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Case Interview 2023 – Guide for Your Consulting Case Interview

A case interview is a type of job interview in which the candidate must analyze and solve a problematic business scenario (“case study”). It is used to simulate the situation on-the-job and to find out if the respective candidate meets the necessary analytical and communications skills required for the profession. Case interviews are commonly and globally used during the selection processes at management consulting firms such as McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), or Bain & Company. It is the most relevant part of the process for consulting jobs, and they are usually based on projects that the hiring firm has delivered for a client. It is an exercise that requires a logical approach to finding the problem and an appropriate solution.

  • 1. Case Interview Questions and Answers
  • 1.1 What Is a Case Interview?
  • 1.2 Who Uses Case Interviews and Why?
  • 1.3 What Are the Skills Required in a Case Interview?
  • 1.4 What Are the Differences Between …?
  • 2. Case Interview Examples from McKinsey, BCG, Bain and Other Top Consulting Firms
  • 3. How to Solve a Case Study in 10 Steps [Infographic]
  • 4. Case Interview Secrets: 13 Final Tips for Your Actual Case Interview 
  • 5. PrepLounge: The Key to Your Success 
  • 6. Get Started Right Away and Practice Your First Cases

case interview prep consulting

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A  case interview  is part of the job interview process in which you as the candidate have to analyze and solve a problematic business scenario while interacting with the interviewer. The case study is often based on a problem the interviewer has worked on in real life. This part of the interview is intended to be more of a dialogue. You will need to be proactive and ask questions when attempting to close in on the correct conclusion. Oftentimes, the consultant will attempt to guide you in the correct direction by asking questions himself.

An example question might be :​ The CEO of Deutsche Bank has become increasingly concerned about their declining profitability over the last 36 months and has asked you to determine the factors causing the decline as well as recommend a strategy to reverse this trend.

During the entire application process, you will partake in  up to six case interviews  in two rounds or more. This is dependent on the position you are applying for. Most case interviews have the same underlying structure. An individual case interview may take up to an hour and usually consists of four parts:

Case Interview Format

  • ~ 5 minutes: Introduction and small talk
  • ~ 15 minutes: Personal Fit Interview
  • ~ 30 minutes: Case Interview
  • ~ 5 minutes: Your questions to the interviewer

Case interviews have always been a part of management consulting interviews. Nowadays, also marketing, strategy, operations, or retail positions tend to use similar formats because they are a great tool to probe the quantitative and qualitative skills of an applicant . It allows interviewers to get a deeper insight into how you present yourself as a candidate and apply the limited amount of information given to you.

The reason for the prevalence of the case interview format in management consulting is that the topics and themes handled in most cases reflect conditions close to the reality of the day-to-day activities of a consultancy. It requires the applicant to  ask the right questions , apply  structured frameworks,  and think outside the box . As a consultant, you will spend a lot of time client-facing, and so soft skills are just as important as hard skills to the interviewer. The case interview allows hiring companies to ask the question "Would I be happy to put this candidate in front of a client?".​

Due to the scenario set up in a case interview, it is also a test of general business acumen. Many consultant projects will be in industries where the consultants aren't experts, especially junior consultants. This is normal, but to be effective as a consultant business acumen is an important foundation for consultants to maintain effective strategy recommendations. Companies pay consultants for their minds rather than their industry expertise.

Case Interview Skills

A case interview has no “correct” or “standard” answer. There are often many solutions to a single case and in the end, what counts is your train of thought and how you got to your solution. The interviewer will evaluate you across five main areas:

1)  Problem-Solving Skills 

The interviewer will analyze your ability to identify problems, isolate causes, and prioritize issues. During a case interview, you will be presented with a wide range of relevant and irrelevant data pieces. You must know how to use this data to make your recommendations and you have to prove that you are able to construct a logical argumentation without rushing to conclusions based on insufficient evidence.

2)  Creativity and Business Sense Skills 

As a consulting candidate, you should know the basic business concepts as well as show a certain amount of business sense and creativity. If the interviewer asks you to find innovative ideas to increase the profitability of a hotel chain, you will have to come up with a range of ideas that make business sense. You are not expected to have deep knowledge of the hospitality industry, but to be able to ask relevant and insightful questions on the aspects important for you to solve the client’s issue at hand.

3)  Structure 

Maintaining a structure means that you solve the question with a clear step-by-step approach that you communicate actively with your interviewer. A good structure is the most important part of a case interview, as it is the underlying base of your whole approach and argumentation. It is also the main reason why candidates fail their case interviews. A common mistake that candidates make is that they try to apply standardized frameworks to any case they are given. Instead, you should solve each case by creating a framework specifically tailored to its needs – as you would do as a consultant on the job. Practice your structure with our Structuring Drills .

4)  Math Skills 

As a consultant, part of your job is number-crunching and interpreting data. Therefore, it is important that you have a good feeling for numbers and have great mental math skills. You should be able to perform simple calculations in your sleep. You can practice your math skills with our Mental Math Tool .

5)  Communication Skills 

In times of digitalization, soft skills become more and more important for management consultants. On the job, you will be in contact with high-level CEOs, clients, partners, and colleagues. Strong communication is crucial for you to get your work done efficiently. Thus, your interviewer will pay close attention to the way you communicate and present yourself during your conversation. Always be professional, answer concisely, and communicate the key message first (see Pyramid Principle ).

First and Second-Round Interviews 

While the format of the first and second-round interviews stays the same, the seniority level of the interviewer differs . The person interviewing you in the first round is usually more junior, having up to four years of consulting experience (Associates or Engagement Managers). The second round is led by Partners who have more than ten years of experience and tend to drill you to understand how you cope with challenges. Therefore, second rounds are perceived as more difficult by candidates. Since partners have a stronger voice when discussing an applicant, your performance during the second round of case interviews carries also more weight. For more information on the different positions, please read McKinsey Hierarchy: The Different Position Levels .

Candidate- and Interviewer-Led Case Interviews

In candidate-led cases, the interviewer expects the candidate to lead him/her through the case. As a candidate, you can do so by asking relevant questions, and by developing and testing your hypotheses. Candidate-led cases are the most common  types of cases . You will encounter them at the majority of the big consulting firms such as BCG, Bain, and occasionally at McKinsey.

Interviewer-led cases are most frequently used at McKinsey. As the title suggests, the interviewer’s guidance through the case interview is firmer.

You can find more information on the two different interview styles in our BootCamp article: Interviewer-Led vs. Candidate-Led .

In the following, you can find some examples of initial case interview questions :

McKinsey Case Interview Examples ​

  • Product launch strategy for a soft drinks producer (McKinsey website)
  • Market entry strategy for a major pharmaceutical company  (McKinsey website) ​

BCG Case Interview Examples ​

  • Profitability of a low-cost airline (BCG website)
  • Pricing strategy for a new drug (BCG website) ​

Bain Case Interview Examples ​

  • Market analysis for old winery
  • Increase revenues for a Women's fashion retailer (Bain website) ​

Oliver Wyman Case Interview Examples

  • Profitability of a Chinese theme park operator (Oliver Wyman website)
  • Growth strategy for a small power boats (Oliver Wyman)

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10 Steps to Crack the Case Interview Infographic

Step 1: Listen actively and take notes. Write down every piece of information, especially numerical data.

Step 2: Restate the question. Pause, paraphrase, and make sure you understand the problem statement by confirming with the interviewer.

Step 3: Clarify the objectives and identify the problem. Ask specific questions and double-check on objectives. Make sure you completely understand the problem.

Step 4: Write out your structure. Ask your interviewer for a minute to prepare your structure and organize your notes. Identify your case type and use an issue tree to customize your structure. The branches of your issue tree should be MECE .

Step 5: State your hypothesis. Now that you have set up the issue tree, your task is to test each branch to see if it is the root cause of the problem. Where to begin? A hypothesis based on an educated guess helps here.  (e.g. "Since you have mentioned that revenues are more or less flat, my hypothesis is that the problem is mostly driven by the cost side of the business. If it is okay with you, I will start by […]")

Step 6: Think out loud. Sharing your thoughts allows the interviewer to interact. Refine or rebuild your hypothesis as you find out more.

Step 7: Gather more data in order to test your hypothesis. Proactively ask for relevant data and always segment it (e.g. using the ABC analysis ). Try to evaluate whether trends have been company-specific or industry-wide.

Step 8: Dig deeper while staying structured (MECE!) throughout the case. Always refer to the structure you have set up at the beginning of the case, but be flexible as the case evolves. If you conclude that your hypothesis is false, eliminate that branch and go to the next one. Summarize findings when switching major branches. If your test confirms your hypothesis, go deeper into that branch, and drill down to the lower levels until you identify all proven root-causes.

Step 9: Choose a recommendation and use the Pyramid Principle to structure your conclusion. Ask for a minute to gather your thoughts and then state your recommendation. You need to deliver a one minute, top-down, concise, structured, clear, and fact-based summary of your findings.

Step 10: Stand by your conclusion. Your interviewer will likely challenge your recommendation (either to see if you can handle pressure or to assess if you really believe in what you are saying).

1. Focus on the task at hand 

Don’t think too much about the approach your interviewer is taking. It should not matter much if the conversation is interviewer- or candidate-led. If you go into your interview with a profound understanding of how to handle even a difficult case, the format of the interview should not be an issue. Keep a cool head and structure your thoughts.

2. Ask the right questions 

At the beginning of the case, your interviewer will present you with the situation of the client. Don’t rush into the analysis without developing a deep understanding of the problem first. Ask your interviewer questions to clarify the case. This is expected behavior that also takes place later with the client. Make sure you understand what the  business model  and your  objective  in the respective case are (regarding both money and the timeline). If there are any other possible limitations you are unsure about, ask your interviewer in a concise way. Asking unnecessary questions will raise doubts about your ability to work efficiently under pressure.

3. Buy time with repetitions 

A common trick consultants use is the  repeating of facts or overall goals . By doing this, you are showing a fundamental comprehension of the case and are emitting an aura of control, gradually heading towards a solution. This technique can give you more time to think. Articulating the facts of the case can also be a source of clarity and allow you to form solutions more quickly.

4. Only form a hypothesis with sufficient information 

Do not state a hypothesis at the beginning, a stage in which you may still have incomplete information. Get a good sense of the case’s environment and ask sensible follow-up questions . Only then frame a structure and formulate a hypothesis.

5. Utilize data for your analysis 

Taking wild guesses is a death sentence for your case interview. Make sure your claims are backed up by the facts, and remain calm when presented with new information. Consultancies will closely observe how you  make use of new data and incorporate it into your hypothesis .

6. Take clear notes 

Taking  structured notes  is a highly underrated skill when dealing with a case. Making sure your notes are coherent and clear will make your thoughts easy to navigate and ensure you do not lose your footing during the interview.

  • Place your sheet horizontally to maximize your space, and jot down the case’s  key question on the left side of the page. This way you will never lose sight of the main objective . The remaining portion will be dedicated to the issue tree, with your hypothesis included above the issue tree.
  • Make sure that you highlight key pieces of information that add substance to your hypothesis.
  • When it comes to calculations , use a separate page, but practice having it organized in case you need to go back through your assumptions or calculations.
  • Try to limit the number of pages you use to a  maximum of three sheets . Otherwise, you will stress yourself out while trying to find what you are looking for.

7. Structure is key 

The most important aspect of a case interview is having a good structure. You can structure your case by following these four steps:

  • Craft an issue tree as the overall foundation for your structure. This is a customizable framework used to analyze the root causes of problems in a case. It helps you to break a complex problem down into its components.
  • Make sure that your issue tree is MECE to avoid inefficient dependencies between branches that will slow down your analysis. MECE is a way of segmenting information into sub-elements that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. 
  • Prioritize and concentrate on high impact issues of your issue tree that will create value for your client. Always make sure you explain the reasons behind your choices to the interviewer.
  • Use the Pyramid Principle to structure your conclusion , a three-step structure to present your synthesis in an effective and convincing manner. First, state the recommendation (What?). Second, provide three reasons supported by data (Why?). Third, provide information on how to implement the recommendation (How?). 

To practice your structure, you can use our Structuring Drills.

8. Don't force-fit frameworks

Standard frameworks can be a source of inspiration, but should never be force-fitted to a case. They are very stiff and do not allow room for customization . If you use pre-defined frameworks, you run the risk of missing important elements of the specific problem you are trying to solve. A consultant would not just force-fit frameworks to their specific client’s problem, so you should not do this in your case interview, either. Each case is unique and requires an individually customized framework that is MECE as well as adapted to the problem you are trying to solve, the company, and the industry.

9. Don’t panic if you get stuck 

If you ever get stuck, don’t freak out – it happens. What counts is how you deal with the situation. Here is what you can do:

  • Take a deep breath  or a sip of water if you have a glass of water nearby.
  • Take a moment to grasp the big picture , to recap what you have learned so far and what you still need to find out to address the main question at hand.
  • Outline how these sub-questions can be answered , and what kind of data or information you will need to do that.
  • Double-check whether data or information provided by the interviewer at an earlier stage is now getting new relevance.
  • Think out loud and take the interviewer along with your thinking process. If you are puzzled by some obvious contradiction, actively discuss this with your interviewer. Oftentimes, an interviewer will wait for you to explicitly verbalize your confusion before gently guiding you.

10. Sometimes there is no clear answer 

Oftentimes, a case interview has no “correct” or “standard” answer. The case may encompass you  exploring the issues and walking down several paths . There are often many solutions to a single case that may differ from the interviewer’s expectations. In the end, what counts is your  train of thought and how you got to your solution . You are not expected to know everything about business, but demonstrate a logical judgment and a good approach to solve problems.

Nevertheless, you should always give a clear recommendation at the end of the interview, when the interviewer will ask for your conclusion. The trick is to use supporting arguments based on what you have learned during the analysis, to point out limitations, and to also highlight additional areas to explore to confirm that your current understanding is the right one.

11. Engage the interviewer 

The interview should be a dialogue, so make sure to engage the interviewer and demonstrate not only your business judgment, but also your communication and people skills . This gives the first insight into how you might interact with future clients and colleagues. How can you do that?

  • Explain. Share your thought process with the interviewer, and always let them know what your next steps are.
  • Listen. During your case interview, the interviewer will usually give you hints and steer you in a direction. Notice that! If they ask a specific question, e.g. “Name three points about…”, answering in two or five points will mean that you didn’t pay attention.
  • Ask questions. Create a discussion, initiate small talk, and use your chance to make a positive connection with the interviewer, especially at the end of every interview when you get to ask final questions. Find a point in common and try to stand out. Here is a list of the best questions to ask at the end of an interview .  

12. Be confident 

You don’t necessarily need to be extroverted to be a top management consultant, but you need to be confident. Consulting is a people job as much as it is an analytical job. It is important for the client to feel that you know what you are doing. Thus, this is something the interviewer will take into consideration. Here are five things you can do during the interview to come across as more confident:

  • Try to enjoy the interview by focusing on the challenge, the satisfaction it brings you when you solve the case, and the joy of sharing your life experiences with someone else. If you have fun, chances are high that the interviewer has fun, as well.
  • Find your own style and don’t try to pretend to be someone that you are not. It is fine if you are not the most outgoing person. Just be genuine!
  • Sit up straight , but don’t be too stiff. Push your back against the back of the seat and don’t just sit on the edge of the chair.
  • Make eye contact , but don’t stare, either.
  • Speak in a clear , calm, and unrushed manner. Don't mumble or whisper, but equally don't shout. Think before you speak!

13. When in doubt, reschedule 

If you’re not feeling confident about your chances, don’t hesitate to reschedule. If you take this course of action, take a few things into consideration. Make sure to suggest an alternative day and avoid rescheduling multiple times at all costs. The consultancy will be grateful for you to suggest an immediate alternative. Try to be transparent as to why you are rescheduling without going too deeply into details. However, rescheduling should only be used as a last resort.

To become the best, you must learn from the best. That is exactly what PrepLounge can offer you. The vast  PrepLounge community  makes it easy to  find case partners with the same ambitions and goals as you. Whether you are looking for a  professional case coach  or other aspiring consultants, you will have no problem finding case partners in the build-up to your interview. Our PrepLounge coaches – from Bain to McKinsey – are uniquely qualified to provide you with insights into the mastery of a case interview.

Apart from case partners from every imaginable background, PrepLounge provides a colossal collection of online resources to give you the best preparation leading up to your case interview. We will provide you with questions and answers to the most important consulting case types and share in-depth knowledge for the best possible case interview preparation. You will be able to find case partners to practice online and always be on top of the latest insights and news regarding consulting jobs and top consulting firms.

As a PrepLounge member, you will receive access to all these perks. PrepLounge will accompany you all the way from your application through to your contract negotiation. You strongly diminish your chance of success without sufficient preparation. Invest in your future and give yourself the best chance at acing your case interview! Exchange your experience with peers from all around the world in our  Consulting Q&A . Join our case interview community today and embark on your journey into consulting!

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The Most Common Pitfalls in Case Interview Preparation

The Most Common Pitfalls in Case Interview Preparation

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Consulting Interview Questions – Example Questions and Answers for Your Interview in Management Consulting

Consulting Interview Questions

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McKinsey PEI (Personal Experience Interview)

McKinsey PEI (Personal Experience Interview)

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Case interview prep (7 steps to an offer at McKinsey, BCG, etc.)

Case Interview

Today we're going to explain how to prepare for case interviews, step-by-step.

We've helped thousands of candidates ace their consulting interviews and get jobs at top firms. Below we've summarised the seven most important preparation steps you'll need take in order to succeed in your case interviews.

And here's one of the first things you'll want to know:

Memorising pre-made frameworks will NOT impress your interviewers. You need to learn to create custom frameworks that are tailored to the details of each individual case. We'll cover this in more detail in  section 3.2 below. 

Here's an overview of your seven preparation steps:

  • Learn what to expect in a case interview
  • Understand the 7 question types
  • Learn a repeatable method for solving cases
  • Solve practice cases (14 free example cases)
  • Prepare answers to fit and PEI questions
  • Practice answering questions out loud
  • Do 30+ mock interviews

You can use this guide as a launchpad for all your case interview prep. When you need to go deeper into a topic (such as using frameworks, case examples, specific firms, even what to wear, etc.) just click on the relevant link.

Click here to practice with MBB ex-interviewers

1. learn what to expect in a case interview.

Case interviews (sometimes called case study interviews) are used by consulting firms to test candidates on their problem-solving, maths, communication, and business sense skills. They usually last ~1-hour and they are the core of the consulting interview process.

In a case interview, you are presented with a case study about an imaginary company facing a problem or challenge. You'll need to review the information, ask questions to get more information, and then provide recommendations on what actions the company should take.

Depending on what firm you're interviewing for, the interviewer may control the case interview by asking you a list of questions, or you may be expected to take the initiative in the discussion.

Some firms, such as Bain and BCG, also use case presentations. In these you are given a couple of hours to analyze a pack of documents and create a presentation (you can learn how to prepare for that in our guide to written case interviews ).

2. Understand the 7 question types

We have analysed hundreds of case interviews over the past few years. And our conclusion is that case interviews are all made up of the same 7 types of questions:

case interview question types

The key to success is therefore clear:

If you learn how to consistently crack each type of question individually, then you will be able to consistently crack case interviews as a whole.

Now, in order for this to work, you’ll need to have a deeper understanding of what each question type looks like, so you can identify them.

3. Learn a repeatable method for solving cases

Understanding the question types is only the first step. 

You'll also need to learn how to solve each one consistently, and that's what we'll cover in this section. Let's jump straight in!

3.1     Situation

The objective of a case interview is for you to solve a business problem. So, during the first few minutes of the interview, your interviewers will lay out the situation of the company you're trying to help. 

Situation question example

Your client is a car manufacturer whose profits have been going down. The CEO hired you to help turn the situation around. 

You should always begin this part of the interview by summarising the situation back to your interviewers to ensure you’ve properly understood the most important details.

Then you can begin asking follow-up questions. 

In this example, you might want to ask follow-up questions like these:  

  • How much have profits been declining?
  • When did the decline begin? 
  • What is the nature of the decline? Have they been declining at 1% per year for the past 5 years, or is it a recent and sudden 20% drop? 
  • What’s the CEO’s objective? For example, are they aiming to just stop the profit decline or do they want to reverse the trend?

The answer to these questions will significantly influence how you solve the case. This part of the case interview aims to test your listening skills and whether you are taking the time to make sure you understand a problem before trying to solve it.

Now here is a summary of the steps you can take to consistently solve any situation question:

Summary - IGotAnOffer method (situation questions)

  • Confirm your understanding
  • Emphasise key elements
  • In scope vs out of scope

3.2     Framework development

Once the situation has been established, the second step is to develop a framework.   

Framework development question example

What are the different areas you would look at to identify the cause of declining profits and turn the situation around?

In the car manufacturer example, your framework could have one branch on revenues and one branch on costs. By definition, profits will have gone down because of declining revenues, increasing costs, or both. And you need to look at both sides of the equation for your analysis to be comprehensive.

During a case interview, it often helps to literally draw your framework out on a piece of paper. This will help you organize your thoughts, and it will also help you explain your thinking to the interviewer, because you can simply show them the paper and walk them through the details. 

case interview framework

A common mistake a lot of candidates make is to memorise   specific frameworks   and to reuse them as-is in their interviews. Interviewers immediately spot and penalise candidates who do this because the objective of the framework question is to test your creativity and business acumen – not your ability to memorise frameworks!

As a result, you should focus your energy on learning to develop customised frameworks that address the information you gather in each case interview.

This might sound a little bit intimidating at first, but it becomes easy with practice.

Here’s an overview of the process you can use to solve any framework development question you encounter in your interviews:

Summary - IGotAnOffer method (framework development questions)

  • Step 1: Ask for time to gather your thoughts
  • Extract the main elements from the case question
  • Break down the main elements into components
  • Spin your paper around
  • Begin with an overview
  • Highlight 3-5 considerations for each branch
  • Summarise your points
  • Prioritise next steps

3.3 Framework exploration

Once you’ve set up your framework, your interviewer will sometimes ask you to identify the root cause of the issue faced by your client. This is what we call the framework exploration question.

It’s worth mentioning that McKinsey usually doesn’t use this type of question, but it is sometimes used at other firms, like BCG, Bain, etc. 

This is one of a few differences between McKinsey’s “interviewer-led” approach and the “candidate-led” approach used at most other consultancies. To learn more about this distinction, check out section 2 of our   McKinsey case interview guide .

Framework exploration question example

Can you explore your framework to find the root cause of the profits issue faced by the company?

The best method for identifying the root cause within a case is to explore your framework using a hypothesis-led approach.

