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Management Consulting 101 Industry Knowledge Required For Consulting Case Interview
Thank you for 3 excellent questions on consulting industry knowledge. Those are all interesting and deep questions. They show that you have already invested in case practice. They all make me think quite a bit to answer. Please see my responses below:
Question 1: Sometimes, cases background might not be the one we familiar with, like I’m in financial industry so I have domain knowledge for this type but most of the time might not be the case. I am wondering if it’s necessary to go through some common industry for industry insight study (TMT etc…) just to prepare for case interview. (My concern is whether the core insight of certain industry might be the key point to ace the case)
This is a controversial topic. All consulting firms officially claim that no previous specific industry (or function) knowledge is required. There is some truth in this for two reasons. First, no one can learn all details about industries and functions out there. Second, bringing your existing knowledge into the case can be dangerous as you may follow stereotypes and overlook important signals in the case.
However, I do think that if being done correctly with the right mindset, learning insights from a variety of industries and functions is beneficial. There are three reasons:
No.1, it’s a good training for our brain and business intuition. Each industry, each function, and each situation is different; but the more your brain see different content, the more flexible it becomes, and the better it can handle new stuffs.
No.2, studying about various industries and functions is a great way to learn many other building blocks knowledge of strategy and consulting. For example, I didn’t quite notice (and understand) the concept of value chain. I had heard of it but it didn’t seem to be a big of a deal to me. But when learning about the cement industry, turned out that value chain is a crucial concept. Each step of the production chain delivers a unique end-product and should be treated differently. Next time I encounter a new industry; I would subconsciously ask myself if value chain is an important factor here. And this applies to many other aspects.
So to answer your question: even though knowledge of core insight of certain industry is not required but we still should learn as much as we can about as many industries/functions as possible. The key thing is to learn them not with the hope of getting the exact situation in cases, but to learn them with the healthy purpose of training our business intuition!
How to best do this?
One good resource is the McKinsey Insights (or BCG Perspectives and Bain Publications). There are so many good articles written by consultants in consulting style about various industries and functions. The downside is that insights in those articles may be too advanced and granular for our purpose (they are written for CEOs and other decision-makers in those fields). But there should be some of basic and high-level articles we can leverage. Or another option would be the new Business Intuition package we will launch this summer.
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Hope this helps!
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