Case interview examples that your consulting firm can use

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Case interview examples that your consulting firm can use

In this post, we'll look at the specifics of consulting case study examples and case interviews. We'll also unpack how implementing them in your firm can help you in the hiring process.

December 01 · 10 min read

It might surprise you to learn that top-rated, established consulting firms invest in case studies. Browse around the websites of the biggest names in the game, like McKinsey, and you’ll find a wealth of resources available for free.

Case studies are also useful when firms want to hire new consultants. The interviewer uses a previous case study they worked on to test the applicant’s knowledge and problem-solving ability they learned in business school.

Applicants can study case interview examples to prepare for, and interview and consulting firms use them to qualify new consultants.

In this post, we’ll look at the specifics of consulting case study examples and case interviews. We’ll also unpack how implementing them in your firm can help you in the hiring process.

What is a case study?

Why do management consulting firms run case studies? It’s an expensive exercise, so why go to the hassle?

The reality is that sample case studies are a beneficial tool for any consultancy firm. Case studies show how your skillset helped overcome organizational challenges for your clients. For consultants, case studies are the best kind of testimonial.

When reading the study, clients or other consultants get a verified, in-depth look at how the consultancy firm added value to the client.

As a result, they act as a marketing tool for the firm, providing social proof of consultancy services’ quality. Case studies also serve as an educational resource for your website. They assist clients, students, and other consultants with finding out what worked during the process.

With a case study, you get a valuable marketing tool and a means of increasing your credibility and reputation. In this post, we’ll look at consulting case study examples your firm can use.

The definition of a consulting case study varies from firm to firm, with the management and consultants playing a role in developing a unique style to the way the organization compiles and processes a case study.

Case studies are like fingerprints, and no two are the same. The content, length, format, and research models can vary widely, depending on which firm conducts the process. However, all case studies involve four principles, with a single intent.

The intent being that the case study is to note and explain the success of the processes initiated in previous client engagements. This strategy demonstrates the consultancy firm’s competency and ability in resolving client problems.

The four components of a case study are the following.

  • A comprehensive summary of the business problem facing the client
  • Identification of the root causes of key issues facing the client
  • A full analysis of the client situation and available solutions
  • Implementation and execution of the client solution

A case study typically comes in a published report, with average lengths between two to three pages, depending on the extent of work involved with the case book.

What Is a case interview?

A case interview is part of the hiring process for new consultants. When a firm needs to test its candidates for a consulting job, they issue them with interactive case studies to test their skill set and problem-solving abilities.

During the interview, the applicant must analyze a previous client’s problem and solve it in the shortest time possible, with an accurate solution.

During the process, the applicant has a suitable time to resolve the problem, and they need to present their findings as they go. The applicant can ask the interviewer questions during the process to receive the information they need to resolve the situation.

The interview is more of a dialogue, where the applicant requires a proactive approach to finding the solution. In many cases, the interviewer attempts to guide you towards finding the right answer.

However, it’s important to note that the interview process is either candidate-led or interviewer-led, and these roles can change during the interview.

The interviewer uses the session to test the qualitative and quantitative skills of the candidate. The way the applicant handles the scenario with the information they receive shows the aspiring consultant’s critical qualities.

For the candidate to experience a successful outcome in the interactive case interview process, they need to apply structured frameworks, ask the right questions, and think outside-of-the-box. There’s no “Official answer” to the case study, and the consultant can neither be right or wrong.

There could be various solutions to the problem, and the candidate might come up with a viable unique solution. The interviewer looks at the process you took to get to the outcome, measuring it against the following five criteria.

#1 Creativity and business acumen

All candidates require a basic understanding of business concepts, meeting the firm’s benchmark for creativity and business sense.

If the interviewer asks you to come up with ideas on rescuing an airline from bankruptcy, they don’t expect you to have a deep understanding of the industry.

However, they’re looking to qualify your general business sense and your ability to communicate. The interviewer expects you to ask penetrating questions, helping you get to the root cause of the problem and the actions that can resolve the scenario.

#2 Problem-solving skills

The interviewer will ask the candidate to identify key problems and isolate the cause of these issues. The interviewer presents the candidate with a range of data sets; some are informative, and others are irrelevant.

It’s the candidate’s task to wade through the data and utilize the correct data during their analysis.

The interviewer wants to see the candidate explain why they selected specific data to help them with their analysis and how they got to their conclusions using the information on hand.

#3 Structure and frameworks

During the interview process, the interviewer checks how the candidate forms a framework around their analysis and recommendations.

In other words, they’re looking for the method the applicant uses to frame the problem and come up with a solution.

A good structure and framework can apply to any scenario, providing a systematic approach to problem-solving.

