What follows are helpful tips on case interview preparation that I received from an F1Y.
Hope you are doing well. A couple of weeks back I got an offer from McKinsey’s [U.S. city] office. I am a PhD student in biomedical sciences and my university can be considered to be one of the “brand names” that consulting firms look for. However, I was completely alien to a case interview till about 6 months back. I tried a few cases with friends, and I was terrible! That is when a MBB consultant referred me to your website and solving cases has never been the same! So thanks a lot for all the material. I really benefited from LOMS, your emails and your videos. In particular, I benefited from being able to think from the point of view of the interviewer.
During my preparation and interview experience, I noticed 4 things that I wanted to share with you (no, it’s not 3 things!!).
1) There is NO SUBSTITUTE to practicing. No matter what. By the time I went to my McKinsey interviews, I had done about 60 cases with other people and about 15 by myself. I could really sense that I was getting better as I cased more and more. I could see myself transitioning from unconscious incompetence -> conscious incompetence -> conscious competence -> subconscious competence. I think that practicing helps build a certain element of confidence that comes across during an interview.
I also kept ALL the cases I did in an organized manner and attached short notes about what I learnt from that case (maybe some mistake I made, maybe some concept I learnt, maybe I thought of a problem in some particular way). I felt that this was very useful to glance through on the evening before my interview.
2) People normally go through LOMS at least 4-5 times. I took a slightly different approach. I went through about 50% of the cases once and about 50% of the cases twice. BUT, each time I heard I would repeatedly go back and hear most parts 2-3 times. In addition, I took extensive notes. So in effect, it would take me 3-4 hours to go through a 1 hr audio clip. And at the end of it, I came out with a list of things I learnt that I would implement the next time I practiced.
3) In later rounds of interviews, it is important to remember that the cases are not “toy examples”. Let me explain what I mean. I had practiced a lot from different case books and looking back, many of those cases are artificial made-up scenarios and I (subconsciously) got used to these simplified situations. I almost started treating them as these 45 minute hypothetical scenarios. I felt that in later rounds, the cases were based on real scenarios and the interviewers had spent months (if not years) thinking about them. I had to really put myself IN that situation. What if this was happening for real, not just as a case, how would I approach it? What would make the most sense? Would my solutions even work for this specific company in this specific set of circumstances? I felt interviewers want to see candidates immerse themselves in that situation and tailor their approach to the problem as if this was an engagement and not just an interview case.
4) I felt that consulting firms look for a consistent performance at a 80-90% level. I felt that a consistent performer was valued more than someone who would perform at a 100% in 2 cases followed by 50% in the 3rd case. So, I felt that there is absolutely no need to panic if you make a small arithmetic error somewhere.
Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and insight so others can benefit from it.
Congratulations on your offer!