In an Accenture case interview, you will be expected to create a MECE framework, develop hypotheses on root causes driving the problem statement, test the hypotheses in a structured way, and communicate your ideas clearly. The Accenture interview is similar to case interviews at other management consulting firms. However, unlike a firm like BCG, topics in an Accenture case interview are generally a bit more common and less bespoke. All that to say, Accenture case interviews require a significant amount of preparation. This article will guide you through the process.
Table of Contents
- Overview of the Accenture Case Study Interview
- Core Skills Accenture Is Looking For and Keys To The Accenture Case Study Interview
- What To Expect In An Accenture Case Interview
- Accenture Case Interview Preparation
- Accenture Case Interview Examples
- Accenture Interview Variations
Overview of the Accenture Case Study Interview
Accenture Organizational Structure
Accenture offers a wide variety of practices, namely:
- Management consulting
- IT consulting
- Back office outsourcing
The firm is known for its specialty in technology and is considered a leader in the field.
The firm’s management consulting arm is its most sought after division and is broken down into three groups: Strategy, Operations, and Digital. Accenture’s strategy consulting group competes for projects with the likes of McKinsey, BCG, and Bain. The operations and digital groups are focused more on implementation rather than pure strategy.
As you may have guessed, Accenture case study interviews differ widely depending on the consulting division you apply for.
Accenture case study interviews generally come in one of three flavors. Let’s explore.
The Great Unknown
What is it?
The Great Unknown is one of the most common types of Accenture case interviews. In The Great Unknown cases, you will only be given 1-2 sentences of context on the problem statement. From there, you will be expected to create a framework and develop a hypothesis on what is driving the client’s problem. The most difficult part of the Great Unknown case is drafting the hypothesis, given you have very little information to work with. You will need to use your business intuition to think through which buckets can influence the problem statement and then prioritize the buckets to look at.
For an example, let’s go back to the prior problem statement where you needed to understand why a high-end department store lost market share and hypothesize how the department store can regain share. In this example, you can include the following buckets in your framework: retail market, competitive landscape, consumer behavior, and company operations. Then, use your real world knowledge shopping at department stores to shape your initial hypothesis.
For example, one initial hypothesis can be: “Our client may be losing market share given the overall push toward online shopping. The push towards online shopping has especially been accelerated during COVID. In addition, consumers are increasingly looking for authentic brands and may prefer to order at smaller DTC companies rather than department stores which can feel ‘mass market.’ As such, I would like to start by diving into the consumer behavior bucket. Specifically, I want to understand how customer buying criteria has changed over time.”
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The Back of the Envelope
What is it?
The Back of the Envelope case interview is another very common type of case you may see at Accenture. The Back of the Envelope case is very similar to a market sizing case (see here for a guide to Market Sizing interviews). An example Back of the Envelope question is “estimate the number of fast casual restaurants in Manhattan.”
While this may seem challenging at first, Accenture is looking for candidates that can think through how to break down a problem in a logical way. One way to approach this question would be:
- Upper Manhattan and Midtown are on a grid system. Here, there are 12 blocks across (east and west) and ~100 blocks down (north and south). This represents 1,200 square blocks.
- Downtown Manhattan is ~50% of the size of Midtown and Uptown. Therefore, Downtown Manhattan is 600 square blocks. In total, Manhattan is ~1,800 square blocks
- I’m going to assume that the areas of Upper Manhattan, Midtown, and Downtown are roughly the same, so there are ~600 square blocks in each area of the city
- Midtown and Downtown will have the greatest number of fast casual restaurants given the mix of residential and office foot traffic. Typically, I see 1 fast casual restaurant every 2 square blocks. Therefore, there are ~600 fast casual restaurants in Midtown and Downtown (~300 fast casual restaurants in each area).
- Upper Manhattan is mostly residential, so it is a less attractive location for restaurant companies given there is no office traffic and rents are high vis a vis a more suburban location. I’m going to assume that Upper
- Manhattan has ~50% of the restaurant density as Midtown and Downtown. As such, there are ~150 fast casual restaurants in Upper Manhattan.
- Therefore, there are ~750 fast casual restaurants in Manhattan.
- Note: Superstar candidates will also put this number into context to see if it makes general sense. For example, in this problem, you can see the number of people in Manhattan per fast casual restaurant as a quick proxy if your answer makes sense.
Keys to Success
For the Back of the Envelope cases, the key to success is not to have the “right” answer. Instead, it is to:
- Determine whether you need to take a top-down versus bottom-up approach to solving the case. For a quick recap, using a top-down approach is when you start with a macro element to break down the problem (e.g., the above example is top-down as the starting point was the number of blocks in Manhattan). A bottom-up approach is when you start with a micro element and build up the solution (e.g., if you want to approximate the amount of burgers Shake Shack sells in a day, you can start with the number of hours a Shake Shack is open and the foot traffic per hour).
