The Social Impact Case Interview: Everything You Need to Know

The Social Impact Case Interview: Everything You Need to Know

Are you driven to make the world a better place by leveraging your strong problem-solving skills? Social impact consulting could be the perfect fit for you. But to land that dream job, you’ll need to ace the social impact case interview. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Key things to know about solving social impact cases
  • Examples of social impact case interview questions
  • A comprehensive case interview example
  • 4 tips for acing social impact case interviews

Let’s get started!

What You Should Know About Social Impact Cases

Social impact consultants help mission-driven organizations make a positive impact on the world. Social impact clients are in the public, private, or philanthropic sectors, such as non-profits, family foundations, investment funds, and even some corporations with a social or environmental mission. In the public sector, these consultants serve government agencies to improve policy analysis and program management.

In social impact, the priority is creating measurable impact first and financial sustainability second. It’s important to focus on maximizing impact and understand how the client defines success before you dive into the case. 

There are unique industry considerations in social impact, such as: 

  • Understanding the political landscape and its potential impact on the project
  • Examining the relationships, decision-making powers, and roles of international, government, state, and local organizations
  • Assessing the availability of local talent and resources
  • Evaluating the existing infrastructure and its ability to support proposed initiatives
  • Navigating bureaucracy and potential delays in the public sector
  • Different options for financing, including philanthropic grants, government grants, and earned revenue

Sound complicated? Let’s look at an example:

A non-profit’s mission is to improve access to clean water in developing countries such as India. This non-profit needs to work closely with local authorities to build water wells in villages, taking into account the political and social dynamics. 

Additionally, the organization would evaluate the existing sewage system to determine what type of technology the village can support. It also must ensure that residents are trained to maintain the system long-term. Because the beneficiaries (village communities) will be unable to pay for the wells, the non-profit will also need a strategy to finance its work.

To learn more, check out our deep dive on Social Impact Consulting.

Examples of Social Impact Case Interview Questions

Social impact cases can encompass a wide range of issues and industries. The problems could involve assessing an expansion of services to a new geographic market, launching a new product or service, or streamlining costs. Topics could include economic development, global health, food systems, or climate risk. 

These cases can be challenging as they require the ability to think creatively and strategically, while assessing the potential impact of the proposed solutions.

Examples of social impact case interview questions:

  • A private equity firm has recently established a social impact investing fund focused on climate change. They’re seeking advice on how to deploy their capital in the most impactful projects.
  • A telecommunications company plans to introduce a mobile money transfer service in India to improve digital and financial inclusion. They want a recommendation on how to price their service offering.

It’s also worth checking out examples of public sector case interview questions in case you’re interested in working for government agencies:

  • The Department of Agriculture aims to increase agricultural productivity and wants guidance on how to accomplish this as a federal organization. 
  • A national park foundation is facing financial challenges and wants to develop a five-year strategy to increase revenue and allocate it effectively for conservation efforts.

Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

Social Impact Case Interview Example

There are 4 parts to an effective case interview:

  1. Opening – Understand the client’s problem and ask clarifying questions.
  2. Structure – Brainstorm the key issues underlying the client’s problem in a structured way. Present your Issue Tree, a visual diagram that breaks down a larger problem or question into several smaller questions. 
  3. Analysis – Use a hypothesis-driven approach to gather data and evaluate options.
  4. Conclusion – Present a recommendation using the 5R’s Approach: recap the problem, recommend the solution, give your reasons and analysis, address potential risks, and retain the client by outlining the next steps your team would work on to achieve the client’s goals.

For more information on this 4-part approach to case interviews, read our Comprehensive Guide on Case Interview Prep.

Let’s walk through a social impact case interview. We’ll outline tips and provide a sample dialogue. 

Try answering each section of the case on your own. This practice will help you improve your casing faster!

Client’s Problem

Interviewer: An education organization seeks to expand its U.S. national program, Unlimited, to enhance student success at community colleges. The program currently offers two services: technical assistance to colleges, such as staff training, and advocacy for policy changes at the state and national levels. How can our client reach more students and expand the Unlimited program?


First, restate the client’s problem to the interviewer to confirm your understanding. This is also an opportunity to check how the client defines impact. Remember to ask questions in a succinct and organized way without jumping into solutions.

Pretend you’re the candidate and think about how you’d approach this before reading on.

Candidate: I’m excited to help our client grow the reach of their national program, Unlimited, which focuses on improving student success at community colleges through providing technical assistance and advocating for policy changes. I understand their main goal is to increase impact through the number of students using the Unlimited program. Is this correct?

Interviewer: That is correct. The program is currently meeting its goal of impacting student success, but they’d like to raise the bar and help more students.

