• In the last several years the "case interview" has become
increasingly popular, especially in the field of consulting,
a means of evaluating a candidate's analytical abilities. An
employer utilizing this approach will present a hypothetical
business problem, either from an actual in-house situation
or a possible scenario drawn from the work experience
reflected on your résumé.
• The objective of the case interview is to test your
skills & your ability to take data and in a structured
derive a conclusion.
• You may be given incomplete information and be expected
to ask several questions before responding. For the most
part, the interviewer is primarily interested in how you
approach the problem and logically reasoning your way
through it. The specific answer is not as important as the
method you use to get there.
• The key to succeeding in case interviews is to stay calm and
organize your answers mentally before you verbalize them.
Career Development has a number of Case Interview resources to
help you prepare. Also, plan on attending our Consulting
Workshop to further help familiarize yourself with the
consulting industry and its interviewing practices.
Parts of the Case Interview
• Opening: The interviewer describes a business problem to
you. Do not jump to a response. Instead, gather as much
information as possible so you understand the true problem.
• Your questions: You are expected to analyze the problem
and ask questions in the areas that you think are important.
• In-depth exploration of a branch: If you asked a question
that is in an area the interviewer wants to explore, the
interviewer may answer your question and then ask a follow-
up question that will explore this area in more depth.
• Analysis and conclusion. Usually, a specific area of the mock
client's business is critical to the solution of the problem: The
interviewer will either drive you to this area or let you know
you've reached it by asking follow-up questions. Always state
your assumptions when presenting an opinion.
• Communication: You may be asked to summarize your
conclusion as if you were recommending it to a client to test
your communication skills.
A case interview process outlined above requires candidates to approach
the problem as a "hypothesis driven" exercise. Such an exercise typically
goes through the following process:
• Collecting background information
• Forming the rough cut hypothesis
• Collecting further information to prove/disprove the hypotheses.
• If necessary, collecting even more information.
• Finalizing the insights, drawing the conclusions and formulating
Case interviews rarely get to the last stages of this process. Instead they
tend either be general and focus on the early stages of collecting
information and forming rough cut hypotheses, or be specific and
focus on collecting
information to test and refine the hypotheses.
Consultants typically use "frameworks" to provide a structure for
business problems. Frameworks enable you to highlight
key issues and then lay out
your analysis at the beginning of the case.
Wetfeet Press sponsors an "Online Ace Your Case"
to demonstrate a typical
business case and a sample solution and also sells "Ace Your Case"
hardcopy format. The following are only two of the many frameworks you can
use in a case
Profitability Analysis: Profits = Revenues and Costs. Useful
to keep in mind when answering questions about sudden
changes in a company's operations or profits. Problems
stem from issues surrounding revenues or costs or with both,
driving poor results.
• Porter's Five Forces: Michael Porter's book Competitive
Strategy outlines five forces that determine how competitive
and how profitable an industry is. Useful when answering
questions about introducing new products, entering new
industries, or addressing declining sales or profits. The five
forces are suppliers, buyers, competitors, substitute
products, and new entrants. Hint: Don't tell the interviewer
"I'm using Porter's five forces as the framework to analyze
this problem." It will sound too canned!