#4 Communication skills

Part of the case interview process involves the interviewer assessing the candidate’s “soft-skills.” Soft skills involve the applicant’s communication and flexibility to adapt to new environments and work with new people. Consultants need to deal with high-level executives, CEOs, as well as colleagues and administrators on the job.

Therefore, the interviewer wants to see the candidate’s ability to communicate under pressure, and with people, they meet for the first time – i.e., the interviewer.

#5 Logic

Part of a consultant’s job description involved dealing with figures and crunching numbers. You’ll need to display competency in basic math without the need for a calculator. Interviewers are also testing your logic through your decision-making process.

What is the process of the case study interview?

Interviewers will typically choose a case study they previously worked on during the interview process. This approach gives the interviewer total control over the process, guiding the candidate in the right direction.

In this section, we’ll walk you through the candidate and interviewer’s responsibilities during the process.

#1 Opening your case interview

The opening of the case interview is the calm before the storm. During this phase, the candidate can get away with asking any question they want, even if the interviewer might deem it irrelevant.

It’s a chance for the applicant to “feel-out” the scenario and get comfortable with the interviewer. The interviewer won’t expect the candidate to know anything about the industry or client, and they expect them to start from a perspective of knowing nothing about the scenario.

The interviewer gently guides the candidate in asking the right questions, and there’s no incentive for the interviewer to try and trick the applicant.

Applicants should ask questions to get as much clarity around the practice cases and business scenarios as possible. The key is to ask questions about the business model to help you find solutions. The interviewer is looking at the quality of the questions you ask and your train of thought.

After identifying the client’s problem and general parameters of their business, the consultant inquires about key metrics for improvement. For instance, are they trying to increase profits by 10% or reduce operational expenses by 5%?

The client’s problem should have as much detail as possible.

#2 Structuring case interviews

Many consultants make the mistake of thinking that the best method of preparing for a case interview – is studying as many case interviews as they can. However, this strategy is a mistake.

Spending too much time in research gives the candidate no experience in active problem-solving. Instead, they rely on cookie-cutter approaches to problem-solving that lack creativity and on-the-spot thinking, and decision-making.

Candidates need to analyze fresh problems to start their analytical minds. The framework is the most important part of the process, and if the candidate has a good structure to their problem-solving, they can work around any industry scenario.

Some of the important case interview tips candidates can add to their framework include the following.

  • How does the candidate structure analysis of the client problem?
  • What questions will you ask the interviewer?
  • How do you set up math problems during the case interview?
  • What recommendations are you going to make for the client?
  • Compare your conclusion to the original case outcome.
  • What recommendations did you get right, and what did you miss?

#3 Analyzing case interviews

During the analysis phase, the interviewer is looking to test the applicant’s problem-solving ability. They ask the candidate to question them about anything they feel is relevant to understanding and resolving the client’s problem.

The quality of the applicant’s questions gives the interviewer an idea of the candidate’s thought process. As mentioned, if the candidate provides an unconventional answer, that’s okay. The interviewer might even see this as an advantage for the applicant.

Your questions should surround the four key areas of business analysis common in consulting interviews. These four areas include.

  • Market Sizing
  • Brainstorming and Logic
  • Quantitative Reasoning or Math Skills
  • Reading and interpreting exhibits

Regardless of what kind of analysis the interviewer brings up, the candidate can use a four-step process for asking good questions.

  • Ask the interviewer for as much data as possible
  • Spend time interpreting and analyzing the data
  • Provide the interviewer with insights you discover
  • Outline a process for taking steps to a solution

The data the candidate receives depends on the case interview.

For example, if the problem involves the client’s pricing and profitability, request the company’s financials to assess revenues and costs.

After receiving the correct data, you’ll need tools to help you interpret it. If you discover the client’s revenues are flatlining while costs are rising, you know the problem has something to do with its cost structure, leading you to examine the company’s costs with a fin-tooth comb to find the answer.

As you progress through the problem-solving process, you’ll start to find reasons why the client is adding costs and why it’s outstripping revenues.

After identifying the problem, you progress intuitively to the next stage, helping the client find solutions to get costs under control and grow revenues.

You might have to run through the process several times until you uncover the root cause of the client’s problem. After finishing your analysis, your next task is presenting findings to the interviewer, with a client recommendation on the issue.

#4 Concluding the case interview

After the consultant presents their findings, the interviewer covers their final recommendations, and they close the interview.

Top case interviews for consultants

Check out these free resources for an archive of the best examples of consultancy case interviews.

Other resources worth looking into include the following.

  • Bain case interview examples
  • BCG case interview examples
  • Deloitte case interview examples
  • Kearney case interview examples

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