I’m new to the case interview process. I’ve just completed my first quarter of a fully-employed MBA program at [Top 50 U.S. University].

I’m working as a civil engineer, but I’m interested in switching to management consulting. I found your site and it’s been the most helpful. I faithfully read every email newsletter you send.

I’m sold on your LOMS program and most likely will purchase it this month.

But my question to you is how would you suggest someone prepare who is totally new to this case interview process?

My MBA program is three years, which will give me time to network and prepare for my eventual transition to a new career, but I want to know how should I start preparing for the case interviews?

Do you think it’s to early for me to start learning this stuff? Or do you think I should start now and intensify my effort the summer before my last year?

Again, thank you for the information. It’s very eye opening.

My Reply:

Upon reading your question, I was going to suggest you put most of your effort into networking, which will be key to getting an interview for you.

But, then I remembered there is a reasonable chance that in the middle of a networking opportunity, someone will give you a case on the spot, with no warning.

If/when that happens, you will either consider it your lucky day — because it means you impressed someone enough that they are willing to see how good you are (and if you are good, recommend you to someone on the recruiting team for a formal interview)— or your unlucky day because an opportunity presented itself for which you were not prepared to take advantage of it.

If you get a chance for an informal case, doing well can lead to getting a real interview.

If you aren’t prepared for an informal case, you are not permanently banned or anything like that, but that particular window of opportunity likely will close without any benefit to you.

The downside is it can very easily take months and months of networking, phone calls, in-person meetings to get such an opportunity. So if you miss it, there’s a good chance it’s months more work to secure another one.

So long story short, if you are pretty serious about consulting, it is worth doing some prep now to get competent enough to not totally bomb an informal case… secure a “real” interview, and then put in the final push to get exceptionally good.

Also, I find if you spend some time now on prep and allow everyday life to go by, you start seeing everyday life and personal problems in a more structured / issue tree kind of way.

For example, if you want to buy a new car, what data would you need to determine if your hypothesis that XYZ car is the right car for you is correct.

Once you learn and master these case skills using 1:1 case interview practice with a partner or Look Over My Shoulder®, you will hopefully start thinking in a case interview way automatically in everyday life — reading business news article, making decisions in your personal life, etc…

Also, with [Top 50 Business School], that’s not typically a school that the Top 3 recruit from very much and in particular the executive MBA, which is not considered as prestigious as the full-time student MBA.

So you’ll want to make sure to include targeting boutique firms started by former partners of the Top 3, where the firms tend to draw from a wider pool of applicants.

For more case interview preparation resources, review my free video series on Case Interview Secrets .