Case Types, Case Examples and Advice - from Marc Cosentino's Case in Point
NOTE: Adapted from “Case in Point” by Mark Consentino
• Case Type: Entering a new market
– Step 1: Investigate the market to determine
whether entering the market would make good business sense
Assess market attractiveness
– Step 2: If you decide to enter the market, you need
to figure out the best way to become a player
• Start from scratch
• Acquire an existing player
• Form a joint venture or strategic alliance with another player
• Case Type: Developing a new product
– Step 1: Think about the product
– Step 2: Think about your market strategy
– Step 3: Think about your potential customers
– Step 4: Think about financing the project
• Case Type: Pricing strategies
– Step 1: Investigate the product
– Step 2: Choose a pricing strategy
• Cost-based pricing vs. Price-based costing
– Cost-based pricing: Determining the cost of a product,
choosing a desired profit margin, and generating a sales price
– Price-based costing: Choosing a desired sales price and costing
out production to meet that sales price with a desired profit margin
• Supply and demand forces
• Case Type: Growth Strategies
– Step 1: Ask feeler questions
• Ask questions to determine the nature of growth that
your interviewer is looking for (focusing on product,
division, or the entire company)
– Step 2: Choose a growth strategy
• Some options are increasing sales, increasing
distribution channels, increasing product line, invest in a
major marketing campaign, diversify products/services,
or acquisition of another firm
• Case Type: Growth Strategies
– Step 1: Investigate the market to make sure that
entering the market makes good business sense
– Step 2: Look at the project from a VC’s point of view
• Management team
• Market and strategic plan
• Distribution channels
• Case Type: Competitive response
– Step 1: Ask probing questions
• What is the competitor’s new product and how does it
differ from ours?
• What has the competitor done differently?
• Have any other competitors picked up market share?
– Step 2: Choose a response action
• Examples: Acquiring the competitor or another player
in the market, merging with a competitor, copy the
competitor, hire the competitor’s top management
away, use marketing and public relations to increase
• Case Type: Increasing Sales
– Step 1: Ask probing questions to gather information
about the market and our product line
– Step 2: Determine a strategy to increase your sales
• Increase volume
• Increase revenue from each sale (make buyers buy more)
• Increase prices
• Create seasonal balance
• Case Type: Reducting Costs
– Step 1: Ask for a breakdown of costs
– Step 2: If any costs are out of line, determine why
– Step 3: Benchmark competitors
• Case Type: Increassing Profits
– Step 1: Look at revenues
– Step 2: Look at costs
– Step 3: Determine whether you want to increase
volume and how to do so
• Example actions include expanding into new areas,
increasing your sales force, increasing marketing,
reducing prices, and improving customer service
• Case Type: Turnarounds
– Step 1: Gather key information about the company
and its situation
– Step 2: Choose an appropriate action
• Be creative, but base your action upon a structured and
well thought-out plan
NOTE: Adapted from “Case in Point” by Mark Consentino
Case Example Introduction
• The following case samples are provided
to facilitate first-level analysis
• For each case, practice setting up the high-
level tree that could be used to attack the
problem (as shown earlier):
– Place the key question for the case at the root of the tree
– Break the problem into a set of solvable components
and assign those components to the tree branches
• Your client owns a professional football team
that has just won the Super Bowl. Despite the
Super Bowl victory, the team finished the
season with a financial loss for the 5th season
in a row.
• What could be the cause of the team’s
profitability problems? What would you
recommend to reverse this past season’s
• You are the owner of a small, but relatively
successful, towing company with a handful
locations throughout the Southeastern U.S.
Two recent MBA graduates have approached
you about purchasing the company.
• Should you accept the offer to sell your company?
• Your client is an industry-leading security
software company that is considering acquiring
a data management software company.
• Should the client go through with the acquisition?
• Your client is a national chain of fitness centers
with locations in 35 major cities. The company
is thinking of creating a sub-brand of gyms for
the small-town market.
• Should they do it? What issues come into play
when making this decision? Under what
circumstances could the venture be successful?
• A publishing company that has traditionally
created news and entertainment magazines is
thinking of introducing a new sports-focused magazine.
• You have taken over as the Executive Director
of a non-profit that has had trouble raising
enough money to fund its programs.
• What could the problem be? What can be
done to resolve the issue?
• You have just accepted a job as the
Superintendent of city school district where
more than 90% of the students have scored
below proficient in English and Math for the
past 15 years.
• How will you solve this long-standing academic
performance problem? What resources would
you need to implement your plan?
• Your client is a beverage company that was
excited to see its sponsored cyclist win the
Tour de France. That is, until authorities
announced that the cyclist had tested positive
for performance-enhancing drugs.
• What sort of “damage control” does the
company have to do in light of this event? Will
there be any negative effects on the
company’s brand as a result of this discovery?
• Your client is an enterprise software company
that has spent over $100M developing a new
product that isn’t selling well.
