A recent article released by CNN suggests that management consulting firms are prioritising recruitment in 2014. To be more specific, Deloitte stated in the article that they are looking to fill roughly 12,000 vacant positions, whilst PricewaterhouseCoopers are also on the lookout for new hires (4,449).
These figures indicate that the consulting industry is still rapidly expanding and shows no signs of slowing down. Despite the need for new consultants, top consulting firms are making it clear that their standards for new recruits are not being compromised.
One of the ways that consulting recruiters ensure that they are hiring the best from each batch of applicants is through something called “the case interview” – a job interview in which the applicant is given a question, situation, problem or challenge and asked to resolve the issues.
Covering the Basics
Before reaching the case interview, a candidate has to be shortlisted. This takes years of preparation, obtaining the right credentials, joining the right clubs, and building a solid consulting network. Assuming all those are covered, the focus can rest entirely on the consulting case interview.
The most common scenarios that applicants encounter during the case interview are the following: organisation, start-ups and the release of a new product (risk and strategy). Applicants are recommended to familiarise themselves with these basic issues. Should you pass the interview process, it is highly unlikely that you will be immediately assigned high profile, complex projects.
Where to Find Sample Cases
One of the most asked questions that we receive from prospective consulting applicants is where to find relevant sample cases that they can practice on. There are a number of reliable sources that one can learn from. The first is your target firm’s website. McKinsey, Bain & Company and BCG have a set of samples on their respective website that are made up of real cases that they have encountered. Each website has their own way of guiding the applicant in going through the sample cases. McKinsey uses guide questions throughout the sample to provide hints for the reviewer, while Bain & Company includes a range of tools such as videos and multiple-choice questions.
Another great source for consulting cases is books. Case In Point, by Marc P. Cosentino, provides a selection of consulting sample cases, as well as informative tips on how to overcome and breakdown complex questions. This book is regarded as one of the best books for case interview preparation. Top MBA programs are known to purchase and recommend the latest editions of Case In Point for their students, members and staff.
Case Interview Frameworks
Once you have a set of sample cases, it’s time to apply the right case interview frameworks. It is nearly impossible to solve a case in the manner that the recruiter wants without using a consulting framework. Remember, what the recruiter is looking for is more than the right solution. He or she is more interested in how you came up with the correct set of options, including your thought process.
Case interview frameworks are designed to organise your method in solving the case through the use of categories and revealing questions. Each consulting firm has their own preferred frameworks that they find to be useful and superior. It is best to take note of your target firm’s set of frameworks that they rely on. This can give you insight on the type of cases that you might encounter.
Basic consulting frameworks such as SWOT Analysis and Seven S are a great way to start the case, as it can help identify problem areas. It is important to understand that it is not recommended to forcefully apply a framework to a case. This can be extremely misleading. Instead, adapt and use only part of the framework that is relevant to the type of case being presented.
Case Interview Skills
Apart from testing your analytic skills, case interviews test one’s ability to compute figures and data under pressure. Some interviewers even go off topic and ask more direct math questions such as, how many golf balls can fit in a standard freight container? Lastly, don’t forget to sharpen your communication skills. Confident message delivery can show the recruiter that you deserve the consulting position that you’re in the running for. Good luck!
About the author:
ConsultingFact is a website that provides an online course and a selection of guides for consulting applicants. The online hub is owned by Daniel Stefanac, a former McKinsey consultant.
Through his shared knowledge and expertise in the consulting industry, numerous applicants have successfully landed their dream job. The consulting guides offered on the website covers key concerns of today’s prospective candidates such as writing a cover letter and resume, and case interview frameworks.