How are fit interviews different from case interviews? What are some examples of fit interviews and case interviews, and how do you prepare for them? If you’re applying for management consulting firms, these are important questions!
In this article, I will be addressing the questions above. You will also find useful tips and examples that will definitely give you a head start in getting into consulting!
Fit interviews and case interviews differ in 3 ways. First, fit interviews assess cultural fit, while case interviews assess consulting skills. Second, fit interviews focus on past performances, while case interviews focus on present skills. Third, fit interviews are shorter in duration (15 mins) compared to case interviews (45 mins).
No.1: Fit interviews assess cultural fit while case interviews assess analytical abilities
In fit interviews, interviewers will ask you personal experience, fit, and motivational questions to see whether your skills are compatible with consulting culture and the firm’s culture. For example, behavioral questions check if you have the soft skills to close a deal or negotiate with clients.
Meanwhile, in case interviews, interviewers will give you a business case and ask you to solve it. This is meant to assess analytical consulting skills, namely, math, analysis, logic, and structuring of a problem. Interviewers won’t expect you to solve the case itself but will assess the process you follow to estimate the problem.
No.2: Fit interviews focus on past performances while case interviews focus on the interviewee’s present skills and expertise
Fit interviews focus on past performances, following the premise that past behavior is a clear indicator of future behavior. Interviewers will ask you about your past work and educational experiences. An example question is: “Tell me about your biggest career achievement to date”.
Meanwhile, case interviews are meant to test your skills and expertise at present, which are expressed through your process of solving the business case.
No.3: Fit interviews typically lasts 15 minutes while case interviews roughly lasts 45 minutes
Fit interviews typically last 15 minutes while case interviews last around 45 minutes.
Long ago, consulting fit interviews were only a minor part of the consulting recruitment process – sometimes the interviewers even regarded it as “just procedure”! – that’s why my Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program back then did not include a PEI section.
Nowadays, however, consulting fit interviews are playing an ever-increasing role. This is due to the industry’s shift towards implementation, which raises the demand for consulting people skills.
Now that you understand the key differences between fit interviews and case interviews, let’s examine example questions and explore the best tips to answer them.
Fit interview questions (McKinsey, BCG, Bain)
When it comes to fit interview questions, it’s important to understand what the interviewer is looking for at the end of the day.
The people who interview you are actual consultants, who would leave fit interviews asking themselves if they liked you as a person, if you can fit well into their team, whether you are presentable in front of senior clients, or whether you can handle problems in a highly political consulting world.
In management consulting, the most common fit interviews are:
Among MBB (Big 3) firms, commonly asked fit interview questions are:
- Tell me about a time when you led the whole team through extraordinary hardship
- Tell me about a time when you resolved disagreements within your team
- Tell me about a time when you successfully changed someone’s mind
- Tell me about a time you led your team to extraordinary achievements
- Tell me about a time when you changed the direction of the team despite not being the leader
- Tell me about your biggest failure until now
- Tell me about how you resolved a big argument with your teammate
- Tell me about a difficult/ambiguous decision you made recently
Three tips to prepare for fit interviews
Tip #1: Prepare stories, not questions
Prepare 3-4 detailed, all-round, refined stories exhibiting all the required traits, then tune the stories according to the interviewer’s question.
Many candidates make the mistake of preparing on a per-question basis, i.e listing out the possible questions and the corresponding answers/stories.
Wrapping your head around inflexible answers can throw you off-balance an unexpected question comes up. The resulting storytelling style is also somewhat robotic.
Instead, in the Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program, I teach a story-based approach: Select a few stories reflecting your best, all-round self, and develop them in detail.
Tip #2: Never fake answers
Try to be as authentic as possible – if you lack stories to tell in fit interviews, either rack your memory even further, or get more experience. Don’t make up stuff for the sake of the interview.
It’s not difficult for interviewers to detect candidates who exaggerate their achievements. Once their bluffing is noticed, they have no chance of stepping into the firm’s office.
If you fake stories and manage to slip into a consulting firm, you will most likely be filtered out soon enough – either through work pressure, disillusion, or the company’s harsh up-or-out policy.
Tip #3: Avoid wasting time on context
Use enough context to enhance the impact of your action, but don’t dwell on it too much, because interviewers don’t care. If the interviewer frequently tells you to quicken up the pace, you’re probably making this mistake.
Practice telling stories in daily conversations with the Problem-Action-Result-Lessons structure and see if your audience slowly “disengage” towards the end of the Problem part – if that’s the case, you have a lot of “excess fat” to trim.
Case interview examples
In the article Case Interview Examples, I’ve compiled 35 real example cases, 16 case books, with example case videos containing useful feedback on tips and techniques. Regardless, here are some common case examples:
- A major retailer of clothing and household products has been experiencing sluggish growth and less than expected profits in the last few years. The CEO has hired you to help her increase the company’s annual growth rate and ultimately its profitability.
- A major producer of juice is in the business of processing and packaging fruit juice for retail outlets. Over the next couple of years, sales continued to grow on an average of 20% per year. Yet, as sales continued to increase, profits steadily decreased. The owner cannot understand why. He hires you to help out.
- A cable TV company from Canada, World View, had recently entered the US market in the northeast to expand its market share. World View saw this move as an opportunity to capture a large part of the US market (4MM consumers) in a market with very little competition. However, in the last couple of years, much to the surprise of management, World View has been unable to make a profit. You have been hired to figure out why and advise them on their next move.
- Your client is a gas station and the market is so competitive that they make no money on gasoline sales. All the profit is in convenience store sales. What is the profit-maximizing way to layout the convenience store and why?
A clear understanding of “what is a case interview” is essential for effective use of these examples. I suggest reading our Case Interview 101 guide if you haven’t done so. Alternatively, check out a case interview example below.
3 tips to prepare for case interviews
Tip #1: Learn the basics of case interview theory
Never start tackling cases without learning the basics first. Jumping right in runs the risk of developing bad habits, which eventually costs more time to unlearn. Beware, though, too much theory right off the bat can burn brain power very quickly.
My advice is to start reading this article: Case Interview 101, and then watch the video below for a more detailed visual breakdown.
Tip #2: Practice mock cases
The goal of practicing mock cases is to observe case interview skills and knowledge applied in action – and practice them. These are also good opportunities to improve behavioral skills – an increasingly important part of case interviews.
This can be done by either:
- Hire a coach
- Find another partner to practice with. Just make sure you both watch this Guide on how to conduct a case. A bad coach is always more harmful than not practicing at all.
- See another example in the End-to-end Program. Like the previous one, try actively solving the case as you see it! Say out loud your version, then listen to the candidate, then hear the feedback!
Tip #3: Start training consulting math
Math is essential in management consulting due to the large amount of quantitative data involved in consulting projects. Consultants must be comfortable with mental calculations prevalent in brainstorming sessions and client meetings.
To practice case interview math effectively, follow these two steps:
Preparing for case interviews can be a long and arduous process. But it doesn’t have to be if you follow our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program containing 10 case simulation videos covering 5 cases and 100+ feedbacks and best practices. Good luck with your prep!