• What could the problem be and what can they
do to resolve the situation?
• A friend of yours is considering becoming a
franchisee of a national fast-food chain.
• What issues should he be thinking about in
making his decision? And, do you think he
should open the franchise?
NOTE: Adapted from “Case in Point” by Mark Consentino
• RELAX!!! Don't let yourself get too stressed out before, during,
and after the interview -- Succumbing to nerves is the quickest way
to sabotage yourself. No matter how these interviews turn out,
remember that you are driven and will have your degree before
long...you're going to be alright, whether you've got a Consulting job
• Be confident but humble during the interview. When you're as
talented and qualified as all of you likely are, there is the risk of
sounding a little stuck on yourself. Don't let that happen because it
can leave an interviewer with a terrible impression of you.
• Be sure to have a strong list of questions to ask the interviewer --
This is your chance to gain insights from his/her experiences with the
firms and show that you care enough about getting a position to ask
• If you make a mistake during some portion of the interview, learn
from it and move on...Don't let it fester in your mind because it'll
serve as a distraction later on
• Make sure the interviewer understands your thinking at all times.
Talking through what's going through your mind (in general terms) can
give the interviewer a chance to give you correct information if you've
got something mixed up or ask follow-up questions to gain more
insight about you as a candidate. This tip goes for when you're doing
your math, brainstorming, and providing some sort of insights in
response to a question.
• Take time to think about what you're going to say before you say
it. There is nothing wrong with taking 5 or 10 seconds to think through
something when the alternative is simply saying the first thing that
comes to mind. Remember, you're not in a race against the
clock...you're in a race to get a Consulting offer
Advice on Cases
• STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE!!! – Structure is the thing you should
focus on most from the start of the interview until the end. Structure everything
from the paper that you take your notes on...to the way you do your initial case
issue breakdown...to your set up and execution of the math...to what you say in
your final case wrap-up. Often, having a structured approach to everything you do
in a case interview is just as important as getting the "right" answer to "crack" the
• Think about the "Big Picture" whenever you can...don't dig too deep in the
details until you have to. Digging too deep early and getting lost “in the weeds”
can lead to missing out on information that might get you to the desired answer. If
the first thing that pops into your mind is the details of what info you want, take an
extra second to think about why you need that information and it will likely give
you another layer of structure for your analysis. The "Big Picture" thinking should
be the foundation of your approach at all stages of the case, but it is especially
important when you're doing your initial case "roadmap" and issue tree. The
executives and managers that you'd be consulting to will likely have a "Big
Picture" view of things, so you should train yourself to have the same sort of
Advice on Cases
• Make sure you bring out the "So what?" insights and not just
surface level ideas. These firms likely know that you're
smart...otherwise, you wouldn't have been invited to interview...so
simply reciting facts likely won't be enough to distinguish you from the
pack. The thing that can truly make you look like a star is being able
to look at that same set of facts and draw out some deep insights
about the specific situation in the case and some larger business
situation and/or context. It's all about the "So what?"'s...
• Be as efficient as possible when doing the math on your cases.
Writing out every equation may seem like a good idea, but it can use
up a lot of time that would be better spent doing case analysis and
gathering data. Try to find shortcuts to get through your calculations
quicker, such as canceling zeros, using the units of measure in a
problem for hints, and recognizing patterns in numbers.
Advice on Cases
• Make your notes as neat and clear as possible. Some firms collect
the notes you take while doing the case for any number of reasons,
one of which could be to gain insights on how you structured your
analysis. In this case, it is important to have very clear notes so they
can follow your thinking as they read the notes. A more practical
reason for having clear notes is so that you don't confuse yourself
during interviews. When one is under the stress of an interview
situation, it is easy to lose track of a number, a fact, or some piece of
data that could help you solve a problem and the time it takes to find
that lost data is time that you could be plugging away at your case
analysis. Neat note-taking is a simple way to avoid that problem.
