100 Best Case Study Questions for Your Next Customer Spotlight
Published: November 29, 2022
Case studies and testimonials are helpful to have in your arsenal. But to build an effective library, you need to ask the right case study questions. You also need to know how to write a case study .
Case studies are customers' stories that your sales team can use to share relevant content with prospects . Not only that, but case studies help you earn a prospect's trust, show them what life would be like as your customer, and validate that your product or service works for your clients.
Before you start building your library of case studies, check out our list of 100 case study questions to ask your clients. With this helpful guide, you'll have the know-how to build your narrative using the " Problem-Agitate-Solve " Method.
What makes a good case study questionnaire?
The ultimate list of case study questions, how to ask your customer for a case study, creating an effective case study.
Certain key elements make up a good case study questionnaire.
A questionnaire should never feel like an interrogation. Instead, aim to structure your case study questions like a conversation. Some of the essential things that your questionnaire should cover include:
- The problem faced by the client before choosing your organization.
- Why they chose your company.
- How your product solved the problem clients faced.
- The measurable results of the service provided.
- Data and metrics that prove the success of your service or product, if possible.
You can adapt these considerations based on how your customers use your product and the specific answers or quotes that you want to receive.
What makes a good case study question?
A good case study question delivers a powerful message to leads in the decision stage of your prospective buyer's journey.
Since your client has agreed to participate in a case study, they're likely enthusiastic about the service you provide. Thus, a good case study question hands the reins over to the client and opens a conversation.
Try asking open-ended questions to encourage your client to talk about the excellent service or product you provide.
Free Case Study Templates
Tell us about yourself to access the templates..
Categories for the Best Case Study Questions
- Case study questions about the customer's business
- Case study questions about the environment before the purchase
- Case study questions about the decision process
- Case study questions about the customer's business case
- Case study questions about the buying team and internal advocates
- Case study questions about customer success
- Case study questions about product feedback
- Case study questions about willingness to make referrals
- Case study question to prompt quote-worthy feedback
- Case study questions about the customers' future goals
Case Study Interview Questions About the Customer's Business
Knowing the customer's business is an excellent way of setting the tone for a case study.
Use these questions to get some background information about the company and its business goals. This information can be used to introduce the business at the beginning of the case study — plus, future prospects might resonate with their stories and become leads for you.
- Would you give me a quick overview of [company]? This is an opportunity for the client to describe their business in their own words. You'll get useful background information and it's an easy prompt to get the client talking.
- Can you describe your role? This will give you a better idea of the responsibilities they are subject to.
- How do your role and team fit into the company and its goals? Knowing how the team functions to achieve company goals will help you formulate how your solution involves all stakeholders.
- How long has your company been in business? Getting this information will help the reader gauge if pain points are specific to a startup or new company vs. a veteran company.
- How many employees do you have? Another great descriptor for readers to have. They can compare the featured company size with their own.
- Is your company revenue available? If so, what is it? This will give your readers background information on the featured company's gross sales.
- Who is your target customer? Knowing who the target audience is will help you provide a better overview of their market for your case study readers.
- How does our product help your team or company achieve its objectives? This is one of the most important questions because it is the basis of the case study. Get specifics on how your product provided a solution for your client. You want to be able to say "X company implemented our solution and achieved Y. "
- How are our companies aligned (mission, strategy, culture, etc.)? If any attributes of your company's mission or culture appealed to the client, call it out.
How many people are on your team? What are their roles? This will help describe key players within the organization and their impact on the implementation of your solution.
Case Study Interview Questions About the Environment Before the Purchase
A good case study is designed to build trust. Ask clients to describe the tools and processes they used before your product or service. These kinds of case study questions will highlight the business' need they had to fulfill and appeal to future clients.
- What was your team's process prior to using our product? This will give the reader a baseline to compare the results for your company's product.
- Were there any costs associated with the process prior to using our product? Was it more expensive? Was it worth the cost? How did the product affect the client's bottom line? This will be a useful metric to disclose if your company saved the client money or was more cost-efficient.
- What were the major pain points of your process prior to using our product? Describe these obstacles in detail. You want the reader to get as much information on the problem as possible as it sets up the reasoning for why your company's solution was implemented.
- Did our product replace a similar tool or is this the first time your team is using a product like this? Were they using a similar product? If so, having this information may give readers a reason to choose your brand over the competition.
- What other challenges were you and your team experiencing prior to using our product? The more details you can give readers regarding the client's struggles, the better. You want to paint a full picture of the challenges the client faced and how your company resolved them.
- Were there any concerns about how your customers would be impacted by using our product? Getting answers to this question will illustrate to readers the client's concerns about switching to your service. Your readers may have similar concerns and reading how your client worked through this process will be helpful.
- Why didn't you buy our product or a similar product earlier? Have the client describe any hesitations they had using your product. Their concerns may be relatable to potential leads.
- Were there any "dealbreakers" involved in your decision to become a customer? Describing how your company was able to provide a solution that worked within those parameters demonstrates how accommodating your brand is and how you put the customer first. It's also great to illustrate any unique challenges the client had. This better explains their situation to the reader.
- Did you have to make any changes you weren't anticipating once you became a customer? Readers of your case study can learn how switching to your product came with some unexpected changes (good or bad) and how they navigated them. If you helped your client with troubleshooting, ask them to explain that here.
How has your perception of the product changed since you've become a customer? Get the interviewee to describe how your product changed how they do business. This includes how your product accomplished what they previously thought was impossible.
Case Study Interview Questions About the Decision Process
Readers of the case study will be interested in which factors influenced the decision-making process for the client. If they can relate to that process, there's a bigger chance they'll buy your product.
The answers to these questions will help potential customers through their decision-making process.
- How did you hear about our product? If the client chose to work with you based on a recommendation or another positive case study, include that. It will demonstrate that you are a trusted brand with an established reputation for delivering results.
- How long had you been looking for a solution to this problem? This will add to the reader's understanding of how these particular challenges impacted the company before choosing your product.
- Were you comparing alternative solutions? Which ones? This will demonstrate to readers that the client explored other options before choosing your company.
- Would you describe a few of the reasons you decided to buy our product? Ask the interviewee to describe why they chose your product over the competition and any benefits your company offered that made you stand out.
- What were the criteria you used when deciding to buy our product? This will give readers more background insight into the factors that impacted their decision-making process.
- Were there any high-level initiatives or goals that prompted the decision to buy? For example, was this decision motivated by a company-wide vision? Prompt your clients to discuss what lead to the decision to work with you and how you're the obvious choice.
- What was the buying process like? Did you notice anything exceptional or any points of friction? This is an opportunity for the client to comment on how seamless and easy you make the buying process. Get them to describe what went well from start to finish.
- How would you have changed the buying process, if at all? This is an opportunity for you to fine-tune your process to accommodate future buyers.
- Who on your team was involved in the buying process? This will give readers more background on the key players involved from executives to project managers. With this information, readers can see who they may potentially need to involve in the decision-making process on their teams.
Case Study Interview Questions About the Customer's Business Case
Your case study questions should ask about your product or solution's impact on the customer's employees, teams, metrics, and goals. These questions allow the client to praise the value of your service and tell others exactly what benefits they derived from it.
When readers review your product or service's impact on the client, it enforces the belief that the case study is credible.
- How long have you been using our product? This will help readers gauge how long it took to see results and your overall satisfaction with the product or service.
- How many different people at your company use our product? This will help readers gauge how they can adapt the product to their teams if similar in size.
- Are there multiple departments or teams using our product? This will demonstrate how great of an impact your product has made across departments.
- How do you and your team currently use the product? What types of goals or tasks are you using the product to accomplish? Get specifics on how the product actively helps the client achieve their goals.
- If other teams or departments are using our product, do you know how they're using it? With this information, leads can picture how they can use your product across their teams and how it may improve their workflow and metrics.
- What was the most obvious advantage you felt our product offered during the sales process? The interviewee should explain the benefits they've gained from using your product or service. This is important for convincing other leads you are better than the competition.
- Were there any other advantages you discovered after using the product more regularly? Your interviewee may have experienced some additional benefits from using your product. Have them describe in detail what these advantages are and how they've helped the company improve.
- Are there any metrics or KPIs you track with our product? What are they? The more numbers and data the client can provide, the better.
- Were you tracking any metrics prior to using our product? What were they? This will allow readers to get a clear, before-and-after comparison of using your product.
- How has our product impacted your core metrics? This is an opportunity for your clients to drive home how your product assisted them in hitting their metrics and goals.
Case Study Interview Questions About the Buying Team and Internal Advocates
See if there are any individuals at the customer's company who are advocates for your product.
- Are there any additional team members you consider to be advocates for our product? For example, does anyone stick out as a "power user" or product expert on your team? You may want to interview and include these power users in your case study as well. Consider asking them for tips on using your service or product.
- Is there anyone else on your team you think we should talk to? Again, the more people can share their experience using your product, the better.
- Are there any team members who you think might not be the biggest fans of our product or who might need more training? Providing extra support to those struggling with your product may improve their user experience and turn into an opportunity to not only learn about their obstacles but turn them into a product fan
- Would you share some details about how your team implemented our product? Get as much information as possible about the rollout. Hopefully, they'll gush about how seamless the process was.
- Who from your company was involved in implementing our product? This will give readers more insight into who needs to be involved for a successful rollout of their own.
- Were there any internal risks or additional costs involved with implementing our product? If so, how did you address them? This will give insight into the client's process and rollout and this case study question will likely provide tips on what potential leads should be on the lookout for.
- Is there a training process in place for your team's use of our product? If so, what does it look like? If your company provided support and training to the client, have them describe that experience.
- About how long does it take a new team member to get up to speed with our product? This will help leads determine how much time it will take to onboard an employee to your using your product. If a new user can quickly get started seamlessly, it bodes well for you.
- What was your main concern about rolling this product out to your company? Describing their challenges in detail will provide readers with useful insight.
Case Study Interview Questions About Customer Success
Has the customer found success with your product? Ask these questions to learn more.
- By using our product can you measure any reduced costs? If it has, you'll want to emphasize those savings in your case study.
- By using our product can you measure any improvements in productivity or time savings? Any metrics or specific stories your interviewee can provide will help demonstrate the value of your product.
- By using our product can you measure any increases in revenue or growth? Again, say it with numbers and data whenever possible.
- Are you likely to recommend our product to a friend or colleague? Recommendations from existing customers are some of the best marketing you can get.
- How has our product impacted your success? Your team's success? Getting the interviewee to describe how your product played an integral role in solving their challenges will show leads that they can also have success using your product.
- In the beginning, you had XYZ concerns; how do you feel about them now? Let them explain how working with your company eliminated those concerns.
- I noticed your team is currently doing XYZ with our product. Tell me more about how that helps your business. Illustrate to your readers how current customers are using your product to solve additional challenges. It will convey how versatile your product is.
- Have you thought about using our product for a new use case with your team or at your company? The more examples of use cases the client can provide, the better.
- How do you measure the value our product provides? Have the interviewee illustrate what metrics they use to gauge the product's success and how. Data is helpful, but you should go beyond the numbers. Maybe your product improved company morale and how teams work together.
Case Study Interview Questions About Product Feedback
Ask the customer if they'd recommend your product to others. A strong recommendation will help potential clients be more open to purchasing your product.
- How do other companies in this industry solve the problems you had before you purchased our product? This will give you insight into how other companies may be functioning without your product and how you can assist them.
- Have you ever talked about our product to any of your clients or peers? What did you say? This can provide you with more leads and a chance to get a referral.
- Why would you recommend our product to a friend or client? Be sure they pinpoint which features they would highlight in a recommendation.
- Can you think of any use cases your customers might have for our product? Similar industries may have similar issues that need solutions. Your interviewee may be able to provide a use case you haven't come up with.
- What is your advice for other teams or companies who are tackling problems similar to those you had before you purchased our product? This is another opportunity for your client to talk up your product or service.
- Do you know someone in X industry who has similar problems to the ones you had prior to using our product? The client can make an introduction so you can interview them about their experience as well.
- I noticed you work with Company Y. Do you know if they are having any pain points with these processes? This will help you learn how your product has impacted your client's customers and gain insight into what can be improved.
- Does your company participate in any partner or referral programs? Having a strong referral program will help you increase leads and improve customer retention.
- Can I send you a referral kit as a thank-you for making a referral and give you the tools to refer someone to us? This is a great strategy to request a referral while rewarding your existing customers.
- Are you interested in working with us to produce additional marketing content? The more opportunities you can showcase happy customers, the better.
Case Study Interview Questions About Willingness to Make Referrals
- How likely are you to recommend our product to a friend or client? Ideally, they would definitely refer your product to someone they know.
- Can you think of any use cases your customers might have for our product? Again, your interviewee is a great source for more leads. Similar industries may have similar issues that need solutions. They may be able to provide a use case you haven't come up with.
- I noticed you work with Company Y; do you know if they are having any pain points with these processes? This will help you learn how your product has impacted your client's customers and gain insight into what can be improved.
Case Study Interview Questions to Prompt Quote-Worthy Feedback
Enhance your case study with quotable soundbites from the customer. By asking these questions, prospects have more insight into other clients and their success with your product — which helps build trust.
- How would you describe your process in one sentence prior to using our product? Ideally, this sentence would quickly and descriptively sum up the most prominent pain point or challenge with the previous process.
- What is your advice to others who might be considering our product? Readers can learn from your customer's experience.
