Consulting Case Interview Questions – Examples to Help You Prepare

  • Last Updated December, 2019
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Table of Contents

Welcome back for more help preparing to ace your consulting interviews!

We mentioned on the Case Interview Prep page that practice is the key to passing your consulting interviews. To practice, you’ll need some sample case study interview questions to work with.

We’ve got links to loads of them below.

In addition, we have tips on how to use these case interview examples to prepare for your consulting interviews. We provide a video example of a consulting case interview. Davis Nguyen, founder of My Consulting Offer, and Dan, an MCO coach and former BCG interviewer, walk through a BCG case on revenue growth in the health care services industry.

Lastly, we discuss the difference between average and exceptional answers to case questions.

Get ready to dive deep into structuring your analysis of business problems, identifying the key issues, and recommending solutions!

How to Use Case Study Interview Questions to Ace Your Case

Ace Your Case by practicing with case study interview examples

1. Start early. You’ll need to practice dozens of business problems to get good enough to receive an offer from one of the top consulting firms. This is not something you can cram the night before an interview. You’ll want to start as soon as possible.

2. Don’t read straight through sample questions or passively watch the videos. Some people think that the best way to improve their chances of passing case studies is by reading as many sample cases as they can. It’s not. This is like reading about how to play tennis but never picking up a racket. To get better at tennis, you need to actually pick up a ball and be active. The same applies to your interview preparation.

Stop and think at each step in the case question. Come up with your own answer and say it out loud. Practice driving each part of the sample business problem yourself.

  • How would you structure your analysis of the problem?
  • What questions would you ask the interviewer?
  • How would you set up the case math problem?
  • What recommendation would you make to the client?

After you’ve developed your answer, compare it to the answer in the example.
What did you get right?

What did you miss?

Are there things you miss consistently across multiple case studies?

The answers to these business problems can look simple when you just read through them, but it’s not easy to come up with all the key aspects of the solution on your own.

3. Find partners to practice with. Teamwork is an important part of consulting work, so get ready for it now. Find someone to practice consulting cases with, preferably someone else who’s applying to jobs in the industry because they’ll know more about what recruiters are looking for.

Practicing cases with a partner provides the opportunity to get feedback from someone else on what you’re doing well and what you need to improve. Additionally, you’ll learn a lot by watching how your partner solves business problems. Look for aspects of their approach that are effective as well as what they could do better. Working with a partner will make your interview practice feel more real.

Similar to how you need a tennis partner to feel what is like to play tennis, you need a case partner to experience what a case interview is like.

4. Master the 4 parts of the case interview question. On this page, we discussed the 4 parts of the case interview: the opening, structure, analysis, and conclusion. As you practice answering sample problems, practice each of these 4 parts to ensure you’re strong at them all.

5. Avoid burnout. You were drawn to consulting as a career because you loved the idea of solving complex business problems with smart, passionate teammates. But one thing that can happen as you spend hours practicing how to answer case interview questions is that it can practice too much and become a case zombie.  A case zombie is someone who’s grown tired of casing from doing too much of it. Their answers will feel rehearsed, not conversational. They may seem bored, not engaged in solving the problem. They’ll be less creative in their solutions. They certainly won’t pass the airport test! Avoid becoming a case zombie by practicing smarter, not harder.

Case Interview Video – Sample Question and How to Answer It

In the following sample interview, Davis Nguyen, founder of My Consulting Offer, interviews Dan, an MCO coach and former BCG consultant and interviewer. Their discussion of BCG’s GenCo case is broken into 4 parts of the case interview.

In their example, Davis and Dan demonstrate how to approach the business problem. They also provide examples of good answers to the interview question and exceptional answers. Take note of what differentiates a good answer from an exceptional answer so that you can not only get through your interview, but ace it.

Remember, don’t just watch the video. Stop the video and provide your own answer before listening to Dan’s  answer.

Opening – Ensure you understand the client and the problem you’ll be solving.

Structuring – Break the problem down into smaller parts. Make sure you cover all key issues.

Analysis – Ask questions, gathering information from graphs and charts provided by the interviewer, do case math, and provide insight into the client’s business problem based on what you learn.