• Be creative. This is pretty self-explanatory, but try not to get bogged
down and restricted to the format or ideas that a particular framework
might lead you to. There are many ways to solve a problem and a little
creativity may be just what it takes to get you over the top when the
interviewers are doing their evaluations.
Advice on Cases
• Use assumptions to your advantage, but don't overuse
them. Finding the balance of when and when not to use
assumptions is a tough one, so I always default to the
following rule of thumb...If you need a piece of information
during the case, ask for it. The worst that can happen is that
the interviewer won't have the info and you'll have to make an
assumption about it. The alternative to not asking is making an
invalid or incorrect assumption and going down the wrong path
when the interviewer had a ton of data waiting for you all along.
Basically, use assumptions within reason and know that, in
many cases, the interviewer likely has data that can help you
crack the case wide open if you use it right.
Advice on the Fit/Experience
• The interview is not all about the case, the fit portion is
highly important, as well
• Focus on your role -- The interviewer wants to hear about what
YOU did; Don't focus too much of your description on what your TEAM did
• Have several stories prepared (I’d recommend at least four)
that cover a wide range of anecdotes about your leadership
experience (you should not repeat stories across interviews on a
• Be concise and make sure you bring out only the most
important points; There's no need to get too detailed...just tell
your story and bring out the "showstopper" ideas
NOTE: Adapted from “Case in Point” by Mark Consentino
Tips for Case Interviewing
Five qualities of great case interview responses:
• Structured response that demonstrates that you can think clearly
and make sense of an ambiguous situation.
• Broad perspective (Big Picture Thinking) - Mention all possible
areas of exploration and do not focus on narrow areas that you
think are right.
Concise and linear thinking.
• Business judgment and ability to identify and prioritize high-
impact areas of the case to investigate first.
• Unusual and creative insights and showing you can come up with
ideas without having the interviewer push you toward them.
Six Principles from Booz Allen Hamilton
A typical case interview scenario opens with....
Interviewer: "John, the particular assignment I'd like to discuss
with you involves helicopters. Our client is trying to decide whether
the helicopter business is an attractive opportunity for continued
investment. As part of the effort, they've asked us to specifically
evaluate the demand outlook for non-military helicopters--30 years
out into the future. Essentially, the client wants to understand the
long-term attractiveness of the helicopter market. This product
has roughly a 20-year life cycle, so you need to look out a long way.
John, if you had to write the proposal for this engagement,
how would you approach the work?"
Candidate: "All right (begins to babble) there are different kinds
of helicopters, there's an issue of geographic segmentation, it's
a form of air travel, it's also for transporting freight and personnel
. . .; so if we're talking about 20 years, I wonder what the
technology cycle is. . ."
PRINCIPLE ONE: Stay calm; take time to think.
Use pauses to allow yourself time to think.
You may want to jot down some points to help you
think through the problem--a whiteboard and/or pen
and paper will be available to you in the interview room.
PRINCIPLE TWO: Begin by defining issues and hypotheses--NOT answers.
Companies are not necessarily looking for the one right
answer in the case. Instead, what they are looking for
is how you think about a problem:
• What are the issues you're going to raise?
• What hypotheses are you going to put together
(i.e., potential answers for each issue that need to be supported
or disproved by analysis)? For example, with the rapid expansion
of many forms of electronic communication, fewer people
will need to travel, including by helicopter. This is arguably
creative as hypotheses go, but it could still be tested and
supported or disapproved by data and analysis.
• What are the questions that you are going to ask
--to support or disprove your hypotheses?
It's the approach that they are looking for, not necessarily
the answer, which is the second point to think about in preparing
for the case: define issues, hypotheses, and then the questions to pursue.
PRINCIPLE THREE: Develop a framework: don't generate
random ideas. If you have an economic background, use it.
Economic concepts make great frameworks. In building your
framework, consider the classic business elements: Profit as the result
of Revenue less Cost; Revenue as determined by Supply and Demand.
This type of framework will help focus your questions.
Never assume the interviewer knows where you are going, even if
you have a framework in your head. If the framework has two
elements to it, don't start talking about one of them in detail
without laying out the other orally.