- Break down the problem into discrete units via a logic tree. It is often helpful to break down the problem and draw out the logic tree before starting any calculations.
- Solve out each branch in the logic tree in a structured manner.
- Use reasonable assumptions – the assumptions don’t need to be right – they just need to be reasonable.
- Over-communicate your steps and calculations.
The Parade of Facts
What is it?
The Parade of Facts is a less common case type for Accenture given the amount of time needed to get through the prompt. Specifically, for the Parade of Facts case, you will be given a laundry list of information upfront. Then, it will be your job to identify the forest from the trees to understand (i) what problem you are looking to solve and (ii) which elements of the prompt actually move the needle. Once you are able to identify the crux of the issue, the process to solve the Parade of Facts case is similar to the process for solving other cases.
Keys to Success
Some keys for success for the Parade of Facts cases include:
- Identifying the exact problem you are looking to solve. Don’t move forward until you understand this!
- Determining which facts influence the problem versus which facts are included to pull you off course.
- Clarifying the important metrics, if needed. If the metric is important, it is important that you know the right number.
- Designing your framework with the important metrics and nuggets of information in mind. It is okay to discard ancillary information.
- Marking the important information on your paper. It is often helpful to either put a star or a box around the important information.
- Additional keys to success for the Accenture case interview are included below.
Core Skills Accenture Is Looking For and Keys To The Accenture Case Study Interview
The skills Accenture tests for in the case interview are not dramatically different from any other top 25 firm. For Accenture, core skills include:
Problem Solving and Business Analysis Skills
Problem Solving and Business Analysis Skills can be grouped into a few key skills.
Conceptual Problem Solving
Conceptual problem solving tests if you can take an ambiguous problem and break it down into component parts and drive to second order insights.
While you are not expected to get to the “right” answer for the case, you will be expected to use assumptions that are relatively logical. For example, if you are hypothesizing why a retail brick and mortar client is losing market share, it would be illogical to conclude that e-commerce penetration is going down. In addition, if you are approximating foot traffic at a fast casual restaurant, it would be illogical to say that traffic is flat throughout the day. Rather, you are expected to account for swings in traffic based on peak versus off peak times.
Ability to Distinguish the Forest from the Trees
During the interview, you will be given a lot of data, whether in the case interview prompt or in graphs / exhibits. The best interviewees are able to take a vast amount of information and distill what’s important – and what’s not.
Ability to Think 80/20 and Manage your Time
The ability to distinguish the forest from the trees goes hand and hand with being 80/20 and managing your time in the case. During the case interview, you will be forced to focus on the biggest drivers of the issue. You will not have time to ask for every small detail and “boil the ocean.” This skill is critical because in consulting engagements, you are working on a tight timeframe. While you may want to drill down into every small driver, you simply do not have the time, and generally speaking, 80% of the problem is typically generated by 20% of the drivers.
Structured thinking is primarily tested when you develop your framework. Specifically, interviewers are looking to see if you can develop a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (“MECE”) framework. You can also show structured thinking through your communication skills (detailed below).
Ability to Understand and Push Problems Forward
Standout interviewees will be able to present a hypothesis with confidence and ask questions to break down the problem and uncover the main drivers of the problem statement.
Can you perform mental math on the spot in a high pressure situation in front of a CEO? Consulting requires the quantitative chops to be able to do this consistently, which is an area almost any case interview will test for.
- Executive presence, i.e., can you sit in front of an executive and “hold your own?” Executive presence often can be shown with speech (removing ‘likes’ and ‘umms’ from your vocabulary; ending sentences with your voice at a neutral tone and posture).
- Excitement about the work, i.e., do you look excited to break down the case and get to the bottom of the client’s situation? Interviewers will use this as a proxy to see if you will enjoy the work in consulting.
- Poise, i.e., can you recover after making a mistake? Top candidates are not fazed by mistakes.
Communication also comes in a variety of flavors, including the ability to:
- Speak in a top-down manner
- Speak in a structured manner
- Speak at a moderate pace
- Speak with confidence
What To Expect In An Accenture Case Interview
Accenture Case Interview Timeline
Similar to other consulting firms, the Accenture case interview timeline differs based on the region you are applying to and the channel in which you are coming in through (e.g., on-campus versus experienced hire). Regardless of the pathway, Accenture’s interview process generally involves 2-3 rounds of interviews, each round consisting of a behavioral/fit and case interview. These interviews will occur over the span of 3-6 weeks. As you get through each round, your interviewers will be more and more senior.