- What would your team's workflow or process be like without our product? This will drive home the value your product provides and how essential it is to their business.
- Do you think the investment in our product was worthwhile? Why? Have your customer make the case for the value you provide.
- What would you say if we told you our product would soon be unavailable? What would this mean to you? Again, this illustrates how integral your product is to their business.
- How would you describe our product if you were explaining it to a friend? Your customers can often distill the value of your product to their friends better than you can.
- What do you love about your job? Your company? This gives the reader more background on your customer and their industry.
- What was the worst part of your process before you started using our product? Ideally, they'd reiterate how your product helped solve this challenge.
- What do you love about our product? Another great way to get the customer's opinion about what makes your product worth it.
- Why do you do business with us? Hopefully, your interviewee will share how wonderful your business relationship is.
Case Study Interview Questions About the Customers' Future Goals
Ask the customer about their goals, challenges, and plans for the future. This will provide insight into how a business can grow with your product.
- What are the biggest challenges on the horizon for your industry? Chances are potential leads within the same industry will have similar challenges.
- What are your goals for the next three months? Knowing their short-term goals will enable your company to get some quick wins for the client.
- How would you like to use our product to meet those challenges and goals? This will help potential leads understand that your product can help their business as they scale and grow.
- Is there anything we can do to help you and your team meet your goals? If you haven't covered it already, this will allow your interviewee to express how you can better assist them.
- Do you think you will buy more, less, or about the same amount of our product next year? This can help you gauge how your product is used and why.
- What are the growth plans for your company this year? Your team? This will help you gain insight into how your product can help them achieve future goals.
- How can we help you meet your long-term goals? Getting specifics on the needs of your clients will help you create a unique solution designed for their needs.
- What is the long-term impact of using our product? Get their feedback on how your product has created a lasting impact.
- Are there any initiatives that you personally would like to achieve that our product or team can help with? Again, you want to continue to provide products that help your customers excel.
- What will you need from us in the future? This will help you anticipate the customer's business needs.
- Is there anything we can do to improve our product or process for working together in the future? The more feedback you can get about what is and isn't working, the better.
Before you can start putting together your case study, you need to ask your customer's permission.
If you have a customer who's seen success with your product, reach out to them. Use this template to get started:
Thank you & quick request
Hi [customer name],
Thanks again for your business — working with you to [solve X, launch Y, take advantage of Z opportunity] has been extremely rewarding, and I'm looking forward to more collaboration in the future.
[Name of your company] is building a library of case studies to include on our site. We're looking for successful companies using [product] to solve interesting challenges, and your team immediately came to mind. Are you open to [customer company name] being featured?
It should be a lightweight process — [I, a product marketer] will ask you roughly [10, 15, 20] questions via email or phone about your experience and results. This case study will include a blurb about your company and a link to your homepage (which hopefully will make your SEO team happy!)
In any case, thank you again for the chance to work with you, and I hope you have a great week.
If one of your customers has recently passed along some praise (to you, their account manager, your boss; on an online forum; to another potential customer; etc.), then send them a version of this email:
Hey [customer name],
Thanks for the great feedback — I'm really glad to hear [product] is working well for you and that [customer company name] is getting the results you're looking for.
My team is actually in the process of building out our library of case studies, and I'd love to include your story. Happy to provide more details if you're potentially interested.
Either way, thank you again, and I look forward to getting more updates on your progress.
You can also find potential case study customers by usage or product data. For instance, maybe you see a company you sold to 10 months ago just bought eight more seats or upgraded to a new tier. Clearly, they're happy with the solution. Try this template:
I saw you just [invested in our X product; added Y more users; achieved Z product milestone]. Congratulations! I'd love to share your story using [product] with the world -- I think it's a great example of how our product + a dedicated team and a good strategy can achieve awesome results.
Are you open to being featured? If so, I'll send along more details.
Case Study Benefits
- Case studies are a form of customer advocacy.
- Case studies provide a joint-promotion opportunity.
- Case studies are easily sharable.
- Case studies build rapport with your customers.
- Case studies are less opinionated than customer reviews.
1. Case studies are a form of customer advocacy.
If you haven't noticed, customers aren't always quick to trust a brand's advertisements and sales strategies.
With every other brand claiming to be the best in the business, it's hard to sort exaggeration from reality.
This is the most important reason why case studies are effective. They are testimonials from your customers of your service. If someone is considering your business, a case study is a much more convincing piece of marketing or sales material than traditional advertising.
2. Case studies provide a joint-promotion opportunity.
Your business isn't the only one that benefits from a case study. Customers participating in case studies benefit, too.
Think about it. Case studies are free advertisements for your customers, not to mention the SEO factor, too. While they're not promoting their products or services, they're still getting the word out about their business. And, the case study highlights how successful their business is — showing interested leads that they're on the up and up.
3. Case studies are easily sharable.
No matter your role on the sales team, case studies are great to have on hand. You can easily share them with leads, prospects, and clients.
Whether you embed them on your website or save them as a PDF, you can simply send a link to share your case study with others. They can share that link with their peers and colleagues, and so on.
Case studies can also be useful during a sales pitch. In sales, timing is everything. If a customer is explaining a problem that was solved and discussed in your case study, you can quickly find the document and share it with them.
4. Case studies build rapport with your customers.
While case studies are very useful, they do require some back and forth with your customers to obtain the exact feedback you're looking for.
Even though time is involved, the good news is this builds rapport with your most loyal customers. You get to know them on a personal level, and they'll become more than just your most valuable clients.
And, the better the rapport you have with them, the more likely they'll be to recommend your business, products, or services to others.
5. Case studies are less opinionated than customer reviews.
Data is the difference between a case study and a review. Customer reviews are typically based on the customer's opinion of your brand. While they might write a glowing review, it's completely subjective and there's rarely empirical evidence supporting their claim.
Case studies, on the other hand, are more data-driven. While they'll still talk about how great your brand is, they support this claim with quantitative data that's relevant to the reader. It's hard to argue with data.
An effective case study must be genuine and credible. Your case study should explain why certain customers are the right fit for your business and how your company can help meet their specific needs. That way, someone in a similar situation can use your case study as a testimonial for why they should choose your business.
Use the case study questions above to create an ideal customer case study questionnaire. By asking your customers the right questions, you can obtain valuable feedback that can be shared with potential leads and convert them into loyal customers.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Don't forget to share this post!
ACV: What It Means & How to Calculate It
What Is An Account Development Manager? (And How to Become One)
Strategic Account Managers, Here's How to Amplify Your Efforts
3 Questions that Ensure Key Account Success
Account Management vs. Sales: What's the Difference? [FAQ]
Showcase your company's success using these free case study templates.
100% Free CRM
Nurture and grow your business with customer relationship management software.
Framework refines its laptops and adds a cute way to reuse old parts
Framework is one of a few companies leading the charge against disposable electronics, in particular laptops. It just showed off some new models, but also a unique case that you can slot your old parts into to form a new (old) desktop or home media PC.
After reviewing last year’s Framework 13 and finding it a perfectly nice, conscience-soothing alternative to the usual suspects, I did begin to wonder what happens to the old parts when you decide to upgrade. New board? Great, slot it in. And the old one goes… where?
Their clever answer is this collaboration with Cooler Master : a $40 custom case that works with Framework parts, so as you upgrade your laptop, you also assemble a desktop.
Actually it’s small enough that you could tuck it away and use it as a media server or something. Honestly, it’s nice just to have a place to store the parts.
Image Credits: Framework
The new Framework 13 is… not actually a new laptop, exactly, but a new set of parts that you can order all together in the form of a laptop. In a way that’s just a laptop, yes, but you can also buy the pieces individually and slot them into your old Framework 13. For instance, there’s a new matte screen and an improved hinge — you can cop just those if you want. Or the improved speakers, battery or, of course, the mainboard supporting the latest Intel and AMD processors.
Sure, you’re still taking part in the rat race of PC upgrades, but you’re not producing nearly as much waste, and there’s no need to worry about compatibility or anything. Plus all the packaging is recyclable.
Pop the old bits into that sweet little case and you’ll be feeling good. We’ll try to get our hands on this and report back on the process soon.
Hacking the Case Interview
Case interview frameworks or consulting frameworks are arguably the most critical component of a case interview. Outstanding case frameworks set you up for success for the case while poor frameworks make the case difficult to solve.
Struggling on how to use frameworks in your case interviews? Unsure of which frameworks to use?
Don't worry because we have you covered! We'll teach you step-by-step, how to craft tailored and unique frameworks for any case interview situation.
By the end of this article, you will learn four different strategies on how to create unique and tailored frameworks for any case interview.
Strategy #1: Creating Frameworks from Scratch
- Strategy #2: Memorizing 8 – 10 Broad Business Areas
- Strategy #3: Breaking Down Stakeholders
- Strategy #4: Breaking Down Processes
- Strategy #5: Two-Part MECE Frameworks
You will apply these strategies to learn how to create case frameworks for the six most common types of case interviews.
Market entry framework, merger and acquisition framework, pricing framework, new product framework, market sizing framework.
You will also learn six consulting frameworks that nearly every consultant knows.
Porter’s Five Forces Framework
Swot framework, 4 p’s framework, 3 c’s / business situation framework, bcg 2x2 matrix framework, mckinsey 7s framework.
If you’re looking for a step-by-step shortcut to learn case interviews quickly, enroll in our case interview course . These insider strategies from a former Bain interviewer helped 30,000+ land consulting offers while saving hundreds of hours of prep time.
What is a Case Interview Framework?
A case interview framework is simply a tool that helps you structure and break down complex problems into simpler, smaller components. Think of a framework as brainstorming different ideas and organizing them into different categories.
Let’s look at an example: Coca-Cola is a large manufacturer and retailer of non-alcoholic beverages, such as sodas, juices, sports drinks, and teas. They are looking to grow and are considering entering the beer market in the United States. Should they enter?
In order for you to decide whether Coca-Cola should enter the beer market, you likely have many different questions you’d like to ask:
- Does Coca-Cola know how to produce beer?
- Would people buy beer made by Coca-Cola?
- Where would Coca-Cola sell its beer?
- How much would it cost to enter the beer market?
- Will Coca-Cola be profitable from selling beer?
- How would Coca-Cola outcompete competitors?
- What is the size of the beer market in the United States?
This is not a very structured way of thinking through the case. The questions are listed in no particular order. Additionally, many of the questions are similar to one another and could be grouped together.
A case framework would provide a structure to organize these ideas and questions in a way that is easy to understand.
A framework for this case might look like the following.
Notice that we have simplified the list of questions we had into four main categories. These broad categories are frequently called framework “buckets.” Also notice that we have grouped similar questions together under each framework bucket.
This case framework tells us what areas we need to explore in order to make a recommendation to Coca-Cola. It also clearly shows what questions we need to answer under each area.
This is the power of a case interview framework. It simplifies a complex business problem into smaller and separate components that we can tackle one at a time.
So how do you develop a case framework? The next section will reveal four robust strategies for creating unique and tailored consulting frameworks for any case interview.
Case Interview Framework Strategies
There are four case interview framework strategies you should have in your toolkit:
When given a case interview, you will need to decide which framework strategy you want to use. Some framework strategies will be more effective than others depending on what type of case interview you get.
Therefore, choose the case framework strategy that is easiest for you given the type of case that you get.
This case framework strategy can be used for any type of case. This is the most time-consuming strategy, but yields case frameworks that are the most tailored and unique for the given case interview.
To create a framework from scratch, ask yourself what 3 – 4 statements must be true for you to be 100% confident in your recommendation. These 3 – 4 areas will become the buckets in your framework.
Once you have your framework buckets, brainstorm a few questions for each bucket that you need answers to.
Let’s return to the Coca-Cola case example in which we are asked to determine whether or not they should enter the beer market. What 3 – 4 statements must be true for us to recommend that Coca-Cola should enter the beer market?
The four major statements that must be true are:
- The beer market is an attractive market
- Competitors in the market are weak
- Coca-Cola has the capabilities to produce outstanding beer
- Coca-Cola will be highly profitable from entering the beer market
These will be the major areas or buckets in our framework.
Next, let’s add a few bullet points under each area to add more detail to our case framework.
To determine whether the beer market is attractive, we would need to know the market size, the market growth rate, and the average profit margins in the market.
To assess whether the market is competitive, we would need to know who the competitors are, how much market share they have, and if they have any differentiation or competitive advantages.
To decide whether Coca-Cola has the capabilities to produce beer, we need to know if there are any capability gaps or if there are significant synergies that Coca-Cola can leverage.
Finally, to determine the expected profitability of entering the market, we would need to know what expected revenues are, what expected costs are, and how long it would take Coca-Cola to break even.
This gives us our case framework.
You can repeat this process for any case interview that you get to create an outstanding case framework.
Strategy #2: Memorizing 8 – 10 Broad Business Areas to Make a Framework
Creating case frameworks from scratch can be quite time-consuming. Because of this, many interview candidates make the mistake of using memorized frameworks for case interviews.
Candidates will either use a single memorized framework for every case or memorize a different framework for every type of case interview.
The issue with using memorized frameworks is that they aren’t tailored to the specific case you are solving for. When given an atypical business problem, your framework areas or buckets will not be entirely relevant.
A poor framework makes the case interview significantly more difficult to solve.
Additionally, Interviewers can easily tell that you are regurgitating memorized information and not thinking critically.
Instead of creating frameworks from scratch each time, this second case framework strategy provides a method to speed up the process while still creating frameworks that are unique and tailored to the case. Additionally, you won’t need to memorize multiple different frameworks.