Conclusion – Develop a rational recommendation for the client based on all you’ve learned throughout the interview.

Tips for Acing Your Consulting Interviews – The Difference Between Average & Exceptional

Opening

The opening is a great point to ask “dumb” questions because, at this point, you’re not expected to know much about the client and their business. 

Here your goal is to understand the client, their business, and what a successful project will look like.

2 people raising their hands for a question

Don’t shy away from asking for clarification on things that will help you better understand the business problem and solve it. For example, if you don’t know how life insurance works and the case is about life insurance, then ask.

After ensuring you understand the client and their problem, the next thing to ask about is key metrics of success. 

For instance, the client may want to find new avenues for growth. Are they looking for a 5% increase in revenue or to double their business? Finding out what success looks like in the client’s eyes will ensure you work to deliver a solution that meets their expectations, not one that’s underwhelming.

After you find out what success looks like, ask further probing questions to better understand the client, their business, and any constraints on solving their business problem.

Relevant questions about the client might include the geography they operate in or the sector of their industry they are strongest in. 

Relevant questions about their business might include what products or services are most profitable or most important to their customers. 

Relevant questions about the problem might include whether there are any costs that can’t be cut or what the maximum amount the client is able to invest in developing a new product. 

Asking these types of questions up front will give you a better context for solving the client’s problem and make it more likely that you will solve the case.

Structure

You’ll need a framework to make sure your analysis covers all key aspects of the business problem. 

You can use one of the many standard business frameworks that we discuss on this page, but top interviewees develop their own framework for analyzing the case. 

Their frameworks may include pieces of one or more of the standard frameworks but are tailored to the particular business problem they’re discussing. 

Good frameworks are hypothesis-driven, that is to say they can be tested similar to the science experiment, so that the answer is either a “yes” or “no.” For example, examining your bank account to see, “if I have $400 for a ticket” is an example.

person drawing out a framework with a timer

Second, good frameworks cover all topics relevant to the answer. For example, if the client is opening up a new hotel in a foreign country, checking out the existing competition should be part of the framework. As you study more about interactive case interviews and practice them you’ll develop a sense for what factors are relevant or not relevant to the case at hand.

Finally, a good structure will be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE). 

This means the framework will break down the market or population being analyzed into segments that include every part of the whole (collectively exhaustive), and each segment of the market or member of the population will show up in one and only one category without overlap (mutually exclusive). 

For example, if you divide the target market for a retail product into segments by age, the segments 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, etc. would be MECE. The categories 15-25, 20-30, 27-35 would not be MECE because people could be counted twice. We cover this topic in depth in other articles.

Analysis

In the analysis phase, you’ll ask questions to get the information you need to solve the client’s business problem. Your questions will likely lead you to one of the 4 types of analysis that are common in consulting interviews: market sizing, brainstorming, quantitative reasoning (case math), or reading exhibits. 

No matter which of these types of analysis comes up, there’s a 4-step method that ensures you can crack the case. 

This 4-step method is:

  1. Ask for data,
  2.  Interpret the data,
  3.  Provide insight, and 
  4. Outline next steps. 

The data you ask for will depend on the business problem you’re solving. For example, if the question is about profitability, you’ll need to know about the client’s finances: dig into revenues and costs. 

data analysis on a laptopOnce you have the data, you need to interpret it. What does it mean with regard to the problem you’re trying to solve? For example, if you find that the client’s revenues are flat while their costs have been rising, you’ll know that the problem is in the cost structure and that you’ll need to examine costs more closely.

Next, provide insight. As you examine costs further, you’ll find out why they’ve grown faster than revenues. 

This insight will naturally lead to the next steps. What does the client need to do to get costs under control and fix their profitability problem? 

You may need to go through this 4-step method a couple of times, focusing on different aspects of the client’s business problem. 

Once you’ve examined and developed insight into all key aspects of the problem, your next step will be to conclude the interview with a recommendation for the client.

Conclusion

At this point, you’ve hopefully cracked the case and are ready to present your recommendations to the client (your interviewer). 