Candidate: Before we explore growth opportunities, I want to better understand the Unlimited program:

  • Can you provide more information on the specific services offered through the program and its current reach and impact? 
  • Are there any limitations or constraints on resources or funding?

Interviewer: Let me provide some additional context:

  • Unlimited brings resources and services to community colleges. For example, the program would run training to upskill college teachers to improve the education quality for students. Another example is disseminating best practices for improving the curriculum. 
  • The program currently serves over 100 community colleges in 18 states, primarily targeting students of color and low-income communities.
  • The organization has secured $24 million in annual funding from a family foundation to support its growth efforts.


With this context, take a moment to develop a hypothesis of how your client can best impact more community college students. Then, lay out the key issues you want to dive into further to see whether your hypothesis is correct. A great structure will have 3-4 key issues with sub-issues underneath each. 

Give this a try before reading further.

Candidate: There are 3 different directions Unlimited could take: 

  1. Doubling down on the existing footprint by scaling existing programs to more schools within the states already served.
  2. Expanding their footprint by moving to new states.
  3. Broadening or deepening their impact by designing new programs.

My hypothesis is that doubling down on the current program in its existing footprint will be the most effective way of helping additional students. There is likely still potential for growth within the communities served and it would also be more efficient to leverage existing resources and networks.

To validate this hypothesis, you want to present your issue tree and demonstrate you can problem-solve in a structured and analytical way. Ask for a minute to outline your thoughts.

Candidate: I’d like to walk through how I’d approach our client’s problem. Here are some key questions to inform our work:

How can the organization grow the Unlimited program?

  • What strategies can increase the program’s presence in existing states?
    • Can existing services be enhanced or expanded to improve student success?
    • Are there other community colleges in existing states that could benefit from the Unlimited program?
    • Are there opportunities for partnerships or licensing the program to increase scalability and reduce resource needs?
  • What are the potential avenues for expansion into new states?
    • Is there a demonstrated demand for the program in new states?
    • What resources would be required to expand the program into new states?

What external factors could affect program growth?

  • What does the community college industry look like?
    • What are the various types of community colleges and their student populations?
    • What are the demographics of students?
    • Is enrollment in community colleges trending upward?
    • What are the expected future developments in community college education (e.g., curriculum changes, online learning)?
    • What are the alternative programs or solutions currently available to community colleges?
  • Are there any limitations or considerations for funding?
    • Is there funding interest in specific regions or program areas?
    • What are the potential new sources of funding in new states?
    • Could increasing advocacy work generate more state funding?
  • Are there any local, state, or federal policies to consider?

What internal factors could affect program growth?

  • What is the current level of impact by state?
    • What are the areas for improvement?
    • What are the industry’s best practices?
    • Which service is more impactful (technical assistance or policy advocacy)?
  • What is the cost of the program in existing vs. new states?
  • What are the current capacities and capabilities of staff and management?

Don’t worry if you didn’t capture as much detail in your issue tree. Case interviews are time constrained, so the interviewer is mainly interested in seeing your structured thought process.


After presenting your issue tree, the interviewer prompts you to explore the growth opportunities. They are testing your ability to brainstorm ideas, synthesize information, and use exhibits for quantitative analysis.

Before you continue reading, think about what analysis you would want to do if you were the candidate.

Interviewer: The client’s leadership team mentioned they are interested in two growth initiatives: 1) expanding to new schools in New York, which Unlimited is already in, and 2) expanding to Tennessee, which would be a new state. 

How would you evaluate these options?

Candidate: We need to understand the cost of expanding within New York vs. offering the Unlimited program in Tennessee for the first time, as well as how many students we can impact, given our funding.

Interviewer: What are Unlimited’s different types of costs, and what do you think are the key drivers of these costs?


Candidate: The costs for expanding to new schools in new states would be greater than in existing ones.

Start-up costs would be one-time investments required to start operations in a new state. These could include:

  • Due diligence on schools in the state
  • Facilities
  • Technology infrastructure

Ongoing fixed costs could include:

  • Administrative or headquarters support for colleges in each state
  • Policy and advocacy staff
  • Facilities and infrastructure maintenance

Ongoing variable costs would be driven by the number of community colleges and the number of students served. These costs could include:

  • Staff providing direct community college support
  • Transportation
  • Curriculum costs (e.g., training)

Could you provide more information on the costs for the 2 growth options? Also, would the costs vary depending on school size or the number of students?

Interviewer: Yes, we have some data on the costs. 

For start-up costs, you can assume there are none. 