First, memorize a list of 8 - 10 broad business areas, such as the following:
When given a case, mentally run through this list and pick the 3 - 5 areas that are most relevant to the case.
This will be your framework.
If the list does not give you enough areas for your framework, brainstorm and add your own ideas as areas to your framework.
Finally, add a few bullet points under each area to add more detail to your case framework.
This strategy guarantees that your framework elements are relevant to the case. It also demonstrates that you can create unique, tailored frameworks for every business problem.
Let’s return to the Coca-Cola case example in which we are asked to determine whether or not they should enter the beer market.
Running through our list of memorized framework areas, the following six areas would be relevant:
- Market attractiveness : Is the beer market attractive?
- Competitive landscape : How tough is competition?
- Company capabilities : Does Coca-Cola have the capabilities to enter the market?
- Profitability : Will Coca-Cola be profitable from entering the market?
- Risks : What are the risks of entering the market?
- Strategic alternatives : Are there other more attractive markets Coca-Cola should enter?
You can pick 3 – 5 of these areas as the basis for your framework.
This strategy is a shortcut for creating unique and tailored frameworks for every business problem. Even if you and a friend used this same strategy, you both may end up with different frameworks.
That is completely fine. As long as the buckets in your framework are major areas and are relevant to the case, your case framework will be significantly better than most candidates’ frameworks.
You do not need to develop a framework entirely from scratch every time to create outstanding case frameworks. This case framework strategy can be applied to over 90% of case interviews.
For the remaining 10% of case interviews, you will need to learn and use the next two case interview framework strategies.
Strategy #3: Breaking Down Stakeholders to Make a Framework
The first two case framework strategies can be applied to over 90% of cases. However, some cases may require you to identify and focus on various stakeholders that are involved in running or operating a business.
For these cases, the primary areas of your case framework will be these major stakeholders.
Let’s take a look at an example: Your client is a non-profit blood bank. They have volunteer nurses that go to schools and companies to collect blood from donors. They then sell this blood to hospitals, which use this blood for emergency situations when a blood transfusion is required. Currently, Hearts4Lives is not profitable because they are not able to collect enough blood to sell to their hospital partners. What can they do to fix this?
This case involves many different stakeholders:
- Volunteer nurses
- Blood donors
- Schools and companies
For cases in which many different stakeholders are involved, it will be useful to look at each stakeholder and determine what each could do to address the problem.
One potential framework could look like the following:
Strategy #4: Breaking Down Processes to make a Framework
Similar to the previous case framework strategy, some cases may require you to focus on improving or optimizing a particular process.
For these cases, the primary areas of your case framework will be each major step of the process.
Let’s take a look at an example: Your client is a waste disposal company that manages a fleet of drivers and garbage trucks that go to residential homes, collect garbage, and then dump the garbage in city landfills. They have an obligation to collect each home’s garbage once a week. Recently, they have been failing to meet this requirement and are backed up with garbage disposal requests. What is causing this issue and what should they do to fix it?
For cases involving processes and efficiencies, it can be helpful to look at the different components or steps in the process.
We can think about the process of collecting and disposing of garbage in the following steps:
- Get in a garbage truck
- Drive along a designated route
- Collect garbage at each stop
- Dispose of the garbage in the landfill
Using these steps as the primary areas of our framework, we can create the following case framework:
Once you have systematically listed all of the steps in a process, you can identify the pain points or bottlenecks that are causing the issue and determine ways to improve the process.
Strategy #5: Two-part MECE Frameworks
An easy way to make a 100% MECE framework is to use a two-part MECE framework. For the first step, start with a X and Not X framework. Some examples include:
- Internal / external
- Short-term / long-term
- Economic / non-economic
- Quantitative / qualitative
- Direct / indirect
- Supply-side / demand-side
- Upside / downside
- Benefits / cost
There are probably hundreds more frameworks that follow this pattern.
These frameworks are by definition 100% MECE. Since all of these frameworks are X or Not-X, they are mutually exclusive. There is no redundancy or overlap between X and Not-X.
Together, X and Not-X are also completely exhaustive. They cover the universe of all ideas and possibilities.
The X and Not-X framework by itself is good enough for a lot of the questions you could get asked in a case interview.
If you’re asked to brainstorm ways to decrease costs, you can create a framework consisting of decreasing variable costs and decreasing non-variable costs, also known as fixed costs.
If you’re asked to brainstorm barriers to entry, you can create a framework consisting of economic barriers to entry, such as cash and equipment, and non-economic barriers to entry, such as brand name or distribution channels.
However, to take your framework to the next level and truly impress your interviewer, we have the option of doing step two.
Step two involves adding another layer of X and Not X into your framework. What do we mean by this?
Let’s say you are trying to help a city decide whether they should host the upcoming summer Olympics. You start off with a framework consisting of benefits and costs. You can take this framework to the next level by adding another layer, such as adding in short-term and long-term.
With this additional layer, your framework now has four categories: short-term benefits, long-term benefits, short-term costs, and long-term costs. This is a 100% MECE framework that enables you to think through all possible considerations in deciding whether a city should host the Olympics.
Let’s look at another example. Suppose you are trying to figure out how to reduce a company’s costs. You start with a framework consisting of variable costs and fixed costs. You can take this framework to the next level by adding another layer, such as direct and indirect.
With this additional layer, your framework now has four categories: ways to directly reduce variable costs, ways to indirectly reduce variable costs, ways to directly reduce fixed costs, and ways to indirectly reduce fixed costs. This is another 100% MECE framework.
Case Frameworks: The 6 Most Common Frameworks
There are six common case frameworks in consulting case interviews.
Profitability frameworks are the most common types of frameworks you’ll likely use in consulting first round interviews.
A profitability case might look like this: “An electric car manufacturer has recently been experiencing a decline in profits. What should they do?”
There are two steps to solving a profitability case.
First, you need to understand quantitatively, what is the driver causing the decline in profits?
You should know the following basic profit formulas.
Is the decline in profitability due to a decline in revenue, an increase in costs, or both?
On the revenue side, what is causing the decline? Is it from a decrease in quantity of units sold? If so, is the decrease concentrated in a particular product line, geography, or customer segment?
Or is the decline due to a decrease in price? Are we selling products at a lower price? Is there a sales mix change? In other words, are we selling more low-priced products and fewer high-priced products?
On the cost side, what is causing the increase in costs? Is it from an increase in variable costs? If so, which cost elements have gone up?
Or is the increase in costs due to an increase in fixed costs? If so, which fixed costs have gone up?
Next, you need to understand qualitatively, what factors are driving the decline in profitability that you identified in the previous step.
Looking at customers, have customer needs or preferences changed? Have their purchasing habits or behaviors changed? Have their perceptions of the company changed?
Looking at competitors, have new players entered the market? Have existing competitors made any recent strategic moves? Are competitors also experiencing a decline in profitability?
Looking at the market, are there any market trends that we should be aware of? For example, are there new technology or regulatory changes? How do these trends impact profitability?
Putting all of this together, we get the following profitability framework.
Once you have gone through this profitability framework and understand both quantitatively what is causing the decline in profits and qualitatively why this is happening, you can begin brainstorming ideas to address the profitability issue.
Among the ideas that you brainstorm, you can prioritize which recommendations to focus on based on the level of impact and ease of implementation.
See the video below for an example of how to solve a profitability case using this profitability framework.
Market entry frameworks are the second most common types of frameworks you’ll likely use in consulting first round interviews.
A market entry case might look like this: “Coca-Cola is considering entering the beer market in the United States. Should they enter?”
To create a market entry framework, there are typically four statements that need to be true in order for you to recommend entering the market:
- The market is attractive
- Competition is weak
- The company has the capabilities to enter
- The company will be highly profitable from entering the market
These statements form the foundation of our market entry framework.
Note the logical order of the buckets in the framework.
We first want to determine whether the market is attractive. Then, we need to check if competition is weak and if there is an opportunity to capture meaningful market share.
If these two conditions are true, then we need to confirm that the company actually has the capabilities to enter the market.
Finally, even if the company has the capabilities to enter the market, we need to verify that they will be profitable from entering.
This is a logical progression that your market entry framework will take you through to develop a recommendation for market entry cases.
Merger and acquisition frameworks are also common frameworks you’ll use in consulting interviews.
There are two common business situations.
The first situation is a company looking to acquire another company in order to access a new market, access new customers, or to grow its revenues and profits.
Another situation is a private equity company looking to acquire a company as an investment. Their goal is to then grow the business using their operational expertise and then sell the company years later for a high return on investment.
In either of these situations, mergers and acquisition cases typically involve acquiring an attractive, successful company.
It is rare to get a case in which a company or private equity firm is looking to acquire a poorly performing company to purchase at a discount. Nevertheless, you can always clarify the goal of the merger or acquisition with the interviewer before beginning the case.
In order to recommend making an acquisition, four statements need to be true.
- The market that the acquisition target is in is attractive
- The acquisition target is an attractive company
- The acquisition generates meaningful synergies
- The acquisition target is at a great price and will generate high returns on investment
These statements become the basis of our merger and acquisition framework.
Synergies is an area that should absolutely be included in any merger or acquisition framework. A merger or acquisition can lead to revenue synergies and cost synergies.
Revenue synergies include:
- Having access to new customer segments
- Having access to new markets
- Having access to new distribution channels
- Cross-selling opportunities
- Up-selling opportunities
Cost synergies include:
- Eliminating cost redundancies
- Consolidating functions or groups
- Increasing buying power with suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, or retailers
Pricing frameworks are used in cases involving the pricing of a product or service. To develop a pricing framework, you should be familiar with the three different ways to price a product or service.
- Pricing based on costs : set a price by applying a profit margin on the total costs to produce or deliver the product or service
- Pricing based on competition : set a price based on what competitors are charging for products similar to yours
- Pricing based on value added : set a price by quantifying the benefits that the product provides customers
Your answer to pricing cases will likely involve a mix of all three of these pricing strategies.
Your pricing framework will look something like the following.
Pricing based on costs will determine the minimum price you can realistically set. Pricing based on value added will determine the maximum possible price. Pricing based on competition will determine which price in between these two price points you should set.
In order to get customers to purchase your product, the difference between your price point and the customer’s maximum willingness to pay must be greater than or equal to the difference between your competitor’s price point and the customer’s maximum willingness to pay for their product.
New product frameworks are used to help a company decide whether or not to launch a product or service.
New product frameworks share many similarities with market entry frameworks. In order to recommend launching a new product, the following statements would need to be true:
- The product targets an attractive market segment
- The product meets customer needs and is superior to competitor products
- The company has the capabilities to successfully launch the product
- Launching the product will be highly profitable
Expanding on these areas, your new product framework could look like the following:
A comprehensive guide to market sizing questions and market sizing frameworks can be found in our comprehensive market sizing article. You can also watch the video below:
As a summary, market sizing or estimation questions ask you to determine the size of a particular market or to estimate a particular figure.
There are two different market sizing frameworks or approaches:
- Top-down approach : start with a large number and then refine and break down the number until you get your answer
- Bottom-up approach : start with a small number and then build up and increase the number until you get your answer
To create your market sizing framework, simply write out in bullet points, the exact steps you would take to calculate the requested market size or estimation figure.
Consulting Frameworks Every Consultant Knows
There are six consulting frameworks that nearly every consultant knows.
I would not recommend using these exact frameworks during a case interview because the interviewer may think you are just regurgitating memorized information instead of thinking critically about the case.
Instead use the four framework strategies that we covered earlier in this article to create tailored and unique frameworks for each case.
Nevertheless, it is helpful to review these common consulting frameworks in order to understand the fundamental concepts and business principles behind them.
Porter’s Five Forces framework was developed by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. This framework is used to analyze the attractiveness of a particular industry.
There are five forces that determine whether an industry is attractive or unattractive.
Competitive rivalry: How competitive is the industry?
The more competitive an industry is in terms of number and strength of competitors, the less attractive the industry is. The less competitive an industry is, the more attractive the industry is.
Supplier power: How much power do suppliers have?
Suppliers are companies that provide the raw materials for your company to produce goods or services. The fewer suppliers there are, the more bargaining power suppliers have in setting prices. The more suppliers there are, the weaker bargaining power suppliers have in setting prices.
Therefore, high supplier power makes the industry less attractive while low supplier power makes the industry more attractive.
Buyer power: How much power do buyers have?
Buyers are customers or companies that purchase your company’s product. The more buyers there are, the weaker bargaining power buyers have in setting prices. The fewer buyers there are, the more bargaining power buyers have in setting prices.
Therefore, high buyer power makes the industry less attractive while low buyer power makes the industry more attractive.
Threat of substitution: How difficult is it for customers to find and use substitutes over your product?
The availability of many substitutes makes the industry less attractive while a lack of substitutes makes the industry more attractive
Threat of new entry: How difficult is it for new players to enter the market?
If barriers to entry are high, then it is difficult for new players to enter the market and it is easier for existing players to maintain their market share.
If barriers to entry are low, then it is easy for new players to enter the market and more difficult for existing players to maintain their market share.
A low threat of new entrants makes the market more attractive while a high threat of new entrants makes the market less attractive.
A SWOT framework is used to assess a company’s strategic position. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Strengths : What does the company do well? What qualities separate them from competitors?
Weaknesses : What does the company do poorly? What are the things that competitors do better?
Opportunities : Where are the company’s opportunities for growth or improvement?