For example, you might start by saying: “My initial hypothesis is that the profits issue faced by the company is driven by revenues.” You would then investigate the revenue side of your framework to identify if that’s where the root cause of the issue is. If revenues have been stable and are not the cause of the issue, you would then update your hypothesis and move on to the cost side.

For an example of this hypothesis-led approach, check out the BCG & Bain case extract we recorded previously:  

Since this method is focused on identifying the root cause, there wouldn’t be framework exploration questions in cases without an underlying issue. For example, it wouldn’t come up in market entry or new product launch cases. 

To summarise, here’s the repeatable process you can use for solving framework exploration questions:

Summary - IGotAnOffer method (framework exploration questions)

  • Pick a framework branch
  • Hypothesise that the branch is the root cause of the problem
  • If hypothesis is invalid: cross out the branch and update your hypothesis
  • If hypothesis is valid: continue digging down

3.4 Quantitative question – data provided

In each case interview, you will likely have to solve quantitative questions. The aim of these questions is to assess how comfortable you are solving problems with data. Broadly speaking, there are two types of quantitative questions.

The first is quant questions where you will be provided with data. This data usually comes in the form of graphs and tables or can also be provided by your interviewer orally.

Quantitative question - data provided example

Data provided: table with volume and price for top cars sold by the company.

What do you think is happening with revenues based on the data available in this table?

This is the stage of case interviews where it becomes essential for you to be quick and accurate with mental maths. 

Basically every candidate will need a mathematics refresher prior to their interviews. Plus, there are some handy shortcuts you can learn to help you make calculations more easily. Check out our free   case interview maths guide   to learn more.  

Here’s the 4 steps that we recommend you take for each quantitative question you encounter:

Summary - IGotAnOffer method (quantitative questions)

  • Step 1: Map out your calculations in advance
  • Make data assumptions (only if necessary)
  • Step 3: Sense check your results (optional)
  • Step 4: Relate back to the initial question and suggest next steps

3.5 Quantitative question - no data provided

The second type of quantitative question is where you are not provided with any data.   

Quantitative question - no data provided example

Could you estimate the market size for cars in the US by making assumptions?

This is the other type of question that isn’t typically used by McKinsey (this one and framework exploration), but other firms like BCG and Bain do ask this type of question.

The process for solving a quant question without any data is exactly the same as solving a quant question with data, except now you’ll be using the sub-step under step 2 below: 

If you’re not sure where to start with making data estimations, then we’d encourage you to study the process described in our   market sizing question guide . 

3.6 Creativity question

At some point during your interview, you will also be tested on your creativity. This type of question is very open-ended. There are no right or wrong answers. 

Creativity question example

Now that we know that the profit decline is driven by a decrease in number of SUVs sold, what are some of the ideas you have to turn the situation around?

Creativity questions aim to test your ability to generate new ideas and solutions, but you don’t want to do this in an unstructured way. 

Here’s the basic process for answering a creativity question systematically:

Summary - IGotAnOffer method (creativity questions)

  • Step 2: Brainstorm within a mini-framework
  • Step 3: Prioritise your ideas and highlight potential risks

3.7 Recommendation

The last step of every case interview is the recommendation question. As the name suggests, this is the part of the interview where you’ll be asked to summarise your findings and to explain what the client should do.

Recommendation question example

The CEO of the car manufacturer gives you a call and asks you for your final recommendation.

What would you say?

For instance, you might recommend that your client solves their profit issue by launching new products that increase revenues. 

Regardless of what you recommend, there is a particular structure that you should use to deliver a thoughtful recommendation. Here it is: 

Summary - IGotAnOffer method (recommendation questions)

  • Step 2: Give your recommendation first
  • Step 3: Provide 3-5 supporting arguments
  • Step 4: Outline next steps and potential risks

4. Solve practice cases (14 free example cases)

The best way to master the case interview process we've outlined above is to practice with realistic example cases. 

Below are several example cases for leading consultancies to get you started.

4.1 McKinsey case interview examples

  • Beautify case interview   (McKinsey website)
  • Diconsa case interview   (McKinsey website)
  • Talbot Trucks case interview   (McKinsey website)
  • Shops Corporation case interview   (McKinsey website)
  • Conservation Forever case interview   (McKinsey website)
  • McKinsey case interview guide   (by IGotAnOffer)
  • McKinsey live case interview extract (by IGotAnOffer)
  • McKinsey case example by CaseCoach: see video below

4.2 BCG case interview examples

  • Foods Inc and GenCo case samples  (BCG website)
  • Chateau Boomerang written case interview  (BCG website)
  • BCG case interview guide   (by IGotAnOffer)
  • Written cases guide   (by IGotAnOffer)
  • BCG live case interview extract (by IGotAnOffer) - See below

4.3 Bain case interview examples

  • CoffeeCo practice case   (Bain website)
  • FashionCo practice case   (Bain website)
  • Associate Consultant mock interview video   (Bain website)
  • Case interview tips   (Bain website)
  • Bain case interview guide   (by IGotAnOffer)
  • Bain live case interview extract (by IGotAnOffer)
  • Consultant mock interview video   (see video below)

4.4 Deloitte case interview examples

  • Engagement Strategy practice case (Deloitte website)
  • Recreation Unlimited practice case (Deloitte website)
  • Strategic Vision practice case (Deloitte website)

4.5 Other case interview examples

  • Yale SOM consulting club - Playworks case (YouTube)
  • Yale SOM consulting club - Airlines case (YouTube)
  • CaseBinge fully interactive mock case (see below)

If your target firm isn't included above, or if you want even more practice cases, check out our list of   47 case interview examples . This list includes free cases for other firms like Accenture, Oliver Wyman, PWC, Roland Berger, etc. There are several more McKinsey cases there as well.

5. Prepare answers to fit and PEI questions

During case interviews, you'll typically be asked a few behavioural   questions in addition to the case-related questions we covered above. So, in order for your overall case interview to be successful, you'll need to be prepared to answer behavioural questions. 

Behavioural interview questions can be categorised in two buckets:

  • Fit questions . These are generic questions such as “Why consulting?” or “Why McKinsey / BCG / Bain?”
  • Personal Experience Interview (PEI) questions . These are questions such as “Tell me about a time when you lead a team through a difficult situation,” or “Tell me about a time where you had to manage a team conflict” 

All firms ask a mix of these two types of questions, but some are more focused on one type than others. For instance,   McKinsey almost exclusively asks personal experience interview questions . But Bain tends to put much more focus on typical fit questions such as “ Why Bain? ”

Difference between Fit and PEI questions

While case questions are used to assess your problem solving skills, fit and PEI questions are more focused on the three other attributes consulting firms look for: leadership abilities, entrepreneurial drive, and personal impact.

So what specific questions do you need to prepare for? We have analysed hundreds of interview questions on for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain and have summarised the most common questions below. 

5.1 Top 5 fit questions (and how to answer them)

Top 5 consulting fit interview questions

Let’s walk through the top 5 fit questions you will come across in your interviews and briefly discuss each of them.

Please note that the percentages listed below are of total fit questions. For instance, for 100 fit questions 26 will be “Why firm X?” As mentioned above, the balance between fit questions and PEI questions varies from firm to firm.

#1 Why firm X? (26% of fit questions)

If you've applied to BCG (for example), they'll want to know why you prefer their firm, and not McKinsey, Bain, or another company (even though you may have applied to them also!).

It's important to prepare an answer to this question that is totally unique to your target firm. This can be challenging if you don't think through it carefully, because many consultancies (especially MBB) have a lot in common. 

As a result, it's really useful to   talk to consultants you've met   about their firms, or to look at specific projects that your target firm has done. That will help you get more unique information that's not going to be the same across multiple firms. To learn more about preparing an answer for this type of question, visit our guides on the  Why McKinsey  / Why Bain / Why BCG  questions.

#2 Why consulting? (24% of fit questions)

Consulting is an intense job. Consulting firms will therefore want to check that you have actually done your homework and that you have thought about why you want to be a consultant.

There are   many great reasons to go into consulting . But here our three favourite ones:

  • You will work for senior execs early in your career.   This opportunity is unique. In most industry jobs you have to wait for many years to have the same level of exposure to CEOs / CFOs.
  • You will learn a lot - very quickly.   Changing industry and project every 3-6 months is one of the things that make the job challenging. But it also means your rate of learning will be much higher than in other industry jobs.
  • You will work with bright people.   Getting into consulting is hard and as a result your teammates will be extremely intelligent people. Consulting is one of the most stimulating environments you can be in.

#3 Introduce yourself / Walk me through your resume (14% of fit question)

This question is a great opportunity to summarise what you have done in the past in a way that illustrates how you would make a great consultant. For instance you could say something like:

“I’m   Chris, I’m currently doing a master’s degree in economics at Cambridge. I think I’ve done three things in my studies / career so far that are relevant to consulting and motivated me to apply for this job. First, etc. ”

And you could then summarise   the three most relevant points on your   resume .

#4 Tell me something that’s not on your resume (6% of fit questions)

This question is particularly popular at Bain, and it helps your interviewers get to know you on a more personal level. They are trying to find out what kind of fun stuff you do outside of work. It could literally be anything: playing sports, being part of band, writing a book, etc.

Exactly WHAT you do outside of work doesn't matter as much as   HOW you do it. Your interviewer will be looking for signs that you are pursuing that activity with passion, drive, and intensity.

For instance, imagine you say that you love basketball and you set up a team with your friends, with matches and training every week. This shows passion, commitment and organization skills, as well as suggesting good social skills.

By contrast, imagine that you say that you play basketball once or twice a month. Okay, it shows you're not a complete couch potato. But  it doesn't really give the interviewer much else to go on, and doesn't show passion or drive.

#5 Tell me about your greatest accomplishment (4% of fit questions)

Unless your interviewer specifies that it’s ok to talk about an accomplishment outside of work / university, you should stick to these two areas.

A great answer will focus on a recent achievement that’s relevant to the skills you need to be a good management consultant.

The best thing to do for this question is to reuse one of the stories you will be preparing for Personal Experience Interview questions, which we will cover   later in this guide.

#6 Other (26% of fit questions)

Finally, there is a long list of other fit questions that consulting firms ask, but they're not as common as the ones we've covered above.

If you have time towards the end of your preparation, after you've prepared thoroughly for case questions and the most common fit/PEI questions, we suggest coming back to the following additional fit questions:

  • What are your strengths / weaknesses? (3% of fit questions)
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (3% of fit questions)
  • What do consultants do in your opinion? (2% of fit questions)
  • Why do you want to work for this specific office? (2% of fit questions)

5.2 Top 5 PEI questions

Top 5 consulting PEI questions

Personal experience interview questions are different to fit questions because they are less generic. They aim at testing the SPECIFIC skills you need to be a good management consultant.

Here are the main five themes that you're likely to encounter in these personal experience interview questions:

#1 Leading others (23% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a time you led a team through a difficult challenge

To answer questions about leadership you'll want to be ready with examples of specific steps you took to solve a problem. It's good to emphasize teamwork and collaboration but you need to be sure to outline your role as a leader and demonstrate that you're capable of making difficult decisions.

Don't feel you have to use an example where you were a designated leader. It can be just as effective to use an example where you took the lead even though it wasn't explicitly your responsibility to do so.

At the end of your answer, reflect on what this experience taught you about leadership and how it made you a better leader.

#2 Managing a team conflict / situation (22% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a time you worked in a team and had to manage a conflict

Here you'll want to emphasize your approach of active listening, open communication, and impartiality. If you have experience working as a manager, demonstrate that you had processes in place for conflict resolution.

Showcase how you fostered teamwork and collaboration to find a mutually beneficial resolution.

#3 Managing a personal conflict (21% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a colleague / your boss

Consulting firms are high pressure environements, and professional disagreements are inevitable. The interviewer wants to see that you're honest enough to say so when you disagree with something, but that you also know when to give way when necessary.

It's probably easier to use a work-based disagreement in your example rather than talking about a clash of personalities, as the latter may end up giving the impression that you are difficult to deal with.

Demonstrate that you are a good listener and empathetic even when you disagree. Talk about specific steps you took to resolve the conflict, and the lessons you learned.

#4 Influencing others (17% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a time you changed the mind of a group of people / an individual

Persuasion is a key skill for a consultant. You'll need to persuade clients to adopt your recommendations, and you'll need to persuade team members that your strategies are the right ones.

Your interviewer will know that persuasion starts not with talking, but with listening. So a good answer might talk about how you took steps to properly understand why person X was convinced of Y, and then by addressing each of their concerns you were able to convince them of Z.

#5 Overcoming challenges (11% of PEI questions)

E.g.: Tell me about a challenge you had to push yourself hard to overcome

Consulting firms want to hire people who will go the extra mile to get the job done well, and who rise to a challenge rather than feeling out of their depth.

Choose an example of when you out of your comfort zone. Describe how you sought additional resources, thought outside the box, invested extra time and effort, or even asked for help, in order to overcome the challenge.

If you're short on relevant work experience, feel free to use an example from university, sport or another personal project. The important thing here is to show that you're a resourceful problem-solver  and mentally strong in the face of setbacks.

#6 Other (7%)

See examples of what the "other" questions might be in our consulting interview questions guide .

5.3 How to prepare PEI stories

People remember stories. On the day of your interview, your interviewer will see 6 to 8 other candidates, so you need to build memorable stories that will make you stand out.

There are multiple ways to tell a story, but we like to keep things relatively simple with the framework below:

  • Situation : start by giving the necessary context
  • Problem : outline the problem you / your team were facing
  • Solution: explain the solution you came up with to solve the problem
  • Impact : if possible, quantify the impact you had in solving the problem
  • Lessons : conclude with any lessons you learned in the process

Using this framework as a guide, we recommend preparing  5 specific stories that you can use to answer PEI questions during your interviews. 

By using this story-driven approach, you can typically use your stories for multiple different types of questions, which will help you be ready regardless of the specific PEI questions you encounter. 

If you are preparing for McKinsey, we would also encourage you to read our article on   McKinsey PEI questions . The same five themes we covered above are used by McKinsey, but in slightly different proportions. And we also share common mistakes to avoid in that article.

6. Practice answering questions out loud

Your answers to behavioural and case questions are important, but your interviewers will also be evaluating how you COMMUNICATE your answers. It's important to speak in a structured way and to avoid drifting off topic or spending too much time on each question. 

We recommend that you practice by interviewing yourself out loud . Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking the questions and answering them, just like you would in an interview. 

This may sound strange, but it will help  you master the rhythm of case interviews. It will also help you to memorise the key details of your answers for behavioural questions, without any crutches (like notes, glancing at your resume, etc.). 

Do your best to replicate the conditions of a real case interview as much as you can. It might help to look in a mirror while you're giving your answers. You may even find it helpful to practice in the same clothes you intend to wear to your interview . 

As you go through this process, if you'd like a broader list of questions to practice with, you can check out our   consulting interview questions article .

7. Do 30+ mock interviews

Practicing by yourself is critical, but we all have gaps that we won't be able to identify without a partner that can see our performance more objectively. 

As a result, we recommend that you do as many mock interviews as possible before your interviews. In fact, we've found that most successful consulting candidates do 30+ mock interviews to prepare. 

This probably sounds like a lot, and it is, but case interviews are a skill that is developed with experience. And there are two main ways you can get this experience before your interviews:

7.1 Do mock interviews with friends and family

First, you can practice case interviews with friends, colleagues, or family. 

These are great ways to catch communication mistakes, but at some point you'll probably notice that the feedback you are getting isn't helping that much anymore. 

Once you reach that stage, we recommend practicing with ex-interviewers from top consultancies.

7.2 Do mock interviews with ex-interviewers

If you know a consultant who has experience running interviews at a top consulting firm, that's fantastic. Practice with them as much as you can!

But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen. And it might also be difficult to practice multiple hours with that person unless you know them really well.

Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from leading consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc. Book your consulting mock interview in a few clicks.

Interview coach and candidate conduct a video call

Table of content

Case Interview 101: The Online Guidebook

“Case Interview” is the cornerstone of consulting recruitment, playing a decisive role in final results. In 30 minutes, your “consulting” qualities will be tested to the limit as you cruise through a hypothetical “consulting project” with the interviewer.

Yes, this is a BIG topic. The depth of content in this single article is HUGE with various chapters ranging from beginner’s topics to more advanced ones. You would want to bookmark this page and go back often throughout your whole preparation journey.

What is a case interview?

A case interview is a job interview where the candidate is asked to solve a business problem. They are often used by consulting firms, and are among the hardest job interviews, testing both problem-solving skills and “soft” skills. Case interviews often last 30-45 minutes each, and firms can utilize up to 6 case interviews, usually divided into 2 rounds.

Example case questions:

  • “We have a restaurant called “In-and-out Burger” with recently falling profits. How can you help?”
  • “The CEO of a cement company wants to close one of its plants. Should they do it?”
  • “A top 20 bank wants to get in top 5. How can the bank achieve that goal?”

Case interviews are modeled after the course of actions real consultants do in real projects – so success in case interviews is seen by consulting firms as a (partial) indication of a good management consultant.

During the interview, the interviewer will assess your ability to think analytically, probe appropriate questions, and make the most client-friendly pitches. Be noted that the analytical thought process is more important than arriving at correct answers.

Generally, there are 2 styles of conducting cases:  Candidate-led and Interviewer-led. 

case interview prep consulting

Candidate-led cases

On this end, the interviewer rarely intervenes; the candidate will lead the approach from structuring the problem, drawing frameworks, asking for data, synthesizing findings, to proposing solutions. This format can be difficult for beginners but it provides you with much control over the case.

Interviewer-led cases

On this end, the interviewer controls the process in significant ways. He or she has the candidate work on specific parts of the overall problem and sometimes disregards the natural flow of the case. The game here is not to solve the one big problem, but rather to nail every question, every pitch, every mini-case perfectly. Because the evaluation is done on a question basis, the level of insightfulness required is higher.

Most cases will fall somewhere in the middle section of that spectrum, but for educational purposes, we need to learn case interviews from both extremes ends.

Great details in each and every aspect of the case, as well as tips, techniques and study plans are coming in the chapters below. You may skip straight to Chapter 3 if you have business background and confidence in your own understanding of the terminology used in case interviews. 

To better understand or practice candidate-led and interview-led cases, let’s book a personal meeting with our coaches . At MConsultingPrep, you can connect with consulting experts who will help you learn the ins and outs of both cases and the solving approach to each one. Get “real” practice now!

Case interview starter guide for non-business students

All consulting firms claim that all educational backgrounds have equal chances. But no matter what, case interview reflects  real-life business problems and you will, therefore, come across business concepts .

Not everybody has the time to go to a full Business Undergraduate program all over. So through this compact Chapter 2, I will provide you, the non-business people, with every business concept you need in case interviews.

Accounting and financial terms – The language of business

Accounting & Financial Terms are often called the language of business, which is used to communicate the firm’s financial and economic information to external parties such as shareholders and creditors.

There are three basic financial statements : Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Cash Flow Statement.

Balance Sheet

A snapshot of the current stage of the company’s property, debt, and ownership at one given point in time, showing:

  • Assets: what the company owns: Building, Equipment, Cash, Inventory, along with some other intangible items.
  • Liabilities: what the company owes: Loans, overdrafts, bills to be paid, etc. Debt is like negative assets.
  • Equity (Net worth): Calculate by taking Assets subtract Liabilities.

The neat thing about the Balance sheet is that it’s always balanced. Every action, every transaction changes the three components but it’s always in harmony.

Income Statement

A record of the business performance through a period of time , given it a quarter or a year. The Income Statement directly tells you how the company is doing in terms of making money, the heart of any business.

From the top to bottom, the Income Statement shows the Revenues, Costs, and Profits. That’s why often, Profits are referred to as the “bottom line”.

There are a few types of costs to notice – see the two pictures below this table.

One important thing to notice is that even though it may seem like, the Income Statement does NOT necessarily relate to cash. Many times, especially for B2B transactions, the selling happens before the money flow. Therefore, we may have to record revenue without having the cash.

Cash Flow Statement

There’s a famous saying that: Income statement is an opinion, Cash Flow statement is a fact.

The Cash Flow statement just strictly monitors the cash flow in or out, categorized into different sections. Three of them are:

  • Operation: illustrates how much cash the company can generate from its products and services.
  • Financial: includes the sources of cash from investors or banks and the uses of cash paid to shareholders.
  • Investing: includes any sources and uses of cash from a company’s investments.

case interview prep consulting

Upon completion this section, you should be able to read and interpret financial statements for business diagnosis and decision-making.

More importantly, you possess the conceptual base to start solving case interviews on your own. Do not forget that, as with any other language, becoming proficient with accounting and financial terms require constant practice.

Organizational structure – The heart of a company

When it comes to organizational structure, it is important to notice the fine line between the company’s ownership and management .

Technically, at the highest level, there are shareholders . For private companies, the group of shareholders and their shares are not necessarily disclosed and publicly tradable. For public companies, on the other hand, shares are publicly traded on different stock exchanges. One of the most famous is the NYSE, which stands for New York Stock Exchange.

case interview prep consulting

  • A company can have one, a few, or millions of individual owners, but being governed by the Board of Directors – a group of people elected by owners, with the President or Chairman being their highest leader.
  • The Board usually hires a management team to manage the company. They are led by the Chief Executive Officer – CEO , who makes every decision on day-to-day work. Most of the time, the Board of Directors doesn’t directly intervene in the CEO’s work, but they reserve the right to fire CEOs.
  • Besides that, there’s a committee called Supervisors. The supervisor’s job is to independently monitor the CEO and the management team and report to the Board.

Below CEOs, there are two general two ways of structuring the company. One way is through business lines and the other one is through functions. Think of business lines as mini-companies themselves inside the big company.

case interview prep consulting

Within functions, here are a few most typical divisions most companies have:

case interview prep consulting

Business strategy concepts

Even with business students, strategy is a challenging topic – especially with those without a strategy major. These fundamental concepts will get you started.

  • Organization: In general, this refers to how a company is organized, what are different components that make up a company
  • Governance refers to how a company is managed and directed, how well the leader team runs. The leader team includes the Board of Directors and Board of Managers. A company with good governance has good leadership people, tight control, and effective check & balance processes, etc.
  • Process looks like rules and common practices of having a number of processes, entailing every single activity. Process design should include 4 factors: who, what, when, and accompanied tools.

For example, let’s look at Kim’s family picnic process.

case interview prep consulting

  • The who part is presented on the y-axis, left-hand side, labeling all departments, a.k.a: family members, involved.
  • The what part is presented through the big mid-session with each box represents every single activity.
  • The when and tools parts are presented at the bottom

B2B  vs B2C : stand for “business-to-business” and “business-to-customer”. These two terms refer to two types of transactions a company typically does: transactions with other companies and transactions with individual customers.