PRINCIPLE FOUR: Surface potential causal, not descriptive, analysis.
The interviewer will want to understand why things are happening,
not just what has happened. Good consultants go far beyond the obvious,
beyond basic market research. You need to decompose the underlying
drivers of the situation--what's actually making the situation change
--now and in the future.
PRINCIPLE FIVE: Focus on the issues and opportunity facing the client.
When you are doing the case, it is incredibly easy to get thrown
off the track. Two great ways for tying back to the client's position
are thinking about the question that you're answering and using
the framework you've set up to guide you through the case.
PRINCIPLE SIX: Drive to potential actions for the client; be pragmatic.
Thinking about issues, creating frameworks, and testing hypotheses
are fun, essential, and at the heart of what we do. But the ultimate
experience comes from using all this to help clients act. In the
interview, think through the possible actions a client might take.
Source: Booz Allen and Hamilton
Notes from Marc Cosentino - Presentation on Case Interviewing
Case interview preparation – many highlights from his book “Case in Point”
-Consulting firms want “low risk” hires
-people who like consulting, like travel, have already done consulting
-good quantitative and analytical skills
-able to articulate thoughts under pressure
Case interviews try to determine how a person thinks
Firms like it when a student takes a “rip right through it” approach
– eager to get into the question and work on it
Questions may be based on real recent cases; firms compare the student’s
approach with want the consultant actually did in real life
1. “Airport Test” (cultural fit) – if stuck in an airport together
for 9 hours, would we get along?
Maturity – how would you do in front of our clients?
Think before you open your mouth!!
There is a lot of math in these questions and you can’t use a calculator
2. Market Sizing – ex. How may disposable diapers were sold in US last year?
3. Factor Question – ex. What factors would you have to consider
when bringing a new drug to market?
Students need to have questions written out in advance
Tip: bring in graph paper instead of regular lined paper; you will
need to draw graphs and it will help
you line up your zeros. It also Makes your notes look neater.
The interviewer will take your notes from you at the end of your interview.
Applicant should mark off any key points, to help summarize
the answer at the end of the case interview.
Students may have to actually draw up charts (ppt style) at end of interview.
The situation case interview is not used too much anymore.
“Guess the #” questions (Market sizing) questions very common.
Students need to ask for clarification – need to ask questions!
It’s OK for students to not be accurate with their numbers,
but they need to show their PROCESS and LOGIC.
Students need to ASSUME as they tackle the answer.
(“Assuming the population is X and the average life expectancy is Y…”)
Students need to stay at the MACRO level,
don’t try to get too specific; that’s when you run into trouble.
It’s OK if your assumptions are off; it’s the
PROCESS and LOGIC that matter.
When in doubt, use 100 million households in the US
– easier to do the math with this #.
Use simple logic at a Macro level.
Be CREATIVE and BRAINSTORM “without commitment”
– throw out your weak ideas later.
Student will always be asked to summarize the case at the end.
Case Scenarios – pretty balanced between operations
and strategy scenarios.
International students tend to overuse buzz words
– they need to get clarification up front.
Students need to be careful about using existing frameworks
– they need to be able to show they can think on their own. If using an existing framework,
don’t announce it up front.
First Four Steps:
1. Summarize questions - restate info back
to the interviewer
2. Verify objectives – what’s the goal?
What are we trying to get out of this?
(“Besides increasing sales, are there any
other objectives I should be aware of?”)
3. Ask questions ( 4-6 max)
4. Identify and label the case – create your structure
Students should take copious notes.
PRACTICE is always key. Read as many cases as possible,
because many of them are similar.
It is very common for interviewers to spontaneously add
new data, charts, info to the mix while
the applicant is already working on it. Student needs to be prepared
that this might happen and not freak out.
Case Interview Links and Resources
Note: This list is not complete - most companies now
post case studies on their corporate Websites)
• Capital One case interviews
• McKinsey and Company online case study
• Bain & Company case interviews
• Ciber online cases
• EDS case studies
• The Parthenon Group case studies