Threats : Who are the most threatening competitors? What are the major risks to the company’s business?
The 4 P’s framework is used to develop a marketing strategy for a product. The 4 P’s in this framework are: product, place, promotion, and price.
Product : If there are multiple products or different versions of a product, you will need to decide which product to market. To do this, you will need to fully understand the benefits and points of differentiation of each product.
Select the product that best fits customer needs for the customer segment you are focusing on.
Place : You will need to decide where the product will be sold to customers. Different customer segments have different purchasing habits and behaviors. Therefore, some distribution channels will be more effective than others.
Should the product be sold directly to the customer online? Should the product be sold in the company’s stores? Should the product be sold through retail partners instead?
Promotion : You will need to decide how to spread information about the product to customers. Different customer segments have different media consumption habits and preferences. Therefore, some promotional strategies will be more effective than others.
Promotional techniques and strategies include advertising, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, video marketing, and public relations. Select the strategies and techniques that will be the most effective.
Price : You will need to decide how to price the product. Pricing is important because it determines the profits and the quantity of units sold. Pricing can also communicate information on the quality or value of the product.
If you price the product too high, you may be pricing the product above your customer segment’s willingness to pay. This would lead to lost sales.
If you price the product too low, you may be losing potential profit from customers who were willing to pay a higher price. You may also be losing profits from customers who perceive the product as low-quality due to a low price point.
In deciding on a price, you can consider the costs to produce the product, the prices of other similar products, and the value that you are providing to customers.
The 3 C’s framework is used to develop a business strategy for a company. 3 C’s stands for customers, competition, and company.
The business situation framework was developed by a former McKinsey consultant, Victor Cheng, who added a fourth component to this framework, product.
Both of these frameworks are used to develop a business strategy for a company in a variety of situations, such as market entry, new product launch, and acquisition.
The BCG 2x2 Matrix Framework was developed by BCG founder Bruce Hendersen. It is used to examine all of the different businesses of a company to determine which businesses the company should invest in and focus on.
The BCG 2x2 Matrix has two different dimensions:
- Market growth : How quickly is the market growing?
- Relative market share : How much market share does the company have compared to competitors?
Each business of the company can be assessed on these two dimensions on a scale of low to high. This is what creates the 2x2 Matrix because it creates four different quadrants.
Each quadrant has a recommended strategy.
- Stars : These are businesses that have high market growth rate and high relative market share. These businesses should be heavily invested in so they can continue to grow.
- Cows : These are businesses that have low market growth rate, but high relative market share. These businesses should be maintained since they are stable, profitable businesses.
- Dogs : These are businesses that have low market growth rate and low relative market share. These businesses should not be invested in and should possibly even be divested to free up cash for other businesses.
- Unknown : These are businesses that have high market growth rate and low relative market share. The strategy for these businesses is not clear. With enough investment, these businesses could become stars. However, these businesses could also become dogs if the market growth slows or declines.
The McKinsey 7S Framework was developed by two former McKinsey consultants, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. The 7S Framework identifies seven elements that a company needs to align on in order to be successful.
These elements are:
- Strategy : The company’s plan to grow and outcompete competitors
- Structure : The organization of the company
- Systems : The company’s daily activities and processes
- Shared values : The core beliefs, values, or mission of the company
- Style : The style of leadership or management used
- Staff : The employees that are hired
- Skills : The capabilities of the company’s employees
Land your Dream Consulting Job
Here are three resources we recommend to learn the most robust, effective case interview strategies in the least time-consuming way:
- Comprehensive Case Interview Course (our #1 recommendation): The only resource you need. Whether you have no business background, rusty math skills, or are short on time, this step-by-step course will transform you into a top 1% caser that lands multiple consulting offers.
- Hacking the Case Interview Book (available on Amazon): Perfect for beginners that are short on time. Transform yourself from a stressed-out case interview newbie to a confident intermediate in under a week. Some readers finish this book in a day and can already tackle tough cases.
- The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook (available on Amazon): Perfect for intermediates struggling with frameworks, case math, or generating business insights. No need to find a case partner – these drills, practice problems, and full-length cases can all be done by yourself.
Land Multiple Consulting Offers
Complete, step-by-step case interview course. 30,000+ happy customers.
Table of content
Top 10 Case Interview Frameworks: Beginner Mistakes
“Which framework to use?” is probably among the most common questions popping up in a candidate’s mind when confronting a case.
This definitive guide will not only answer that question by introducing a few common frameworks, but also tell you HOW to use those frameworks more effectively during case interviews , and what pitfalls you should be aware of.
Case interview frameworks – Overview
What are case interview frameworks.
Case interview frameworks are templates used to break down and solve business problems in case interviews. A framework can be off-the-shelf or highly customized for specific cases; it can also be tailored for certain functions/industries, or versatile enough for general problem-solving.
Common case interview frameworks include:
- Profitability Framework
- Business Situation Framework
- McKinsey M&A Framework
- 4P and 7P Frameworks
- Porter Five Forces Model
External vs Internal
Qualitative vs quantitative.
- Cost vs Benefits
- 2×2 Matrix (e.g.: BCG Growth-Share Matrix)
All of these frameworks will be discussed later in this article.
During a case interview, you use consulting frameworks to break down the problem into smaller pieces through an issue tree and test each branch to see if the root-cause is in there. If a branch indeed contains the root-cause, you break it down further. Rinse and repeat until the root-cause is identified.
The big part of problem solving is about breaking down the problem in almost every step of the case.
What should I keep in mind when using consulting frameworks?
Templates should be treated as guidelines, and not strict rules . The same applies to case interview frameworks.
In the past, case interviews were much more predictable, and frameworks were more applicable. However, nowadays, case interviews are more similar to real business problems, where frameworks need a lot of customizations (you’ll see this word repeated a lot in this article) to be useful.
In fact, the whole consulting industry exists on the basis that consultants can customize theory to real, difficult business situations and produce positive results; nobody pays hundreds of thousands of dollars for them to recite a textbook – any college freshman can do as much.
That’s why in my Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program , I don’t teach candidates to use frameworks – instead, the focus in on the fundamentals of case interview (problem-solving and business intuition) as well as the tips and techniques for instant performance improvement.
How can I use consulting frameworks effectively?
Here’s a problem with case interview beginners – they tend to go straight for the frameworks, before even knowing the basic mechanisms and principles of case interviews.
If you are one of those beginners, you must first grasp the basics of case interviews – the fundamentals of case interview problem-solving, the issue tree, and the MECE principle. I have written extensive, separate guides on these topics, but for starters, I advice you to read this Case Interview 101 comprehensive guide.
Busting case interview framework myths
Myth 1: “the more frameworks i know, the better”.
Before we proceed with the popular frameworks in consulting and case interviews, here are four huge myths about frameworks you should steer clear of.
Spend your time learning to draw customized frameworks/ issue trees instead. Case interviews are getting progressively more realistic and less conforming to specific frameworks, so trying to memorize dozens of frameworks is of no use.
Additionally, you should attend to the qualitative side of things, to deeply absorb each framework and its use; skimming the surface will come back to bite you later.
Myth 2: “There must be a framework out there that fits this case”
Ready-made frameworks CANNOT cover all kinds of situations. Even regarding the ones covered, existing frameworks are often “okay-fit”, but not perfectly fit.
Just create a framework/issue tree yourself. Nobody deducts your points for not using a ready-made tool, they even give you points if you can customize it.
Myth 3: “The fancier the framework, the more impressed the interviewer”
You are definitely not wooing anyone by being fancy-schmancy here. Nobody cares about your shiny frame if it does not fit with the picture.
Consultants are very practical and result-oriented people ; what impresses them are candidates who really know what they are talking about, and actually produce good results.
What’s worse is that you also run the risk of appearing superficial; it’s not difficult for consultants with years of experience in the field to fully expose your bluffing. If that happens you may as well say goodbye to your chance of getting hired.
Myth 4: “Knowledge of frameworks is irrelevant in interviewer-led cases”
The assumption underlying this myth is that in interviewer-led cases , the candidate is not the driver of the case, so he or she does not need to actively break down the problem.
This cannot be further from the truth. Many questions in interviewer-led cases are about frameworks/issue trees (“What factors would you consider to solve this problem?”).
Even with other question types you still need to structure answers like a mini-case. Appropriate knowledge of frameworks, as such, is still a MUST.
Five common case interview frameworks
Profitability is the most common problem type in case interviews – that means the Profitability Framework is the first one to master for every prospective consultant. You have to absolutely nail it every time, there’s no way around it.
In case interviews, the Profitability Framework is used to mathematically break down the problem, before switching to more qualitative frameworks to devise solutions.
Most of the time, the framework looks like this:
What’s so good about it?
- Firstly, the Profitability Framework is a surefire way to draw a structured issue tree , as the framework is fundamentally MECE.
- Secondly, this framework is grounded in a simple mathematical basis – there’s no confusing qualitative concept to get lost in; heck, “revenues minus costs equal profits” is common sense. That’s why the Profitability Framework may as well be the easiest framework ever devised by humankind (or consultant-kind).
Are there any shortcomings I should be aware of?
- The Profitability Framework is generic; it may not reflect the nuances within the business enough to draw insightful conclusions. In businesses with wide price ranges, for example, just the total sales volume and average unit price do not tell you much.
- To extract more insightful information, either drill down quantitatively by introducing revenue/cost components not expressed in the basic framework (e.g.: revenue by product), or combine it with a qualitative framework.
Business situation framework
This is an extremely versatile template you can use in nearly every case, so make sure to learn it well. It’s not even a “should”, but a “must”.
In my video , I referred to the Business Situation Framework by the more tell-tale “3C & P”, based on it being derived from the famous 3C Framework. These four letters stand for “Company, Customers, Competitors, Products” – areas that the framework analyzes to yield solutions.
- The one big advantage of the Business Situation Framework is its comprehensiveness – covering four crucial internal and external factors in business strategy.
- This framework is quite flexible – you can use it as a template to draw customized issue trees for all kinds of cases. In our video, I demonstrated this by applying it to solve an HR problem.
- The very same comprehensiveness making the Business Situation Framework flexible, also makes it generic, hence the need for extensive modifications; in many cases (the one in our video, for example), not all four components are relevant.
- It is not a beginner-friendly framework – it does not explicitly state which factors to consider under each main branch; newbies often end up in awkward situations, not knowing what to do next and thinking in a bottom-up manner.
How do you avoid that situation then? I’m inclined to say “practice”, but that much is obvious. A less obvious solution is to equip yourself with some “ninja tips” by learning how each C and P is usually segmented, although again I have to emphasize that it’s vital to maintain a flexible mindset.
McKinsey M&A framework
I absolutely love this one because it works in almost every single M&A case.
There isn’t an official name for this framework, but since it is used by McKinsey consultants when confronting an M&A issue, I’d just call it the “McKinsey M&A Framework”.
The framework assesses a proposed M&A on three dimensions: the stand-alone value of each involving companies (values, strengths, weaknesses, etc.); their synergy, i.e. will the two companies combined be greater than the sum of its parts; and other factors, such as feasibility, culture, legal issues, etc.
- Firstly, the segmentation of stand-alone values and synergy is intrinsically MECE , helping the candidate cover all possibilities – every value of each company must fall into one of these categories.
- Secondly, the framework prompts the user to actively look for “Other factors”, increasing its suitability in unique circumstances.
Are there any shortcomings I should be aware of?
- The framework does not tell you what to look for in each branch, especially in the “Other factors” branch; this ambiguity shouldn’t be too much of an issue for experienced consultants, but might prove troublesome for candidates.
- Again, as with the previous Business Situation Framework, having a few ninja tricks up your sleeves should help you avoid getting stuck, just don’t rely on them too much.
4P / 7P Marketing Mix
This one is perhaps the single most popular framework in marketing. In case interviews , the 4P/7P Framework is used to formulate and implement marketing strategies for the supposed client, such as in competitive situation or market entry cases.
The original Marketing Mix covers four aspects – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion – thus, “4P”; note that “Place” does not pertain to any physical location, but the channel used by the company to deliver its products to its customers.
When services are involved, the mix becomes 7P; the new additions are: People – those performing the services; Process – how those services are delivered to the customers; and Physical Evidence – the visible, physical clues about the services (think of decorations inside a restaurant).
- The best thing about this framework is its sole focus on marketing, making it very efficient for situations where marketing is the primary/only concern.
- Both the 4P and 7P variants are inherently narrow in scope; candidates must always be mindful that they are not covering the big picture with this framework. Only use them to develop marketing solutions.
- The 4P Marketing Mix, specifically, is not even comprehensive enough for some tangible products, such as high-end fashion, where People, Process and Physical Evidence make huge differences.
Porter’s five forces model
Porter’s Five Forces Model is best used when candidates ask for the case context surrounding the client company; this framework helps them know what to ask.
Michael Porter’s model analyzes how a company’s Competitors, Suppliers, Customers interact with it, as well as how New Entrants and Substitute Products might threaten its place in the industry; it produces a snapshot of the relative power the business holds over its industry environment.
- The model’s coverage of the industry landscape is extensive, giving the candidate a vivid picture of the industry surrounding and interacting with the client in the case.
- This framework doesn’t give a clear answer as to what to do – that is its primary drawback; Porter’s model is not “deep” enough to answer such questions.
- The framework is not comprehensive enough for certain industries where political and legal issues, as well as complementary products, are major factors.