Bottom-up vs Top-down: this refers to two opposite schools of thought or action. Top-down usually encompasses various general branches while bottom-up tends to narrowly focus. 

Management consulting terms & concepts

These are the most common consulting terms you may encounter not just in case interviews but also in consulting tasks .

  • Lever: Think of this as one or a group of initiatives, actions to perform to meet certain goals. e.g. some levers to help increase customer experience in a hotel are free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, 24/7 support, etc.
  • Best practice: Refers to how things should be done, especially if it has been successfully implemented elsewhere.
  • Granular: This refers to how specific and detailed a break-down or an issue goes. For example, a not-so-granular breakdown of the NBA is the West and the East conferences. A much more granular is something like this: Leagues, Conferences, Divisions, and Teams.
  • MECE: MECE is so important and we explain it in detail in this article. In short, MECE is the standard, per which we can divide things down in a systematic, comprehensive, and non-overlapping way.

There are three parameters the consulting world uses in the categorization of businesses.

  • Industry: used to group different companies mostly based on their product (Banking, Construction, Education, Steel Industry, etc.)
  • Function: is the categorization mostly based on missions and the type of roles of different parts of a company. We can count some as Human Resource, Finance, Strategy, Operation, Product Development, etc.
  • Location: is where things are, geographically.

Normally two consultants ask each other “What do you work on?”, they need to give 3 pieces of information in all of those three parameters, such as “I worked on a Cement project, focusing on Finance, in Southeast Asia”. In fact, all of the McKinsey support networks are organized in this way. During my projects, I would need to speak to some Cement experts, some Finance experts, and some local experts as well.

This chapter is relatively long, yet it is still way shorter than 4 years at business college. I hope this will act as a great prerequisite to your case interview study. Make sure that you have mastered all of these content before really tackling the Case Interview.

Case interview example – The typical flow

In a simplified way, a typical case would go through these phrases (we will talk about exceptions in great detail later):

Case question -> Recap -> Clarification -> Timeout -> Propose issue tree -> Analyze issue tree -> Identify root-causes -> Solutions -> Closing pitch

Problem-solving fundamentals – Candidate-led cases

case interview prep consulting

Though most cases will be conducted in mixed format, let’s dive deep and learn about each extreme end of the spectrum to get the full picture.

Even though this is the harder format, it shows us the foundation of how management consulting works, i.e: the consulting problem-solving logics!

If you were exposed to case interviews, you have probably heard about some of these concepts: framework, issue tree, benchmark, data, root cause, solutions, etc. But how do they all fit into the picture?

It all starts with the PROBLEM

Before getting into anything fancy, the first step is to define and be really clear about the problem.

This sounds easy but can be quite tricky. Here are a few guidelines:

1. What’s the objective?

2. What’s the timeline required?

3. Any quantified or well-described goals?

For example, one client can state a problem as: “I lost my car key”. In normal contexts, this is a perfectly simple and straightforward problem. But a consultant tackling this would go ask clarification questions to achieve even more details:

1. Objective: the client in fact just needs to be able to use the car.

2. Timeline: this is an urgent need. He is happy only if we can help him within the next hour.

3. Specificity: help the client put his car into normal operation like before he lost the key.

case interview prep consulting

Find the ROOT-CAUSE, don’t just fix the symptom

To completely wipe out the problem and create long-lasting impacts, consultants always  search and find the root causes.

For example, fixing the symptom is like you breaking the door lock, getting into the ignition electrics behind the wheel, and connecting the wires to start the car.

That does fix the surface symptom: the client can drive the car. But it does NOT create a long-lasting impact because without you there, the car can’t be started. The client will need to rely on you every single time. Plus, more problems even arise (now he needs to fix the broken door lock too).

A much better approach is to find the root cause. What is the bottom-line reason causing the problem? Once we trace, find, and fix it, the problem will be gone for good.

In this example, the root cause is “the lost key”. We need to find its location!

case interview prep consulting

Use ISSUE TREE to isolate potential root-causes into groups

There could be thousands of possible root-causes. How do we make sure every possible one is examined? If we are to list out all thousands and test one by one, there is simply not enough time. On the other hand, if we just list out some of the most “possible” ones, we run a high risk of missing the true root-cause.

This is where we need issue trees ! We would group possible root-causes into big groups. Those big groups will have smaller sub-groups and so on. All is done in the spirit of top-down and MECE. By doing this, we have an organized way to include all possible root-causes.

Continue with the example: A “bottom-up” approach to search for the car key is to go straight to specific places like the microwave’s top, the black jacket pocket, under the master bed, etc. There can be thousands of these possible locations.

The top-down approach is to draw an issue tree, breaking the whole house into groups and examine the whole group one by one. For example: first floor, second floor, and the basement.

case interview prep consulting

Issue Tree only works if it’s MECE

What happens if we break down the search area into the First floor and East wing? The search area would not cover the whole house and there will be some overlapping which creates inefficiencies.

So for an issue tree to work properly, it has to be MECE – Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive … which in simple language just mean 2 things: no overlap and no gap

case interview prep consulting

How to draw MECE issue trees? Use FRAMEWORKS!

Each problem requires a unique issue tree. Coming up with MECE and spot-on issue trees for each problem can be really difficult. This is where “framework” helps.

Think of frameworks as “frequently used templates” to draw issue trees in any particular context. Many people use the word “framework” to refer to “issue tree” but this is conceptually incorrect.

case interview prep consulting

We will talk about frameworks in more detail in the below chapters. You can also check out this deep-dive article on Frameworks.

Choosing which branch to go to first? Use HYPOTHESES!

So let’s say you have an issue tree of First floor, Second floor, and Third floor. Now what?

To make the problem-solving process even faster and more efficient, we use hypotheses. In simple language, it’s the educated guess of where the root cause may lie in. So we can prioritize the branch with the highest chance.

So let’s say, the client spends most time on the first floor, it’s where he/she most likely leaves the car key. Any consultant would hypothesize that the root cause is in the first-floor branch and go search there first.

Notice: hypothesis and issue tree always go together. It doesn’t make sense to draw an issue of First, Second, and Third floor and hypothesize that the key is in the East wing. Many times, hypotheses are even the inspiration to draw issue trees.

case interview prep consulting

How to test a branch? Use DATA and compare it with BENCHMARK

Now that we decide to test the branch “First floor”, how do we do that?

We prove or disprove our hypothesis by collecting DATA. That data is then compared with benchmarks to shed more meaning. Two main types of benchmarks are: historical and competitive. For example, let’s say by some magic, the client has a metal detection machine that can measure the metal concentration of any space.

To test the “first-floor” branch, the consultant would come to the first floor, measure the metal concentration and compare it with the data before the car key is lost, a.k.a: historical benchmark.

case interview prep consulting

If a hypothesis is true, drill down; if it’s false, go sideways

What happens when we test a hypothesis?

Assuming that we have access to enough data, it either gets proven TRUE or proven FALSE. How do we proceed from here? 

  • Proven True: go DOWN the issue tree to sub-branches! Let’s say the metal detector identified the key IS indeed on the first floor. Go deeper. Draw sub-branches of that first-floor branch and repeat the process.
  • Proven False: go HORIZONTAL to other big branches! Let’s say the metal detector denies the key presence on the first floor. We then can cross out this branch and go test others, a.k.a: the second and third floor.

Test, Sleep, Test, Repeat … until the ROOT-CAUSE shows up!

case interview prep consulting

Once identified the ROOT-CAUSES, go for SOLUTIONS

With all proven root causes identified, the last step is to come up with solutions to kill the problem … and we are done! There can be multiple solutions to each root cause. These solutions should attack straight to the root cause.

case interview prep consulting

Case interview questions – Interviewer-led cases

While candidate-led cases are all about the logical foundation of problem-solving, interviewer-led cases are more about tackling each individual question itself. The structure of the whole case is relatively loose and flexible.

In this chapter, we touch on some of the most popular ones. You can read in-depth about each in this designated article.

Framework/Issue Tree questions

“Which factors would you consider when tackling this problem?”

This is one of the most popular question types in case interviews, often asked in the beginning. It comes with several shapes and forms, but the real meaning is always: “Give me the bloody issue tree!”

So how do you tackle it? Just like in candidate-led cases. Take a timeout; brainstorm about the problem and how it should be broken down into; plug a few frameworks to see how it looks; and go for the most appropriate issue tree.

Unlike in candidate-led cases where you only present the upper-most layer, here you should walk the interviewer through the whole issue tree, covering at least 2 layers. Interviewer-led cases are much less interactive. It’s more like they ask you a question, and you deliver a comprehensive and big answer. They ask you another one. And so on.

Market-sizing / Guesstimate questions

“How many face masks are being produced in the whole world today?”

This is among  the most popular question types and you will likely face a few of them throughout several interview rounds. These questions ask you to “guess” and come up with number estimations in non-conventional contexts. These questions are called “Guesstimate”.

When a guesstimate question asks you to “guess” the size of a market, it’s called a “Market-sizing” question. Though this variation is very popular in consulting, the nature is nothing different from other Guesstimate questions.

It can be intimidating to face a question like this. Where to start? Where to go? What clues to hold on to?

The key is to understand that you don’t have to provide an exact correct answer. In fact, nobody knows or even cares. What matters is HOW you get there. Can you show off consulting traits, using a sound approach to come up with the best “estimate” possible?

Read the designated article on this for great details. Here, let’s walk through the 4-step approach that you can apply to absolutely every market-sizing question.

Step 1: Clarify

Make sure you and the interviewer are on the same page regarding every detail and terminology, so you won’t be answering the wrong question.

Step 2: Break down the problem

Break the item in the question (number of trees in Central Park, market size of pickup trucks) down into smaller, easy-to-estimate pieces.

Step 3: Solve each piece

Estimate each small piece one at a time; each estimation should be backed by facts, figures, or at least observations.

Step 4: Consolidate the pieces

Combine the previous estimations to arrive at a final result; be quick with the math, but don’t rush it if you aren’t confident.

Math questions

“If the factory can lower the clinker factor by 0.2, how much money will they save on production cost?”

Almost all cases involve some math. So you will face math questions for sure. These “questions” can go at you either explicitly and implicitly. Sometimes, the case interviewer will ask out loud a math problem and have you solve. But sometimes, you have to do multiple calculations on the background to push the analysis forward.

Either way, a strong math capability will help you a lot during cases and the future career in consulting. See this Consulting Math article for more details.

Chart insight questions

“What insights can you draw from this chart?”

Consultant works with data and a big chunk of those data are presented by charts. Many times, the interviewer would pull out a sanitized exhibit from an actual project and have you list out insights you can see from it.

There are many types of charts. Getting yourselves familiar with the most popular ones is not a bad idea.

  • Bar charts simply compare the values of items that are somewhat parallel in nature.

case interview prep consulting

  • Line charts illustrate the continuous nature of a data series, e.g: how my heart rate evolved through time.

case interview prep consulting

  • Pie charts illustrate proportions, i.e “parts of a whole” analyses.

case interview prep consulting

  • Scatter-plots use data points to visualize how two variables relate to each other. Correlation for example.

case interview prep consulting

Tips on tackling chart-insights questions:

1. Read labels first: from Chart titles, Axis titles, Legend titles, etc. Don’t jump straight to the content of the chart. It takes more time to get lost there and has to go back to read the label. Besides, you may also run a risk of misunderstanding the content.

2. Look for abnormalities: important insights always lie in those unexpected and abnormal data. Look for them!

Value proposition questions

“What factors does a customer consider when deciding which car insurance company to buy from?”

In simple language, this question type asks you: what do the customers want? Understanding exactly this need will put any company in the best position to tailor products/services.

Like any other questions, Value-proposition questions are not only about correctly identifying customer preferences (insights) but also about analyzing and delivering the answer in a structured fashion. Here are a few tips for you to do that:

How to be more insightful: 

  • It always helps to break customers into groups and provide different substances for each.
  • Put yourselves into the customers’ shoes. Think from the first-view perspective and more insights will arrive.
  • If there is any data/ information previously provided in the case, definitely use it.
  • A library of factors? Safety, speed, convenience, affordability, flexibility, add-on services, durability, fashion, ease of use, location, freshness, etc.

How to appear more structured:

  • Follow this structure: Customer group 1, Customer group 2, etc. Under each: Factor A, factor B, factor C.
  • Develop your personal script for this question type. Make sure it’s easy to follow and structured in nature.

Information questions

What kind of data do you need to test this hypothesis? How do you get data

Consulting is a data-driven industry. As consultants, we spent most of our time gathering and presenting data to clients ( see the What the heck does a consultant do video ). No surprise information questions are relatively popular in cases.

The best way to tackle this question type is to understand inside out the types of data actual consultants use in real projects. Because almost no candidate knows about this. This is also a very quick way to build rapport. The interviewer will feel like he/she is talking to a real consultant.

Case interview example video – Pandora case

Enough theory! Enough cute little illustrations here and there. Time to get our hands into a serious case interview example.

Notice the following when watching the video:

  • How the problem is given and clarified
  • How the problem-solving approach is layouted and executed
  • How the candidate use wording and frame the pitches
  • The dynamic of a case. How energy transfers from one to another person.

Every case is unique in its own way but principles are universal. The more examples you see, the better. This video is extracted from our  Case Interview End-to-end Secrets program, where you can find 10 complete examples like this and many other supplement contents.

How to prepare for case interviews

Case Interview preparation is a long and tough process. In an ocean of books, videos, programs, how do we navigate to maximize learning? Most materials floating around are quite good, at least in terms of substance. But the timing and the organization of them can be confusing.

  • Too much theory in the beginning can burn brain power very quickly.
  • Tackling cases without basics can develop bad habits, which eventually cost more time to unlearn.
  • Practicing complicated (or even just normal) cases in the beginning can destroy morale drastically.

So a good study plan is constantly switching between 3 activities: reading theory, watching examples, and practicing, with cases increasing difficulty level. It’s so crucial to start with super easy cases, be patient, and stay on that level until you are ready to move up. There are so many skills, habits, and scripts to develop and these take time.

“The quickest way to do just about everything is … Step by Step”

Even for candidates with cases coming up urgently, I still strongly recommend spending the most valuable time practicing cases that match your level. After all, cases are just the context. What you will be evaluated on is your approach, your skills, your techniques, etc.

So, this is a sample study plan you can adopt for yourselves:

Step 1: Learn the basics of case interview theory

  • Read this article thus far
  • Watch this  Case Interview 101 video

Step 2: Watch a simple case interview example

  • Read the sample case flow above.
  • Watch this  Case Interview Example video
  • Go to this list of free case examples and try to select a very simple one. If you can’t follow one, it’s probably not good for you. Just skip it.
  • Watch the first example in the  End-to-end Program

Step 3: Review the theory of case interview approaches  

  • Read deeply about the logical foundation of problem-solving in this BCG & Bain Case Interview article.
  • Watch intensively the logical foundation of problem-solving in this Candidate-led cases video.

Step 4: Do one mock case interview

  • Practice with consultants. They have the insight and knowledge to help you pass the interview. Discover our experienced coaches from McKinsey, BCG and Bain here .
  • Find a partner to practice with. Make sure you both watch this  Guide on how to conduct a case. A bad coach can do more harm than good.
  • Get your hand on another example in the  End-to-end Program. But this time, don’t just watch. Actively solve the case as you see it! Try to say out loud your version, then listen to the candidate, then hear the feedback!

Step 5: Start improving your business intuition

Business Intuition is like your natural sense of the business world: how to be insightful and creative in various business contexts, how to feed the “content” into your approach, etc. Think of this as a basketball player trained for muscle strength, agility, or durability. Intuition can be improved gradually through constantly exposing yourselves to a wide range of business situations and contexts.

You can do this by:

  • Read consulting publications. One article per day for example. Three wonderful sources are: McKinsey Insights, BCG Perspectives, and Bain Publications
  • Train  case interview questions individually. By isolating each part of the case, you can focus more on the substance. Hit that link or get more question training on the End-to-end Secret Program .

Step 6: Start training consulting math

  • Visit this in-depth consulting math article.
  • Train our  Mental Math methodology.

Step 7: Practice another mock case interview

At this stage, please still stick to very basic cases. The goal is to see all of the knowledge and skills above in real action. Again, this can be done by either:

  • Book a meeting with coaches
  • Find another partner to practice with. Just make sure you both watch this Guide on how to conduct a case. A bad coach is always more harmful than not practicing at all.
  • See another example in the End-to-end Program. Like the previous one, try actively solving the case as you see it! Say out loud your version, then listen to the candidate, then hear the feedback!

Step 8: Equip yourself with tips, techniques, and advance theory

  • Read on! The below chapters of this very article will provide you with more advanced theory and killer tips.
  • Watch the whole Tips & Techniques sections of the End-to-end Program. You will find 10 examples with clear walkthroughs of tips and techniques right in the middle of real action.

Step 9: Do further mock cases, review, and improve

Practicing for case interviews is a time consuming process – but as long as you have the right method, you will make it!

  • First, brush up on knowledge related to case interviews with the Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program .
  • Second, get personalized practice with ex-consultants. That way, you’ll receive clear and tuned feedback to understand what to improve, building your own proper case approaches.  See a list of experienced coaches here .

Stay tuned with us on this website and our Youtube channel for continuously updated information on case interviews and management consulting recruitment; you can also subscribe to the newsletter below for free materials and other insightful content!

Good luck with your case prep!

Case interview tips – With instant results

Imagine a case interview just falls out of the sky and into your lap, scheduled for tomorrow – how can you even prepare?

The answer lies in a few “quick and dirty” tips, which I’ll share with you in a moment.

I am a firm believer in the 80-20 rule – which states that 20% of the causes lead to 80% of the consequences.

In the case interview prep context, 20% of your learning efforts will bring about 80% of the improvements – so the key to instantly and dramatically improving your case performance is to identify and focus on that 20%.

case interview prep consulting

In the next 8 chapters, I’ll tell you the killer tips and tricks that helped me get a McKinsey offer, the majority of which were previously only available in the premium End-to-End Secrets Program , including:

  • Chapter 9: Delivering the perfect case opening
  • Chapter 10: Remaining absolutely structured throughout the case
  • Chapter 11: Taking the best notes
  • Chapter 12: Getting out if stuck
  • Chapter 13: How to ask for data
  • Chapter 14: What to do when receiving data
  • Chapter 15: Deliver the most convincing closing pitch
  • Chapter 16: Developing your personal scripts

One thing before you proceed: don’t forget to learn the fundamentals, the question types, and the frameworks. Remember, these 20% tips can only get you 80% performance; if you want 100%, there’s  no substitute for hard work.

How to deliver the perfect case opening

The result of a case interview is determined  the first 3 minutes – and I’m not even exaggerating.

Most people will be put off by this fact – indeed, with all those efforts spent on learning for the later part of the case, and the hiring decision is made when you’re not even properly warmed up yet.

However, putting a spin on it, this is the 20% to focus on – if you nail the opening, you’ll make a better impression than most candidates; it’s also easier to perform well in 3 minutes than in 30 minutes, especially when the case hasn’t gotten tricky. Additionally, you can prepare the opening in a formulaic manner – essentially learning by heart until it becomes natural.

There are 7 steps in the perfect case opening formula:

1. Show appreciation

2. Announce case introduction

5. Announce case approach

7. Ask for a timeout

In this chapter, I’ll walk you through each of those steps.

Step 1: Show appreciation

The quickest way to score the first points with any interviewer is to  sincerely compliment them. Everybody loves compliments.

Case interviewers are not dedicated HR staff, but Engagement Managers, Partners, and Directors who conduct interviews ON TOP OF their projects as goodwill for the firm, so you should at least be thankful for the time they spend with you.

Begin your interview with a sincere “thank you” for the interesting case (if you have to fake these words because deep down you don’t like case interviews, you aren’t exactly cut out for the job).

Step 2: Announce case introduction

Announce you’re going to do  steps 3, 4, and 5.

This step is related to what I call the “map habit”, which I’ll describe in detail in the next chapter. For now, just understand that it  helps the interviewer follow your introduction, and shows you’re a structured person.

Step 3: Recap  

What is the key question of the case?

On a side note: one common mistake is to mix up step 3 with step 4 (clarify) – remember, don’t ask anything , just rephrase the case to ensure that you get it right.

Step 4:  Clarify

Ask questions to clear up any  potential confusion about the details of the case.

Case questions are always very short with a lot of vague details; if you don’t see the need to ask anything, you’re doing it wrong.

Run this checklist through your mind to help you clarify as many unclear points as possible:

  • Definitions: are there words you don’t understand or can be interpreted in multiple ways?
  • Timeframe: what is the “deadline” for solving this problem?
  • Measurement: how are the important variables (performance, revenue, etc.) measured?

Additionally, number your questions so it’s easier for you and the interviewer to keep track.

Step 5: Announce case approach

Roughly sum up  how you’ll analyze the problem.

Again, this is related to the map habit, which makes the overall case progress easier to follow.

There are 3 types of cases: (1) problem-solution, (2) should I choose A or B, and (3) how to do C. For each type, there is a different approach. The latter two are discussed in the “Advanced Logic” chapter, for now, we’ll continue with the first type: tell the interviewer you’re going to find the root cause to ensure long-lasting solutions, and to do that you’ll develop an issue tree.

Step 6: Align

Check if the interviewer  approves of your case approach.

This is an important habit of real consultants  because nobody wants to waste resources going in the wrong direction; interviewers expect candidates to show it in the case interview.

Simply ask “Does this sound like a reasonable approach to you?” – most likely the interviewer will give you the green light, but if you’re lucky he/she may even suggest a better approach.

Step 7: Ask for timeout

After you’ve gone continuously through the 6 steps above, ask the interviewer for timeout to (make this explicit) gather your thoughts and develop the first part of the issue tree.

Make the most of your timeout session, and keep it as short as possible. Any unnecessary silence will damage the impression and hurt your chances (refer to the End-to-End Program example in Chapter 6 to “feel” how awkward a lengthy timeout session is).

Case opening – Example script

Now it’s time to see how you can put all those steps into action!

Thank you for this very interesting case, I am really happy to get a chance to solve it!

The first step in solving any business problem is to make sure we solve the right one, so before diving into the problem, I would like to first recap the case, then ask a few clarification questions to make sure we’re both on the same page, and lastly announce my overall case approach.

So here is my understanding of the case:

  • [facts regarding the client and situation]
  • [key case question]

Does that correctly summarize the case?

