If you’re preparing for your interviews right now, then you’re probably wondering what types of case questions you can expect to receive. London Business School collated data on the most frequent types of case questions seen by their MBA students when interviewing with top consulting firms.
This data is also consistent with the experience of our 500+ candidates who have interviewed at Mckinsey, Bain and BCG.
You’ll notice that over a third of the case types are categorised as ‘Other’, which shows that you must be prepared for all eventualities in a case interview. Here are our top tips to give you the best chance at succeeding, given any type of case.
You must be familiar with common business problems
Cases are generally based on actual client work, which is often focused on assisting CEOs in tackling key issues for their businesses.
So, it’s important for candidates to be familiar with the most common types of business problems and key issues a CEO has to face, the way they need to be approached, and the frameworks that can help solve them.
Here is the list of the key issues a CEO has to face, and therefore where consultants might get involved:
- Improving profit
- Growing a business
- Reducing costs
- Entering a new market
- Launching a new product
- Pricing a product
- Acquiring a new business
- Investing decisions
- Responding to a competitive threat
- Optimising a process
However, applying cookie-cutter frameworks won’t work; candidates need to adapt them to the situation. For instance, looking at profitability for a restaurant chain will require a very different approach than for an automobile manufacturer!
In our Interview Prep Course, we explain in detail and provide examples in how best to structure these questions at the beginning of the interview and how different circumstances will affect how to approach them. If you’re already a student of our course, make sure to review the Structuring lecture.
Developing familiarity and structuring capability is particularly important for candidates applying without a business related background.
You must develop structuring skills to deal with any case type
As shown by the data above, 36% of cases fall in the ‘Other’ category, which means that a candidate having to go through five or six case interviews for one firm should expect that a couple will focus on topics that do not fall into the usual types of cases.
We’re also seeing more and more case interviews involving unusual case types that require a bespoke structuring solution. Candidates who rely on the outdated case prep method of memorizing and forcing existing frameworks onto cases will fail. This method might have worked 20 years ago, but firms are now intentionally keeping candidates on their toes with atypical case questions.
In short, to get an offer, it is important to be able to structure ANY case question.
We teach our CaseCoach students a method to structure any type of case inside our Interview Prep Course, so there’s never a chance of you feeling completely stumped by a random case question.
In short, a good structure for any case will fulfil three important criteria, which we’ve combined into a unique acronym: the AIM test. The AIM test ensures the structure is:
A strong case structure will be focused on the right question and provide an approach to solving the case. This may sound basic, but it’s common for candidates to not fully understand the question and to create a structure that’s not going to drive towards the answer because it does not have a clear path to resolution.
In other words, a good structure is tailored to the specific situation and provides helpful insights. If your structure would apply to another case question, it’s too generic and not insightful enough.
MECE stands for “Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive”. A good MECE structure will break down the question into an exhaustive set of independent drivers that do not overlap or miss anything important. This is easier said than done!
In the Interview Prep Course, we provide training and techniques on how to use equations in case structures and how to create bespoke structures for unusual cases, that still meet the AIM test above.
It takes practice
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times already, but with case interviews particularly, there’s nothing truer than the need for practice if you want to succeed at interviews with firms like McKinsey, BCG and Bain.
From our experience in placing over 100 candidates at these top firms, we’ve never seen someone receive an offer without doing at least 25 live practice cases with other people. That’s the minimum, and most people prefer to do more to feel confident.
These need to be high-quality practice cases with good material, complete suggested answers, and a case partner who knows what to look for and can give you good feedback.
In addition, you can practice case structuring on your own using the Structuring Drills inside the Interview Prep Course, which also includes top marks answers and unusual case types.
To learn how to structure any case and practice this skill using our 50 Structuring Drills, make sure to enroll to our Interview Prep Course—the training program being used by candidates across the world to land offers at McKinsey, BCG and Bain.