- Another thing to keep in mind: Don’t ever analyze a company with the Five Forces Model – the Five Forces Model describes the industry around that business, not the business itself.
Five mini-frameworks – All-purpose tools
These powerful mini-frameworks are probably the most under-appreciated problem-solving tools ever existed.
Mini-frameworks, like the larger frameworks, are also templates to break down information in a top-down, organized fashion.
Unlike their big cousins, however, these are almost never a primary or upper-most component of an issue tree. Furthermore, while common case interview frameworks are, to varying degrees, business-oriented, mini-frameworks are universal.
In this section, I’ll introduce you to five mini-frameworks I find most helpful in consulting case interviews. They feature prominently as supplements for larger frameworks in candidate-led cases , or stand-alone templates to answer questions in interviewer-led cases.
This is a quick and easy method to segment information about a particular entity. The internal branch concerns the inside of the said entity, such as functions within a company; the external branch describes anything outside that entity.
Here’s an example of this mini-framework as an adjunct to the Profitability Framework:
South Sea – a company specializing in bottled sauces – has found its profits going down badly for the past few years. They want you to find out what’s causing the problem.
You split their profits into revenues and costs; from the data provided, it seems like a revenue problem so you’re going into that branch first. How do you proceed?
Here, a quick check can be performed by splitting the factors causing the decline into two groups – external and internal, then ask the interview if the declining profits are also experienced by other American airlines; “yes” suggests an external root cause while “no” suggests an internal one.
This method of segmentation is primarily used in evaluations. By dividing items into two MECE groups, it reduces confusion and minimizes the risk of missing an important item.
For illustration, we again look at the packaged food company in the previous example:
Turns out, South Sea has quite a few internal problems, in both their production and sales functions. Coincidentally, Wilhelm International is looking to acquire South Sea. Wilhelm controls an extensive distribution network, so the South Sea management is quite interested in the deal.
It’s your task to assess whether South Sea should accept Wilhelm’s offer of acquisition or not.
For this task, I recommend using the McKinsey M&A Framework to break down the analysis into three branches: (1) South Sea’s stand-alone value, (2) its possible synergy with Wilhelm International, and of course (3) there must be an “Other factors” branch as well.
Within each branch, it’s possible to group items into quantitative (profits, growth rates) and qualitative (brand name, capabilities). This combination makes the analysis more MECE , and easier to work with.
Costs vs Benefits
This decision-making tool is pretty straightforward – if the benefits outweigh the costs, you go with that option. Otherwise, you’d be better off keeping your money under the mattress.
The Costs-and-Benefits analysis is a somewhat-business-centric twist of the omnipotent Pros-and-Cons. Both of these approaches work even better with weights attached to each evaluating criterion to reflect its impact.
Now, let’s check up on South Sea:
The acquisition is proven to be beneficial for both sides. With the sales problem solved, South Sea turns its attention to the production issue. The management considers replacing some technologies to improve product quality, but they are not sure if the investment will pay off.
How do you know if the investment is worthwhile?
A simple Costs-and-Benefits breakdown would suffice.
For benefits you have the financial gains to consider, as well as non-financial benefits such as improved brand image (because surprisingly, people love good food!).
The 2×2 Matrix is a decision-making tool where options are examined using two criteria, each of which forms an axis of the matrix.
How do you apply this matrix in South Sea’s case, then?
Wilhelm International, after acquiring South Sea, is looking to push the sales of South Sea’s products using its distribution chain. However, South Sea’s product portfolio is quite large, and each product line differs greatly in terms of sales, branding, and market growth rate.
You must select which product lines to focus on.
The 2×2 matrix most famous in the business world, and also suitable for this case, is BCG’s Growth-Share Matrix, which uses market growth rate and market share as decision-making criteria. The position of a business on this matrix suggests whether to invest in, maintain, or discard that business.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
This mini-framework is seldom used in case interviews and consulting work because it’s very generic; however, for a quick and easy evaluation of a company’s positioning within the industry context, the SWOT analysis works just fine.
In most case interviews, this is where you usually turn to the Marketing Mix or the Business Situation frameworks, but even a SWOT analysis may yield some insights.
Other case interview frameworks
Besides the ones we have covered, there are some other case interview frameworks and mini-frameworks worth looking into:
- Six Forces Model: a variant of Porter’s Five Forces, introducing “Complementary Products” into the analysis.
- Lauterborn’s 4C Framework: a more consumer-oriented variant of the 4Ps, designed for niche marketing.
- McKinsey 7S Framework: a framework used in McKinsey for analyzing organizational effectiveness.
- Ansoff Matrix (Product-Market Grid): a 2×2 matrix, designed for product-market strategizing.
Applying frameworks in case interviews
Here are my five rules to effectively implement frameworks in case interviews; if you follow these rules closely, you will absolutely nail the case.
Of these five rules, the first three are about getting the right framework, while the last two are about looking smart during interviews.
- Getting to know the case: “If you know your case and know your frameworks, you need not fear the result of a hundred case interviews” – always gather as much information as possible before and when you draw your issue tree .
- Bending the frameworks: don’t ever bend reality to your frameworks; bend your frameworks to reality; remove, add, or modify elements if necessary.
- Allying with the interviewer: ask the interviewer to help you break down the problem if you get stuck . How do you get him on your side then? By displaying overwhelming consulting traits .
- 13 Reasons why: “Why do you break down the problem that way?”, “Why do you want this piece of data?” – explain all your questions and decisions as if you stand before the US Congress, and before the interviewer asks you; consultants love accountable people.
- Frameworks-which-must-not-be-named: don’t ever explicitly say the names of the frameworks (“I’m going to use the McKinsey M&A Framework”); you would sound very rigid, bookish, or worse, arrogant; consultants don’t like big words without substance.
I’ll give you a brief case sample to see how these rules work in practice:
Interviewer: Our client today is a restaurant called BurgerQueen, located on US Highway 66. The restaurant has found its profits going down last year, your task is to find out the problem and give them a solution.
Candidate: Thank you for the very interesting case, I’m quite excited to solve it. Now, before we dive in,, I would like to playback the case to make sure that we perceive it the same way, ask a few questions for clarification, then announce my approach. Does that sound good to you?
Interviewer: Okay, carry on.
Candidate: Well, let’s see… Our client is a restaurant, on a highway, specifically, Route 66. Their profits have been going bad. I am to find the cause, and solve the problem. Am I getting it right?
Interviewer: Yes, you’re right.
Candidate: Thank you. Now I’d like to clarify the case, so I have 3 questions:
(1) I assume from the name that our client focuses on burgers, and probably other kinds of fast food. Am I right? (2) Does this restaurant have a specific target customer, like truck drivers? And (3) Is it part of a rest stop?
Interviewer: I’ll answer your questions: they sell burgers, but there are many other dishes as well – although mainly fast food; the restaurant does not have a specific target customer, their customers are drivers and travelers on the highway in general; they are part of a rest stop, but they do not own other facilities in the stop, just the restaurant.
Candidate: Great, thanks for the information. Now that we’re all on the same page, and the case has been clarified, I’d like to inform you of my approach. To eliminate this problem in the long run, I think it’s best to break down the problem using an issue tree, isolate the root cause in one of the branches, and gather information until we can draw an actionable solution. Is that approach okay to you?
Interviewer: That sounds good. Continue.
Candidate: To analyze this problem, I’m breaking it down into two sides: Revenues and Costs. Unless we have information pointing in the other direction, I’ll first hypothesize that the problem comes from the revenue side. May I have some data on the restaurant’s revenue during the past year, to prove this hypothesis?
Interviewer: Well, this year their revenue went down by about 40%, but the monthly revenues followed the same pattern as the previous year.
Candidate: Thank you for the data. It’s quite a sudden decrease. I think we can confirm that at least part of this problem comes from the revenue side; I’ll come back to check on the cost side later, now I’d like to go deeper into this revenue branch. Is that okay to you?
Interviewer: Okay, go on.
Candidate: Usually, revenue is divided into sales volume and unit price, but it wouldn’t make much sense for a restaurant with many different items on the menu. My limited knowledge of the food service industry is not exactly helpful, so to draw a more spot-on issue tree, may I ask how they segment the revenue in this restaurant?
Interviewer: Okay, here’s the answer: another way they segment the revenue in a restaurant is into “number of customers” and “average ticket size”, the latter being the purchase value per customer.
What are the key takeaways here?
You can see the candidate tried to gather information on the case through the playback and clarification steps; as a result, he correctly decided that the Profitability Framework is suitable for this case.
However, he quickly found out that the conventional “revenue = volume x price” isn’t too insightful, so he knew he needed to bend the framework.
Unable to find a good way to segment, he asked for help from the interviewer – note how he showed a relevant purpose for the request, and demonstrated that he at least made an effort – these are what we call “consulting traits”.
You should also notice that throughout this brief opening part, the candidate never explicitly mentioned the name of the Profitability Framework, and he always explained his choices before being asked.
EXERCISE: Develop a 2-level issue tree for this case
The Megapolis City Council is looking to solve a major problem in the city’s traffic – for the last decade, the number of traffic accidents has been rising steadily.
Which factors would you look at, to tackle this problem?
This question apparently can not be answered using any aforementioned framework. In real life, consultants rarely use pre-defined frameworks to solve their client’s issues. Rather, they create unique frameworks based on the MECE principle specific to their problems.
There are few things you should bear in mind to shortcut the way to your own framework:
- Be as MECE or structural as possible.
- Use the issue tree to sketch your framework.
- Break down your problem in a top-down style.
Practice this step-by-step with any real-life issues.
Want to learn more? Join millions of others on our Case Interview End-to-end Secret Program .
Then, to receive personalized practice, you can book a coaching session with our experienced coaches from McKinsey, BCG, or Bain. They will quickly identify your areas of improvement and help you ace your interview.
Scoring in the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment
The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment
Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program
Elevate your case interview skills with a well-rounded preparation package
A case interview is where candidates is asked to solve a business problem. They are used by consulting firms to evaluate problem-solving skill & soft skills
Getting ready for your interviews
Interviewing is a two-way process—it helps us learn about you as a potential colleague, and helps you learn about McKinsey and what you could do here. Overall, we look for personal impact, entrepreneurial drive, inclusive leadership, and problem solving, and we recognize there are many ways to acquire those skills.
If you are interested in McKinsey careers beyond consulting, you can learn more about the assessment process for our internal roles here .
At McKinsey, we strive to create an unrivalled environment for exceptional people. During many of our interviews, you will learn more about what this value means in practice at McKinsey. Your assessor may share details of how McKinsey is a non-hierarchical, diverse, inclusive meritocracy. They may touch on our formal and informal apprenticeship and mentor programs. Or they may share examples of how we use the obligation to dissent.
After hearing from your assessor on what people related value means the most to them, you may be asked to share an experience that speaks to the McKinsey people value that is most meaningful to you.
Your recruiter will inform you on what questions you will be asked so you can best prepare. We want you to succeed and feel confident entering our process.
Transforming a national education system
Testing your skills.
Test your skills
Solve - gamified assessment, coding skills tests.
We want you to succeed
Virtual Interview Zoom Guide
Important fraud alert
McKinsey has become aware of scams involving false offers of McKinsey employment. The scams and false offers use imposter websites, email addresses, and text messages. None of these offers are legitimate, and McKinsey’s recruiting process never involves interviewing via instant message, nor requires candidates to purchase products or services, or process payments on our behalf.
Find your ideal job
Case Interview Frameworks: Important Tools to Ace the Case 
- Last Updated November, 2023
Former McKinsey Engagement Manager
Common Case Interview Frameworks
Commonly Used Frameworks
Why Do Interviewers like them?
The Most Efficient Way to Learn Frameworks?
Frameworks Can Help Your Case Interview
How Should You Use Case Interview Frameworks?
2 Basic Frameworks You Need To Know
A case interview framework is a structured way of thinking about a particular type of business problem. It breaks a business problem into the component parts that need to be analyzed to identify the root cause of the problem and develop a solution.
Case interview frameworks are important because consulting interviewers don’t want a canned solution from the front page of the Wall Street Journal or a business school textbook. They look for candidates who have a structured process for thinking through the key aspects of a business problem to find its solution.
This structured process is easy to show by using a case interview framework.
In this article we’ll discuss:
- Examples of case interview frameworks,
- Why consulting interviewers like case interview frameworks,
- How frameworks help ensure you’ll solve your case interview,
- 2 Basic frameworks to learn before you interview,
- Commonly used case interview frameworks,
- The most efficient way to learn frameworks, and
- How you should use frameworks in your consulting interviews.
Let’s get started!
Multiple different case frameworks exist because companies face many different types of problems. A case framework that will help a company think through the marketing approach needed to support a new product launch is not the same as the one it will use to decide if it wants to cut costs.
Commonly used case interview frameworks include:
- The BCG 2 x 2 Matrix
- The Profitability Formula
- The McKinsey’s 7S Framework
- Porter’s 5 Forces
Case interview frameworks can be tailored to the issues in a consulting case to highlight your structured problem-solving skill and ensure you solve the case.
Why Do Interviewers Like Case Interview Frameworks?
A consultant who has memorized a textbook solution to fixing a business problem will know what to do when they see a client with that particular problem.
But all clients—even ones in the same industry—are different. They might have different fixed and variable costs, sell to a market segment with unique requirements, have a different management structure, or use a different technology or production process to manufacture their product.
Because of this, even if they face a similar problem to the one in the textbook, the tools needed to solve the problem might be different.