<assume the interview confirms that your playback is correct>

Great, now I’d like to ask my three clarification questions:

  • [question 1]
  • [question 2]
  • [question 3]

<wait for answers>

Thank you for the clarification. Is there anything else I should be aware of?

Thanks for all the insights. It’s great that we all agree on the key details.

For the overall approach to this case, to completely wipe out the problem for a long-lasting impact, we will need to find out the root causes of this problem. To do that I will try to break the problem down into bite-size pieces with issue trees, in order to quickly isolate the root causes inside the branches, then drill down accordingly to gather information until we can draw actionable solutions.

So before I go on to establish my first issue tree, does that approach sound reasonable to you?

<assumes the interviewer agrees with your approach>

It’s great to see that we’re on the same page regarding the key details as well as the overall approach to the case. I do need some time to gather my thoughts, so may I have a short timeout?

Being structured throughout the case

The high stress and large amount of information in case interviews make it easy for even the brightest candidates to derail from the objective or present in an unstructured manner.

I’ll be sharing with you my 3 most impactful tips for keeping the structure in case interview:

1. The map habit

2. Numbering your items

3. Sticking to the big problem

The map habit

It means regularly and explicitly checking where you are, and where you’re doing next.

I call it the map habit because it’s similar to using a map while traveling – pausing every once in a while to check your location, destination, and direction.

This habit gives you a sense of direction and authority while making it easier for the interviewer to follow your case progress. It also makes you sound organized and systematic – a definitive mark of management consultants – and the interviewer will love it!

You’ll see this habit a lot in our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program, where candidates would often pause at each key step during the case. Do the same thing in your own case interviews, and you’ll greatly impress the interviewer.

Numbering your items

A very easy and effective way to make your pitches sound structured is to number each item.

The formula is simple: “There are X items that I’m going to say; they are: No.1 … No.2 … No.3 …”

By now you may have noticed that I use this structure many times throughout this guidebook – it’s already quite effective in written language, but it’s even more impactful in spoken communications!

Having this numbering habit will make it very easy for the listener to follow your speech, and it creates an impression of MECE (even if content-wise it’s not MECE).

Sticking to the big problem

There are two ways to keep yourself on track  all the time in those high-stress case interviews

1. Occasionally check your position on the issue tree, and quickly get back on track if it seems you’re “derailing”. If this sounds like the previous map habit, you’re right, it is the map habit.

2. Take good notes, with the case question being written big and bold on top of your scratch paper. That way you’ll be reminded every few seconds.

That last point brings us to the next issue: how to take notes.

How to take notes in case interviews

The best notes for case interviews are always  clear-cut, structured, and relevant.

Even the smartest candidates suffer from seemingly silly problems in case interviews – forgetting data, messing up the numbers, getting stuck with frameworks, losing sight of the original objective, etc. And in the true management consulting spirit, I set out to find the root causes.

And looking back at hundreds of coaching sessions I did, I found one thing in common – none of those candidates could take good notes.

case interview prep consulting

I’ll tell you precisely how I took notes to get a McKinsey offer; however, I hope that after this chapter, you can install the spirit of the method, not just the method itself.

So here we are, with the 3 groups of sheets laid out for the ideal note-taking:

1. Data sheets

2. Presentation sheets

3. Scratch sheets

Data sheets

Data sheets are used to store and process every piece of incoming data .

Try to draw tables for these sheets, because this not only makes the calculation process easier but also gives the impression that you’re a careful and organized person.

Also, remember to write only the results of calculations on this sheet, to keep it neat and tidy. Most of your calculations should be done mentally (see the article on Consulting Math for more details); if you really need to jot down the calculations, do it on the scratch sheets.

Presentation sheets

Presentation sheets are used to develop and present any “outgoing” content.

Your issue trees should be drawn on these sheets, along with the big-and-bold case question/objective right on top. When delivering your pitches, always turn around the presentation sheets so the interviewer can clearly read what’s on them.

As with the data sheets, avoid any messy “mid-process” drawings. Put them on the scratch sheets instead.

Scratch sheets

Scratch sheets exist to keep other sheets clean.

Ever felt irritated receiving a notebook full of correction marks? That’s exactly how the interviewer feels if you present with untidy notes. You should try your best to hide all the unorganized, messy parts of your thought process.

The scratch sheets provide a sanctuary for that unstructured part of yours – it’s okay to go all over the place for brainstorming, as long as you can organize the incoming resources and present in a systematic manner.

“I took the notes just as you instructed, but I still get stuck in cases. How can I avoid it?” – Well, that’s the subject for our next chapter – “Stuck” situations and how to get out of them.

Stuck in cases – What to do

We’ve all been there – that scarily awkward feeling when you don’t know what to do next in a case interview, that fear of being rejected.

In every “stuck” situation, the most important thing is to remain calm and collected (you’ll lose points if you panic) – then methodically work your way out. I’ll teach you how to get out of those situations, with style.

There are actually 3 different kinds of “stuck”, and for each, I have a different solution:

1. The “Framework” stuck

2. The “Data” stuck

3. The “I-Cannot-Find-The-Problem” stuck

Let’s go through each in detail.

The framework stuck

This situation happens when the candidate does not know which framework to use, and the secret tool for it, is “segmentation”.

Segmentation works just like any framework, and like a Swiss Army knife, it’s usually safe and easy to use. So if you’re unsure how to break things down, say these magic words:

“At this point, I’d like to break down this X item, and one good way is to use the natural segmentation within this line of business. So may I ask how they break this X item in this industry?”

If you get it right, the interviewer will reply with the most industry-relevant way to segment the item.

You may be wondering why I’m not talking about issue trees and frameworks here, after all the theory at the beginning of the guidebook.

The answer is that the textbook and “ideal” solution – learning the problem-solving fundamentals and deep-diving the frameworks to increase your flexibility – takes a lot of time, while the “cliched” solution – learning as many frameworks as possible, usually at the cost of depth – is inherently dangerous.

The data stuck

The “data stuck” happens when the candidate can’t extract relevant insights from the given data. And when this happens, ask for benchmarks.

Comparing with benchmarks is the quickest way to put data into perspective, yielding useful insights. There are 2 kinds of benchmarks – if you remember from the chapter on Candidate-led Cases: 

  • Historical benchmarks: data on the same entity in the past
  • Competitor benchmarks: data on similar/competing entities in the same timeframe

To ask for benchmarks, Just say the following lines:

“For now, I hypothesize that the root cause of the problem comes from the X branch of this issue tree. However, to further break down the problem in a spot-on way, I do need some information on the context of our client’s problem.

One of the quickest ways to grasp that context is to use competitor’s data; so can I have the X figure for our client’s competitors?”

The “I-Cannot-Find-The-Problem” stuck

This is the scariest “stuck” because there’s no obvious reason or solution – you’ve done your math right, your framework is suitable, and you’ve got a lot of interesting insights from data. Why are you still stuck?

From my experience in coaching sessions, there are 2 scenarios where this happens: (1) your issue tree is not MECE, and (2) if your issue tree is MECE, it does not isolate the problem.

You can try to avoid this in the first place by mastering the MECE principle, improving intuition, as well as aligning with the interviewer early and often.

But what if you still get stuck? The answer is to calmly admit you’ve hit a dead-end, and ask for time to fix the problem; be it the first or second scenario, you have to redraw your issue tree.

Literally use the following script:

“My whole analysis seems going towards a dead-end, which means either part of my issue tree is not MECE or my method of breaking down does not isolate the problem. Either way, I would like to take a timeout to have a look at it.”

You likely get stuck when practicing on yourself. That’s the reason why you need personal coaching. Veteran coaches at MConsultingPrep will give insightful feedback, propose actionable steps, and help you significantly enhance your performance. Find my coach !

How to ask for data

Data is the fuel for the case interview engine. Without it , your analysis can’t progress.

The problem is that interviewers don’t simply give out precious data for free. It has to be earned. There are 4 tips you can use to show that “worthiness”, and prompt the interviewer to supply you with the best information:

1. Create a good impression

2. Explain the purpose of the data

3. Explain the method of acquiring the data

4. Ask open-ended questions

Tip 1: Creating a good impression

The interviewer will love you if you think and act like a real consultant – if you can achieve that, he/she will always give you the best pieces of data available.

In this guidebook, there are countless tips to show your consulting characteristics – I even write a whole chapter on how to install consulting culture into your own personality. Generally, you must always be (1) structured , (2) fact-based, and (3) action-oriented.

Additionally, common people skills and interview tips also apply – show your appreciation by thanking for their help, keep a smile on your face to maintain a positive atmosphere, etc.

Tip 2: Explaining the purpose of the data

Say why you need that data, so the interviewer knows you can actually use it.

There are only two purposes for data in case interviews: (1) to test a hypothesis, and (2) to understand the context.

You can use the following scripts to when to reason your data requests:

“For now, I’m hypothesizing that the root cause of this problem comes from the X branch. Since this hypothesis can only be tested with the data on X, may I have those figures?”< testing hypothesis>

“For now, I hypothesize that the root cause of the problem comes from the X branch of this issue tree. However, to further break down the problem in a spot-on way, to better understand the context of our client’s problem, I will ask a few more questions. Does that sound reasonable to you?” < understanding the context>

Tip 3: Explaining the method to acquire the data

By stating how to get the data, you prove its feasibility and reinforce your data request.

In real consulting projects, data is not always available; the interviewer may rely on this logic and refuse to give you any information. So, when you ask for data, make sure your request is realistic, then state the method to acquire it using these words:

“If this was a real project, this information can be acquired from/by X source/method”.

In our  Prospective Candidate Starter Pack ,   there is a sheet listing all the possible sources of information in consulting projects, which you can download for your own use, along with many other free case interview materials.

Accurately explaining the data acquisition method also shows that you’ve done your homework and you know the consulting industry inside-out. Any interviewer will be greatly impressed.

Ask open-ended questions

This prompts the interviewer to give you data you haven’t thought of.

The precise questions mostly depend on specific cases (meaning you need to sharpen your intuition), but there is a Swiss Army knife here: “Is there anything else?” – which is a question real consultants ask several times a day, at the end of their conversations.

Use open-ended questions when you feel you might be missing something – for example, during clarification – and only after a series of well-defined, close-ended questions. Otherwise, you risk appearing lazy and over-reliant.

What to do when receiving data

Suppose the interviewer agrees to give you data. Now what?

Time to shine! If you do these following 3 steps, even just once, in the interviewer’s mind, you already pass:

1. Acknowledge the data and show appreciation

2. Describe the data, especially its notable features

3. State the implications of the data

Let’s dive into each separately.

Step 1: Acknowledging the data

Simply  thank the interviewer for the interesting piece of data.

Firstly, it confirms that you have received, and can understand the data.

Secondly, it’s always good to give out modest, subtle compliments to the interviewer. Trust me, conducting case interviews is hard work, and the interviewer does appreciate those little compliments.

Last but not least, it buys you a few seconds to fully absorb the new information and minimize any possible silence.

Step 2: Describing the data

Summarize  the most important insights you can extract.

Don’t recite a short essay about the data, there is no time for that. Quickly and mentally calculate all the important points, then state it out loud in 1-2 sentences.

This step has several uses:

It showcases your consulting math skills (chart insights and mental calculation)

It eliminates the silence during your analysis

It helps you quickly memorize the key trends in the data

Step 3: Stating the implications

Concisely explain how the insights from the data  related to the issue tree – do they confirm or reject the current hypothesis? Do they open new areas for investigations?

This part is extremely important because it connects to the action-oriented mindset of actual management consultants while laying solid foundations for your next steps (fact-based).

Example – Handling revenue data

Suppose you’re working on a profitability case (how to fix low profits), and you’re trying to dictate whether the root cause comes from the revenue side.

The interviewer gives you this data:

How would you respond? Try to answer it yourself before revealing the sample answer.

Sample Script - Receiving Data 

Thank you for the very interesting data. (acknowledging)

It seems that our client’s revenue has been increasing steadily throughout four years – around the mark of 20% annual growth, in fact. (describe the data)

This suggests that the problem may not come from this side of the issue tree. However, in order to fully reject the possibility, I need the figures on the revenue of other companies in this industry around this time. Do we have those numbers? (implications)

Delivering the perfect closing pitch

“You have one minute to summarize all of your findings to the client CEO. What would you say?”

Your answer must be short, to-the-point, action-oriented, and client-friendly.

The closing pitch of the case interview is sometimes called the “elevator pitch” , where you supposedly meet the client CEO inside the elevator and must somehow deliver the results of the project before the elevator arrives at its destination floor (it’s even worded like that sometimes).

Regardless of the wording, the principles remain the same, and your closing pitch must consist of these 4 parts:

1. Introduction / Lead-in

2. Summary of the root causes

3. Summary of the solutions

4. Next step

Part 1: Introduction / Lead-in

Open your pitch in a client-friendly way. Remember, consulting is a service – a premium one, in fact.

There is a simple formula for this part of the pitch:

“Mr. CEO, it has been a great pleasure to be working with you on your company’s X problem.”

Everybody loves a little compliment, don’t they?

Part 2: Summary of the root causes

Don’t go into detail about your analysis – show them the results first.

CEOs are busy people, they have no time for a 15-minute break-down of your issue tree. They only care about the “big picture” – “Why is the problem happening?”.

You need to sum up root causes in a structured manner, with a numbered list – in the case interview context, that’s one characteristic the interviewer looks for, and in real projects, it helps the listener follow your pitch.

“After careful analysis, we have found X root causes for the company’s problem: 1… 2… 3… X”.

Part 3: Summary of the solutions

The solutions are what the clients pay for in the first place, so make sure to deliver them clearly and systematically.

This step must also be structured. Additionally, list the solution in the same order as their corresponding root causes, to imply the connection between them (if the root causes are listed as A, B, C, then the solutions should never be C, B, A).

“To solve the aforementioned issues, we propose the X following solutions: 1… 2… 3… X”.

Part 4: Next step

The ending must lead the customer towards a follow-up project, in a client-friendly way.

This step shows that you have an action-oriented mindset and necessary people skills to represent the firm before the clients.

Moreover, follow-up implementation projects are a major source of revenue for the top consulting firms (such as McKinsey, BCG or Bain), so mentioning them in your case interview ending pitch proves that you did the appropriate research before applying.

So here’s what you’ll say when the elevator reaches the destination:

“We would be more than happy to work with you to implement these solutions”.

Develop personal interview scripts

Every tip I’ve mentioned in the previous 7 chapters is for recurring situations in case interviews, and they can be dealt with using formulaic responses.

What that means for you – the candidate – is that you can make personal scripts and learn them by heart until they all become your second nature. That will save you a lot of brainpower to use on the issue tree. This approach has proven successful with all of my coachees, and it’s also a major part of our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program. You will find my own personal script I used back in the day, and I will also personally give feedback to scripts of members of the program.

So open your document tool and start writing now. Once you’ve finished the scripts, learn them by heart one at a time. When you feel comfortable with every one of them, you can move up to a higher level and practice with whole cases.

Inside the case interviewer’s mind – Consulting culture

The best way to impress your consulting interviewer is to act like a consultant. And to do that, you need to know what goes on inside their mind – both the conscious and unconscious – then install it into your own personality.

In this chapter, I’ll guide you through 15 ingredients that make up a consulting mind. However, I won’t tell you how to apply this in case interviews because it will sound fake – what you need is to immerse yourself in a consulting environment, and incorporate these “ingredients” into your own mindset.

case interview prep consulting

Responsibility & proactivity

Everyone talks about responsibility and proactivity these days, but in management consulting, we have a much more powerful word – “ownership” . When you “own” the work, you deeply and sincerely care about it, and you always try to go beyond what is required.

If you ever spend your efforts trying to improve a piece of work that your boss already approved, just because you know it is the right thing to do, because you feel so good seeing a job well-done, you have that “ownership” mindset.

In management consulting, you are expected to possess that mindset. In my early days at McKinsey, I was almost thrown out the window for working on a cement project but not knowing where the aggregate mines were (which was outside my responsibilities, but my boss expected me to know it, since I “owned” that cement project).

If you fail to do your work, don’t ever blame anyone or anything. Your responsibility is to draw up contingency plans for the “worst-case scenarios”:

  • Missing the deadline because the client did not send you the data? You should have accounted for it in your schedule. 
  • Late for work because of a traffic jam? Why didn’t you get up earlier?
  • Your pet bite your suit? Any sensible person should have a spare one; even if that one is bitten, aren’t we paying you enough to get a new suit at the store this morning?

In short, if you want to be a consultant,  don’t make excuses.

Result-oriented / Can-do attitude

“There’s nothing I can’t do” – that’s the mindset you need to work in management consulting.

The result orientation inside a consulting firm is intense – saying that it’s “Mission Impossible” everyday would not be an exaggeration, but at the end of the day it’s always “Mission Accomplished”.

The boss doesn’t pay much attention to how you do a task, or what resources it takes, as long as you get it done. The firm has enough resources of every kind to help you with that, so there’s no reason you can’t pull it off.

Top-down communication

Communications made by consultants are always short, concise, to-the-point, action-oriented, and structured.

We were all given full-on lectures by our parents back when we were kids, for wasting food or not exercising (or not studying, for Asians like me). If they were management consultants, most of those lectures would be replaced with powerful, action-oriented messages: “Go study. If you don’t get an A+ for the next test, I’ll have to discipline you”.

A consultant seeing something non-MECE is like your mom seeing your messy bedroom. It’s that discomforting.

If you wish to be a consultant, train yourself to be MECE in everything you do. Once you can be MECE effortlessly, and you start spotting the annoying non-MECE-ness in everything around you, you know you’ve got it. 

case interview prep consulting

If you’re unstructured, you won’t get into the business.

Being “structured” is a pretty vague concept, but everyone in the consulting industry knows when they see it. It’s about being organized, logical, top-down, MECE, etc.. Basically, if you can approach things the same way as real consultants, you will be deemed “structured”

If you can’t meet the deadline, you’re dead (of course, not literally).

A consulting firm works like the perfect machine, where every part operates as intended. When consultants promise to help you with something, you can be nearly 100% sure that they’ll keep their word. This makes work management that much easier.

Consequently, if you start missing the deadlines, you’ll be out of the game soon enough.

Manager from Day 1

You’ll get the idea right away if you watched this video on the job of management consultants:

In short, even as an entry-level associate, you’ll be managing a multitude of resources (experts, specialists, etc.), contents (reports, client data, expert knowledge,…), and stakeholders (the two most important being your client and your boss).

Pulling all of these together to create impactful results would be an impressive feat, even for the best and brightest new hires.

Client first

Don’t. Ever. Piss off. The client.

Management consulting is a special service industry – besides the usual “don’t disrespect the client” and “don’t leave a bad image of the firm”, there’s also “don’t make them hate you while telling them to do what they probably hate.” (which is a good way to sum up a consultant’s job).

In case interviews and PEIs, the interviewer will be asking himself a big question: “Can I trust this guy to represent me and my firm before the client?” – if the answer is anything below a stellar impression, you won’t be receiving an offer.

Consultants will have valid reasons for everything they do.

In both consulting work and case interviews, you need to be very explicit about the basis of your actions – every conclusion must have backing data, every idea must be explained, and every request must serve a purpose. Don’t ever assume that you’re justified.

Being fact-based is part of the foundation for the trust people place in consulting firms, so people who draw ideas out of thin air and act impulsively will never get into the industry.

case interview prep consulting

Effective time & resources management

Every consultant works hard, so the only way to stand out is to work smart.

Yes, I know it’s a buzzword, and I know it’s cliched, but the 80-20 rule really does apply in this line of work. The best performers are always the ones to identify the most important lever and focus on it.

With the intense workload and up-or-out policy at major consulting firms, this skill is vital. Don’t be surprised if you pull all-nighters and work hard all the time but still get fired, while that one guy who goes home at 5 gets promoted. If you want to survive, learn from him.

Key takeaways & key messages

To a management consultant, everything has a key takeaway.

Consultants are efficient people, they don’t simply waste time, effort, and resources on irrelevant things. Things are only worthy of their attention if they have an interesting, helpful “so what”:

  • You tell a story? So what?
  • You perform a data analysis? So what are your key insights, and what’s the implication?
  • You draw a slide? What’s the key message you’re trying to deliver?

If you already think like this, trust me, the interviewer will love you.

Think on your feet first

You should only ask for leadership assistance only  after you’ve thought well about the problem.

Just pause for a second and think: would you be more ready to help someone who really tries their best at the job or someone who does nothing and relies solely on you?

The same thing is true in consulting work, and even in case interviews: the interviewer will assist you if you can deliver well-informed opinions.

With that said, “asking without thinking first” is a very common mistake in case interviews, which you can see in the numerous examples from our End-to-End Secrets Program. 

Align early, align often

Always try to reach and maintain a consensus with co-workers and your boss, from the most mundane tasks to the largest projects.

Nobody wants to spend a whole week building a model that the team doesn’t need; it’s a huge waste of time and resources. As such, consultants have this aligning habit very early and often – a little time spent on reaching an agreement now will save a lot of trouble later.

Remember to align in case interviews as well – at the start of the case, and every important step.

Consultants are very action-oriented people who always think about the next step.

Every meeting, phone call, even random catch-up must end with everybody being explicitly and absolutely clear about what to do next.

So what’s YOUR next step, after reading this guidebook?

Scoring in the McKinsey PSG/Digital Assessment

The scoring mechanism in the McKinsey Digital Assessment

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Elevate your case interview skills with a well-rounded preparation package

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Case Interview Fundamentals

There are 9 type of questions that mostly used in actual case interviews. Each type has a different solution, but you can rely on the a 4-step guide to answer


Case Interview Preparation

Perform at your best during your case interview., bcgers share their case study interview tips., follow these dos and don ’ ts to ace your case prep:, use these examples to help structure your case interview., driving revenue growth at a healthcare company., your client is genco, a large, international, diversified company with a healthcare division that produces a wide variety of medical instruments and related services., ​​​​​​crafting a distribution strategy., your client is the sugar cereal division of foods inc., a u.s.-based distributor and manufacturer of packaged foods..

  • Case Interview: A comprehensive guide
  • Pyramid Principle
  • Hypothesis driven structure
  • Fit Interview
  • Consulting math
  • The key to landing your consulting job
  • What is a case interview?
  • What do I need to learn to solve cases?
  • How do I practice for case interviews?
  • Fit interviews
  • Interview day - what to expect, with tips
  • How we can help

1. The key to landing your consulting job.

Case interviews - where you are asked to solve a business case study under scrutiny - are the core of the selection process right across McKinsey, Bain and BCG (the “MBB” firms). This interview format is also used pretty much universally across other high-end consultancies; including LEK, Kearney, Oliver Wyman and the consulting wings of the “Big Four”.

