Common Case Interview Mistakes


Reader Comment:

I am writing just to thank you for all the materials and work you have prepared and provided!

How I got interested in the first place? Well, I really want to work in consulting, because I love solving problems, and as far as I understand, consultants are smart, intelligent and at the same time, structured and organized problem solvers.

So I started to prepare 'case interviews'. Like many others, I got stucked, and I was so frustrated about my inconsistent performance in my practice interviews with others. And I once even thought about giving up; maybe I am just not that talented.

Then it was your 'caseinterview' site changed my thoughts and attitudes! I learnt the 'core ideas' about case interviews, or more, about consulting.

To some extent, consulting is more about 'targeting the right problem' than about merely 'finding the right answer'. And this is exactly why I was so inconsistent in all my practice interviews. I concentrated too much on 'presenting an answer'; frankly, sometimes, I was wasting my time to solve the 'WRONG' problem! Quite the opposite, more time should be spent on 'finding the problem'. Without your help, I would not be able to see that!

I just started applying for internships while preparing for interviews. I know I still have a long way to go, but now I am very confident about the direction I am heading into.

Thank you again! I really really appreciate your work!


My Comments

I've bolded a few specific sentences in the comments presented above. These phrases describe a set of very common mistakes made by case interview beginners.

The INITIAL focus of a case interview (which typically takes up 80% - 95% of the time in an interview) is to ISOLATE the UNDERLYING problem. Most clients come to consulting firm with a bunch of "problems", which are quite often nothing more than "symptoms" of some underlying problem the client isn't aware of or doesn't fully appreciate.

Being able to distinguish between symptom and problem is the first order of business in a case interview.

So when a case interviewer says a client's has a "problem" because profits have declined, the goal is NOT to generate 101 ways to improve profits. The goal is to determine WHY profits have declined and in particular which facet of the business is the PRIMARY DRIVER of the profit problem. Once the root cause or underlying cause is identified, it becomes far easier to develop a logical solution to the "real" problem.




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