Case Interviewing Feedback

I asked several friends and former colleagues in consulting firms to offer feedback on my recent case interviewing post. I’ve attached (edited) comments that built on or differed slightly from my input.

Comments:

Structure

  • It sets the tone for the rest of the interview, and can really get an interviewee off to a great start. It’s critical to nail.
  • Issue trees are really helpful in making sure you’re asking the right question, have it disaggregated into MECE (mutually-exclusive, collectively exhaustive) chunks, and can communicate what you think is most important to the interviewer in a very easy-to-follow-manner. Plus, if you’re structure is thoughtful at the beginning, it can serve as “true north” during the interview to make sure you’ve hit all the points you outlined in the beginning / capture relevant data in a easy-to-find place.

Communication

  • Your comment about the importance of communication under Analytical Abilities point 1 is absolutely true, almost to the point of making it a separate category alongside analytical abilities.  If one can’t communicate their insights or approach, the thought and work doesn’t do much good 
  • Thinking about what you say is also important, students can trap themselves if they speak to quickly, but it’s important for them to explain their thought process – why are they asking certain questions?  What assumptions are they making?  Etc.  The interviewer wants to know these things, but make sure they show an insightful thought process

Public Math – Multiple people cited the importance of confidence here.

  • This isn’t a critical portion of the interview in and of itself, but seems to be where students are most nervous. We’ve all been working with calculators since 4th grade, but what we’re interested in seeing is a natural intuition with numbers – practice, practice, practice.
  • It’s a huge confidence booster and helps with the flow of the interview if candidates know they can rock it, go in, and get the job done. Market-sizing mini-cases are a great way to test both the believability of assumptions and math skills.

Analytics & Synthesis

  • There’s a big difference between summary and implications – pushing to action is a huge differentiator, and closes the interview gracefully. Not to sound corny, but really practicing the “30 second CEO elevator speech” can be tremendously helpful.
  • I also like your point, “more business students than you might think have great grades, but aren’t “savvy”…
  • I’m glad you mentioned that announcing you are using a canned framework is not important to interviewers – not all cases can use a canned framework, and if they are relevant, understanding why a framework addresses what it does is the important factor, not that framework “ABC” is being used
  • The one caveat I’d have is on the closing thoughts/wrap up portion. Obviously most interviews allow you to gather your thoughts, but I had one where the interviewer wanted me to spit out the conclusion immediately. It definitely threw me off guard. I think it’s a good idea for students to practice a couple times without taking a pause to formulate their conclusion. This time pressure will help them think on their feet and synthesize thoughts on the go.
  • “You begin to touch on my point when you mention that firms are looking for ‘driven problem solvers’. I can’t stress this enough to students: it is extremely important that the individual push forward without me first telling them to. If I give someone a slide with data about how labor costs are increasing, 99% of the time the student will say, “It looks like labor costs are increasing”, and then look up at me for some sort of approval. I nod my head and say, “Great, now what”, or “so what”. This is fine, but the optimal answer – the answer that shows me you are driven to figure out the the problem – is “It looks like labor costs are increasing. I think this is likely a large part of why our profits have been shrinking. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to dig a little deeper on reasons this might be, such as labor hours or wage rates”. This response A) shows me they have figured out the answer, B) shows me they are eager to push further, and C) gives me a chance to point them in another direction in case they happen to be going down the wrong path.
     
    In short, while the case is certainly a collaborative process between interviewer and interviewee – the individuals who take the lead in this relationship are much more impressive.”

Practice

  • I agree with your comment about how to use Case in Point – it is a good introduction to case prep, but can’t replace live practice.
  • Hopefully students will heed your advice, it can only help and it’s for their benefit. 

So there! 🙂

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