If you want to land a job at any of these firms, you will have to ace multiple case interviews.

It is increasingly likely that you will also have to solve online cases given by chatbots etc. You might need to pass these before making it to interview or be asked to sit them alongside first round interviews.

Importantly, case studies aren’t something you can just wing . Firms explicitly expect you to have thoroughly prepared and many of your competitors on interview day will have been prepping for months.

Don’t worry though - MCC is here to help!

This article will take you through a full overview of everything you’ll need to know to do well, linking to more detailed articles and resources at each stage to let you really drill down into the details.

As well as traditional case interviews, we’ll also attend to the new formats in which cases are being delivered and otherwise make sure you’re up to speed with recent trends in this overall part of consulting recruitment.

Before we can figure out how to prepare for a case interview, though, we will first have to properly understand in detail what exactly you are up against. What format does a standard consulting case interview take? What is expected of you? How will you be assessed?

Let's dive right in and find out!

Professional help

Before going further, if this sounds like a lot to get your head around on your own, don't worry - help is available!

Our Case Academy course gives you everything you need to know to crack cases like a pro:

Case Academy Course

To put what you learn into practice (and secure some savings in the process) you can add mock interview coaching sessions with expereinced MBB consultants:

Coaching options

And, if you just want an experienced consultant to take charge of the whole selection process for you, you can check out our comprehensive mentoring programmes:

Explore mentoring

Now, back to the article!

2. What is a case interview?

Before we can hope to tackle a case interview, we have to understand what one is.

In short, a case interview simulates real consulting work by having you solve a business case study in conversation with your interviewer.

This case study will be a business problem where you have to advise a client - that is, an imaginary business or similar organisation in need of guidance.

You must help this client solve a problem and/or make a decision. This requires you to analyse the information you are given about that client organisation and figure out a final recommendation for what they should do next.

Business problems in general obviously vary in difficulty. Some are quite straightforward and can be addressed with fairly standard solutions. However, consulting firms exist precisely to solve the tough issues that businesses have failed to deal with internally - and so consultants will typically work on complex, idiosyncratic problems requiring novel solutions.

Some examples of case study questions might be:

  • How much would you pay for a banking licence in Ghana?
  • Estimate the potential value of the electric vehicle market in Germany
  • How much gas storage capacity should a UK domestic energy supplier build?

Consulting firms need the brightest minds they can find to put to work on these important, difficult projects. You can expect the case studies you have to solve in interview, then, to echo the unique, complicated problems consultancies deal with every day. As we’ll explain here, this means that you need to be ready to think outside the box to figure out genuinely novel solutions.

2.1. What skills do case interviews assess?

Reliably impressing your interviewers means knowing what they are looking for. This means understanding the skills you are being assessed against in some detail.

Overall, it’s important always to remember that, with case studies, there are no strict right or wrong answers. What really matters is how you think problems through, how confident you are with your conclusions and how quick you are with the back of the envelope arithmetic.

The objective of this kind of interview isn’t to get to one particular solution, but to assess your skillset. This is even true of modern online cases, where sophisticated AI algorithms score how you work as well as the solutions you generate.

If you visit McKinsey , Bain and BCG web pages on case interviews, you will find that the three firms look for very similar traits, and the same will be true of other top consultancies.

Broadly speaking, your interviewer will be evaluating you across five key areas:

2.1.1.One: Probing mind

Showing intellectual curiosity by asking relevant and insightful questions that demonstrate critical thinking and a proactive nature. For instance, if we are told that revenues for a leading supermarket chain have been declining over the last ten years, a successful candidate would ask:

“ We know revenues have declined. This could be due to price or volume. Do we know how they changed over the same period? ”

This is as opposed to a laundry list of questions like:

  • Did customers change their preferences?
  • Which segment has shown the decline in volume?
  • Is there a price war in the industry?

2.1.2. Two: Structure

Structure in this context means structuring a problem. This, in turn, means creating a framework - that is, a series of clear, sequential steps in order to get to a solution.

As with the case interview in general, the focus with case study structures isn’t on reaching a solution, but on how you get there.

This is the trickiest part of the case interview and the single most common reason candidates fail.

We discuss how to properly structure a case in more detail in section three. In terms of what your interviewer is looking for at high level, though, key pieces of your structure should be:

  • Proper understanding of the objective of the case - Ask yourself: "What is the single crucial piece of advice that the client absolutely needs?"
  • Identification of the drivers - Ask yourself: "What are the key forces that play a role in defining the outcome?"

Our Problem Driven Structure method, discussed in section three, bakes this approach in at a fundamental level. This is as opposed to the framework-based approach you will find in older case-solving

Focus on going through memorised sequences of steps too-often means failing to develop a full understanding of the case and the real key drivers.

At this link, we run through a case to illustrate the difference between a standard framework-based approach and our Problem Driven Structure method.

2.1.3. Three: Problem Solving

You’ll be tested on your ability to identify problems and drivers, isolate causes and effects, demonstrate creativity and prioritise issues. In particular, the interviewer will look for the following skills:

  • Prioritisation - Can you distinguish relevant and irrelevant facts?
  • Connecting the dots - Can you connect new facts and evidence to the big picture?
  • Establishing conclusions - Can you establish correct conclusions without rushing to inferences not supported by evidence?

2.1.4. Four: Numerical Agility

In case interviews, you are expected to be quick and confident with both precise and approximated numbers. This translates to:

  • Performing simple calculations quickly - Essential to solve cases quickly and impress clients with quick estimates and preliminary conclusions.
  • Analysing data - Extract data from graphs and charts, elaborate and draw insightful conclusions.
  • Solving business problems - Translate a real world case to a mathematical problem and solve it.

Our article on consulting math is a great resource here, though the extensive math content in our MCC Academy is the best and most comprehensive material available.

2.1.5. Five: Communication

Real consulting work isn’t just about the raw analysis to come up with a recommendation - this then needs to be sold to the client as the right course of action.

Similarly, in a case interview, you must be able to turn your answer into a compelling recommendation. This is just as essential to impressing your interviewer as your structure and analysis.

Consultants already comment on how difficult it is to find candidates with the right communication skills. Add to this the current direction of travel, where AI will be able to automate more and more of the routine analytic side of consulting, and communication becomes a bigger and bigger part of what consultants are being paid for.

So, how do you make sure that your recommendations are relevant, smart, and engaging? The answer is to master what is known as CEO-level communication .

This art of speaking like a CEO can be quite challenging, as it often involves presenting information in effectively the opposite way to how you might normally.

To get it right, there are three key areas to focus on in your communications:

  • Top down : A CEO wants to hear the key message first. They will only ask for more details if they think that will actually be useful. Always consider what is absolutely critical for the CEO to know, and start with that. You can read more in our article on the Pyramid Principle .
  • Concise : This is not the time for "boiling the ocean" or listing an endless number possible solutions. CEOs, and thus consultants, want a structured, quick and concise recommendation for their business problem, that they can implement immediately.
  • Fact-based : Consultants share CEOs' hatred of opinions based on gut feel rather than facts. They want recommendations based on facts to make sure they are actually in control. Always go on to back up your conclusions with the relevant facts.

For more detail on all this, check out our full article on delivering recommendations .

Prep the right way

2.2. where are case interviews in the consulting selection process.

Not everyone who applies to a consulting firm will have a case interview - far from it!

In fact, case interviews are pretty expensive and inconvenient for firms to host, requiring them to take consultants off active projects and even fly them back to the office from location for in-person interviews. Ideally, firms want to cut costs and save time by narrowing down the candidate pool as much as possible before any live interviews.

As such, there are some hoops to jump through before you make it to interview rounds.

Firms will typically eliminate as much as 80% of the applicant pool before interviews start. For most firms, 50%+ of applicants might be cut based on resumes, before a similar cut is made on those remaining based on aptitude tests. McKinsey currently gives their Solve assessment to most applicants, but will use their resulting test scores alongside resumes to cut 70%+ of the candidate pool before interviews.

You'll need to be on top of your game to get as far as an interview with a top firm. Getting through the resume screen and any aptitude tests is an achievement in itself!

For readers not yet embroiled in the selection process themselves, let’s put case interviews in context and take a quick look at each stage in turn. Importantly, note that you might also be asked to solve case studies outside interviews as well…

2.2.1. Application screen

It’s sometimes easy to forget that such a large cut is made at the application stage. At larger firms, this will mean your resume and cover letter is looked at by some combination of AI tools, recruitment staff and junior consulting staff (often someone from your own university).

Only the best applications will be passed to later stages, so make sure to check out our free resume and cover letter guides, and potentially get help with editing , to give yourself the best chance possible.

2.2.2. Aptitude tests and online cases

This part of the selection process has been changing quickly in recent years and is increasingly beginning to blur into the traditionally separate case interview rounds.

In the past, GMAT or PST style tests were the norm. Firms then used increasingly sophisticated and often gamified aptitude tests, like the Pymetrics test currently used by several firms, including BCG and Bain, and the original version of McKinsey’s Solve assessment (then branded as the Problem Solving Game).

Now, though, there is a move towards delivering relatively sophisticated case studies online. For example, McKinsey has replaced half the old Solve assessment with an online case. BCG’s Casey chatbot case now directly replaces a live first round case interview, and in the new era of AI chatbots, we expect these online cases to quickly become more realistic and increasingly start to relieve firms of some of the costs of live interviews.

Our consultants collectively reckon that, over time, 50% of case interviews are likely to be replaced with these kinds of cases. We give some specific advice for online cases in section four. However, the important thing to note is that these are still just simulations of traditional case interviews - you still need to learn how to solve cases in precisely the same way, and your prep will largely remain the same.

2.2.3. Rounds of Interviews

Now, let’s not go overboard with talk of AI. Even in the long term, the client facing nature of consulting means that firms will have live case interviews for as long as they are hiring anyone. And in the immediate term, case interviews are still absolutely the core of consulting selection.

Before landing an offer at McKinsey, Bain, BCG or any similar firm, you won’t just have one case interview, but will have to complete four to six case interviews, usually divided into two rounds, with each interview lasting approximately 50-60 minutes .

Being invited to first round usually means two or three case interviews. As noted above, you might also be asked to complete an online case or similar alongside your first round interviews.

If you ace first round, you will be invited to second round to face the same again, but more gruelling. Only then - after up to six case interviews in total, can you hope to receive an offer.

2.3. Typical case interview format

Before we dive in to the nuts and bolts of case cracking, we should give you a bit more detail on what exactly you’ll be up against on interview day.

Case interviews come in very similar formats across the various consultancies where they are used.

The standard case interview can be thought of as splitting into two standalone sub-interviews. Thus “case interviews” can be divided into the case study itself and a “fit interview” section, where culture fit questions are asked.

This can lead to a bit of confusion, as the actual case interview component might take up as little as half of your scheduled “case interview”. You need to make sure you are ready for both aspects.

To illustrate, here is the typical case interview timeline:

  • First 15-30 minutes: Fit Interview - with questions assessing your motivation to be a consultant in that specific firm and your traits around leadership and teamwork. Learn more about the fit interview in our in-depth article here .
  • Next 30-40 minutes: Case Interview - solving a case study
  • Last 5 minutes: Fit Interview again - this time focussing on your questions for your interviewer.

Both the Case and Fit interviews play crucial roles in the finial hiring decision. There is no “average” taken between case and fit interviews: if your performance is not up to scratch in either of the two, you will not be able to move on to the next interview round or get an offer.

NB: No case without fit

Note that, even if you have only been told you are having a case interview or otherwise are just doing a case study, always be prepared to answer fit questions. At most firms, it is standard practice to include some fit questions in all case interviews, even if there are also separate explicit fit interviews, and interviewers will almost invariably include some of these questions around your case. This is perfectly natural - imagine how odd and artificial it would be to show up to an interview, simply do a case and leave again, without talking about anything else with the interviewer before or after.

2.4. Differences between first and second round interviews

Despite interviews in the first and second round following the same format, second/final round interviews will be significantly more intense. The seniority of the interviewer, time pressure (with up to three interviews back-to-back), and the sheer value of the job at stake will likely make a second round consulting case interview one of the most challenging moments of your professional life.

There are three key differences between the two rounds:

  • Time Pressure : Final round case interviews test your ability to perform under pressure, with as many as three interviews in a row and often only very small breaks between them.
  • Focus : Since second round interviewers tend to be more senior (usually partners with 12+ years experience) and will be more interested in your personality and ability to handle challenges independently. Some partners will drill down into your experiences and achievements to the extreme. They want to understand how you react to challenges and your ability to identify and learn from past mistakes.
  • Psychological Pressure: While case interviews in the first round are usually more focused on you simply cracking the case, second round interviewers often employ a "bad cop" strategy to test the way you react to challenges and uncertainty.

2.5. Differences between firms

For the most part, a case interview is a case interview. However, firms will have some differences in the particular ways they like to do things in terms of both the case study and the fit component.

As we’ll see, these differences aren’t hugely impactful in terms of how you prepare. That said, it's always good to know as much as possible about what you will be going up against.

2.5.1. Candidate led vs interviewer led case formats

Most consulting case interview questions test your ability to crack a broad problem, with a case prompt often going something like:

" How much would you pay to secure the rights to run a restaurant in the British Museum? "

You, as a candidate, are then expected to identify your path to solve the case (that is, provide a structure), leveraging your interviewer to collect the data and test your assumptions.

This is known as a “candidate-led” case interview and is used by Bain, BCG and other firms.

However, a McKinsey case interview - especially in the first round - is slightly different, with the interviewer controlling the pace and direction of the conversation much more than with other case interviews.

At McKinsey, your interviewer will ask you a set of pre-determined questions, regardless of your initial structure. For each question, you will have to understand the problem, come up with a mini structure, ask for additional data (if necessary) and come to the conclusion that answers the question.

McKinsey’s cases are thus referred to as “interviewer-led”. This more structured format of case also shows up in online cases by other firms - notably including BCG’s Casey chatbot (with the amusing result that practising McKinsey-style cases can be a great addition when prepping for BCG).

Essentially, these interviewer-led case studies are large cases made up of lots of mini-cases. You still use basically the same method as you would for standard (or candidate-led) cases - the main difference is simply that, instead of using that method to solve one big case, you are solving several mini-cases sequentially.

2.5.2. The McKinsey PEI

McKinsey brands its fit aspect of interviews as the Personal Experience Interview or PEI. Despite the different name, this is really much the same interview you will be going up against in Bain, BCG and any similar firms.

McKinsey does have a reputation for pushing candidates a little harder with fit or PEI questions, focusing on one story per interview and drilling down further into the specific details each time. We discuss this tendency more in our fit interview article. However, no top end firm is going to go easy on you and you should absolutely be ready for the same level of grilling at Bain, BCG and others. Thus any difference isn’t hugely salient in terms of prep.

2.6. How are things changing in 2023?

For the foreseeable future, you are going to have to go through multiple live case interviews to secure any decent consulting job. These might increasingly happen via Zoom rather than in person, but they should remain largely the same otherwise.

However, things are changing and the rise of AI in recent months seems pretty much guaranteed to accelerate existing trends.

Even before the explosive development of AI chatbots like ChatGPT we have seen in recent months, automation was already starting to change the recruitment process.

As we mentioned, case interviews are expensive and inconvenient for firms to run. Ideally, then, firms will try to reduce the number of interviews required for recruitment as far as possible. For many years, tests of various kinds served to cut down the applicant pool and thus the number of interviews. However, these tests had a limited capacity to assess candidates against the full consulting skillset in the way that case interviews do so well.

More recently, though, the development of online testing has allowed for more and more advanced assessments. Top consulting firms have been leveraging screening tests that better and better capture the same skillset as case interviews. Eventually this is converging on automated case studies. We see this very clearly with the addition of the Redrock case to McKinsey’s Solve assessment.

As these digital cases become closer to the real thing, the line between test and interview blurs. Online cases don’t just reduce the number of candidates to interview, but start directly replacing interviews.

Case in point here is BCG’s Casey chatbot . Previously, BCG had deployed less advanced online cases and similar tests to weed out some candidates before live case interviews began. Now, though, Casey actually replaces one first round case interview.

Casey, at time of writing, is still a relatively “dumb” chatbot, basically running through a pre-set script. The Whatsapp-like interface does a lot of work to make it feel like one is chatting to a “real person” - the chatbot itself, though, cannot provide feedback or nudges to candidates as would a human interviewer.

We fully expect that, as soon as BCG and other firms can train a truer AI, these online cases will become more widespread and start replacing more live interviews.

We discuss the likely impacts of advanced AI on consulting recruitment and the industry more broadly in our blog.

Here, though, the real message is that you should expect to run into digital cases as well as traditional case interviews.

Luckily, despite any changes in specific format, you will still need to master the same fundamental skills and prepare in much the same way.

We’ll cover a few ways to help prepare for chatbot cases in section four. Ultimately, though, firms are looking for the same problem solving ability and mindset as a real interviewer. Especially as chatbots get better at mimicking a real interviewer, candidates who are well prepared for case cracking in general should have no problem with AI administered cases.

2.6.1. Automated fit interviews

Analogous to online cases, in recent years there has been a trend towards automated, “one way” fit interviews, with these typically being administered for consultancies by specialist contractors like HireVue or SparkHire.

These are kind of like Zoom interviews, but if the interviewer didn’t show up. Instead you will be given fit questions to answer and must record your answer in your computer webcam. Your response will then go on to be assessed by an algorithm, scoring both what you say and how you say it.

Again, with advances in AI, it is easy to imagine these automated interviews going from fully scripted interactions, where all candidates are asked the same list of questions, to a more interactive experience. Thus, we might soon arrive at a point where you are being grilled on the details of your stories - McKinsey PEI style - but by a bot rather than a human.

We include some tips on this kind of “one way” fit interview in section six here.

3. What do I need to learn to solve cases?

If you’re new to case cracking. You might feel a bit hopeless when you see a difficult case question, not having any idea where to start.

In fact though, cracking cases is much like playing chess. The rules you need to know to get started are actually pretty simple. What will make you really proficient is time and practice.

In this section, we’ll run through a high level overview of everything you need to know, linking to more detailed resources at every step.

3.1. Business fundamentals

Obviously, you are going to need to be familiar with basic business concepts in order to understand the case studies you are given in the first instance.

If you are coming from a business undergrad, an MBA or are an experienced hire, you might well have this covered already.

However, many consultants will be entering from engineering or similar backgrounds and the major consulting firms are hiring more and more PhDs and non-MBA master's graduates from all subjects. These individuals will need to get up to speed on business fundamentals.

Luckily, you don’t need a degree-level understanding of business to crack interview cases, and a lot of the information you will pick up by osmosis as you read through articles like this and go through cases.

However, some things you will just need to sit down and learn. We cover everything you need to know in some detail in our Case Academy course. However, some examples here of things you need to learn are:

  • Basic accounting (particularly how to understand all the elements of a balance sheet)
  • Basic economics
  • Basic marketing
  • Basic strategy

Note, though, that learning the very basics of business is the beginning rather than the end of your journey.

Once you are able to “speak business” at a rudimentary level, you should try to “become fluent” and immerse yourself in reading/viewing/listening to as wide a variety of business material as possible, getting a feel for all kinds of companies and industries - and especially the kinds of problems that can come up in each context and how they are solved.

The material put out by the consulting firms themselves is a great place to start, but you should also follow the business news and find out about different companies and sectors as much as possible between now and interviews. Remember, if you’re going to be a consultant, this should be fun rather than a chore!

3.2. How to solve cases like a real consultant

This is the really important bit.

If you look around online for material on how to solve case studies, a lot of what you find will set out framework-based approaches. However, as we have mentioned, these frameworks tend to break down with more complex, unique cases - with these being exactly the kind of tough case studies you can expect to be given in your interviews.

To address this problem, the MyConsultingCoach team has developed a new, proprietary approach to case cracking that replicates how top management consultants approach actual engagements.

MyConsultingCoach’s Problem Driven Structure approach is a universal problem solving method that can be applied to any business problem , irrespective of its nature.

As opposed to just selecting a generic framework for each case, the Problem Driven Structure approach works by generating a bespoke structure for each individual question and is a simplified version of the roadmap McKinsey consultants use when working on engagements.

The canonical seven steps from McKinsey on real projects are simplified to four for case interview questions, as the analysis required for a six-month engagement is somewhat less than that needed for a 45-minute case study. However, the underlying flow is the same.

This video has more information on how frameworks can be unreliable and how we address this problem:

Otherwise, let's zoom in to see how our method actually works in more detail:

3.2.1. Identify the problem

Identifying the problem means properly understanding the prompt/question you are given, so you get to the actual point of the case.

This might sound simple, but cases are often very tricky, and many candidates irretrievably mess things up within the first few minutes of starting. Often, they won’t notice this has happened until they are getting to the end of their analysis. Then, they suddenly realise that they have misunderstood the case prompt - and have effectively been answering the wrong question all along!

With no time to go back and start again, there is nothing to do. Even if there were time, making such a silly mistake early on will make a terrible impression on their interviewer, who might well have written them off already. The interview is scuppered and all the candidate’s preparation has been for nothing.

This error is so galling as it is so readily avoidable.

Our method prevents this problem by placing huge emphasis on a full understanding of the case prompt. This lays the foundations for success as, once we have identified the fundamental, underlying problem our client is facing, we focus our whole analysis around finding solutions to this specific issue.

Now, some case interview prompts are easy to digest. For example, “Our client, a supermarket, has seen a decline in profits. How can we bring them up?”. However, many of the prompts given in interviews for top firms are much more difficult and might refer to unfamiliar business areas or industries. For example, “How much would you pay for a banking license in Ghana?” or “What would be your key areas of concern be when setting up an NGO?”

Don’t worry if you have no idea how you might go about tackling some of these prompts!

In our article on identifying the problem and in our full lesson on the subject in our MCC Academy course, we teach a systematic, four step approach to identifying the problem , as well as running through common errors to ensure you start off on the right foot every time!

This is summarised here:

Four Steps to Identify the Problem

Following this method lets you excel where your competitors mess up and get off to a great start in impressing your interviewer!

3.2.2. Build your problem driven structure

After you have properly understood the problem, the next step is to successfully crack a case is to draw up a bespoke structure that captures all the unique features of the case.

This is what will guide your analysis through the rest of the case study and is precisely the same method used by real consultants working on real engagements.

Of course, it might be easier here to simply roll out one an old-fashioned framework, and a lot of candidates will do so. This is likely to be faster at this stage and requires a lot less thought than our problem-driven structure approach.

However, whilst our problem driven structure approach requires more work from you, our method has the advantage of actually working in the kind of complex case studies where generic frameworks fail - that is exactly the kind of cases you can expect at an MBB interview .