Because all client problems are different, management consultants don’t memorize answers to business problems. They use a structured process that helps them find the solution, no matter what the client’s problem is.
The prospect of figuring out the solution to a business problem you’ve never seen before might sound intimidating. Luckily, case interview frameworks can help identify the key issues to be addressed. You can think of them as containing the building blocks you can use to solve a case study problem.
Once you’re familiar with common frameworks, you can use them to build your own case interview frameworks to analyze the issues specific to any consulting case you’re given.
Case Frameworks Can Help You Ace Your Interview
A list of commonly used business frameworks can look more like alphabet soup than something that can help you solve a consulting case study problem. Are they really worth learning?
Yes. Frameworks can help you make sure you don’t forget key aspects that need to be considered to address a particular type of business problem. Because of this, they’re valuable tools when you’re doing interview prep. Take one of the simplest business frameworks: Profitability.
If you are given a case study interview question that involves profitability, you’re going to want to be familiar with this formula.
It’s not important that you use the exact same terms in precisely the same order. What’s important is that you remember the key components of profitability. If you examine each of these 4 key components, you’ll find out where to look more closely to find the answer to the client’s problem.
If you forget one of these key components of profitability, you could spend the twenty-five minutes you have to solve the case study interview question probing the wrong areas and never find the solution.
Case frameworks are tools that ensure you look at all the key aspects of a business problem. From there, you still need to interpret the information you receive from your interviewer and use your findings to develop a solution.
But getting the key facts you need to solve the case is a critical first step in your consulting interview prep.
2 Basic Case Interview Frameworks to Help You Structure Any Case Question
If this is the first time you’ve even heard of a case interview framework, the best place to start your case interview prep is with 2 basic frameworks you can use to address any business problem. Continue reading this section to learn about them.
If you’ve studied business at the undergraduate or graduate level , the basic frameworks can still help you. But you may want to skip down to Commonly Used Business Frameworks to begin your consulting interview prep.
The most basic way of looking at a case is to consider whether it asks you to solve a profit and loss issue, or not. This is the most common case type you will encounter because as management consultants we are paid to grow businesses and growing businesses is measured in profits and revenue.
If the interview question addresses a business’s profits and losses (P&L), you can apply the profitability formula to solve the problem. If the question only addresses one component of profitability — either costs or revenues, you can use the relevant segment of the formula to address it.
As mentioned above, the profitability formula is:
Price – How much does the product sell for?
Units Sold – How many products were sold over the period being considered?
Fixed Costs – Costs that you incur just because you are in business regardless of how many units you sell. Examples: factory rent, equipment depreciation, compensation for salaried employees, and property taxes. A way to think about fixed costs is that a cost that does not change over the short-term, even if a business experiences increases or decreases in its sales volume.
Variable Costs – Costs that only incur when you begin to produce units (if you sell nothing you have no variable costs). Examples: sales commissions, credit card transaction costs, and sales taxes. A way to think about variable costs is that a cost that does change over the short-term. More sales volume will mean more variable costs.
The first thing you want to do in a profitability case study interview question is to understand which component of the profitability formula has the biggest impact on the client’s bottom line over the time period you’re considering. Go through each of the 4 parts of the formula to figure that out.
Next, you’ll want to look beyond the formula. If nothing internal to the client has caused the change in profitability, there must be an external factor affecting it.
External factors that might affect a company’s profitability include a new product introduction, price change, or promotion made by a competitor. They could also include a change in the regulatory environment or in the level of demand from customers.
Example Using the Profitability Framework in a Case Interview
The manufacturer of fidget turners, a simple toy that allows children to expend their excess energy without getting out of their seat and disrupting their classroom, needs help with a profitability problem.
While their toys are widely popular, the company is losing money. What is the source of their problem?
The consulting candidate asks questions and finds that:
- Price – There have been no recent changes in the price the fidget turner is sold for.
- Units sold – Demand for the product has risen substantially. It’s popular among children with attention deficit disorder. The market for the fun toy has expanded to other children and even adults.
- Fixed cost – There have been no recent changes in the company’s fixed costs.
- Variable cost – The cost of the underlying materials used to make the product have risen substantially. The product is comprised primarily of plastic and ball bearings. The cost of plastics has increased with an upward trend in the prices of petrochemical products.
As a result of this analysis, the candidate says that the change in the manufacturer’s profitability is driven by a change in their variable costs – specifically plastics.
She recommends that the company either find a substitute material that it can use to manufacture its products at lower cost or increase the price of fidget turners.
Non-profit Case Framework
A non-profit question might have a charitable organization, an educational institution, or a government agency as the client. They might also have a business client, but address an issue that is not related to profit and loss such as employee retention or branding.
The key to answering a non-profit case study question is to understand the key performance index for the client. The key performance indicator, or KPI, is the measure the client is trying to improve or maximize. For example:
- A public school system might be trying to improve student scores on a state-wide standardized test.
- A government agency might be trying to increase the number of free lunches provided to children of families under a certain income threshold over the summer months.
- A fast-food chain might be trying to reduce employee turnover.
When addressing a non-profit case study interview question, first, determine what the client’s key performance indicator is. Once you’ve determined the KPI, break it down into relevant components that allow you to dive deeper into the problem and understand where the client is performing well and where things have taken a turn for the worse.
For example, if the client is a government agency trying to ensure that low-income children have enough to eat over the summer months when free school lunches aren’t available, the KPI might be the number of qualifying free lunches provided. These lunches could be further broken down geographically, by either town or county.
Because these lunches are often provided by schools, the KPI could also be broken down by the age of the child receiving the lunch (grammar-school-aged, middle-school-aged, and high-school-aged).
These breakdowns would let you understand whether a decline in lunches was caused by an issue affecting one town, or an issue primarily affecting a particular age group. Or, perhaps the decline in free lunches served was consistent across the entire program area and target population.
As with a profitability case, you also want to consider both factors internal to your client and external factors that affect your client’s KPI.
Benchmarking your client’s performance relative to similar agencies in other states, or relative to the results of groups that provide different types of assistance to the same target audience in the same geographic region can help.
Example Using the Non-Profitability Framework in a Case Interview
- A state agency that provides free lunches to low-income children found that the number of lunches served over the summer declined substantially from the prior year. The agency wanted to understand the root cause of this decline.
The candidate asked questions about the operations that the agency oversees. He found that:
- Overview – The agency spent 10% less on its summer lunch program this year than in prior years.
- KPI – That the agency’s key performance indicator is the number of lunches provided to low-income children.
- The overall economic health of the state had not changed substantially from the prior year.
- The decline in lunches was focused specifically in a couple of geographic regions – low-income cities where schools were closed over the summer for renovations and where lunches could not be served.
As a result of his analysis, the candidate concluded that while coming in below budget is usually a good thing, for this state agency, it was not. The agency’s KPI was the number of meals served to needy children and the savings came from not being able to provide services in a couple of cities. This meant that children were going hungry.
The candidate recommended that each year, the agency find out in advance if schools that serve the free lunches they fund will be closed over the summer.
If they will be closed, the agency can look for an alternate location where they can provide lunches for children, such as a community center.
Practice using the profitability and non-profit frameworks to solve case study interview questions until you feel comfortable using them. You can find more about How to Practice Consulting Case Study Questions and find Examples of Consulting Case Study Questions on the My Consulting Offer website.
Commonly Used Case Interview Frameworks that Will Help You Ace Your Case
Once you have mastered the profitability and non-profit frameworks, you can add frameworks that have been developed to analyze specific types of business problems to your case study interview prep tool box.
While it is important to know these frameworks to build out your own business acumen, remember that coming in with a canned framework such as these will likely not get you the offer. So we recommend you become familiar with these frameworks but DON’T MEMORIZE THEM JUST TO USE THEM ON THE INTERVIEW.
Case Prep Tool 1: BCG 2 x 2 Matrix
This framework can be used to identify which business segments the company should continue to invest in, and which should not receive capital or should even be sold off. This framework is called a 2 x 2 it categorizes each segment by 2 different factors:
- Market growth and
- Market share relative to the competition.
This categorization puts each business segment into one of four buckets:
Star – A business segment that has high growth and high market share is often very profitable. These business segments should receive further investment so they can continue to grow.
Cow – A business segment with low growth but high market share is likely to be a stable, profitable business. The profits of this type of business can be reaped over time to invest in other, higher growth business segments.
Dog – A business segment with low growth and low market share is often not profitable and not likely to improve without substantial investment. The company should consider divesting these business segments to free up cash for more profitable businesses.
? – A business segment with high market growth but low share requires further study. Is further investment likely to result in market share growth, allowing this business segment to become a star? Or is it likely to become a dog over time?
Case Prep Tool 2: SWOT Analysis — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
- Internal or external — Are they something the company has control over or not, and
- Helpful or Harmful.
This categorization puts each factor affecting the business into one of 4 buckets:
Strengths – A factor that is internal to the organization and helps it to achieve its objectives is a strength that can be leveraged to improve performance over time. Example – strong engineering capabilities.
Weaknesses – A factor that is internal to an organization and harmful is a weakness. This is something the company will need to work to overcome. Example – weak brand awareness in the target market.
Opportunities – A factor that is external to the business that is helpful is an opportunity that can be leveraged to improve profitability. Example – a competitor experiencing production constraints.
Threats – A factor that is external to the business but harmful is something the business should seek to overcome or the limit risk of. Example – new government regulation in their market.
The SWOT Analysis framework can be used to identify actions that a company should take to capitalize on strengths and opportunities and minimize weaknesses and threats.
Case Prep Tool 3: 3 Cs Framework
The Customer – Questions to consider include: Who is the customer? What are their requirements for the product or service? What segments exist in the market? What does each segment look like in terms of growth rates, price sensitivity, etc.?
The Company – Questions to consider include: What is the company’s current product or service offering? How is it differentiated from that of the competition? Does the company have internal capabilities that they can use to create an advantage relative to competitors? What are the company’s current market share and growth rate? How strong is it financially?
The Competitors – Questions to consider include: What competitive products or services are in the market and how do they compare to the company’s product? This analysis should include not only products that are directly competitive, but also substitutes for the company’s products.
What internal capabilities do competitors have that could give them an advantage relative to the company’s product? Are their barriers to entry into the market or is it easy for new competitors enter at any time?
The better a company understands its customers, develops a differentiated product to better serve their customers, and creates barriers that prevent competitors from bringing equivalent products to market, the better strategic position the company is in.
Case Prep Tool 4: 4 Ps Marketing Framework
The 4 Ps framework is a tool used in developing a marketing strategy that will help differentiate a company’s product from competitive products. The 4P framework breaks down the key components of analysis into:
Product – Whether the company is selling a tangible product or a service, they must be clear on what they are offering customers. Is their offering a bare-bones product or does it have a quality level or features that set it apart from alternatives?
Price – The price charged for a product can be set high or low, depending on what it will command in the marketplace. Price has an important impact on sales but also (and inversely) on the company’s bottom line.
Promotion – Potential customers must be made aware that the product exists, understand what distinguishes it from competitive products, and be encouraged to buy it. Promotion includes advertisements, public relations, social media, email marketing, discounts, etc.
Placement – Potential customers need to be able to purchase the product, either at a store or online. Placement can be prominent — at the front of a store or on an endcap — or not. Placement is about making the product easy to find and convenient to buy.
What Is the Most Efficient Way to Learn Frameworks?
The most efficient way to learn case interview frameworks is to first focus on the 2 that can help you analyze any case study interview question— the profitability and non-profit frameworks.
You do not need a degree in business to be able to use these tools. Once you feel comfortable using the profitability and non-profit frameworks, you can add other business frameworks to your consulting interview prep.
Tailor Your Own Case Interview Frameworks
The most important thing to remember about frameworks is that no one expects you to present one straight from a business textbook and use it in a case interview.
In fact, consultants prefer candidates to create their own case interview frameworks for analyzing a case rather than to use an off-the-shelf framework.
Creating your own case interview frameworks shows that you’ve taken the time to consider the specific client problem you’ve been asked to address and have the capability to come up with the key elements of analysis on your own.
This is the secret to how many of our clients are able to gain their offers. They begin their consulting interview prep by learning what a framework is, then mastering the profitability and non-profitability frameworks, and finally learning to build their own case interview frameworks.
Congratulations on making it to the end of our crash course on case interview frameworks!
- What case interview frameworks are,
- Why consulting interviewers love case interview frameworks,
- How to use frameworks help ensure you’ll solve your case,
- The 2 Basic frameworks to learn today,
- Commonly used frameworks,
- How to best use frameworks in your consulting interviews.
Still have questions?
If you still have questions on how to develop your own case interview frameworks, leave them in the comments below. We’ll ask our My Consulting Offer coaches and get back to you with answers.
Also, we have tons of other articles diving into the things you need to know to get an offer from a top consulting firm, including:
- Our Ultimate Guide to Case Interview Prep ,
- MECE – Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhausting , and
- Tips on Case Interview Practice .
Help with Case Study Interview Preparation
Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on case study interview prep. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 85% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting.
We’ve helped people who are just beginning the case interview process to people who only had less than 1 week to prepare including undergrads, MBAs, PhDs, and working professionals.
We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too.
If you want a step-by-step solution to land more offers from consulting firms, then grab the free video training series below. It’s been created by former Bain, BCG, and McKinsey Consultants, Managers and Recruiters.
It contains the EXACT solution used by over 500 of our clients to land offers.
The best part?
