Cracking the Consulting Interview! Part 3: Case Prep — Getting Started
What’s case prep? What resources should I use? Who should I practice with? What are the types of cases? Part 3 of my latest series of articles on cracking MBB interviews.
If you’re new to this series, then I highly recommend that you explore the previous pieces on discovering if consulting would be the right fit for you and on how to create a good resume. If you’ve already done that, great! Let’s delve into case prep.
Once you’ve gotten yourself an interview with a firm, case prep is the key to converting it into an offer. Of course, there are also other aspects like personal interview questions, but that’s for another article.
What is a Case Solving Interview?
You’ll find many explanations online. But, I personally view it as a “collaboration between the interviewer and the interviewee to arrive at a structured solution to a problem.” (Pretty good definition eh XD I hope)
The Case Team!
You might’ve heard the phrase “Case Team” many times in the context of case prep. A case team refers to a group of people who solve cases together and collaborate on their consulting interview prep journey. Ideally, a case team can have 3 people. But 2 or more than 3 works too, as long as you’re comfortable with the structure. During the course of your preparation journey, you will and should practice cases with different people (outside of your case team as well). But, your case team would be a stable set of people to whom you can come to periodically for case practice, with whom you share all your learnings, exchange resources, ideas and moral support. I formed a wonderful case group with two batchmates and solved cases with them exclusively for 2 months before I diversified to others. But I still maintained my periodic case-solving routine with my case group.
Case Prep Resources
There are many resources out there for case prep. But, essentially all you need are a good set of cases that you can use for practice. Here are the resources that I used and some suggested resources as well:
- Case Interviews Cracked
- Day 1.0
- FMS Casebook
- IIMA Casebook
- Victor Cheng (to get an idea about case-solving)
- Profitability case demonstration (https://youtu.be/84F2hMAY_ZY: A video I recently released where I share the structure I typically use, take the viewer through a profitability case in a step-by-step manner starting from the preliminary questions to the synthesis. Do take a look and show some support, it would mean a lot!)
- Case Interviews Cracked Youtube Channel
Apart from this, I solved numerous cases with seniors, buddies from the companies and other aspirants. They brought to the table cases I’ve never heard of. That really buttressed my case arsenal.
You might come across more resources as well. If there’s something else you prefer, do mention it in the comments :)
Types of Cases
Case classifications can be done in sundry ways. The most common approach is based on the type of the case statement and is as follows:
- Profitability Cases: “Your client is company ABC. They’ve seen a decline in their profits over the last 2 years. Find out what’s going on and offer solutions.”
- Market Entry Cases: “Your client is an Indian company ABC. They’re into manufacturing kitchen equipment in the country. They want to explore entering the Sri Lanka market with their flagship product — a toaster. Should they go ahead with this or not? If so, how should they do it?”
- Pricing Strategy Cases: “Your client is a pharma company that’s invented a new drug that completely cures acne. They want to know at what price they should market this. Help them out.”
- Growth Strategy Cases: “Your client owns tire stores across the US. They’ve seen stagnation in their revenues over the last 5 years. They want you to help them grow their revenues.”
- M&A Cases: “Your client is an e-commerce company in India. They’re into electronics sales exclusively. They’re considering merging with a fashion apparel e-commerce entity in the country that also has a minor footprint in Singapore. Should they go ahead with this deal?”
- Unconventional Cases: The most fun type of cases (personal opinion). “Your client is an alien who wants a strategy to invade Earth. How should it go about this?”
Very interesting right? If some of these look complex and scary to you, don’t worry. With practice, you’ll be able to crack all these questions and more within 30 minutes of structured problem-solving.
So, What Exactly Should I do Right Now?
This article focuses solely on getting started, so let’s chart out a plan for you to do just that.
- Find yourself a case team. Talk to people in your batch and institute who’re aiming for the same thing, look at fora on social media platforms (LinkedIn especially). Connect with others who are interested in the same pages as you (like Cracking the Consulting Interview :) ) and who attend similar events.
- Get yourself a repository of cases (at least 15). This will prevent you from spending excessive time searching for cases just before you solve one. Refer to the resources above and ask your friends and seniors to share cases as well. Try to have a good mix of different case types.
- Familiarize yourself with case solving. As a first-time case solver, it’s hard to know what to do and how to approach a case. Watching videos, attending case demo sessions (Cracking the Consulting Interview is organizing sessions in the summer of 2021 to demo profitability, market entry and unconventional cases), observing experienced case solvers attempt a case are all useful. I’d recommend you spend a few days just getting the hang of how to approach cases before diving into actual case solving. The preface and introduction sections of various books offer good starting structures that you can use to solve cases.
- Learn how to be an interviewer. People tend to underestimate the importance of an interviewer in a case prep session. They prefer receiving a case rather than giving one. But, it’s important to internalize the fact that you learn as much as an interviewer as an interviewee. You get to observe someone’s case-solving skills, guide them towards a solution, understand mistakes and how certain things come across to an interviewer. Again, I’d recommend you go through certain resources for a few days initially to understand how you’re supposed to drive a case and how you should offer useful feedback to your interviewee.
- Set a cadence for case solving. Call me obsessed, I don’t mind. I can’t overstate how much this helped me. Our case team maintained an excel sheet with the date, the case number (from a particular book), type of case and who among our case team would be the interviewer and the interviewee (a month in advance!). After each case, we coloured the respective cells green and, at the end of the month, we got a very good sense of our progress and could plan better. I emulated this for all my cases with aspirants outside of my case group as well. But I know many people who chose to go with the flow. Anything works really, it just depends on your comfort.
- Guesstimates. Ah, the familiar component :). Now, I haven’t mentioned anything about guesstimates so far, but don’t forget to include them in your case prep. I had three interview rounds with BCG of which two were guesstimates. Of my three interview round at McKinsey, one was a guesstimate, and it was a pretty long one too. Now, this is just how things panned out for me. Please don’t assume that 67% of statements from BCG and 33% from McKinsey would be guesstimates, I know many people who got zero guesstimates. Regardless, guesstimates prepare you directly for interview guesstimate questions, market sizing, other guesstimates within cases and they help improve your structuring. So, keep that in mind.
- Get your stationery right. This might seem a trivial matter, but figure out whether you want to store your cases in a notebook, use papers, a notepad or a scroll (XD). Ideally, practice on the medium that you’ll have to use for your interview as well. That’ll help you manage real estate better (It’s important, trust me. I’ve lost track of numbers more than once in the initial weeks of case prep due to unstructured note making on the paper.)
So yeah, I believe that with this you’ll be set to start your case prep journey. Again, there may be other factors you might have to figure out, but these points include the things I focused on and certain things I wished I had focused on earlier.
In the next article, I’ll cover tips specific to how you should solve a case — preliminary questions, structuring, asking questions, recommendations and synthesis. Stay tuned :)
If you enjoyed this article, do follow Swetha Srinivasan for future editions of the Cracking the Consulting Interview article series. You can also check out my articles on finance and business topics like SPACs, REITs, litigation finance and my cryptocurrency series amongst others. Also, do take a look at my initiative Cracking the Consulting Interview for case solving sessions and resume reviews.