Since we effectively start from first principles every time, we can tackle any case with the same overarching method. Simple or complex, every case is the same to you and you don’t have to gamble a job on whether a framework will actually work

In practice, structuring a problem with our method means drawing up either an issue tree or an hypothesis tree , depending on how you are trying to address the problem.

These trees break down the overall problem into a set of smaller problems that you can then solve individually. Representing this on a diagram also makes it easy for both you and your interviewer to keep track of your analysis.

To see how this is done, let’s look at the issue tree below breaking down the revenues of an airline:

Frame the Airline Case Study

These revenues can be segmented as the number of customers multiplied by the average ticket price. The number of customers can be further broken down into a number of flights multiplied by the number of seats, times average occupancy rate. The node corresponding to the average ticket price can then be segmented further.

It is worth noting that the same problem can be structured in multiple valid ways by choosing different means to segment the key issues.

That said, not all valid structures are equally useful in solving the underlying problem. A good structure fulfils several requirements - including MECE-ness , level consistency, materiality, simplicity, and actionability. It’s important to put in the time to master segmentation, so you can choose a scheme isn’t only valid, but actually useful in addressing the problem.

After taking the effort to identify the problem properly, an advantage of our method is that it will help ensure you stay focused on that same fundamental problem throughout. This might not sound like much, but many candidates end up getting lost in their own analysis, veering off on huge tangents and returning with an answer to a question they weren’t asked.

Another frequent issue - particularly with certain frameworks - is that candidates finish their analysis and, even if they have successfully stuck to the initial question, they have not actually reached a definite solution. Instead, they might simply have generated a laundry list of pros and cons, with no clear single recommendation for action.

Clients employ consultants for actionable answers, and this is what is expected in the case interview. The problem driven structure excels in ensuring that everything you do is clearly related back to the key question in a way that will generate a definitive answer. Thus, the problem driven structure builds in the hypothesis driven approach so characteristic of real consulting practice.

You can learn how to set out your own problem driven structures in our article here and in our full lesson in the MCC Academy course.

Join thousands of other candidates cracking cases like pros

3.2.3. lead the analysis.

A problem driven structure might ensure we reach a proper solution eventually, but how do we actually get there?

We call this step " leading the analysis ", and it is the process whereby you systematically navigate through your structure, identifying the key factors driving the issue you are addressing.

Generally, this will mean continuing to grow your tree diagram, further segmenting what you identify as the most salient end nodes and thus drilling down into the most crucial factors causing the client’s central problem.

Once you have gotten right down into the detail of what is actually causing the company’s issues, solutions can then be generated quite straightforwardly.

To see this process in action, we can return to our airline revenue example:

Lead the analysis for the Airline Case Study

Let’s say we discover the average ticket price to be a key issue in the airline’s problems. Looking closer at the drivers of average ticket price, we find that the problem lies with economy class ticket prices. We can then further segment that price into the base fare and additional items such as food.

Having broken down the issue to such a fine-grained level, solutions occur quite naturally. In this case, we can suggest incentivising the crew to increase onboard sales, improving assortment in the plane, or offering discounts for online purchases.

Our article on leading the analysis is a great primer on the subject, with our video lesson in the MCC Academy providing the most comprehensive guide available.

3.2.4. Provide recommendations

So you have a solution - but you aren’t finished yet!

Now, you need to deliver your solution as a final recommendation.

This should be done as if you are briefing a busy CEO and thus should be a one minute, top-down, concise, structured, clear, and fact-based account of your findings.

The brevity of the final recommendation belies its importance. In real life consulting, the recommendation is what the client has potentially paid millions for - from their point of view, it is the only thing that matters.

In an interview, your performance in this final summing up of your case is going to significantly colour your interviewer’s parting impression of you - and thus your chances of getting hired!

So, how do we do it right?

Barbara Minto's Pyramid Principle elegantly sums up almost everything required for a perfect recommendation. The answer comes first , as this is what is most important. This is then supported by a few key arguments , which are in turn buttressed by supporting facts .

Across the whole recommendation, the goal isn’t to just summarise what you have done. Instead, you are aiming to synthesize your findings to extract the key "so what?" insight that is useful to the client going forward.

All this might seem like common sense, but it is actually the opposite of how we relay results in academia and other fields. There, we typically move from data, through arguments and eventually to conclusions. As such, making good recommendations is a skill that takes practice to master.

We can see the Pyramid Principle illustrated in the diagram below:

The Pyramid principle often used in consulting

To supplement the basic Pyramid Principle scheme, we suggest candidates add a few brief remarks on potential risks and suggested next steps . This helps demonstrate the ability for critical self-reflection and lets your interviewer see you going the extra mile.

The combination of logical rigour and communication skills that is so definitive of consulting is particularly on display in the final recommendation.

Despite it only lasting 60 seconds, you will need to leverage a full set of key consulting skills to deliver a really excellent recommendation and leave your interviewer with a good final impression of your case solving abilities.

Our specific article on final recommendations and the specific video lesson on the same topic within our MCC Academy are great, comprehensive resources. Beyond those, our lesson on consulting thinking and our articles on MECE and the Pyramid Principle are also very useful.

3.3. Common case types and the building blocks to solve them

You should tackle each new case on its own merits. However, that’s not to say there aren’t recurring themes that come up fairly reliably in cases - there absolutely are. Business is business and case studies will often feature issues like profitability, competition etc.

Old fashioned framework approaches would have you simply select a defined framework for each kind of case and, in effect, just run the algorithm and wait for a solution to fall out.

We’ve already explained how frameworks can let you down. In this context, too many candidates will fall into the trap of selecting a framework for that case type that simply won’t work for their specific case.

The counterpoint in favour of frameworks, though, is that they are at least fast and prevent you having to start from the ground up with a common kind of case.

Ideally, you should have the best of both worlds - and this is why, in our articles on this site and in our MCC Academy course, we have developed a set of “building bocks” for common case themes.

As they name suggests, building blocks give you modular components for different kinds of case to help build out your own custom structures faster. These then allow you to leverage the symmetries between cases without inheriting the inflexibility of frameworks.

Let’s take a look at five different case types and get a brief idea of how our building block approach helps you with each. You can find more detail on each in the full length articles linked, as well as in the full-length video lessons in our MCC Academy course.

3.3.1. Estimation

Consultants need to push forward to provide definitive recommendations to clients in a timely manner despite typically not having access to full information on a problem. Estimation of important quantities is therefore at the heart of real life consulting work.

Estimation is thus just as fundamental to case cracking.

A case interview might centre on an estimation question, and this might be quite common for a first round interview. However, estimation is also very likely to be a crucial part of pretty well any other kind of case question you receive is likely to include estimation as a crucial component of your analysis.

The kinds of estimation you might be asked to make in a case interview can be very daunting:

  • How many bank branches are there in Italy?
  • How many cars are sold in Berlin in one year?
  • How many people will buy the latest high-tech smartphone on the market?

You might have no idea where to begin with these examples. However, tempting as it might be, your answer cannot ever be a simple guess .

A decent estimation does have a guessed element - though this should really be an educated guess based on some pre-existing knowledge. However, this guessed element is always then combined with a rigorous quantitative method to arrive at a reasonable estimation.

In context of a case interview, it’s important to realise that your interviewer doesn’t really care about the right answer (they don’t need to ask you to find out, after all). What’s important is showing the rational process by which you get to your answer.

A guess that was somehow exactly correct is no good compared to a “wrong” answer that was reached by a very sensible, intelligent process of estimation. In cases, this method will often be a matter of segmentation.

So, where would we start in working out how many cars are sold in Berlin, for example?

The key to estimation case questions is the ability to logically break down the problem into more manageable pieces. In consulting case studies, this will generally mean segmenting a wider population to find a particular target group. For example, starting from the total population of Berlin and narrowing down to the cohort of individuals who will buy a car that year.

There are usually many ways to segment the same starting population, and several different segmentation schemes might be equally valid. However, it is crucial to choose the specific method best suited to the goal in answering the question and allowing you to best leverage the data you have available.

Segmentation must be allied with assumptions in order to arrive at an estimation. These assumptions are the “guessed” element of estimations we mentioned above. Assumptions cannot just be plucked from thin air, but must always be reasonable .

The example below showcases both the segmentation and assumptions made in an estimation of the size of the wedding planning market in London:

Estimation Example Structure

Our articles on estimation and the MECE concept are great starting points in getting to grips with consulting estimation. However, the best place to learn how to make estimations is with the dedicated building block video lesson in our MCC Academy course.

Those of you from physics or engineering backgrounds will probably see a lot in common with Fermi questions . We have plenty of estimation cases for you to work through in our free case library. However, Fermi questions are a great way of getting a little extra practice and you can find a lifetime’s supply online.

3.3.2. Profitability

The fundamental goal of any normal business is to maximise profits - nobody is getting up and going to work to lose money. Even Silicon Valley tech start-ups are supposed to be profitable some day!

Profitability problems are thus bread and butter issues for management consultants.

Clients often tell consultants broadly the same story. The business was doing in well in recent years, with strong profits. However, some recent turn of events has upset the status quo and led to concerns around profit levels. Consultants are brought in as businesses are often sufficiently complex that it can be difficult to figure out precisely where and why the company is losing money - let alone how to then reverse the situation and restore healthy profits.

Despite steady growth in customer flow, the Walfort supermarket chain has seen falling profits in the past year. What is the reason for this decline?

Understanding profitability ultimately means understanding the various components that determine a company’s profit. You will need to learn to decompose profit first into revenues and costs (profit being the synthesis of these two factors). Crucially, you then need to segment further, distinguishing different specific revenue streams and separating various fixed and variable costs.

To take an example, just examining the revenue side of profit, the incoming revenues for an insurance firm might be broken down as follows:

Insurance Revenues

Improving profitability will inherently mean increasing revenues and/or decreasing costs. To solve profitability problems, we thus have to understand the ways we can minimise different costs, as well as ways to drive sales and/or optimise pricing to increase revenue. Importantly, you must be able to judge which of these options is best suited to address specific scenarios.

The key to tackling the complex kind of profitability questions given by MBB-level consultancies lies in this proper segmentation.

By contrast, old-fashioned case interview frameworks will simply have you look at aggregate cost and revenue data before recommending generic cost-cutting or revenue-driving measures. However, this will often lead to negative outcomes in more involved cases, making matters worse for the client.

For example, it might well be that a company actually makes a loss when it serves a certain cohort of customers. An airline, for instance, might lose money on economy class customers but make a healthy profit on each business class customer. Attempts to boost revenue by increasing sales across the board might actually reduce profit further by increasing the number of economy class customers. What is required is targeted measures to increase focus on business class and/or mitigate economy class losses.

You can start learning to segment these kinds of cases properly in our article on profitability , whilst the best way to really master profitability questions is our full lesson on the subject in the Building Blocks section of our MCC Academy course.

3.3.3. Pricing

For a company to be profitable at all, it is a pre-requisite that it charges the right price for whatever it sells. However, establishing what price to charge for any one product - or indeed a whole suite of related products - can be a highly complex business.

Consultants are often engaged to negotiate the many variables, with all their complex interdependencies, at play in pricing. Correspondingly, then, pricing is a common theme in case interviews.

  • A company launches a new smartphone with a significantly improved camera. How much should they charge?
  • A doughnut chain wants to start selling coffee in their shops. How much should they charge per cup?

Clearly, lot of different factors can influence the answers to these questions, and it can be difficult to know where to start. To get a handle on all this complexity, you will need to take a methodical, structured approach.

To really understand pricing, you must begin from fundamentals like the customer’s willingness to pay, the value captured by the company, and the value created for the customer. These basics are shown in the diagram below:

Pricing Basics

This might seem simple enough, but the exact level at which prices are ultimately set is determined by a whole host of factors, including product availability, market trends, and the need to maintain a competitive position within the market. In particular, if we are changing the price of an existing product, we must consider how the price elasticity of demand might cause sales to fluctuate.

Our four-step method for pricing starts from establishing the customer’s next best alternative, calculating the value added by our own product, and working from there. A summary of this method is given, along with an overview of pricing in general, in our article on the subject . However, the most complete resource is our pricing lesson in the MCC Academy .

3.3.4. Valuation

Valuation is fundamental to any kind of investment. Before allocating capital towards a particular opportunity, an investor must understand precisely what value it holds and how this compares to the other available options.

In short, valuation tells us how much we should be willing to pay to acquire a company or an asset.

There are many ways to value an asset - indeed the finer points are still subject to research in both the academic and private sectors.

Standard ways to assign value include asset-based valuations (notably the Net Asset Value or NAV) and the various multiples so widely used by market traders.

However, in consulting case interviews, you will only usually need to be familiar with Net Present Value (NPV) . This means you need to learn and master the NPV equation:

NPV Equation

CF = Cash Flow r = Discount Rate

Whilst this is a pretty simple equation on the face of it, in order to make proper use of it, you will also need to develop a feel for interest/discount rates appropriate to different cases. This will be essential, as you will often have to estimate rational values for these rates for different investments before plugging those values into the NPV equation. Our Case Academy course has more detail here.

Note, though, that NPV is only really half the story.

NPV provides a kind of “absolute” value for an asset. However, the fact is that the worth of any asset will be different for different buyers , depending largely upon what the buyer already owns. In just the same way a spare clutch for a 1975 Ford will be a lot less valuable to a cyclist than to someone restoring the relevant classic car, so a courier business will be more valuable to an online retailer than to an airline.

As such, what we call the Total Enterprise Value (TEV) of an asset is calculated as a function of that asset’s NPV and of the potential cost and revenue synergies resulting from an acquisition. This is shown in the useful structure below:


You can learn more about all aspects of valuation in our article here , as well as in our dedicated video lesson in MCC Academy . These include guides to the kind of interest rates typically required to finance different kinds of investment.

3.3.5. Competitive Interactions

Most of what we’ve discussed so far in terms of case themes and our building block approach to them will all depend upon the prevailing competitive landscape our client exists within. Product prices, profit levels and ultimately valuations can all change over time in response to competition.

What is more, the zero sum dynamics of competitive interactions mean that these things can change quickly .

Companies enjoying near monopolies for years or even decades can quickly see their values go to zero, or near enough, in the face of some innovation by a competitor coming onto the market.

Nokia and Kodak thoroughly dominated the mobile phone and photography markets respectively - until new companies with new products pulled the rug out from under them and led to precipitous collapses.

New market entrants or old competitors with new ideas can throw a company’s whole business model up in the air overnight . Complex decisions about profound changes need to be made yesterday. Firms trying to save themselves will often slash prices in attempts to maintain sales - though this can actually make things worse and result in a corporate death-spiral. Consultants are then frequently called in to help companies survive - with this type of engagement carrying over to inform case interview questions.

You are running an airline and a low-cost competitor, like Ryanair, decides to start operating on your routes. You are rapidly losing customers to their lower fares. How do you respond?

Your eventual solutions to competitive interaction problems will likely need to be novel and unique to the situation. However, the process by which we understand competitive interactions and move towards those solutions is usually very methodical, moving through the limited dimensions in which a company can take action.

The following structure neatly encodes the general options open to responding to new sources of competition:

Competitive Interaction Structure

Of course, we would never suggest that you blanket-apply any strict, inflexible methodology to a whole swathe of case questions – this is precisely the approach that causes so much trouble for candidates using old-fashioned frameworks.

This structure is only a starting point - a shortcut to a bespoke framework specific to the case question in hand. You might well have to alter the details of the structure shown and you will almost certainly have to expand it as you lead the analysis . How you build out your structure and the solutions you provide are necessarily going to depend upon the specific details of the case question.

Thus, in order to deal with competitive interactions, you will need to put in the time to understand how the different strategies available function - as well as how competitors might then react to implementing such strategies. With enough practice, though, soon you won’t be fazed by even the most complex cases of competition between firms.

You can learn more in our article here and in our dedicated video lesson on competitive interaction in the MCC Academy case interview course.

3.4. Mental mathematics

Almost every interview case study will feature some mental mathematics and this is an area where many many candidates let themselves down.

As such, it makes sense to out in the time and make sure you are fully proficient.

Nothing beyond high school level is required, but you probably don’t do much mental arithmetic day to day and will likely need to practice quite a lot to get good enough to reliably perform at pace, under pressure.

We give a high-level overview of what you need to know in our consulting math article , but devote a whole section of our MCC Academy course to a deep dive on consulting math, with plenty of practice material to get you up to scratch.

4. How do I practice for case interviews?

As we said above - case interviews are much like chess. The rules are relatively quick to learn, but you need to practice a lot to get good.

If you’re working through our MCC Academy course, we recommend getting through the core Problem Driven Structure section. After that, you should be practising alongside working through the remainder of the course and beyond. However you do things, you need to get up to speed with the fundamentals before practice is going to do much more than confuse you.

Of course, if you’re enrolled in one of our mentoring programmes , your mentor will let you know precisely when and how you should be scheduling practice, as well as tracking your progress throughout.

4.1. Solo Practice

For solitary preparation, one of the best uses of your time is to work on your mental mathematics . This skill is neglected by many applicants - much to their immediate regret in the case interview. Find our mental math tool here or in our course, and practice at least ten minutes per day, from day one until the day before the interview.

Once you've covered our Building Blocks section, you should then start working through the cases in My Consulting Coach's case bank alongside your work on the course. This is a large library of case interview questions and answers in different formats and difficulties.

To build your confidence, start out on easier case questions, work through with the solutions, and don't worry about time. As you get better, you can move on to more difficult cases and try to get through them more quickly. You should practice around eight case studies on your own to build your confidence.

4.2. Peer practice

One you have worked through eight cases solo, you should be ready to simulate the interview more closely and start working with another person.

Here, many candidates turn to peer practice - that is, doing mock case interviews with friends, classmates or others also applying to consulting.

If you’re in university, and especially in business school, there will very likely be a consulting club for you to join and do lots of case practice with. If you don’t have anyone to practice, though, or if you just want to get a bit more volume in with others, our free meeting board lets you find fellow applicants from around the world with whom to practice.

4.3. Professional practice

You can do a lot practising by yourself and with peers. However, nothing will bring up your skills so quickly and profoundly as working with a real consultant.

Perhaps think about it like boxing. You can practice drills and work on punch bags all you want, but at some point you need to get into the ring and do some actual sparring if you ever want to be ready to fight.

Of course, it isn’t possible to secure the time of experienced top-tier consultants for free. However, when considering whether you should invest to boost your chances of success, it is worth considering the difference in your salary over even a just few years between getting into a top-tier firm versus a second-tier one. In the light of thousands in increased annual earnings (easily accumulating into millions over multiple years), it becomes clear that getting expert interview help really is one of the best investments you can make in your own future.

Should you decide to make this step, MyConsultingCoach can help, offering the highest quality case interview coaching service available . Each MCC case coach is selected as an MBB consultant with two or more years of experience and strong coaching expertise.

Case interview coaching is hugely beneficial in itself. However, for those who want to genuinely maximise their chances of securing a job offer - and especially for time-poor, busy professionals or hard-pressed students who want to take the guesswork and wasted time out of their case interview prep - we also offer a much more comprehensive service .

With one of our bespoke mentoring programmes , you are paired with a 5+ year experienced, ex-MBB mentor of your choosing, who will then oversee your whole case interview preparation from start to finish - giving you your best possible chance of landing a job!

4.4. Practice for online cases

Standard preparation for interview case studies will carry directly over to online cases.

However, if you want to do some more specific prep, you can work through cases solo to a timer and using a calculator and/or Excel (online cases generally allow calculators and second computers to help you, whilst these are banned in live case interviews).

Older PST-style questions also make great prep, but a particularly good simulation is the self-assessment tests included in our Case Academy course . These multiple choice business questions conducted with a strict time limit are great preparation for the current crop of online cases.

5. Fit interviews

As we’ve noted, even something billed as a case interview is very likely to contain a fit interview as a subset.

We have an article on fit interviews and also include a full set of lessons on how to answer fit questions properly as a subset of our comprehensive Case Academy course .

Here though, the important thing to convey is that you take preparing for fit questions every bit as seriously as you do case prep.

Since they sound the same as you might encounter when interviewing for other industries, the temptation is to regard these as “just normal interview questions”.

However, consulting firms take your answers to these questions a good deal more seriously than elsewhere.

This isn’t just for fluffy “corporate culture” reasons. The long hours and close teamwork, as well as the client-facing nature of management consulting, mean that your personality and ability to get on with others is going to be a big part of making you a tolerable and effective co-worker.

If you know you’ll have to spend 14+ hour working days with someone you hire and that your annual bonus depends on them not alienating clients, you better believe you’ll pay attention to their character in interview.

There are also hard-nosed financial reasons for the likes of McKinsey, Bain and BCG to drill down so hard on your answers.

In particular, top consultancies have huge issues with staff retention. The average management consultant only stays with these firms for around two years before they have moved on to a new industry.

In some cases, consultants bail out because they can’t keep up with the arduous consulting lifestyle of long hours and endless travel. In many instances, though, departing consultants are lured away by exit opportunities - such as the well trodden paths towards internal strategy roles, private equity or becoming a start-up founder.

Indeed, many individuals will intentionally use a two year stint in consulting as something like an MBA they are getting paid for - giving them accelerated exposure to the business world and letting them pivot into something new.

Consulting firms want to get a decent return on investment for training new recruits. Thus, they want hires who not only intend to stick with consulting longer-term, but also have a temperament that makes this feasible and an overall career trajectory where it just makes sense for them to stay put.

This should hammer home the point that, if you want to get an offer, you need to be fully prepared to answer fit questions - and to do so excellently - any time you have a case interview.

6. Interview day - what to expect, with tips

Of course, all this theory is well and good, but a lot of readers might be concerned about what exactly to expect in real life . It’s perfectly reasonable to want to get as clear a picture as possible here - we all want to know what we are going up against when we face a new challenge!

Indeed, it is important to think about your interview in more holistic terms, rather than just focusing on small aspects of analysis. Getting everything exactly correct is less important than the overall approach you take to reasoning and how you communicate - and candidates often lose sight of this fact.

In this section, then, we’ll run through the case interview experience from start to finish, directing you to resources with more details where appropriate. As a supplement to this, the following video from Bain is excellent. It portrays an abridged version of a case interview, but is very useful as a guide to what to expect - not just from Bain, but from McKinsey, BCG and any other high-level consulting firm.

6.1. Getting started

Though you might be shown through to the office by a staff member, usually your interviewer will come and collect you from a waiting area. Either way, when you first encounter them, you should greet your interviewer with a warm smile and a handshake (unless they do not offer their hand). Be confident without verging into arrogance. You will be asked to take a seat in the interviewer’s office, where the interview can then begin.

