While most of the inquiries that we have received concern the individual case interview, there are also some questions regarding a less common kind of interview: the group case interview.
This article will show you all fundamentals information including group interview formats, process and show you how to succeed at a consulting group case interview
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A group case interview is an interview method where 3-6 candidates collaborate to tackle a business case. Similar to regular case interviews, you (your team) will receive a business problem and be required to develop recommendations.
The twist is that you will work and discuss solutions with other candidates instead of working alone. Throughout these discussions, the interviewer closely observes and takes notes on each participant.
Generally, group case interviews appear in the second or final rounds of the case interview process, rather than the initial stage. These interviews are more commonly encountered by post-MBA or Advanced Degree Applicants.
While their usage is decreasing, certain consulting firms like PwC, Deloitte, or EY still opt for this format. It evaluates teamwork, communication, and interpersonal skills, which will reflect the collaborative aspect of consulting work.
Consulting group case interviews simulates quite well the everyday work of consultants, who often need to work in group projects. This makes them a valuable tool for consulting firms to identify candidates best suited for the consultant role.
These interviews specifically evaluate teamwork and collaboration skills, areas that traditional case interviews may overlook. Through group setups, interviewers can gauge candidates' interactions and their receptiveness to others' viewpoints.
This process highlights candidates' proficiency in communication and persuasion, as well as their ability to strike a balance between speaking and listening within a team.
Group case interviews are still used by many consulting firms and each firm or even each office has a different approach and format when interviewing. However, it can be divided into two main types: discussion format and presentation format
- Candidates get put in groups of 3 to 6 people
- Each group will receive a business case
- Each candidate will have 10 - 15 minutes to review the data/material by themself
- The group will then bring back together to discuss for 20 - 25 minutes
- The interviewer will be extensively involved in the discussion, giving questions for the group to answer and directing the discussion.
In the case interview discussion format, the candidates will be divided into teams but will still have time to review the document and evaluate the case problem independently. Following this, the entire team engages in discussions
The interviewer will observe closely and intervene a lot when the group discusses so that the firm can get back what they want to see in the candidate. This format focuses on candidates' contributions to the group's answers and their ability to collaborate effectively.
Candidates get put in groups of 3 to 6 people
Each group will receive a business case
The whole group will have 1 hour to review and prepare a group presentation. The interviewer will observe during this time, but they will not intervene.
The group will delivers a 15 - 20 minute presentation to a group of interviewers
The interviewers will ask follow-up questions for 10-20 minutes after the presentation
In this format, the candidates will also be divided into groups and receive a shared topic, but the difference is that they will not have individual thinking time and will work with the group from the beginning.
While the discussion period is extended, the interviewer also provides more detailed information about the business case beyond the background and objectives.
Notably in this format, the interviewer will only observe , refraining from intervening in group discussions. The group will have to work on their own and decide among themselves how to divide the work, what problems to raise or how to set up the presentation at the end.
After the allocated time, groups present their collective findings, followed by the interviewers posing follow-up questions.
This format focuses on evaluating individual contributions, teamwork, collaborative abilities, and the overall quality of the final presentation.
Treat your group members as allies, NOT opponents
In a group case interview, it's not about winners and losers; success is achievable for all when the team performs effectively. Thus, avoid considering your group peers as rivals and striving to outshine them. Instead, regard them as your collaborators.
Imagine the interview scenario as a consulting project before stepping into the room. Keep in mind that the main objective of group case interviews is to evaluate your ability to cooperate within a team, not to engage in a competition against your teammates.
Show your leadership skills wisely
Taking the lead in a group case interview can position you as a positive figure in the eyes of the interviewer.
You can exude leadership just by doing basic things such as:
Propose what topics/problems to discuss
How much time should be allocated to each stage
Proposing frameworks for the case analysis
Asking clarifying questions to refine hypotheses
However, while leading, maintain respect for your teammates; they are collaborators, not subordinates. Avoid interrupting or talking over others, as these actions can have a negative impact and may result in losing points with the interviewer.
One vital thing that will help you make a positive impression on the interviewer in a group case interview is that you need to speak enough and speak with purpose.
Speaking too little might limit your chances to demonstrate your abilities. Interviewers might interpret this as shyness or discomfort in group discussions, which are not the desired traits for a consultant.
On the other hand, excessive talking can portray you as overly dominant or controlling, depriving your teammates of their chances to contribute.
Remember, quality holds more weight than quantity. If your inputs lack substance, it could reflect poorly on your teamwork. Thus, speaking up should be driven by value addition, rather than just trying to meet a speaking quota.
Balancing between sharing your insights and actively listening is key to excelling in group case interviews.
Use the time wisely
During a group case interview, you'll engage in a 30 to 60-minute team discussion. While this might seem sufficient, in reality, it's quite limited for a group of around 5 to 6 participants.
“So many men, so many minds” discussion will be difficult to concentrate and may sometimes be rambling. Common time-consuming issues include: spending too much time reading materials, spending too much time thinking alone and one or two members speaking too much.
To mitigate these concerns, effective time management is essential. Right from the start, the team should establish a well-structured schedule, allocating appropriate time for each stage of the discussion.
Assigning someone to monitor time is pivotal, ensuring the group optimizes the restricted time available and delivers a cohesive and meaningful discussion.
Be a great teammate
A group interview is a good place for interviewers to see how you would work with future colleagues and clients.
You may get into a situation where other people say something “stupid”, don’t get frustrated. Be respectful to your teammates. Instead, say “I have a different approach that…” or “You may want to check these numbers” to gently correct them without making them feel bad.
Similarly, when you hear something “smart”, what should you do? Be the first to spot it and urge the team to work with it. The interviewer will give you bonus points for your quick observance.
So, when you realize that your idea is wrong, should you ignore it? The answer is simply NO.
Acknowledge your flaw and quickly turn back to the right track. This shows that you are a candidate who is flexible, unafraid to accept his flaws and is willing to work with the team to find the right solution.
Don’t forget to dress smart, pay attention to your body language and language skills and you will be fine.
Finally and most importantly, group case interviews are still case interviews, so the fundamental principles and the tips and tricks will still apply: MECE, top-down analysis, structured communication, etc.
These are the most important knowledge that you need to prepare and comprehend before participating in any consulting case interview.
For detailed explanations and guidelines on case interviews, check out this “online guidebook” below! It’s a comprehensive guide I have crafted from my experience at McKinsey, for both case interview beginners and veterans – a must-read article on this website!