How can we increase our market share? How do we go about launching this new product? How can we improve the company’s performance and grow?
These are just some of the problems or ‘cases’ that very senior management of global companies pose to management consultancies every day.
So any candidate looking to work in consulting needs to spend some time thinking about ‘case interviews’. In fact, not just thinking, but practising them, as preparation is key. But before you start your own consulting case club (which is a good idea!), let’s first consider what it is you are trying to achieve. Management consultancies hire exceptional candidates. The profile of candidates invited for a ‘case interview’ will generally have a very strong academic and professional profile. They will have demonstrated ‘impact’ in all areas of their lives including their extra-curricular activities. However, being very bright and having a great record only gets you to the interview.
Keys to success
To be successful in a ‘case interview’ you need to…
- Showcase your problem solving ability including creativity, analysis and a strong grasp of the numbers.
- Demonstrate your commercial awareness of general business issues.
- Show that you understand the consulting ‘offer’ of this particular firm.
- Show how you can build and sustain relationships with your interviewer.
- Be confident in your abilities and present your analysis and conclusions in an engaging and professional way.
Dialogue not monologue
In short, it’s combining the ‘smarts’ (of analysis, entrepreneurship, industry insight, technologies, and understanding) with the ‘personal impact’ (of listening, leading, engaging, facilitating, and inspiring).
Remember, it’s a dialogue not a monologue, possibly with people at board level (particularly for strategy consulting). Consultants’ client facing skills are fantastic. In our experience great consultants are both ‘interested and interesting’, they can build relationships really fast. They listen intently to capture the complexity of the client’s problem. They will clarify the problem to be sure they have details correct. They ‘sense check’ by referring to other cases they have done or draw on their commercial awareness to provide examples and colour. This is particularly relevant with the maths – does the answer make sense? If you are not confident with long division, percentages etc it’s not difficult to brush up.
Clarify, Structure, Analysis, and Conclusion
Great consultants don’t force frameworks or over complicate the case with too much unnecessary detail. However they do provide structure – a systematic and logical approach that the interviewer can follow. Simple structures are often best. One leading consulting firm recommends four stages: Clarify, Structure, Analysis, and Conclusion. There a lots of helpful resources on our website that discuss this in greater detail.
A big three consultant suggests listing all the potential key issues to keep in mind as part of your prep process. These include: Revenue, Margins, Competitors, Customers, Costs (variable / fixed), Market share, Growth, Marketing and Market size.
Keep it SIMPLE
There are different schools of thought about the number of practice cases you need to complete before your real interview (anything from five to 60!) but only you can judge. As an LSE student you probably have great analytical skills and highly developed commercial awareness, but remember exceptional candidates that get offers tend to keep it SIMPLE:
- Structured, Sense checking
- Interested/Interesting Impact
- Maths – Mastery of the numbers
- Practice, Purposeful, Presence
- Listen, Lead
- Engage, Enthusiasm, Enjoy!