6.1.1. First impressions

In reality, your assessment begins before you even sit down at your interviewer’s desk. Whether at a conscious level or not, the impression you make within the first few seconds of meeting your interviewer is likely to significantly inform the final hiring decision (again, whether consciously or not).

Your presentation and how you hold yourself and behave are all important. If this seems strange, consider that, if hired, you will be personally responsible for many clients’ impressions of the firm. These things are part of the job! Much of material on the fit interview is useful here, whilst we also cover first impressions and presentation generally in our article on what to wear to interview .

As we have noted above, your interview might start with a fit segment - that is, with the interviewer asking questions about your experiences, your soft skills, and motivation to want to join consulting generally and that firm in particular. In short, the kinds of things a case study can’t tell them about you. We have a fit interview article and course to get you up to speed here.

6.1.2. Down to business

Following an initial conversation, your interviewer will introduce your case study , providing a prompt for the question you have to answer. You will have a pen and paper in front of you and should (neatly) note down the salient pieces of information (keep this up throughout the interview).

It is crucial here that you don’t delve into analysis or calculations straight away . Case prompts can be tricky and easy to misunderstand, especially when you are under pressure. Rather, ask any questions you need to fully understand the case question and then validate that understanding with the interviewer before you kick off any analysis. Better to eliminate mistakes now than experience that sinking feeling of realising you have gotten the whole thing wrong halfway through your case!

This process is covered in our article on identifying the problem and in greater detail in our Case Academy lesson on that subject.

6.1.3. Analysis

Once you understand the problem, you should take a few seconds to set your thoughts in order and draw up an initial structure for how you want to proceed. You might benefit from utilising one or more of our building blocks here to make a strong start. Present this to your interviewer and get their approval before you get into the nuts and bolts of analysis.

We cover the mechanics of how to structure your problem and lead the analysis in our articles here and here and more thoroughly in the MCC Case Academy . What it is important to convey here, though, is that your case interview is supposed to be a conversation rather than a written exam . Your interviewer takes a role closer to a co-worker than an invigilator and you should be conversing with them throughout.

Indeed, how you communicate with your interviewer and explain your rationale is a crucial element of how you will be assessed. Case questions in general, are not posed to see if you can produce the correct answer, but rather to see how you think . Your interviewer wants to see you approach the case in a structured, rational fashion. The only way they are going to know your thought processes, though, is if you tell them!

To demonstrate this point, here is another excellent video from Bain, where candidates are compared.

Note that multiple different answers to each question are considered acceptable and that Bain is primarily concerned with the thought processes of the candidate’s exhibit .

Another reason why communication is absolutely essential to case interview success is the simple reason that you will not have all the facts you need to complete your analysis at the outset. Rather, you will usually have to ask the interviewer for additional data throughout the case to allow you to proceed .

NB: Don't be let down by your math!

Your ability to quickly and accurately interpret these charts and other figures under pressure is one of the skills that is being assessed. You will also need to make any calculations with the same speed and accuracy (without a calculator!). As such, be sure that you are up to speed on your consulting math .

6.1.4. Recommendation

Finally, you will be asked to present a recommendation. This should be delivered in a brief, top-down "elevator pitch" format , as if you are speaking to a time-pressured CEO. Again here, how you communicate will be just as important as the details of what you say, and you should aim to speak clearly and with confidence.

For more detail on how to give the perfect recommendation, take a look at our articles on the Pyramid Principle and providing recommendations , as well the relevant lesson within MCC Academy .

6.1.5. Wrapping up

After your case is complete, there might be a few more fit questions - including a chance for you to ask some questions of the interviewer . This is your opportunity to make a good parting impression.

We deal with the details in our fit interview resources. However, it is always worth bearing in mind just how many candidates your interviewers are going to see giving similar answers to the same questions in the same office. A pretty obvious pre-requisite to being considered for a job is that your interviewer remembers you in the first place. Whilst you shouldn't do something stupid just to be noticed, asking interesting parting questions is a good way to be remembered.

Now, with the interview wrapped up, it’s time to shake hands, thank the interviewer for their time and leave the room .

You might have other interviews or tests that day or you might be heading home. Either way, if know that you did all you could to prepare, you can leave content in the knowledge that you have the best possible chance of receiving an email with a job offer. This is our mission at MCC - to provide all the resources you need to realise your full potential and land your dream consulting job!

6.2. Remote and one-way interview tips

Zoom case interviews and “one-way” automated fit interviews are becoming more common as selection processes are increasingly remote, with these new formats being accompanied by their own unique challenges.

Obviously you won’t have to worry about lobbies and shaking hands for a video interview. However, a lot remains the same. You still need to do the same prep in terms of getting good at case cracking and expressing your fit answers. The specific considerations around remote interviews are, in effect, around making sure you come across as effectively as you would in person.

6.2.1. Connection

It sounds trivial, but a successful video interview of any kind presupposes a functioning computer with a stable and sufficient internet connection.

Absolutely don’t forget to have your laptop plugged in, as your battery will definitely let you down mid-interview. Similarly, make sure any housemates or family know not to use the microwave, vacuum cleaner or anything else that makes wifi cut out (or makes a lot of noise, obviously)

If you have to connect on a platform you don’t use much (for example, if it’s on Teams and you’re used to Zoom), make sure you have the up to date version of the app in advance, rather than having to wait for an obligatory download and end up late to join. Whilst you’re at it, make sure you’re familiar with the controls etc. At the risk of being made fun of, don’t be afraid to have a practice call with a friend.

6.2.2. Dress

You might get guidance on a slightly more relaxed dress code for a Zoom interview. However, if in doubt, dress as you would for the real thing (see our article here ).

Either way, always remember that presentation is part of what you are being assessed on - the firm needs to know you can be presentable for clients. Taking this stuff seriously also shows respect for your interviewer and their time in interviewing you.

6.2.3. Lighting

An aspect of presentation that you have to devote some thought to for a Zoom interview is your lighting.

Hopefully, you long ago nailed a lighting set-up during the Covid lockdowns. However, make sure to check your lighting in advance with your webcam - bearing in mind what time if day your interview actually is. If your interview is late afternoon, don’t just check in the morning. Make sure you aren’t going to be blinded from light coming in a window behind your screen, or that you end up with the weird shadow stripes from blinds all over your face.

Natural light is always best, but if there won’t be much of that during your interview, you’ll likely want to experiment with moving some lamps around.

6.2.4. Clarity

The actual stories you tell in an automated “one-way” fit interview will be the same as for a live equivalent. If anything, things should be easier, as you can rattle off a practised monologue without an interviewer interrupting you to ask for clarifications.

You can probably also assume that the algorithm assessing your performance is sufficiently capable that it will be observing you at much the same level as a human interviewer. However, it is probably still worth speaking as clearly as possible with these kinds of interviews and paying extra attention to your lighting to ensure that your face is clearly visible.

No doubt the AIs scoring these interviews are improving all the time, but you still want to make their job as easy as possible. Just think about the same things as you would with a live Zoom interview, but more so.

7. How we can help

There are lots of great free resources on this site to get you started with preparation, from all our articles on case solving and consulting skills to our free case library and peer practice meeting board .

To step your preparation up a notch, though, our Case Academy course will give you everything you need to know to solve the most complex of cases - whether those are in live interviews, with chatbots, written tests or any other format.

Whatever kind of case you end up facing, nothing will bring up your skillset faster than the kind of acute, actionable feedback you can get from a mock case interview a real, MBB consultant. Whilst it's possible to get by without this kind of coaching, it does tend to be the biggest single difference maker for successful candidates.

You can find out more on our coaching page:

Explore Coaching

Of course, for those looking for a truly comprehensive programme, with a 5+ year experienced MBB consultant overseeing their entire prep personally, from networking and applications right through to your offer, we have our mentoring programmes.

You can read more here:

Comprehensive Mentoring

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A Comprehensive Guide to Case Interview Prep [tips updated 2023]

  • Last Updated August, 2023

Rebecca Smith-Allen

Former McKinsey Engagement Manager

What Are the Best Ways to Prepare for Interviews with Management Consulting Firms?


If you’re on this page, you’re probably considering a career in management consulting or are already in the middle of the interview process.

We’re here to help.

We’re a team of more than 20 former McKinsey, Bain, and BCG consultants and recruiters (our average time in consulting is 13 years each) and we put together this guide to help you prepare for getting your consulting offer.

After reading this, we hope “congratulations” is also what you’ll hear when you leave your final interviews.

Management Consulting Jobs Are in High Demand

Management consulting jobs are among the most sought-after positions in on-campus recruiting, whether you’re applying as an undergraduate or from a business school. 

Consulting firm recruits also include law school students, Ph.D. program candidates and people who’ve already started their professional careers in other industries.

Management consulting firms are filled with smart, driven people working to solve hard business problems. 

This work is a great launching pad for your career. 

Top consultancies offer competitive salaries and also invest significantly in employee development. A job at a management consulting firm will expose you to multiple different industries and types of business problems. 

There’s a lot to like about a career in consulting!

Competition for Jobs with Top Consulting Firms Is Fierce, so Preparation Is Essential.

But attractive jobs are usually highly competitive, and that’s definitely the case in management consulting. 

Top firms typically make offers to only about 1% of the people who apply. It’s not impossible to get a job with firms like McKinsey, Bain, and BCG (also known as the MBB firms), but it requires preparation.

In particular, successful candidates know that consulting firms use a particular type of interview question — the case study interview — and they know what recruiters are looking for in answers. 

In this article, we’ll help you prepare for management consulting interviews by answering the following questions:

  • What is a case interview?
  • How do I answer a case question?
  • What is the best approach for case interview prep?

We’ll also provide tips and tricks that will help you to ace your case.  

Whether you’re aiming for a job at one of the MBB firms (McKinsey, Bain, or BCG), with other consultancies such as AT Kearney, L.E.K. or Oliver Wyman, or with the consulting arms of the large accounting firms such as Deloitte, Accenture, PwC, Ernst & Young, or KPMG, we can help you get there.  

What Is a Consulting Case Study Interview (also known as the “Case Interview”)?

A Case Study Interview is a real-time problem-solving test used to screen candidates for their ability to succeed in consulting. 

The case is presented as an open-ended question, often a problem that a specific type of business is facing, that an interviewer asks a candidate to solve.

Sample Case Interview Questions

Sales of drinks in Coffee Bean cafes are decreasing. What is causing the sales decrease?

Turnover of store employees at Burgers R’ Us restaurants has increased over prior years. What would you advise the company to do?

Donations to Caring Hands are decreasing, straining the non-profit’s ability to help the families it targets. What should the organization do to turn this around?

Case Interview 101 – The Basics for Beginners

You don’t need an MBA or an undergraduate degree in economics to land a job in consulting. But you will need to learn some business basics to be able to crack case interviews.

This section covers the concepts non-business students need to become familiar with, such as:

  • The income statement – an overview
  • Common formulas used in case interviews
  • Business concepts you need to know
  • Common types of case interviews

Case Interview 101, Part 1: The Income Statement

To solve cases, you first need to understand broadly how companies make money. For any specific case, you’ll want to make sure you understand how that company makes money. 

The most common way companies make money is by selling a product or service for more than it costs to produce, thereby earning a profit . 

Companies use three major financial statements to monitor and report their financial performance: 

(1) The income statement (2) The balance sheet (3) The cash flow statement 

An income statement (or profit and loss statement or statement of revenue and expenses) is a record of a company’s profit or loss over a specific period of time . The profit or loss is calculated by taking the revenues generated and subtracting the expenses incurred over the same period of time. The income statement has 3 major categories: Revenue, Expenses, and Profit or Loss .

Revenue is the total amount of money generated by a company from selling its products or services. It is also referred to as gross sales or “top line” as it sits at the top of the income statement. 

Costs are expenses incurred by a company to make its products or services. In the income statement there are three types of costs: 

  • Costs of goods sold (COGS) or cost of sales are the direct costs of making products or providing a service. For a burger restaurant, for example, the COGS would include things like the meat, bun, and hourly labor of cooks, cashiers, and shift supervisors.
  • Operating expenses are costs that are indirectly tied to the making of products or services. These include selling, general and administrative (SGA) expenses, management salaries, depreciation and amortization. Depreciation and amortization are non-cash expenses that reflect the value of big assets like machinery or buildings going down over time. For example, if our burger restaurant buys a grill to cook burgers on for $1,000 and expects it to last for 10 years, it would spread out the cost over that time period, $100 per year. Other operating expenses for our burger restaurant would include things like advertising, the rent on the company’s headquarters, and the salary of the CEO.
  • Costs incurred from non-operating activities such as interests paid on loans. These costs are rarely part of case interviews.

Profit or Loss :

Income statements generally show 3 levels of profit (loss) or earnings: Gross Profit; Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA); and Net Profit.

Gross profit or loss

This is calculated by subtracting COGS or the cost of sales from the total revenue generated. If the costs are higher than the revenue generated, then the company has made a loss.


EBITDA is calculated by subtracting operating expenses from the gross profit. EBIT is calculated by subtracting depreciation and amortization from EBITDA. 

As mentioned above, depreciation and amortization are non-cash expenses. So if the amount of cash generated by selling a product or service is important to your analysis, you should look at EBITDA. If looking at a more fully-loaded cost is the focus of your analysis, use EBIT.

Net Profit or Loss

This is calculated by subtracting interest and tax from EBIT. It is also known as Net Income and refers to the profit (or loss) for the period. This is also known as the “bottom line” as it sits at the bottom of the income statement. This is the ultimate measure of whether a company’s activities are profitable during a certain time period when all costs are considered.  

Case Interview 101, Part 2: Common Formulas Used in Case Interviews

Here is a look at common formulas used in case interviews.

Profitability formula:

The profitability formula is used in profit (or loss) related cases. The profit or loss can be calculated using the following formula:

             Profit (or Loss) = Revenue – Costs

As mentioned above:

  • Revenue is the money generated from selling a product or service. It can be broken down into price per unit and number of units sold . 
  • Costs are the expenses incurred to make the product or service and can be broken down into cost per unit and number of units sold . 

The formula can further be broken down into:

            Profit (or Loss) = (price per unit x number of units sold) – (cost per unit x number of units sold)

There are other ways to break down revenue and cost depending on the case question.

  • Revenue can be broken down by product or service line, customer type, or geographic region (e.g., North American, Europe, Asia)
  • Costs can be broken into fixed costs and variable costs, or components such as overhead, salary, etc.

It is often helpful to break costs down into fixed and variable to solve consulting cases, and understanding the difference is important. Fixed costs, like rent for a store or the cost of equipment, are incurred regardless of how many units a company sells; whereas variable costs are only incurred with the production of each additional unit. Because of this, it can be helpful to sell incremental units even at a loss for a short period of time if it helps cover fixed costs.

So the profitability formula can also be written as:

            Profit (or Loss) = (price per unit x number of units sold) – (fixed + variable costs)

P rofitability example:

Your client, a manufacturer, is facing a decline in profits. Your client wants your help solving this problem. We’ll use this example to demonstrate all the formulas in this section.

The first step you could take is to calculate the past year’s profit given the following information:

  • Number of units sold = 1 million
  • Price per unit = $10
  • Cost per unit = $8

          Profit (or Loss) = ($10 x 1 million) – ($8 x 1 million)

          Profit = $2 million

Profit margin formula:

Profit margin indicates how many cents of profit the company generated for each dollar of sale. It’s typically used to measure the financial health of a company . You can compare the profit margin of a company against its historical margins to evaluate whether its current performance is better or worse than past performance. You can also compare it against companies in the same industry to evaluate whether its financial performance is stronger or weaker.

Profit margin can be calculated using the formula:

          Profit margin = (Profit / Revenue ) *100%

Profit margin example:

To calculate the profit margin, first, you need to calculate company revenues as follows:

            Revenue = 1 million x $10

           Revenue = $ 10 million

You can now calculate the profit margin as follows:

            Profit margin = ($2 million / $10 million) x 100%

           Profit margin = 20%

Note you can combine both the formulas for faster calculation.

Market share formula:

Market share is the size of the company in relation to the size of the industry in which it operates, where size is typically measured in annual revenues. It is used to compare the size of a company to its competitors and the industry as a whole. It can be used in market entry cases because industries with a lot of small competitors are generally easier to enter than ones with only a few big competitors. It’s also used in profitability cases because, in general, companies with a large market share also have more market power to do things like set prices.

Market share can be calculated using the following formula:

            Market share (%) =total company revenue / total industry revenue  

Market share example:

Using the example from above, say you decide to determine the company’s market share as part of your analysis. In this example, the industry has annual revenues of $ 200 million.

            Market share (%) = $ 10 million / $ 200 million

           Market share = 5%

Growth Rate Formula:

This refers to the specific change of a variable within a specific period of time. Growth rates can be used in assessing the financial performance of a company over time. For example, high revenue growth rates would likely be a sign of strong financial performance. High cost growth rates may be a sign that a company is having financial trouble.

The growth rate is calculated using the formula:

            Growth rate (%) = (New – Old) / Old

Growth rate example:

To calculate the manufacturer’s revenue growth rate. Last year’s revenue was $ 9.5 million therefore the revenue growth rate is:

            Revenue growth rate = ($10 million – $9.5 million) / $9.5 million

            Revenue growth rate =5%

You can assess whether a company’s growth rate is strong by comparing it to other growth rates such as:

  • The company’s growth in the prior year.
  • The growth of the market or of competitors.
  • The rate of inflation.

Mature companies are likely to see single-digit growth rates unless they launch a very successful new product or they acquire a company. On the other hand, startup investors typically expect double- or triple-digit annual growth during a company’s early years.

Return on investment formula:

Return on investment (ROI) is a profitability metric that indicates how well an investment performed (or will perform). It can be used to compare the profitability or efficiency of an investment or decide which of alternative investments to make. 

ROI is calculated using the following formula:

            ROI (%) = Profit / Cost of investment

ROI example:

Suppose our manufacturer mentions that they purchased state-of-the-art machinery to make their product. It cost $8 million. You decide to calculate the ROI on this investment. 

            ROI  = $2 million / $8 million


Break-even formula:

Break-even is the point at which the total revenue and total costs are equal, meaning there is no loss or profit at that point. Break-even is typically used to help companies determine the minimum number of units that need to be sold to cover all the costs used to produce those units. 

An executive might want to know that they could break even at 100,000 units sold because if she thought they could sell more than that, it would be profitable to enter the market. If she thought they’d sell less, they wouldn’t enter the market.

Break-even can be calculated using the following formula:

              Breakeven (units) = Fixed costs  / (sales price – variable cost per unit)

Break-even example:

If a product required a $50,000 investment in equipment (a fixed cost), sold for $5, and cost $4 per unit in variable costs, its breakeven would be: 

              Breakeven (units) = $50,000  / ($5 – $4)

              Breakeven= 50,000 units

Payback period formula:

Managers may also look at the payback period on an investment or, in other words, how long it would take to earn back the cash required to enter a new business. This investment could be a new piece of equipment or a marketing campaign needed to create customer awareness of a new product. This is a different way of looking at the same question that the breakeven formula asks: is it worth my while to make this investment?

The payback period can be calculated using the following formula:

              Payback (years) = Investment cost / annual profit

Payback years example:

Using the same example, you decided to calculate the payback years of the new state-of-art machinery

            Payback (years)= $8 million / $2 million

           Payback = 4 years

Capacity of equipment:

The capacity of equipment is the maximum output or units a piece of equipment can produce with the available resources over a set period of time.

Capacity can be calculated using the following formula:

            Capacity (units) =Total capacity / Capacity required to make one unit

Capacity example:

To calculate the capacity of our manufacturer’s machinery, we’d need to know that it can produce a unit every 10 minutes and that the client operates 12-hour shifts.

              Capacity (units) = 12 hours x (60 minutes per hour) / 10 minutes

             Capacity = 72 units / day

The utilization rate of equipment:

Utilization rate is the percent of available time the equipment or machinery is actually used. It measures efficiency and can be used by companies to make informed decisions on timelines and inventory, or whether additional equipment is needed.

The utilization rate of equipment can be calculated by the following formula:

              Utilization rate (%) =Actual output / Maximum output

Utilization rate example:

Using the same example, imagine that the management tells you that in a 12-hour shift, the machine produces 50 units and there are two 45-minute breaks.

First, you would need to calculate the potential output.

               Actual hours of operation = 12 hours – 1.5 hours = 10.5 hours

               Potential output = (10.5 hours / 12 hours) x 72 units

               Potential output = 63 units

Then, calculate the utilization rate.

                Utilization rate = 50 units / 63 units

                Utilization rate = 79%

Utilization rates raise interesting issues in a case. It raises questions such as:

  • If potential output is 63 units, why are only 50 being produced (e.g., machine downtime, worker errors), and what can be done to solve these problems?
  • Could the company stagger employee breaks to get potential output up to 72 units from 63?

Case Interview 101, Part 3: Business Concepts You Need to Know

Here are some common business concepts that you need to know as you prepare for your interview.

Process : This is a set of actions or operations that lead to results (products or services). This typically describes how a company makes its products or services. The steps can be performed by workers, equipment, or computers. In a case, this is mostly used in situations where a client would like to make their processes more efficient. For example, a client who is in logistics would like to reduce the cost of its operations by improving the efficiency of its processes, such as by reducing equipment downtime or scheduling deliveries according to time-saving routes. 

Best practices: Best practices are methods or techniques that are considered to be the working standards and guides in a given situation . In a business situation, best practices are used to benchmark companies against the standard and can serve as a roadmap on how to improve the efficiency of their operations.

Hypotheses: Tentative answers to a problem or an assumption based on some evidence. The hypothesis-driven approach is a common approach to solving problems in the consulting world because consultants don’t want to waste time fully researching all possible solutions. They want to move quickly to the most likely answer and then test whether it is or is not the best answer. This approach can be used to solve case interview questions where you first assume an answer to the case problem and check whether this is true or not through analysis. If it is not true, you revise your hypothesis.

Issue tree: This is a common approach in consulting used to solve complex problems . An issue tree is used to break down complex problems into key components in a structured manner. In a case interview, you can use the issue tree to break down the client’s problem into manageable chunks or to break down a formula such as the profitability formula into key components.

Read our article for more information on Issue Trees .

MECE: MECE stands for mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive . It is a way of bucketing problems, ideas, or solutions with no overlapping between the buckets and with each item having a place in one bucket only (mutually exclusive), and with the buckets including all possible items relevant to the context (collectively exhaustive). In a case interview, you can use MECE with the issue tree when breaking down problems or when identifying solutions for the client. MECE issue trees are considered the gold standard for problem-solving so this concept is very good to know. 

