Case Interview Frameworks

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What is Case Interview Frameworks?

“Case Interview Frameworks” is one of the most searched phrases in consulting prep. Indeed, it’s one of the core concepts in case interviews that every candidate should understand really well. Simply put, Case Interview Frameworks are like standard templates to help structure and break down common business problems. Since it’s a template, it is usually very well organized and well written. However, as you know, a template won’t fit every situation. You have to choose the right templates for different purposes, and sometimes even customize them.

Common misconceptions:

Myth No.1: The more frameworks I know, the better!
When I was interviewing with the Big 3 Consulting Firms, I only studied several “building-blocks” frameworks. I placed more emphasis on the ability to draw specific case interview frameworks to suit to each context. By doing this, I was well prepared for anything the interviewer could throw at me.

Myth No.2: There must be a framework out there that fits this case
The simple truth is this: there are a lot of cases to which no framework ever built can be applied.

Myth No.3: The fancier the framework, the more impressed the interviewers would be
Whether a framework is fancy or not is none of their concern. What would impress them is an appropriate framework that really applies to the context.

Myth No.4: The ability to draw frameworks is only relevant to the candidate-led format. In interviewer-led cases, I am not driving, so why would I need the map?
Even in interviewer-led cases, the interviewers may still ask “framework” questions.

We will now start with some comprehensive frameworks and then move to some more generic ones.

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Comprehensive frameworks

Comprehensive framework No.1: Profitability framework

The idea behind this well-known framework is to mathematically break down profit until you have gathered enough information to conclude, or to switch to a more qualitative framework. Specifically, in this case interview framework, we break profit down into Revenue and Cost. Then Revenue can be split up into Price and Unit Sales, while Total Cost can be divided into Fixed Cost and Variable Cost.

Comprehensive framework No.2: 3C & P

This is an extension of the famous 3C: Company, Customer and Competition. The P stands for Product. Of all the frameworks ever developed, this is probably the most comprehensive and applicable. This can be applied to almost any cases. Like most things in life, there are always 2 sides of the same coin. Along with its applicability is its unfortunate generic nature. A really high level of customization and flexibility is needed to successfully use this framework. I have seen many candidates mechanically apply this framework without thorough consideration of the specific situation.

Comprehensive framework No.3: McKinsey M&A framework

There are 3 major aspects:

First, how is the targeted company doing? What are their values, core strengths, and weaknesses? The term we often use at McKinsey to refer to this box is the “stand-alone value” of the targeted company.

Second, is it a good fit? Collectively, is the whole more than the sum of each individual company? The official term for this box is “synergy”.

The third box is for any other miscellaneous factors, such as feasibility, cultural fit, legal issues, etc.

Mini frameworks

Mini framework No.1: External & Internal

This is one of the most popular mini-frameworks out there! When you need instant structure or when you are not sure which approach to use, breaking down factors into external and internal groups is a good place to start. The “internal” often refers to the company itself, but sometimes it can refer to an individual, a department, or any entity. The “external” then refers to anything outside of that entity.

Mini framework No.2: Qualitative & Quantitative

Though it can be widely used in various contexts for instant structure, this framework is particularly good for structuring reasons and evaluations. For example, in an M&A analysis, you have to evaluate the stand-alone value of the targeted company. How are you going to structure your analysis? A very good way to do that is dividing your work into two groups. You first look at quantitative factors like profit, growth rate, debt ratio, etc. Then on top of those are the qualitative factors such as brand name, human resources, strategic position, etc.

Mini framework No.3: Cost & Benefit

Like other mini-frameworks, this one can be applied in many different contexts. However, the Cost & Benefit framework is particularly helpful in decision making.

Mini-framework No.4: BCG 2×2 framework

Let’s say we have 5 business lines, and we would like to focus on just a few of them based on 2 factors: how profitable they are and how much intangible benefit they are creating for the company. We would then draw a “scatter-plot-like diagram“.

First, we put the two evaluating factors on two axes. Then we give it a scale and place 5 business lines onto it. Now the picture hopefully gives us a better idea on how we should approach these 5 lines. Sometimes, even before placing the 5 dots into the plot, we can identify up front the nature of the four areas. The top-right corner can be called super-star. The bottom-left corner is consider closing. The top-left corner is for lines to focus in capital-constrained periods while the bottom-right corner contains lines only kept for socially-focused and financially-sound companies.

If you are new to Consulting Case Interview Prep, these concepts can be difficult and confusing. It is very important to be patient and try to get a little better at this every day. Everything is hard until you know how to do it! If you wish to look at examples of real cases and how different frameworks are used, you are encouraged to join me and thousands of other candidates around the world in our Case Interview End-to-end Secrets Program. I hope to see you there!

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