Accenture Case Interview Framework
Creating a strong framework is essential to cracking the Accenture case interview. Developing a strong framework signals to the interviewer that you can:
- Think in a structured manner and be MECE
- Identify the key drivers of an ambiguous problem
- Prioritize which drivers “move the needle” on the problem
- Be creative and leverage your real world experience when cracking the case
Accenture Case Interview Questions
Example Accenture case interview questions, directly from the firm, include:
- “Citibank is considering purchasing another credit card company If the acquisition is made, Citibank will gain access to 100,000 new card holders. What is the estimated value of this acquisition?”
- “A large conglomerate company is facing declining profits in its railroad company division and is considering shutting it down. You have been hired to determine if this is the right course of action and identify potential alternatives.”
- “A commercial bank is re-evaluating the number of branches it operates, and whether they should increase the number of branches or close some down. How would you suggest they go about it?”
- “Discuss what is wrong with the following statistic: the Volvo is the safest car on the road because a recent study has shown that Volvos have the fewest number of accident deaths per mile driven.”
- “Estimate the change in the price of oil in the year 2000 from today’s price. Will it increase or will it decrease?”
- “Estimate the number of attendees for a free concert for U2 in Central Park in New York City.”
- “Consumers are currently purchasing $50 billion of frozen meals—the trend is toward more upscale products.”
- “A fresh meal plate combining a protein, vegetable and starch is delicately arranged in a sealed plastic dome package.”
- “Product is currently in limited consumer testing at $550 to $850 per meal.”
- “Shelf life of the product is 14 days— the product will spoil in 21 days potentially causing food poisoning.”
- “Clients want to know if the market is big—how will they keep competition out.”
Accenture Behavioral / Fit Questions
Accenture behavioral / fit questions are relatively standard vis a vis other consulting firms. Example behavioral questions include:
- Why do you want to work in consulting?
- Why do you want to work at Accenture?
- Can you walk me through your resume?
- Tell me about a time you exhibited leadership
- Tell me about a time you managed conflict
- What is one thing that is not on your resume that we should know about you?
Accenture Case Interview Preparation
The most important thing to do when prepping for an Accenture case interview is to simulate the interview experience. Specifically, practicing out-loud with a partner so you can:
- Practice developing frameworks under pressure
- Develop a specific style / presence when casing
- Practice mental math
- Develop pattern recognition on typical problems and solutions
Accenture Case Interview Examples
We have a comprehensive set of Accenture case interview examples in our Case Library. Each case comes with example solutions to the case problem.
Accenture Case Interview Workbook
Accenture developed a ~20 page workbook where it breaks down an Accenture case study and what the firm looks for in candidates. Before going into an interview, it may be helpful to page through the workbook.
Accenture Interview Variations:
Accenture Strategy (Potentia) Case Interview
The Accenture Strategy case interview is also called the Potentia Interview. This interview is a special assessment used only by Accenture, though it bears many similarities to other case interviews.
Here are the main steps in the Potentia Interview:
- Candidates are given a short paragraph about a broad business topic and are given 5 minutes to analyze the text and questions posed.
- Candidates present their initial thoughts.
- Interviewer asks a series of questions to which the candidate responds.
The Potentia Interview lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour. It tests a candidate’s ability to be both creative and logical under pressure. Interviewers will push a candidate’s thinking and often ask open-ended questions with no right answers. (i.e. “What do you think are some potential ways our client could enter this new market?”).
Your interviewer will assess you based on two main criteria:
- Practicality, logic, and structure. Your ideas should be implementable, feasible, and catered to the client. The way you structure your ideas should also include frameworks and logic just as in any other case interview.
- Creativity and range of thought. You should present a broad set of ideas before you narrow them down to the most applicable ones. Providing creative solutions to your client’s problem is necessary in real-world consulting as well, and is what Accenture is assessing.
Despite the slightly different format, Accenture is testing for the same core qualities.
Accenture Federal Services Case Interview and Accenture Technology Case Interview
There are no specific formats for the Accenture Federal Services case interview and the Accenture Technology case interview. Rather, you should be prepared for the interviews to reflect the specific group’s focus, i.e., government for Accenture Federal Services and technology / implementation for Accenture Technology. Even though the topic focus may be different, your prep strategy should remain the same. Working through practice case studies live with a partner – preferably, an expert – is the most effective Accenture case prep method.
Accenture Group Case Interview
Unlike firms like Deloitte, Accenture rarely conducts group case interviews. We don’t recommend over-indexing on prep for group case interviews due to the low likelihood of receiving one at Accenture. However, it can still be helpful to read up on the principles of these interviews here in case you receive one.
Regardless of the type of case you receive at Accenture, the most effective prep involves simulating the interview with a human partner. For 1:1 coaching to prepare for Accenture interviews, join our consulting prep program, Black Belt. 60% of Black Belts land offers at a top 10 firm like Accenture.