It’s absolutely free. Just put your name and email address in and you’ll have instant access to the training series.
Leave a Comment Cancel reply
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
© My CONSULTING Offer
3 Top Strategies to Master the Case Interview in Under a Week
We are sharing our powerful strategies to pass the case interview even if you have no business background, zero casing experience, or only have a week to prepare.
No thanks, I don't want free strategies to get into consulting.
We are excited to invite you to the online event., where should we send you the calendar invite and login information.
McKinsey Case Interview Preparation: the only post you'll need to read
McKinsey interviews are among the hardest job interviews in the world. The questions are difficult, specific to McKinsey, and the interviewer can sometimes seem intimidating.
But the good news is that with the right preparation it can actually become relatively straightforward to succeed at a McKinsey interview. We have put together the ultimate guide to help you maximise your chances of success.
Here's an overview of what we'll cover:
- Interview process and timeline
- Case structure and examples
- Behavioural interview questions (PEI)
- Preparation tips
- Specialist roles
Click here to practise 1-on-1 with McKinsey ex-interviewers
1. interview process and timeline ↑, 1.1 one in ten interview candidates get a job offer ↑.
First, it is important that you understand the different stages of your interview process with McKinsey and your chances at each step. In most countries, McKinsey uses four filters to select candidates:
- Resume and cover letter screening
- McKinsey Problem Solving Game
- First round of interviews
- Second round of interviews
First, recruiters will look at your resume and assess if your experience matches the open position. This is the most competitive step in the process—we’ve found that 90% of candidates don’t make it past this stage.
You can use this free resume guide and this free cover letter guide to help tailor your application to the position you’re targeting.
And if you’re looking for expert feedback, you can also get input from our team of ex-MBB recruiters , who will cover what achievements to focus on (or ignore), how to fine tune your bullet points, and more.
After that, you must complete a difficult interview process. In a recent interview , Dominic Barton, McKinsey’s ex-Global Managing Director, revealed that about 1% of the 200,000 candidates applying to the firm every year receive a job offer.
Assuming a 33% success rate at the four steps of the recruiting process described above, we estimate that McKinsey interviews about 21,000 candidates every year and that they extend a job offer to about 2,200 of them. If you have been invited to a first round interview with McKinsey, you therefore have a 10% chance of getting an offer.
- Filter 1 / Resume and cover letter: 200,000 candidates
- Filter 2 / McKinsey digital assessment: ~65,000 candidates
- Filter 3 / First round of interviews: ~21,000 candidates
- Filter 4 / Second round of interviews: ~6,800 candidates
- Job offers: 2,200 candidates
The good news is that the first and second round interviews are really manageable when you know how to prepare. Your interviews will usually last between 45 and 60 minutes and consist of two parts:
- Case Interview – for 75% of the interview time
- Personal Experience Interview (PEI) – for 25% of the interview time
We will cover both types of interview questions in detail below, but let's first briefly discuss the interview timeline you can expect at McKinsey.
1.2 McKinsey interview timeline ↑
When preparing for your McKinsey case interview, it can be difficult to know when to expect each stage of the interview process. To help illustrate a typical timeline, we've created the below overview of McKinsey's recruitment schedule. As a rule of thumb you can expect the whole process to take 5 to 8 weeks.
Please note: this is meant to give you a general overview, and may not reflect your specific interview timeline. Actual interview timelines depend on a number of factors (e.g. Experience hire vs. University hire). The below is based on the expected recruitment timelines at the University of Chicago (an MBB target school). You can find the original document from the University of Chicago here .
Now that you have a clear picture of what to expect in terms of recruiting process and timeline, let's turn our attention to the skills that McKinsey will be testing you on during case interviews.
1.3 Skills tested by McKinsey case interviews ↑
McKinsey uses case interviews to test three types of skills that are used by consultants in their daily work:
- Problem structuring and maths skills
- Creativity and business sense skills
- Communication skills
1.3.1 Problem structuring and maths skills
First, McKinsey already started testing your maths and logic skills with its Problem Solving Guide . This skill will continue being tested during case interviews and you will be expected to perform mental maths both quickly and accurately .
In addition, your interviewer will ask you to solve the problem in a structured way. In simple terms, that means you will be expected to solve questions with a clear step-by-step approach, that is easy for your interviewer to understand.
1.3.2 Creativity and business sense skills
Second, McKinsey case interviews are designed to evaluate your business sense and creativity. That means your interviewer will assess your ability to come up with a range of ideas that make business sense to solve the client issue at hand. For instance, you could be asked to find innovative ideas for a restaurant to grow sales, or to decrease costs.
An important nuance is that interviewers will not assess your business knowledge per se. In other words, you are not expected to have any knowledge of the industry your case will be about.
For instance, you could get a case about re-insurance and not know anything about the re-insurance industry. This is perfectly normal. In these situations, your interviewer will expect you to ask questions about the industry and will help you understand its specificities.
The only expectation is that you know basic business concepts such as revenues, fixed and variable costs, etc. We have summarised the finance concepts you need to know for consulting interviews here .
1.3.3 Communication skills
Finally, your interviewer will also test your soft skills. This includes how you communicate your ideas and interact with others. As a consultant working with clients, good soft skills will be critical to your success.
So you'll want to show your interviewers that you can communicate well. You should try to communicate your ideas in a clearly structured way, and to speak confidently and professionally. This will have a big impact on the impression you make.
Take a look at the following excerpt from one of our McKinsey live case interview videos to find out what a good, consistent approach to answering case interview questions sounds like.
As you prepare for your interview, if you'd like to learn more about the type of work and the career path at McKinsey, check out our in-depth blog post about McKinsey Careers .
2. Case structure and examples ↑
2.1 mckinsey case study structure ↑.
During your McKinsey interviews, you will be presented with a case study about a company facing an issue. For instance, your case could focus on an industrial facility facing a profit challenge, or a company that needs help to make a strategic decision on a new product. Cases are usually a simplified version of real projects your interviewer worked on in the past.
Your interviewer will tell you about the situation the company is facing and will ask you questions about the situation. She may also provide you with documents such as graphs and tables with figures about the company. You will be allowed to use scrap paper to structure your thoughts and perform calculations. However, you will not be allowed to use a calculator.
Most McKinsey case interviews use the following structure:
- Framework question
- Quantitative question
- Creativity question
First, your interviewer will introduce you to the company’s situation and business problem. Then, the interviewer will ask you to identify the areas you would look at to solve the problem - this is the framework question . You will then be asked to solve one or more quantitative questions, and afterwards you will be expected to outline some initial conclusions.
In addition, at some point during your interview, you will be asked a creativity question. These are usually open-ended questions such as “what other areas should the company explore to increase its online sales?”.
Finally, at the end of the case, your interviewer will ask you to make an overall recommendation for the company based on the analysis you have just carried out.
Although the format and order of questions may vary from one case to the next, you will almost invariably come across these types of questions during your McKinsey interviews and should therefore prepare for them. To find out more about the format of case interviews, check out our Free McKinsey Case Prep .
An additional exercise we would recommend doing is to take a look at the different case interviews available on McKinsey's website . As you go through each case, you should try to map each question to the 5 types of questions we have listed above.
2.2 Differences between McKinsey and other cases ↑
All consulting firms use case interviews during their recruiting process. But McKinsey interviews are different in two regards.
First, McKinsey interviewers tend to control the pace of the interview much more than other interviewers. They will have a list of questions about the case they want to go through with you, and will take you from one question to the next. If they feel you spend too much time on one question, they might interrupt you and ask the next question.
Some people call this “interviewer-led” case interviews. At other firms such as Bain or BCG, interviewers give you more control over the pace of the interview. Some people call this “interviewee-led”, or "candidate-led" case interviews. The skills tested in both types of cases are the same, but you should expect slightly different behaviours from your interviewers.
Second, there is a lot of competition to get into McKinsey, and your interviewer will probably challenge the quality and logic of your answers more than at other firms. That being said, interviewers are instructed to always be well intentioned and will not try to “trip you up” or misguide you.
2.3 Differences between 1st and 2nd round interviews ↑
Another important thing to understand is the number of case interviews you will have and how they will differ. Typically, you will have two rounds of interviews. The number of interviews by round may vary but it is usually between 2 and 4. In total, you will therefore have between 4 and 8 interviews before getting a McKinsey job offer.
First and second round interviews are similar in format and difficulty. However, your first round interviewers will usually be more junior than your second round interviewers.
Associates (2+ years of experience) or Engagement Managers (4+ years of experience) usually lead first round interviews, while the second round is led by Partners (10+ years of experience). If you'd like to learn more about the different levels in the consulting hierarchy, check out our post on the consulting career path .
In theory, McKinsey takes into account your performance at both first and second round interviews when making final offer decisions. However, in practice, your performance during the second round carries more weight.
This is simply because Partners will have a stronger voice when the recruiting group discusses your application. It is therefore particularly important that you do well at your second round interviews.
2.4 McKinsey phone case interviews ↑
One aspect of the process that's quite specific to McKinsey is that 1st round interviews are sometimes conducted over the phone, or a video-conferencing software.
There are a few additional things you need to consider, when preparing for a phone case interview. Specifically, you should:
- Expect phone interviews earlier in the interview process
- Do everything you can to avoid a bad connection
- Pay special attention to your communication
We go into greater depth on the 3 points above, in our article about phone case interviews. Now let's go through a few interview question examples you can use in your preparation.
2.5 McKinsey interview questions examples ↑
One of the best things you can do to prepare for your McKinsey case interviews, is to practice with realistic case questions. McKinsey has made several example cases available, which are modeled after real-world consulting scenarios.
Important note: feel free to open the below practice cases for reference, but open them in a new tab. You'll want to keep this page open, because the sections below will help you be more strategic with your preparation, including your practice with sample cases.
You can find the available cases from McKinsey below:
- Transforming a national education system
In addition, we've put together the ultimate list of free practice cases , with materials from the world's leading consulting firms. The article includes practice case books from university consulting clubs, like Harvard, MIT, London Business School, and more.
Next, we'll turn our attention to behavioural interview questions.
3. Behavioural interview questions (PEI) ↑
The PEI part of your interview will last about ten minutes. It is fairly different from a typical “CV interview” mainly because your interviewer will only assess you on a single topic. Interviewers at other firms tend to cover a large range of topics during a “CV interview” but that is not the case at McKinsey.
The good news is that the topics on which you will be assessed are very predictable. They are made relatively clear on McKinsey’s career website : personal impact, leadership abilities, entrepreneurial drive and problem solving skills.
For instance you could be asked: “Tell me about a time when you led a group of people through a difficult situation” or “Tell me about a time when you had to solve an extremely difficult problem”.
Our recommended approach to prepare for these questions is to craft a story for each of the four skills McKinsey will test you on. You can then use and adapt these stories depending on the exact question your interviewer will ask. There are different structures you could use to tell your story but we recommend keeping it relatively simple:
- Context: start by giving the necessary context on the example you are using
- Problem: outline the problem you and your team were facing
- Solution: explain the solution you came up with to solve the problem outlined
- Impact: if possible, quantify the impact you had in solving the problem
- Lessons: finish by any lessons you might have learned in the process
There are two common mistakes candidates make when answering McKinsey PEI questions . First, a lot of candidates spend too much time on setting the context when telling their story. Second, some candidates forget that the question is about them.
When responding to PEI questions, focus on what you did, and what your impact was on the situation. This is an important step in presenting your qualifications well. When you craft your four stories you should keep these common pitfalls in mind and try to avoid them.
For more details and example answers, you should read the following blog post on how to impress your interviewer when answering Personal Experience Interview questions .
4. Preparation tips ↑
In this section, we're going to cover the most important things you can do in order to prepare for your McKinsey case interviews. Let's begin with maths preparation.
4.1. Become really confident at maths
You don't have to have a perfect GPA or GMAT score to succeed at case interview maths. However, during your McKinsey interviews, you will be expected to quickly perform accurate mental maths.
In order to do this, it’s essential to know the formulas for common metrics, like return on investment or breakeven point. And it’s also helpful to know a few maths shortcuts to help you solve problems more quickly. To learn more about these topics, check out our free guide to case interview maths .
In our experience, the most successful applicants start their interview preparation by practising maths skills, so make sure you prioritise this step.
4.2 Develop a consistent method to crack cases
One of the biggest challenges of interviewing with McKinsey is solving cases that you’ve never seen before. Each case can be difficult, and you’ll have to perform well across multiple case interviews in order to get an offer.
As a result, it’s critical for you to have a consistent approach for solving cases. McKinsey uses interviewer-led case interviews, which can be broken down into the following types of questions:
- Framework development
- Quant question – Data provided
If you can crack each type of question (within a case), then you can crack the overall case.
4.3 Practice cases out loud
How you solve each case is important, but your interviewers will also be evaluating how you COMMUNICATE your answers. It's important to speak in a structured way that makes it easy to clearly understand your points.
The best way to hone your communication skills is to practice interviewing out loud, and you can do that in three main ways:
- Interview yourself (out loud)
- Practice interviewing with peers
- Practice interviewing with ex-interviewers
To help you with this process, here is a broad list of consulting interview questions you can practice with. Practicing by yourself is a great way to get started, and can help you get more comfortable with the flow of a case interview. However, this type of practice won’t prepare you for realistic interview conditions.
After getting some practice on your own, you should find someone who can do a mock interview with you, such as a friend or family member.
