Tips for the Case Interview

This article focuses on a few questions that I’ve been asked by readers. The tips that I recommend for these individuals may also be useful for you during your case interview process, so I’d like to share them.

Question:

First of all, I would like to thank you for all the materials you shared. It is exteremely valuable, the best out there! In my preparation I have used your video lectures, your mailing list for general advice, and MBA casebooks that can be found on the net for practice with friends. (I am graduating from my engineering MSc, so I am not in business school.)

I am applying to management consulting in my home country in Europe. I passed the first round at McKinsey and I was rejected after the first round at BCG. There was one piece of feedback common from both firms: "I was interviewing on a low energy level". They both said that they were happy I was calm during the interviews, but they would appreciate a "higher energy level".

Could you offer any advice on that? It seems quite vague to me, I guess it partly comes from my less extroverted personality, but I really want to work on it and give a good impression at the final round.

Thanks again for all the great work you have been doing helping the candidates!

My Reply:

Take a look at the following video. Most likely your voice is too monotone, which comes across as low energy, and boring. If you want to appear more energetic, try more pitch variation and volume variation (mainly the former).

How to Project Confidence in a Case Interview

Good luck!

Question:

I am starting case practices with a group of people this week.  During the case practices, one thing I will suggest is to practice selecting the key elements relevant to the problem instead of going through everything in the framework, which clearly shows the interviewer that the interviewee has only memorized the frameworks to attach a problem.

My main problem, I think, was to decide which tree I need to pick first to attach. I had many issues in my mind and was lost in prioritizing them before I proceed. This resulted in a long silence. I find your article about how to avoid getting stuck in case interviews very helpful.

My Reply:

In your practice efforts, I suggest taking as much time as needed to figure out what is important and prioritize. Do not worry about the silence for three reasons.

1)Under the stress of an interview, 10 seconds of silence feels like one minute. In fact, try timing yourself to see how much time you are actually taking.

2) It is much more important to be correct than it is to be fast. If you take a "long" time (or what seems like a long time) upfront to gather your thoughts, and you're correct... the interviewer will have completely forgotten about the long opening silence at the beginning of the case.

Especially in practice, take as much as you need to get the setup right. Because if the setup is wrong, the rest of the case will end up being a waste of your time.  (It's very difficult, if not impossible, to start a case incorrectly and recover by the end.)

How it starts is how it goes.

3) The more practice you get in prioritizing and assessing what's important, the faster you will eventually get. Focus on effective thinking first, then focus on more time-efficient thinking later.

Question:

First things first, thank you for your material!  Today I feel much more confidence in solving cases than 2 months ago. No doubt this happened 90% because of your resources.

I have a concern about the synthesis.

I understand your approach when it comes to synthesising the whole case. Very neat. It's great!

But, recently I received a feedback from a quite experienced person on my synthesis saying that I should not only structure this way (your way), but also tell the risks around the recommendation and then talk about next steps. The next steps is something like a list of say 3 actions to make the recommendation happen.

What do you think of this approach?

Thank you so much!

My Reply:

I agree with your friend's statement. After you do the synthesis, I suggest it is perfectly appropriate to identify any remaining uncertainty in your conclusion and what steps you would take to resolve those.

Partners call this behavior = "Selling the next project." 🙂

So we do it all the time with real clients. We also do it a lot when we do an update presentation say at the end of month one in a six-month project. In those cases, the "conclusion" is really just a conclusion in progress (i.e, the current working hypothesis).

If the client is implementation-oriented, you could outline action steps… but in the context of a case, it's more common to identify the remaining unknowns and how you'd resolve them. Incidentally, this is the same technique you'd use if your interview gets cut short very abruptly and you're not really "done." You can still synthesize based on what you know so far, state your tentative conclusion, your three supporting points… then identify what else you'd do if you had more time and why.

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