You can also use the concept of MECE when segmenting a market – for example, if you are sizing a market and intend to lay out different purchasing behavior assumptions for different customer segments. For example:

Customer segment                         Purchase frequency for items from coffee shops

Women under 30                             4 times per week, purchase includes food item plus beverage Men under 30                                     2 times per week, purchase includes only beverage Women 31 and over                         4 times per month, purchase includes only beverage Men 31 and over                                 3 times per month, purchase includes only beverage

Note how in this example, everyone would fall into one customer segment and only one customer segment. Read our article for more about MECE problem-solving .

Root causes: This is the core issue or main reason for a problem . It is used in problem-solving to identify solutions that appropriately address the problem. The term root cause is used to distinguish between symptoms of a problem, which may be obvious, and the underlying issue that needs to be solved, which may not be obvious. For example, a decline in sales volume is a symptom. The root cause could be high prices, poor product quality, product unavailability, or any number of other issues. You can’t fix the symptom of declining sales volume until you identify the root cause behind the problem. 

In a case interview, you’ll need to identify possible causes of the client’s problem and then ask questions and do analysis to identify the root cause. Once you do, you can make the most appropriate recommendations for the client.

Break-even analysis: This is the calculation used to determine the point at which the total revenue and total costs are equal meaning there is no loss or profit. In business situations, it helps determine at which point the business, investment, or new product or service will become profitable. In case interviews, you can use the break-even analysis to determine whether a client should make a certain investment, say in machinery or a new product line, based on how likely it is that they’ll exceed the break-even threshold.

Case Interview 101, Part 4: Common Types of Case Interviews

In this section, we will review 4 common types of case interviews.

Market-sizing Questions

Market-sizing questions typically appear in cases where clients want to grow or expand their business such as market entry or profitability cases. The client either wants to understand the market size of the current business or of a potential new product line or geography or customer group to understand whether it is big enough to be interesting. 

Sample case questions

“How many cups of coffee does Starbucks sell in a day?” “Estimate the fleet size of Delta Airlines.” “Estimate market size for air-conditioners in New York.”  “Estimate market size for an anti-smoking pill in the U.S.”

You are not expected to know the exact answer to market-sizing questions. Instead, the interviewer wants to see that you can use simple math and logical deduction to build out an answer. For these questions, it is good to memorize a few facts that will help you make assumptions. For example, a good place to start is the population of the U.S. or the population of a U.S. city (or country and city that you live in). 

For more information and examples, read our article on Market-sizing Cases .

Revenue Growth Case Interviews

In revenue growth cases, the client typically wants to grow their business. This can be done by increasing revenue of the current product/service line, by adding a new product/service line, or by selling to a new type of customer or in a new geography. 

They could do this by building a new offering, buying another company, or partnering (joint venture) with another company that already offers what they want to sell. 

“A manufacturer sees its revenue stagnating. It wants to know whether raising price or selling more units is a better path to growing revenue, and how to pursue it.”

“A local theater house thinks there is an opportunity to expand their current offerings to the very loyal client base. What new product or service could they offer their customers? What would be the impact on revenue from expanding their offerings?”

“A regional fast-food chain, serving hamburgers and fries, is experiencing increasing demand outside of its main regions of operation and wants to expand. What regions would have the biggest impact on its revenue?”

You should remember that there are multiple ways to achieve revenue growth. One thing to consider is the client and industry context when tackling revenue growth questions. For example, does the client have a good market size in the industry? Does the client have the capability to offer new products/services? Is the industry highly competitive?

For more information, read our article on Revenue Growth Cases .

Market Entry Case Interviews

In market entry cases, the client wants to know if they can enter a market and be profitable. For example, entering a different geography, new demography, or new product/service line. (Note, there can be overlap between revenue growth cases and market entry cases.)

“A U.S.-based consumer electronics manufacturer is thinking of expanding into emerging markets. What is the potential revenue growth if they choose to expand into India?”

“A telecom operator is looking to diversify their presence in the U.S. and wants to enter the video streaming market. How can they capture a significant market share?”

“A renewable energy company that specializes in large equipment such as windmills wants to enter the retail market and sell smaller equipment directly to individual homes. They would like to know if this is a good idea.”

There are a number of frameworks you can build off of to tackle a market-entry case. For example, Porter’s Five Forces, Business Situation Framework or 3C&P (customer, competition, company, and product), and Supply & Demand among others. It is key to consider the “new” market context as well as the client context to enter this market. 

To find out more on this, read our article on The Market Entry Framework .

Cost Optimization Case Interviews

Cost optimization cases or questions can be part of a profitability case where a client is experiencing declining profitability or when a client wants to improve efficiency.

“A national hotel chain has seen its operational costs significantly increase over the last year and would like you to figure out why.”

“A juice manufacturer has been experiencing a steady increase in revenue over the past 5 years however their cost has been increasing at a faster rate, meaning the profits have not grown as expected. What is the root cause of the significant increase in cost?”

“A tour company would like to reduce their costs due to the falling number of tourists over the past few years. What ways would you recommend for them to reduce their costs?’

For cost optimization cases, remember to break down the cost components. For example, you can break them down into fixed and variable costs or cost of goods sold and operational costs and then brainstorm the categories of each that will likely apply to the company at hand. This will make it easier to identify what costs should be reduced or eliminated.

Check out Types of Case Interviews article for more detail on these types of cases and more.

Why Do Top Consulting Firms Use Case Interview Questions?

Management consultancies are not the only types of firms that use case interview questions to evaluate candidates. 

Investment banks, consumer marketing companies, and others use the case interview structure in their interview process.

Because case interviews show how a candidate would problem solve in real time. 

Solving complex, ambiguous problems is at the heart at what consultants do every day.

This type of interview question mimics the analytic process a consultant might go through in a 3-month project, but it does it in 30 minutes, the time allowed in a typical interview. 

The interviewer can probe whether a candidate’s approach is well-structured, creative, and displays good business sense.

How Do Consulting Recruiters Evaluate Candidates?

The main thing that recruiters are looking for in case study interviews is whether or not they’d feel comfortable putting a candidate in front of a client. To assess that, they ask themselves these questions:

  • Is this person able to do the job? Do they have the analytic skills to solve tough business problems?
  • Is this person client-ready? Are they knowledgeable, professional, and confident enough to work effectively with client staff and leaders?
  • Is this someone I’d want to work with? This interview question is sometimes referred to as the airport test. It comes down to, “Would I want to be stuck in an airport with this person if the weather was bad and our flight was delayed?” It assesses whether an individual is smart, fun and passionate about the projects they take on.
  • Is this person coachable? No one expects a recruit to know the answer to every thorny business issue right out of undergrad, or even right out of business school, but they do want someone who is willing and able to take suggestions and improve their analysis. Show you are coachable by listening for feedback as you answer a case study interview question and using suggestions to steer you toward the right solution.

Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

Consulting Case Prep Takes Time – So Start Early

If you walk into your first consulting interview without having practiced case study interviews beforehand, you’re in for a painful experience. Case questions can cover any industry and multiple different types of business problems, so you’re unlikely to get lucky and know the answer.

We suggest your start your consulting case prep a few weeks before your interview. Starting with more lead time is even better. This will allow you to watch/read through a few consulting cases to get a sense for what to expect (continue to our case videos below for one example!) It will also give you time to find a couple friends or classmates who are also applying to consulting firms. You can give each other mock case interviews and be even more prepared.

Learn How to Case Quickly by Mastering Each of the 4 Parts of the Case

When you’re starting your consulting interview prep, it’s important to remember that the “right answer” is not simply a conclusion, but the methodical, the well-structured process used to reach the conclusion. 

To answer a case question correctly, you must:

Step 1: Understand the question you are being asked.

After your interviewer describes the client this case interview will involve and the problem they face, you should repeat this information back to them in your own words. 

This can feel awkward when you practice your first case, but it will help you in the long run.

If you don’t have the client and their problem straight, you could spend a lot of time answering the wrong question. If that happens you will not be moving forward to second round interviews no matter how elegant your analysis is.

Example: Our client is a fast-food retailer that has seen decreasing sales revenue over the past couple of years. They want your help in understanding what they can do to improve sales.

Step 2: Take time to think through all the key aspects of the problem.

Ask for a moment to consider your approach to solving the client’s problem. During this time, write down what you want to learn about the client’s situation before you answer the interview question.

Your approach can lean on business frameworks you’re familiar with during your case interview preparation. 

For instance, in the example of a fast-food chain with declining sales, you should break sales down into price and unit volume to understand whether the client is not selling enough units of their products or whether prices have fallen (or both!)

But you don’t need to use familiar frameworks. In fact, it’s best to develop your own structure for breaking down the problem as it shows you can solve a case without forcing a standard framework on the problem.

For more information on business frameworks, you might want to become familiar with during your case study preparation, see  Case Interview Frameworks .

Step 3: Ask pertinent questions and use information from the interviewer to form hypotheses about the problem and explore potential options.

After you brainstorm key aspects of the case problem and structure your approach to solving it, share your approach with your interviewer.

If the interviewer suggests a place to start your analysis, follow their lead.

Otherwise, suggest the best place to start digging into the case.

Make sure the questions you ask the interviewer touch on all the key aspects of the problem you identified including the client’s internal organization, the market for their product, and their competition.

Step 4: Summarize your case interview conclusion in a persuasive manner. 

Once you’re confident you have enough information to understand the case and what needs to be done to solve the client’s business problem, you’ll conclude the interview with a logical summary outlining the problem, key conclusions you’ve reached, and providing a persuasive recommendation on how you’d help the client resolve it.

Below, we’ll go into more depth on how to address each of these 4 points in a case.

Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Diving Deeper into Case Interview Preparation

Right now, you may be thinking to yourself that consulting interviews sound impossibly difficult. Or you may think that they sound like interesting business problems that you’d enjoy solving. 

Perhaps you’re not sure.

If you think that answering case interviews is not something that would come naturally to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone! 

Getting good at consulting interviews requires a lot of preparation.

Before you commit to putting in the time required to prepare for the management consulting interview process, you should ask yourself if a career in management consulting is right for you.

Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pursuing a Career in Consulting

  • Do you enjoy solving the types of business problems asked in case interviews?
  • Do you have a background in business principles or are you willing to invest the time it will take to develop one?
  • Are you passionate about pursuing consulting as a career?

Management consulting jobs might pay well and provide the opportunity to pursue attractive careers, but if you don’t like solving business problems, you probably won’t like the work you’ll do as a consultant. If you don’t enjoy analyzing business cases, save yourself a lot of preparation time and frustration. 

Focus on career options that better meet your interests.

Or, perhaps solving business problems with smart, driven professionals sounds like it’s your dream job. 

If so, move onto the deeper dive into case interview prep below! 

Case Interview Prep – Diving Deeper

If you’re here, we’re assuming you’re serious about investing time in preparing for a career in management consulting. 

The best way to get smarter about  answering case interview questions is to master this four-part approach.

How to Answer a Consulting Case Interview –  a 4 Part Approach to Practice During Interview Prep

The 4 parts to answering a consulting case interview are:

  • Opening  – This is where you make sure you understand the client’s problem.
  • Structure  – This is where you brainstorm all factors relevant to the problem and organize them to ensure you address them in a complete and logical manner.
  • Analysis  – This is where you gather data to identify which of the factors related to the business case are the most important. You’ll use this data to create a recommendation for your client.
  • Conclusion  – Here, you present your recommendation to “the client” (your interviewer), in a well-structured and persuasive manner.

Case Interview Prep Part 1: The Opening

As we saw in the video above, the opening of a case question is a description of a client and the problem they’re facing. Davis repeated back to the interviewer the type of business the client was in and and their business problem.

Remember, this clarification is an important step in the process.

If you did not remember that the client was a top-three beverage producer and answered the question as if the client was a start-up, your answer would ignore the manufacturing and distribution infrastructure the company already had in place to launch its new product.

That would make your answer completely wrong.

During this portion of the interview, you can ask any clarifying questions you need to. If something is not clear—the client’s product or industry, or the problem they want to solve —ask !

Nailing the opening is probably the easiest part of case interview preparation. Get this right, and you’ll start each case off strong.

Case Interview Prep Part 2: Structure

Once Davis clarified the problem, he asked for a moment to prepare her response. In the structure phase of the case interview, there’s silence for several moments.

As with clarifying the question, this can feel awkward.

But asking for this time will show the interviewer that you’re carefully structuring your problem-solving approach.

It will also ensure that you are not quickly addressing a couple of aspects of the business problem but ignoring others, potentially ones that are critical to solving the client’s problem.

Some quick brainstorming is useful here, but also take a step back to maker sure you consider all aspects of the client’s business, its customer demand, and the competition. 

Organize your questions into a comprehensive approach to address all key aspects of the problem.

Mastering the structure phase of the interview is not as easy as the opening, but it’s critical to ensure you have the structured problem-solving approach that will lead you to the right answer to the case.

Focus on this aspect of case interview preparation until you can structure almost every case right.

Case Interview Prep Part 3: Analysis

In the third part of the case study interview, you’ll dig in and analyze the problem.

After Davis outlined his problem-solving approach, the interviewer told him that the client wanted to understand the beverage market and customer preferences to assess the potential success of the product launch.

The interviewer then provided a chart with helpful data.

This part of the interview is important because gives you the data that will help you close down aspects of the case that aren’t at the heart of the problem you need to solve and to better understand key drivers that will point to the solution.

But you’ll also need to do some consulting math .

You should also refer back to the problem-solving structure you laid-out earlier in the interview to make sure your analysis is comprehensive. You don’t want to get lost down one rabbit hole and ignore other important aspects of the problem.

During this portion of the interview, you’ll be assessed on whether you asked relevant questions, have well-reasoned insights into the client problem, and whether you could lead a case like this if you were hired by the firm.

Many consulting candidates find that the analysis phase of the interview is the toughest of the 4 parts.

You need to balance doing consulting math calculations with interpreting data and make sure you cover all aspects of the problem you identified in the structure phase of the case. 

Stick with this aspect of case interview preparation until you’re an expert at it–it will pay off in your interviews. 

Case Interview Prep Part 4: Conclusion

Davis concluded the case with a direct answer to the case study interview question as it was initially asked.

This answer should be both persuasive and logical based on all the information gathered over the course of the interview. Your answer should also include the next steps your client should undertake.

During the conclusion, you’ll be assessed on whether you present a well thought-out solution based on the relevant facts of the case.

Like the opening, mastering the conclusion is not difficult. Take you time to nail this aspect of case interview preparation anyway as leaving your interviewer with a strong impression of your casing capabilities is important.

The Bottom Line for Effective Case Interview Prep

The case study interview is not as complex as it seems if you break it into 4 parts.

Practicing each part of the case on its own will make your consulting interview preparation both more efficient and more effective.

Now that you’re familiar with the 4-part approach to a case interview, the next thing to learn is the 4 different formats case interviews can take.

4 Formats for Case Interviews

There are four formats a consulting case interview can take:

  • Candidate-led – This is the most typical case study interview format. A candidate is given an open-ended business problem to solve by an interviewer. The candidate will break down the question into key parts and decide which part to probe first. The interviewer is looking to see that you know how to drive the analysis of a problem. This case format is typically used at firms like Bain, BCG and Oliver Wyman.
  • Interviewer-led – In this case interview format, a candidate will still be expected to identify and structure the key elements of  a thorny business issue, and then present them to the interviewer. But after they do, the interviewer will direct them to first address a particular aspect of the case. This interview format is typically used in McKinsey cases.
  • Written interview – This is not a common interview format but can be common for particular companies and offices. You will be given a packet of PowerPoint slides and time to review them. During this time, you’ll prepare a presentation using the slides you choose from the ones provided as well as others you create, and you’ll then present it to a panel of interviewers. Written interviews are frequently used by boutique consulting firms and regional offices of larger firms such as Bain’s China offices. For more information, see this article on written case interview.
  • Group interview – Multiple candidates are brought in to discuss a case together and then present their solution to an interviewer. The group case is also not a frequently used interview format. For more information, see this article on group case interview.

While the candidate-led consulting interview is the most frequently used format, you’ll probably see more of the interview-led interview format in McKinsey interviews.

You should also be aware of the written and group interview formats so that if you get one during the interview process, you’re not caught by surprise. But don’t spend a lot of time on preparation for that type of interview unless you’re informed you’ll have one.


You’ve made it to the end of our crash course on case interview prep. By reading this article, you now have a strong understanding of:

  • What a consulting case interview is,
  • How to answer case studies using the 4-part approach, and
  • What the 4 different formats for case interviews are.

You are well on your way toward preparing for your first case interview and entering the exciting field of management consulting. 

Still have questions?

If you still have questions on case interview prep, 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 resources to ensure you get an offer from a top management consulting firm. Check out these topics:

  • Case Interview Workshop Video,
  • Case Interview Examples , and
  • Case Interview Practice .

Help with Case Prep

Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on case interview prep. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 89.6% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. For example, here is how Brenda was able to get a BCG offer when she only had 1 week to prepare…

8 thoughts on “A Comprehensive Guide to Case Interview Prep [updated 2022]”

In the math calculations of the analysis portion, why was it that there were 8 cans per gallon? Where did that number come from?

Hey, Tonia! Thanks for your question.

In the case, we’re given that the size of the market for US sports drinks is 8 billion gallons. Electrolyte drinks are 5% of this total or .4 billion gallons which equals 400 million gallons.

We’re also given that the product size for drinks in this market are 16 ounces. And in our breakeven analysis, we find out we need to sell 400 million bottles (or cans) to break even. We need to do a conversion to compare our breakeven point of 400 million bottles to the 400 million gallon market size to see what market share we would have to achieve to break even.

Conversion: 1 US gallon = 128 ounces. 128 ounces/ gallon divided by 16 ounces/ bottle = 8. We can fill 8 bottles for each gallon of electrolyte drink we produce. So 1 gallon is 8 bottles (or cans) manufactured by our client.

We divide the 400 million bottle (or can) breakeven point by 8 to get to 50 million gallons. We compare the 50 million gallon breakeven point to the 400 million gallon market size to see that we need to capture 12.5% market share.

Note: In answering this question, I noticed that a UK gallon = 160 ounces, so if you are using UK gallons you will get a different answer!

I hope that helps! Sorry about the confusion between US ounces/gallon and UK ounces/gallon!

Hi, what resources are you typically allowed to use during (virtual) case interviews? Such as a pen, paper, calculator etc.

You’re typically allowed a pen and paper in a virtual case interview but NOT a calculator. Part of what your interviewer is testing for is your quantitative skills, so they want to see that you can do calculations in your head or on paper. See our article on virtual case interviews , for more info. Also, we have an article on practicing your case interview math .

Best of luck!

Can you please explain the ROI formula? I do not understand why (2m-8m)/8m = 25%. That calculation gets a result of -75%

Shouldn’t the formula just be (net profit)/(cost of investment)?

George, thanks for pointing this out! The formula was incorrect, and should be Profit/cost of investment. The correct answer is 25%.

All the best, MCO

thanks for information

great information

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Crafting Cases

Main Content

Why do 97% of candidates get rejected from mckinsey, bcg and bain.

(Hint: they haven’t learned how to think and speak like real MBB consultants)

Memorizing frameworks and lists of questions may help you get started on your case interviews, but they eventually drive your offers away.

Join our free  7-day course to go beyond the basics and learn how to answer ANY   case interview question (even of case types and industries you haven’t seen before).

If you prepare like the average candidate, you will get average results

Most candidates start their case interview preparation following trusted resources.  You’ve all heard of them: Case in Point, Victor Cheng, etc.

They work well when you’re starting out.  We’ve used them ourselves back when we were preparing.  

The problem?   They can only get you so far…

The problem with traditional case interview approaches

We’ve met tons of smart people doing all they could to be top performers…

  • They've read every book on the topic
  • They've spent hours and hours learning different frameworks
  • They've practiced dozens (even hundreds) of cases

So, why weren’t they performing well enough to get offers from top consulting firms yet?

Here’s why:

  • While basic resources cover the basics well, they never teach you how to think like a consultant
  • Interviewers are assessing nuanced thought patterns that aren't taught in those books
  • It's like trying to learn calculus from a basic math book - helpful, but not enough for the whole journey

There are four key issues with traditional approaches...

They show you many frameworks to memorize, but never teach you how to build a custom structure for each case, as real management consultants do.

They give case examples that fit their methods perfectly, but ignore those that don’t (e.g. Public Sector) and pretend they’re uncommon in real interviews.

Even though they used to help candidates perform well in the past (when everyone was less prepared), they’ve become commoditized and can only get you to average nowadays.

They expose you to a lot of concepts and buzzwords (MECE, 80/20, Hypothesis), but never teach you the systems to apply them in a cohesive, systematic way in your cases.

Here's how we're different:

No more learning plateaus.  You’ll get a  structured method to learn case interviews. Much better than “just doing more cases” and hoping for the best.

Tools and techniques straight from the consulting job.  Instead of arbitrary “tips and tricks”, we teach techniques that come from the real job and work not only in case interviews, but also with real clients. 

Eliminate guesswork with out step-by-step systems.  We teach you how to be MECE, how to build your own frameworks and everything else you need in  a step-by-step way .

Tons of in-depth, well explained examples.  This helps you go beyond “conceptual knowledge” and understand the nuances of when and how to apply what you’ve learned.

Insights from your interviewer’s mind.  Learn not only what  to do, but also why  you should do it. You’ll grasp how interviewers think and feel like you could read their minds .

Learn by doing.  Every time we teach you a new tactic or technique, we also guide you through the application of that into a case problem so you can internalize what you learn.

Who are we?

We’re Bruno and Julio. We used to be consultants at McKinsey and Bain. 

We went through the very same preparation process you’re going through right now. As we studied for our cases, we were often frustrated with the lack of depth of all the case prep content we found online. 

We always felt like a piece of the puzzle was missing.

case interview prep consulting

After we were out, we became case interview coaches, and felt that frustration crawl up our skins again. Many of our clients found it difficult to find good prep materials and we often had nowhere to point them to when they needed to learn a specific concept.

After coaching about 200 candidates over thousands of coaching sessions, we decided to do something about it. Combining our experience as candidates, consultants and coaches, we create the types of materials we wish existed back when we were preparing.

Learn more about us here.

What other candidates say...

Victor R.

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Not having to watch random case interview example videos will save you up to 20 hours of practice AND will also steer you away from the (many) unrealistic, even misleading examples out there.

This not only is a carefully curated list, but also has comments on super-important specific topics on the case and on the candidate’s performance that you could otherwise miss completely.

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