If you’ve got your eyesight on a consulting job, you probably already know that the consulting industry is one of the most versatile and diverse industries you will ever meet.

That is the reason why the recruitment process is a bit more complex. When it comes to the consulting interview, a case interview is what you can expect. Don’t worry, preparing for it doesn’t have to be as complicated as many people think.

Before coming to the interview you need to learn how to use hypothesis trees and issue trees. That’s why you should spend some time preparing the MECE principle before coming to the interview.

So, if you’re looking to get a job at McKinsey, BCG, Bain, or any other consulting firm, you have come to the right place. Follow these 5 tips and you are going to ace your management consulting interview.

Well, let’s start from the beginning.

What Are Case Interviews?

Close-up of business executives discussing over document

A case interview is a job interview in which you as a candidate need to analyze and solve a particular business problem.

Using the MECE principle ( Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive), during case interviews, you’ll find yourself facing situations where you have very little data to act and work on. 

You need to analyze and solve a business problem in 30 minutes, this is how long case interviews usually last. In most of the cases, these interviews are inspired by past consulting projects your interviewer had worked on before.

The goal of a case interview is to recreate the conditions you will meet in your real consulting job. That’s why the interviewer wants to get an idea of how you will perform on the job.

Even though case interviews were only the domain of ambitious consultants, nowadays they are pretty popular in different industries.

You should know that recruiters will do anything to put you into unconventional and strange situations, so here’s what you need to do!

Ask Questions

Hand holding a microphone conducting a business interview or press conference

Usually, in the beginning, you’ll be given important information about your case. Listen to it carefully and don’t forget to take notes. 

Start with summarizing the situation and problem at hand. Always ask clarifying questions if something was unclear. This will let you double-check your understanding of the case that you need to solve.

The next important thing to do is to ask a “step back” question. It’s a question that puts the case into context, which gives you a bigger picture beyond the information you were given upfront.

Don’t follow the MECE principle yet, there’s no need for it before the beginning of an issue tree. 

Try to buy time and get to know the context by asking questions instead of jumping straight into a structure and MECE issue right away.

Engage Your Recruiter

Don’t think of a case interview as a test, instead, try to engage the recruiter in a conversation.

Talk him or her through your approach because this will lead to a productive conversation which can be super helpful for you.

If you have relevant questions, you will be able to reap some benefits from these conversations. It can happen that you don’t have a positive response in some of these occasions, in that case, focus on the problem.

Think About Structure

Front view of businessman stopping collapsing dominos with his hand in a conceptual image.

A good structure is a key to doing well with a case interview. It’s even more important than your answer and then the knowledge you bring in, simply said it’s your chance to show how you think. 

The interviewer wants to understand if you can take a bunch of information and create a logical structure. This where the MECE principle helps you. It can encourage you to focus on major categories and develop ideas from the top down.

Since case interviews are so short, it may not be possible or even required to be fully MECE but our advice is to be as MECE as possible.

When you are asked to solve the problem at hand, first think through it and collect your thoughts. In the next 30 seconds, you need to outline a logical structure that will help you work through the major issues of the case.

Once you have started with your deep analysis, you shouldn’t be 100% MECE. Because there’s no need to spend any more time developing the specific branch more.

Provide Examples

Many people don’t expect that they will be asked to provide examples. This is the moment where many people fail. 

You need to be prepared, whether we are talking about the MECE principle, or providing examples, the key to this kind of interview is preparation. 

Doing your research before the interview will help you to avoid the situation where you will need to think of some examples directly from your memory the same moment you are asked to provide them.

Practice Your Math

For some people, the quant section can be a nightmare. Actually, the more you practice the easier will get. 

For instance, if you write out your formulas and thought processes you will see if you need to ask for additional information to answer the question.

Don’t forget to ask for a moment to gather your thoughts and structure the approach. The goal is to be 100% comfortable doing basic math which means being able to do subtractions, additions, multiplications, divisions…

To Wrap Things Up

Being successful in management consulting requires a certain way of thinking and approaching problems. You need to be a problem-solver with a strong sense of logic.

Show your potential and always be yourself, not only your interviewer will respect that but so will your clients.

As you can see a case interview is a simulation of a consulting job and that’s why the interviewer is trying to see how would you handle different situations.

Don’t forget to be well prepared, try practicing the MECE method, brush up on your maths, prepare examples, think about structure, and finally – have fun!