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Case Interview – What to Expect and How to Prepare

If you are interested in having a career in consulting, you are probably aware of the importance that case interviews have. They usually are the core of the selection process within the top consulting firms such as McKinsey, Bain, BCG.

That’s exactly why we are going to explain how to prepare for a case interview. But first, we need to figure out in detail what case interviews require. Discover what kind of format a consulting interview uses, what is expected from you, and more.

Case Interview Formats

All case interviews begin with a question, but how you answer it will depend on what format the interview takes. That’s why it is crucial to have more information about the formats of a case interview.

In the case interviews that are led by candidates, you will be presented with a question, after which you are expected to lead to an answer, step by step. On the other hand, you can have a case interview led by an interviewer. Usually, this type of case interview involves 2 interviewers that lead you, a candidate, through a multi-step case problem. Each one of those steps could include diagnosing the root cause of a business problem or estimating market size.

There is also a written case format that usually includes more than 20 pages of documents that you need to analyze. Presentation case interviews are one of the common formats. In this case, you are expected to present the solution, which allows you to go more in-depth.

In some rare cases, you will be asked to do a video case interview before you do one in person.

How Long Does a Case Interview Last?

Case interviews can last 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour. If you are going to have a 10-minute interview, you will need to solve a problem that typically has only one layer or one element to question.

That’s why a 10-minute case interview is less complex but still not simple to solve; it just requires less time to solve it. A standard interview will take from 20 to 30 minutes in the first round of the interview, and 30 to 40 minutes in the final round. A final round includes deeper and harder questions as you would expect.

Whether you will be there for 10 minutes or an hour, case interview preparation is the key to success. That’s why we’re going to give you a couple of tips in order to prepare yourself for the interview.

Case Interview
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Case Interview Preparation Before the Interview

It’s important to take case interview preparation seriously because without it you are not going to pass it. There are plenty of things you can do as a part of case interview preparation; here are the most important actions.

Research

Sometimes you’ll be given the questions beforehand, which will give you the time to do research. In most cases, you are not going to get the questions ahead of time, but it’s still important to prepare for the interview in advance.

You can explore and find out what kinds of questions candidates before you had. Look at how others answered them, and think about your hypothetical answers.

Think about Frameworks

When it comes to answering case interview questions, you need to be very careful. This is the reason why the development of the frameworks is at the core of passing a case interview. The ideal candidate needs to have a problem-solving structure well developed in order to give good solutions.

Since there are numerous theoretical frameworks, your job is to look up some of the common ones and think about the way to apply them. You shouldn’t only memorize them; the goal is to use them to help your strategic thinking process. Understanding frameworks is definitely one of the keys to a good case interview preparation.

Don’t Forget to Practice

Don’t think that knowledge and research are enough; you also need to practice. You can always hire a career coach experienced in the case interview preparation. This is possible if you have enough money and time, but don’t worry if you don’t — you can still practice without paying for it.

If you have a friend who is also in the consulting business, you can create a mock interview. If that’s not a case, you can always practice in front of a family member or even a mirror.

Always Come Equipped

Maybe this is going to sound basic, but you need to bring everything you need to take notes, and since you can’t use your smartphone, bring a watch to track time and a calculator.

Now that we’ve gone through some of the case interview preparation tips, let’s go through some advice that can help once you are at the interview.

Case Interview Tips

Knowing how to answer case interview questions will minimize stress. You need to understand the question. Always ask for more information if you are not sure about the question. Since you already came to the interview equipped, don’t forget to take notes.

A case interview is not an average job interview — you need to give well-structured answers, and to do so properly you can’t rush with your answers. Always explain how you arrived at your answer, because this is what your interviewer wants to hear. Show your confidence, but not only with your voice — express yourself with your body language.

Wrapping This Up

As you could see, doing a case interview is quite different from a regular interview. That’s why you shouldn’t even think about showing up without proper research and having completed case interview preparation.

Think about the structure of the interview, use frameworks but don’t fully rely on them, and remember that they want to see your thinking process — not only your solution.

Once you are there, ask questions, take notes, take time to think and focus. Still, don’t forget to be yourself, show your confidence, and remember they are interviewing you for a reason. Don’t be afraid to show your potential.

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