The best way to do this is to use the 5R approach:

  1. Recap – restate the business problem you’ve analyzed. In consulting this is done because a CEO might have hired 5 McKinsey teams and can’t remember which one you are on. 
  2. Recommendations – Provide the solution your analysis led to. We lead with the recommendation because it is the most important piece of information. Stating it first and clearly puts everyone on the same page.
  3. Reasons – Summarize the key facts and insights that lead you to your recommendations. 
  4. Risks – Outline any risks the client should be aware of as they implement your recommendations. No recommendation has a 100% probability of success. Clients need to be aware of business risks in the same way patients need to understand the side effects of drugs.
  5. Retaining the client – Provide next steps for how you can help the client ensure success. As consultants, we are paid for helping our clients. If there is a natural extension of the work as the client implements the team’s recommendations, we should tell them how we can provide further assistance (and ultimately make money for your firm). 

While most candidates will address their recommendations and possibly the reasons for their recommendations, few will hit all these points. In particular, outlining risks and further ways you can help the client will differentiate you from other candidates and help you to advance  to the second round of interviews or get the offer.

Free Online Resources to Help You Prepare for Consulting Interviews – Consulting Firm Case Study Examples

Now that you’re familiar with how you should use a sample question and what differentiates an average answer from an exceptional one, you need sample questions to practice with. Below, we provide links to dozens to help you hone your business problem-solving skills.

McKinsey Case Interview Examples

DisconsaHelp a not-for-profit develop better financial-service offerings for remote Mexican communities.

Electro-LightHelp a beverage manufacturer prepare for a new product launch.

GlobalPharm Help a pharmaceutical industry client manage with its merger and acquisitions strategy.

Transforming a National Education System Help a country’s education ministry develop a new strategy for educating the country’s children. 

BCG Case Interview Examples

AirlineHelp a low-cost air carrier to remain profitable despite a recent fuel price hike.

DrugHelp a drug manufacturer to set a suitable price for their new drug.

Driving Revenue GrowthHelp a medical devices and services company to increase revenues following an acquisition. (The same one that is highlighted above in our example)

Crafting a Distribution StrategyHelp a cereal manufacturer evaluate their distribution strategy.

Bain Case Interview Examples

3D televisionHelp a television manufacturer decide whether to develop a 3D product.

Deloitte Case Interview Examples

Higher Education Merger: Technology Institute of the West – Help a higher education institution expand into online learning.

Strategy: Extreme Athletes World GamesHelp a new sports organization to plan its budget and strategic business plan.

Digital Engineering: Green ApronHelp a grocery store chain design their new e-commerce platform.

AT Kearney Case Studies

Promotion PlanningHelp a national grocery and drug store chain improve its product promotion strategy.

PWC Cases

Healthcare AI InnovatorHelp a health care information provider improve its communication with pharmaceutical clients to improve outcomes.

Love at First ByteHelp a data management client comply with new regulations.

Prioritizing Ethics and IntegrityHelp a software company leverage data analytics to comply with regulations. 

Telecom Giant Doubles its Size With an AcquisitionHelp a telecommunications company integrate a newly acquired business.

Oliver Wyman Case Interview Examples

WumbleworldHelp a China-based theme park operator identify the reasons for declining profits and develop options for reversing the trend.

AqualineHelp a manufacturer of small power boats determine why its sales growth has slowed and identify opportunities to boost sales.

Free Resources to Help You Prepare for Consulting Cases – Consulting Club Case Study Examples

After reading this article, you should feel totally prepared to dive into mastering cases. You now know how to use sample case study questions to practice for interviews, you’ve seen our step-by-step videos, you’ve got our case interview tips to help you practice, and you have links to loads of free online case resources.
 
 
Still have questions?
 

If you still have questions, leave them in the comments below. We’ll ask our My Consulting Offer coaches and get back to you with answers.

Also, we have tons of other articles diving into the things you need to know to get an offer from one of the top consulting firms. Check out our pages on:

Help with Case Study Interview Preparation

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If you want to learn more about how to ace your case interviews, schedule a free call with a member of our team. We’ll show you how you get an offer without spending hundreds of hours preparing.