Case interviews are a challenging screening round that requires a lot of time to prepare for. Unfortunately, many candidates don't have the luxury of time to adequately practice, with some only having a month or even a week. How can you get the most out of your limited preparation time if your case interview is one week ahead?
This article is designed to help those who have a short time to prepare for a case interview, even if you have no business background. We will go through the best tips and tricks to ace the case interview and help you get the job. Let's get started!
Table of Contents
Preparing for case interviews can be a daunting task, especially when you only have a little time. However, there are a few essential things you should equip yourself with before going into the interview. Keep scrolling to explore our practical guidelines for your one-week preparation.
Grasp the fundamentals of case interview
The first thing to do when preparing for case interviews is to understand the fundamentals of a case interview:
- Format: There are 2 main types of case interviews: candidate-led, used by BCG and Bain, and interviewer-led, used by McKinsey. The main difference between the two formats is whether the candidate is expected to lead the case or follow given questions from the interviewer.
- Concept: Knowing the problem-solving concepts like hypotheses, issue tree, or MECE principles can help you nail every case interview, as they are the backbone of the problem-solving process.
- Framework: case interview frameworks are pre-set templates that candidates can use to break down business problems. Some notable frameworks are Profitability, McKinsey M&A, Porter’s Five Forces, 4C, 4P, etc.
To acquire the basics of case interview theory, you can read our comprehensive Case Interview 101 Guidebook, which covers all the fundamentals of case interviews and how to approach them, or watch this Case interview 101 video:
Get familiar with question types
Case interviews are among the most challenging assessments, but luckily, they are quite predictable as most case interviews will fall into one of 9 common question types. Once you get familiar with all the different questions they may ask, you'll be better prepared to tackle the case interview. Our article on case interview questions is pretty thorough; however, if you want to get an overview of the 9 types, we have listed them as follows:
- Framework/issue tree questions
- Market-sizing and guesstimate questions
- Valuation questions
- Brain teaser questions
- Chart insight questions
- Value proposition questions
- Math problems
- Information questions
- Solution-finding questions
Speak like a consultant
During a case interview, speaking like a consultant would help you make a great impression on interviewers. And this can be done by practicing common terms that consultants use. For example, “levers” is a term used to refer to the ways to improve things, and “root cause” is the bottleneck that causes the problem.
Explore more terms that consultants often use with our little “dictionary”.
However, in a case interview, simply talking like a consultant is not enough. Along with practicing how to perform, it is important to learn the fundamentals - from case types to frameworks. But how can you do all these tasks effectively in just one week? A coaching experience is the answer! A coach can help to identify the key topics and areas of focus, assign appropriate practice materials, and ensure you reach your most potential.
Learn effective tips & tricks
Since you only have one week to prepare for case interviews, following these instant-result tips can help you maximize your chances of success:
Tip #1: Open the case perfectly
It is very important to make a good impression on the interviewer with a perfect opening. Polish your opening using these 7 steps:
Show appreciation ⇒ Announce case introduction ⇒ Recap ⇒ Clarify ⇒ Announce case approach ⇒ Align ⇒ Ask for timeout.
Tip #2: Use the map habit
Pause occasionally to summarize where you are, and where you’re going next. This creates a great impression of an organized candidate.
Tip #3: Practice with your personal script
Practice all the formulaic lines, such as the opening or data requests, using an interview script.
Tip #4: Structure your speech
Summarize the key takeaways. Divide your message into clear-cut parts and avoid switching between items. Number your ideas for easy tracking.
Tip #5: Take careful, organized notes
Some smart candidates struggled that much with simple cases just because of not know how to take notes. Make your notes easy to read and quick to interpret by dividing them into 3 types: Data, Presentation, and Scratch paper.
Tip #6: Avoid awkward silence
sk for timeout if necessary, and always try to think as fast as possible while still being “correct”. Proper “think-out-loud” sessions also help you brainstorm.
Tip #7: Make a concise final pitch
When you did not perform extremely well, the closing pitch might be the deciding factor. To close your pitch perfectly and concisely, you need to keep the pitch short, but take note to include every important
If you don't have a business background and are limited on time to prepare for case interviews, there are a few essentials that you should focus on beyond the tips above.
Learn basic business concepts
In order to ace case interviews, you should have a good grasp of business fundamentals. This includes everything from common stakeholders to different business models. Having a solid understanding of these fundamentals can help you comprehend the case context and make it easier to approach the problem.
Below are some basic business concepts you may encounter in a case interview:
- Stakeholders: customers/clients, employees, investors, etc.
- Business models: retailer, affiliate, franchise, etc.
- Structure: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability
Understand accounting terms
Understanding accounting terms is crucial if you want to ace case interviews, as they often involve analyzing financial data and making calculations. Therefore, candidates need to understand basic accounting concepts and terms, such as revenue, profit, cost of goods sold, gross margin, etc.
For example, you should get familiar with 3 basic financial statements: Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Cash Flow Statement:
- Balance Sheet: used to measure a company's financial position at a single point in time. The balance sheet shows the company's assets, liabilities, and shareholders' equity and can be used to determine the company's net worth.
- Income Statement: summarizes a company's revenues and expenses over a specific period by examining its revenues, costs, and profits.
- Cash Flow: describes the movement of money into and out of a business, thus indicating their ability to pay their bills and other expenses. Cash flow includes cash inflows (money received) and outflows (money spent).
To have a deeper insight into each financial statement and its components, let's delve into this Case Interview 101 Guidebook. We have a detailed explanation of each term and its usage in management consulting.
Practice mental math
One proven way to deal with any case interview is by practicing mental math. In a case interview, candidates are often presented with complex business problems that require a lot of brainpower. Being able to perform mental math efficiently can save time during the interview, allowing candidates to spend more time focusing on the overall strategy and solution for the case.
To practice mental math, you can follow some tried-and-true tips below:
- Use Your Head: Do all your daily calculations mentally unless an EXACT answer is required.
- Flatten the Learning Curve: At the beginning, a piece of scratch paper and a 5% margin of error may help; once you feel confident, throw the paper away and reduce the margin.
- Establish a Routine: Allocate some time for daily practice. This may seem hard at first, but once you’ve overcome the inertia, you can literally feel the improvement.
If you want to take a closer look into mental math, here is a video providing a complete guide to one-week intensive practice: