ revenue like the candidate did.
Notice here that I ended up asking the same question the candidate did. This shows that the candidate does have a good intuition and thought process. It’s just that he did all of these implicitly on his head.
In consulting case interview, it’s always good to do everything as explicitly as possible. Not only is it easier to follow but it helps show your great thought process.
For more of this, please check out the video above. I hope this has been an interesting and helpful article. If you like it, you might want to subscribe to our mailing list and YouTube channel. I’ll see you there!