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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.

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:

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.

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Tags: Case interviewsinterview case study