For ongoing fixed costs, there are no new fixed costs for New York since the headquarters is already set up. If Unlimited enters Tennessee, the fixed costs to operate in the new state would be $12 million per year.

As you mentioned, there are two types of variable costs: costs associated with serving each additional college and costs per student attending the college. These costs can vary depending on the size of the school and the number of students. Here is an exhibit with more data:

Social Impact Case Interview Example: Analysis

Candidate: Thank you for the data. This chart indicates that the costs of serving large schools vs. small schools differ greatly. To understand whether expanding in New York or launching the Unlimited program in Tennessee will serve more students, I need to know how many large and small colleges are located in New York and Tennessee, respectively.

Interviewer: The organization’s approach is to prioritize working with a significant number of large community colleges to establish a presence in the state before focusing on smaller colleges. In New York, Unlimited is already working with all the large community colleges. 

How would you estimate the number of additional students that Unlimited can serve annually in New York versus Tennessee with the funding?

Once you have the necessary data, ask for a few minutes to perform your analysis. 

For practice, try doing the analysis before reading the answer below.

Candidate: First, we can solve how many community colleges can be served in each state, given the $24 million budget. Then, we can use that information to calculate the number of students impacted. I’m assuming only small colleges for New York and only large colleges for Tennessee. 

Social Impact Case Interview Data - NY vs Tennessee

Candidate: The number of students impacted is greater if we expand to large community colleges in Tennessee rather than small community colleges in New York, so I’d recommend expanding to Tennessee.

Interviewer: Are there any other considerations you would like to explore?

Always keep in mind the ultimate objective is to achieve the greatest possible impact. In this case, it is reaching the highest number of students. The interviewer is interested in evaluating your structure, creativity, and social impact knowledge.

Candidate: You mentioned earlier that the program focuses on students of color and low-income communities. I’d want to ensure the proposed growth initiatives in Tennessee reach these groups.

Interviewer: Can you walk me through what you would do?

Candidate: We can gather both quantitative and qualitative data to support our analysis. Quantitative data could include census data, such as demographics and the number of low-income families. Additionally, we could interview education experts or current parents of students at Unlimited to gain insights into their experiences.


Use the 5R structure in your conclusion: recap, recommend, reason, risks, and retain.

Before you read the answer, give it a try. 

Interviewer: What would your recommendation be?

Candidate: Our client wants help expanding the Unlimited program to reach more students. After analyzing the data, I am revising my initial hypothesis of expanding an existing market. 

I recommend entering the Tennessee community as it presents the opportunity to serve 100K new students, which is 25K more than if we allocated funds to expand in New York. This aligns with the current expertise of serving large community colleges. Expanding to a new state could increase visibility at a national level, open up more funding options, and increase advocacy power.

A risk to expanding to a new state is the potential lack of suitable leadership. To mitigate this, we could identify top performers from existing states and assign them to lead the launch in Tennessee.

The next step would be to develop an implementation plan that outlines how to engage stakeholders in Tennessee and establish successful operations.

How did you do? 

If this was your first consulting case and it was harder than you expected, don’t worry. They get easier with practice. See the links below for other helpful articles, or sign up for our exclusive free training.


Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

4 Tips for Acing a Social Impact Case Interview

1. Prepare Early and Focus on Social Impact Cases

Practice your mock interviews with people experienced in impact-driven approaches. It’s important to familiarize yourself with a range of social impact cases with different perspectives.

2. Align on Success Metrics

At the beginning of your interview, always make sure you’re clear on the client’s impact goals. Be sure to understand both how they define impact and whether there is a specific level of impact they are aiming for. Solve for impact first, then financial sustainability.

3. Apply a Hypothesis-Driven Approach

Formulate a hypothesis and create an issue tree before collecting data. This approach will help you avoid getting stuck in excessive analysis without making progress toward a recommendation.

We recommend our hypothesis-driven approach article for more information.

4. Show Your Passion for Social Impact

Familiarize yourself with the firm’s case studies on its website. Use your past experience or general knowledge of social impact to bolster your reasoning during the case.

– – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • Important elements to keep in mind when tackling social impact cases
  • Examples of case interview topics and questions
  • A full case social impact case example
  • Practical tips on how to excel in social impact case interviews

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about the social impact case interview, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

Other people prepping for social impact case interviews found the following pages helpful:

Help with Case Study Interview Prep

Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on case interview prep. My Consulting Offer has helped 89.6% of the people we’ve worked with to get a job in management consulting. We want you to be successful in your consulting interviews too. For example, here is how Victoria was able to get her offer from Bain.


Nail the case & fit interview with strategies from former MBB Interviewers that have helped 89.6% of our clients pass the case interview.

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