5 More Tips for Acing the Consulting Case Interview
Published: Jan 20, 2011
By Igor Khayet, My Resume Shop
This post is part two of a two-part series on advice for the consulting case interview. Read part 1 here.
As an interview consultant, I have helped hundreds of students apply for positions at top consulting firms. At Yale's Undergraduate Career Center, I have seen how a lack of preparation can make even the brightest students struggle with the consulting case interview. While the best way to prepare is through extensive mock interviewing with someone knowledgeable about the case interview process, that's not always an option. Here, then, are five more helpful tips for acing your consulting case interview.
1. Take meticulous notes
Be scrupulous in your note taking; it is not enough to just listen attentively. Why? Having detailed notes will help you avoid making careless mistakes and keep your thoughts organized if in front of you are written down all the key pieces of information. The accessibility of your already composed thoughts and key bits of information will also serve you by affording more time to creatively and analytically consider your answers. Also, make use of highlighting, circling or whatever type of marking up you prefer—it's a great way to prepare for the summary at the end of the interview (more on this later). Keep in mind, too, that in some cases, the interviewer may ask you for your notes after the interview in order to check your organization and/or make sure you do not disclose information to other applicants.
2. Make careful assumptions and estimate when possible
Making assumptions during the case (and estimations) will help you solve the problem faster and make it easier to make calculations to continue with your analysis. For example, if you are doing a market sizing on how many coffee cups are sold in the U.S., you might say, “I am going to assume a U.S. population of roughly 300 million people divided equally among the 0-20, 20-40, 40-60, and 60-80 age range”. Remember to always justify your assumptions: “I am going to assume we can capture 10 percent market share, because of x and y”. Estimations are also a key way to simplify your analysis, but make sure you are not estimating or rounding a number that needs to be exact (like profit margin).
3. Ask great questions
The consulting case is largely about asking the interviewer the right questions in order to learn more about the organization. Because the interviewer usually has information which is not immediately revealed, you should ask intelligent questions before making your own assumptions. Questions have to be probing and show your intelligence and understanding of the subject matter. Instead of asking to learn more about the competition, you may ask, “Do you have any information or insight on the breakdown of the fast-food industry? How many major competitors are there and what are their respective market shares? On what basis do they differentiate themselves?"
4. Provide insight beyond the case
It is not enough to simply answer the questions posed by the interviewer. Throughout the case, your role as an applicant is also to give insight wherever you can, showing the interviewer your intelligence, thoughtfulness and expertise in business strategy. For example, if you are estimating revenues from radio advertising, you may offer additional insight about how much TV or online ads cost as a way to estimate radio ads. Additionally, you may even go beyond the questions in the case in the conclusion and offer two or three things the organization should consider that were not posed by the case but may be good business strategies.
5. Have a conclusion or summary ready
There is nothing more awkward in a case interview than when the applicant answers the last part of the question and assumes they are done. When giving a presentation or writing a class report, would you ever end your analysis without a conclusion? Take a few minutes at the end to gather your thoughts and provide a thoughtful summary that includes the question posed, your approach and assumptions, and your final conclusions. This is a great way to set you apart from other applicants and, if done correctly, will end the interview on a high note (even if there were blunders at various points in the interview).
About Igor Khayet:
Igor is the President and Founder of My Resume Shop, a career services company offering assistance with résumés, cover letters, and interview preparation (including Consulting Case Interviews). He is a former Admissions Interviewer for the Yale School of Management and a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org
Read part 1: 5 Tips for the Consulting Case Interview