We’d also recommend that you do mock interviews with ex-interviewers from McKinsey. This is the best way to replicate the conditions of a real interview, and to get feedback from someone who understands the process extremely well. You may not have the connections to do this on your own, but we’ve made the connections for you. Book your McKinsey mock interview now .
5. Differences for specialist roles
The advice we've given in this article is aimed at candidates for general consulting at McKinsey, but much of it is also relevant for candidates applying for other roles (e.g. McKinsey Digital Labs, Implementation Consultant, Data Scientist, etc.) although as you'd expect, there are some differences.
Below, we've summarised our general guidance which will help you understand the differences at a high-level view. If you are currently in the interview process, your HR contact should be able to provide the details for your specific interview track.
5.1 McKinsey Digital Labs
Broadly speaking, there are two types of roles at McKinsey Digital Labs: consulting roles and specialist roles (e.g.: software developer).
- Consulting roles: if you're applying for an Analyst or Associate role, the interview process will follow the normal consultant interview track. You should therefore prepare for McKinsey-style case interviews, as well as McKinsey PEI questions .
- Specialist roles: specialists have function-specific interviews. For instance, software engineers / data scientists typically have a mix of technical questions (coding), and personal experience interview questions. Some of the data scientists we've worked with were also asked to solve a case in later rounds of interviews.
One of our coaches is a former consultant from McKinsey Digital Labs. We have interviewed him in the following blog post, which you can read if you want to learn more about the interview process at McKinsey Digital Labs.
5.2 Implementation Consultant
Implementation Consultant is a consulting role. As a result, McKinsey interviewers will test the same skills as for other consultants, including problem solving, leadership and communication skills.
In addition, it's likely that McKinsey interviewers will also test specific implementation skills, such as the lean and six-sigma methods. They may cover it with a PEI question, by asking you to provide an example of how you led the implementation of a six-sigma project. Or, they may cover it during a case interview, by asking you to solve an implementation-related case.
5.3 Research Analyst and Data Scientist
In our experience, the interview process for Research Analyst is quite similar to the one for Consultant. Candidates for Research Analyst roles regularly prepare with our coaches.
For a Data Scientist role, the interview process is probably quite different, including coding interviews with statistics and computer science questions.
For any of these specialised roles at McKinsey, we would also encourage you to double check with your HR contact to understand the exact format.
The IGotAnOffer team
Photo: Ed Gregory / Stokpic
- The 1%: Conquer Your Consulting Case Interview
- Consulting Career Secrets
- McKinsey Solve Game (Imbellus)
- BCG Online Case (+ Pymetrics, Spark Hire)
- Bain Aptitude Tests (SOVA, Pymetrics, HireVue)
- Kearney Recruitment Test
- Structuring & Brainstorming Drills
- Chart Interpretation Drills
- Case Math Course and Drills
- McKinsey Interview Academy
- Brainteaser Course and Drills
- Case Interview Math Drill Generator (free)
- Industry Cheat Sheets
- Cover Letter & Resume
Case interview frameworks: how to structure a case in 2023
Structuring your approach is the first step in every case interview. Initially, the interviewer will tell you about the client’s situation and the problem they are asking you to solve. After playing back the prompt and asking clarification questions, you need to structure your approach and create a case interview framework.
Getting the framework right is the first step to successfully ace the case. As with most other aspects of the case interview, it is a skill that needs to be learned, internalized, and practiced to perform best during the interviews. Hence, make it a priority in your case interview prep!
We want to give you a head start by answering the following questions in this article:
- What is a case interview framework?
Why do you need to structure your approach?
Are there different types of frameworks, what makes a good case interview structure, should you learn case interview frameworks by heart.
- How do you structure a McKinsey case interview? Is it different from candidate-led interviews?
This article is part of our consulting case interview series. For the other articles, please click below:
- Overview of case interviews: what is a consulting case interview?
- How to create a case interview framework (this article)
- How to ace case interview exhibit and chart interpretation
- How to ace case interview math questions
What is a framework in a case interview?
A case interview structure is used to break the problem you are trying to solve for the client down into smaller problems or components. It is the roadmap you establish at the beginning of the interview that will guide your problem-solving approach throughout the case.
A structure usually consists of a top-layer and several sub-levels.
To illustrate, the most common and basic structure you might find in some preparation cases is:
Profit = Revenue – Cost
This high-level structure is used for profitability cases when you are tasked to solve an issue with the client’s profit development. For instance, ”client profit has gone down over the last year and we are not sure why that is the case.”
The structure above represents the top-level. In order to analyze the problem, you would need to go deeper and figure out what sub-levels influence the variables you are looking at.
It is important to tailor the structure and associated sub-levels to the case questions. Framework templates were en vogue 5-10 years ago and consulting firms have moved away from asking generic cases that would fit the frameworks taught by Case in Point or Victor Cheng (more on that below).
In terms of format, the best-practice approach to structuring a case is to build an issue tree with branches, which are split into several sub-branches. To stick with our example from above, check out our profitability framework below.
The initial structure you need to come up with serves three important purposes in a case interview.
First, it is the roadmap you establish initially that guides your problem-solving throughout the case. Once you layout your planned approach, you should go through each bucket or branch of your issue tree to find the issue(s) the client is facing or to evaluate the ideas you came up with to fit the needs of the client and then work on your recommendation(s). It serves as the anchor you should stick to as you move through your analysis.
Second, it is used as a communication device to guide the interviewer through your thought process and approach. Additionally, moving through the structure allows you to ask targeted questions to the interviewer about additional data or information on each point.
Third, coming up with a proper structure (more on that below) and communicating it well is a test in itself. The interviewer tries to understand how well you are able to tackle unfamiliar problems. They will evaluate your thinking, logic, analytical capabilities, and problem-solving prowess as well as communication skills.
Case Structuring Course and Drills
Learn how to structure any case, regardless of the problem, industry, or context with our first-principles approach to problem deconstruction and brainstorming. We use our McKinsey interviewer experience to teach you how to structure cases like a real consultant.
Includes 14 lessons on structuring and brainstorming and 50 practice drills.
Generally, there are two types of structures that depend on the nature of the question.
Either you are asked to break a problem down into its parts and understand where an issue comes from to provide a recommendation (e.g. ”How would you approach…?” ) or you are asked to come up with concrete ideas to make something happen ( ”What initiatives can you think of to…?” ).
Figuring out a problem
A structure here is the starting point and anchor of your problem diagnostic.
First, you need to think about all potential problem areas, then drill down into each branch to figure out what is wrong exactly by collecting more information from the interviewer and exhibits; then provide a recommendation in the end.
Coming up with an approach
For these types of questions, a structure is a systematic collection of ideas that you want to investigate on behalf of the client to help them with a specific goal.
For both types of structures, you should follow a hypothesis-driven approach, i.e. already having a clear vision where the problem could be buried most likely or what approach or idea would best support the client’s goal.
Apart from that, what other characteristics make a good case interview structure?
A good case interview structure follows several rules. Let’s break them down into content and principles.
Content of good case interview frameworks
An excellent structure is broad at the top level, goes into greater depth on the sub-levels, and consists of meaningful and insightful ideas.
- Breadth: How many buckets does your structure consist of at the top-level? While in a profitability case, the top-level is basically given, for many other cases you can expand your top-level to 6-8 buckets ( Real MBB case question: ”What could be the reason our machines break down at different rates in different locations?” ).
- Depth: How deep do you go into each top-level idea and come up with levers below? How well can you support your top-level with the actual ideas that influence it?
- Innovation: How meaningful and insightful are your ideas? Create a mix of common ideas and components as well as more out-of-the-box answers. Tell the interviewer something they have not heard before.
Principles of good case interview frameworks
Make sure that your structure adheres to the principles below.
- MECE-ness: Refers to a grouping principle for separating a set of ideas into subsets that are mutually exclusive (no overlaps between the different branches of the issue tree) and collectively exhaustive (covering all important aspects). It is used to break down problems into logical and clean buckets of analysis.
- Actionable: Your answer should only consist of ideas that you can actually exert influence on within the given time frame (e.g. if you are asked to come up with measures over the next year, everything beyond that should no be touched in your structure).
- Logically coherent: Top-levels and sub-levels should be consistent within their level and across levels. They should stick to the same hierarchy of importance and logic (e.g. if you are comparing revenue and cost, they should be at the same level, and everything that influences the two should be below).
- Relevant: The content should be relevant for the case at hand, tailored to the client, easy to follow and communicate. Avoid over-structuring your case.
- Hypothesis-driven: You should have a clear idea of where the problem is buried or what solution is best for the client from the start, and while moving through the structure and gathering additional information, that hypothesis should become clearer.
Below is an example of a framework for the question we highlighted above.
”What could be the reason our machines break down at different rates in different locations?”
This is just an example framework that covers many important aspects and adheres to the content ideas and principles we discussed above. By no means is this the only way to draft a structure here!
Be aware that framework templates were applicable 10 years ago, the era of Victor Cheng and Case in Point. McKinsey and other top-tier firms have long caught up on this and the cases you will get during the interviews are tailored in a way to test your creativity and ability to generate insights, not remember specific frameworks.
In fact, it will hurt you when you try to use a framework on a case that calls for a completely different approach. Also, it gives a false sense of security that will translate to stress once you figure out how your approach won’t work during the real interview – We have seen this so many times…
Your goal should be to learn how to build custom issue trees and frameworks, interpret charts , and perform math no matter the context, industry, or function of the case. Our approach teaches you this and trains your ability to come up with deep, broad, and insightful structures for each case individually.
Now, if you come from a non-business background, it certainly does not hurt to glance over the classic frameworks once (e.g., market-entry, product development) to become familiar with the terms and phrases as long as you are aware that their usefulness ends there.
Also be aware that there is no typical McKinsey case interview framework, BCG case interview framework, or Bain case interview framework. All firms use a diverse set of cases, which are usually developed by each interviewer individually based on a real consulting project they have completed. If you are looking for case interview examples, check out this article , where we have compiled a link list of all publicly available MBB and tier-2 consultancy cases.
How to create a structure in a McKinsey case interview
Since the McKinsey interview is interviewer-led, there is extra emphasis on the structure.
At the core, McKinsey wants to see creative ideas communicated in a structured manner, the more exhaustive the better. Your goal should be to come up with a tailored and creative answer that fits the question.
In a McKinsey interview, you can take up to 2 minutes to draft your structure, IF the structure you come up with is strong and
- hits all the key points that the firm wants to see and
- is communicated in the right way.
A big issue I see with coaching candidates is that they take too little time to structure their thoughts because they feel pressured to be quick rather than exhaustive and creative.
An additional 30 seconds can often make the difference between a bad structure and a good one or a good one and an excellent one. So my battle-tested advice is to get rid of this time pressure mindset, especially in a McKinsey interview.
Now for the content of the structure, there is no right or wrong answer. Some answers are better than others because they are
- follow a strong communication (MECE, top-down, signposted)
That being said, there is no 100% that you can reach or the one-and-only solution/ answer. It is important that your answers display the characteristics specified above and supported well with arguments.
Also different from other firms, you can take up to roughly 5-6 minutes to present your structure, your qualification, and hypotheses. This is due to the interviewer-led format that McK employs. The firm wants to see exhaustive and creative approaches to specific problems, which more often than not do not fit into the classic case interview frameworks that were en vogue 10 years ago…
Again, this only applies if everything you say
- adds value to the problem analysis
- is well qualified
- includes a detailed discussion of your hypotheses at the end
The difference in format and way of answering a question is the reason why I recommend preparing very differently for McK interviews vs. other consultancies.
Read more about the McKinsey interview process and the McKinsey case interview specifically.
We can help you draft frameworks and communicate them properly
We have specialized in placing people from all walks of life with different backgrounds into top consulting firms both as generalist hires as well as specialized hires and experts. As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we focus on teaching the best habits and strategies to ace every case interview, including idea generation, problem-solving, and brainstorming, all from a first-principles perspective.
We can help you by
- tailoring your resume and cover letter to meet consulting firms’ highest standards
- showing you how to pass the different online assessments and tests for McKinsey , BCG , and Bain
- showing you how to ace McKinsey interviews and the PEI with our video academy
- coaching you in our 1-on-1 sessions to become an excellent case solver and impress with your fit answers (90% success rate after 5 sessions)
- preparing your math to be bulletproof for every case interview
- helping you structure creative and complex frameworks for case interviews
- teaching you how to interpret charts and exhibits like a consultant
- providing you with cheat sheets and overviews for 27 industries .
Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program to help you break into consulting.
To improve your skills in all areas of the interview, check out some of our targeted offers below.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Florian spent 5 years with McKinsey as a senior consultant. He is an experienced consulting interviewer and problem-solving coach, having interviewed 100s of candidates in real and mock interviews. He started StrategyCase.com with the goal to make top-tier consulting firms more accessible for top talent, using tailored and up-to-date know-how about their recruiting. He ranks as the most successful consulting case and fit interview coach, generating more than 450 offers with MBB, tier-2 firms, Big 4 consulting divisions, in-house consultancies, and boutique firms through direct coaching of his clients over the last 3 years. His books “The 1%: Conquer Your Consulting Case Interview” and “Consulting Career Secrets” are available via Amazon.
Most Popular Products
© 2023 | Contact: +43 6706059449 | Mattiellistrasse 3/28, 1040 Vienna, Austria
- Terms & Conditions
- Universities & consulting clubs
- American Express
- StrategyCase.com What Our Clients Say 4.82 rating (755 reviews)
Click on the image to learn more.