Case Interview Prep Questions

Good intentions don’t always equal good follow-through. It seems like a no-brainer, but the quality of your case interview prep will determine your case interview performance. You must prepare, and be ready for what the case interview is going to throw at you. But how do you know when you are ready? Can you prepare too much? How much mental math do you need to know? Which case interview frameworks are actually important? We’re asked case interview prep questions like these hundreds and thousands of times over. Jenny Rae takes the time to lay out the answer to each of these questions. She gives insightful answers on what exactly you need to know to answer these case interview prep questions for yourself.

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Case Interview Prep Questions-YouTube Transcription:

Case interview prep. We get hundreds of case interview prep questions a year. And all of them start like this. “I am different. How should I prep for my case interview?” We have a lot of great guidelines and there is nuance to case interview prep. But it’s important that you understand at the baseline how we, at Management Consulted, recommend a different style of case interview prep then you might have heard of before. Hi, I’m Jenny Rae, the Managing Director of Management Consulted. And I care a lot about getting people ready for case interviews. Getting them into their dream jobs, and ready for jobs in consulting and beyond. My career was shaped forever based on the help that I received. The help was focused, clear, and very actionable. And that’s what this video is all about.

Case Prep Question 1: How much time should you spend on case interview preparation?

Case interview preparation, the first question that we get is, “How much time should you spend on case interview preparation?” And our answer is, “As little as possible to get you ready for the interview.” Now how do you know what that looks like? First of all, you need to do 20 cases at a minimum before you’re ready for the case interview. Our recommendation is that you do a total of 20 cases, if you do them effectively. I’ll talk about that in just a minute. But what 20 cases will take you, will be a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes per case with some review time. So let’s call that a baseline of 20 hours. At a minimum, you need to allocate 20 hours prior to your interview.

How much time should you spend that across? Should that 20 hours come in the week before your interview or should it come across 20 months before your interview? And our answer to that is it depends a lot on who you are, and how much time you have. Many of you land interviews short notice and are delightfully surprised when you get them. Oftentimes giving you only just a few days to prepare. You can practice for 20 hours in just a few days, and you can work up the learning curve.

But our general recommendation is that you find some happy medium. Six months is an ideal time. So you’re looking at, on average, three cases per month along with some supplemental information. So to answer how much time specifically, a minimum of 20 hours. Ideally, over about six months of preparation.

Question 2: How should I practice and what resources should I use?

The second case interview prep question that we get is, “How should I practice and what resources should I use?” Well, that’s a great question. Our first recommendation is that you do the first three to five cases out loud. Do this with absolutely no learnings or other preparation to support it. It will give you a great sense of where your raw talent lies, and what you need to hone using other materials on the back end.

This is a bit of a surprise for many people because it deviates from the standard academic process. Usually that is, read first before you go to class, go to class and listen to somebody tell you what to do, and then take a test on it later. And our recommendation is to flip that entirely on its head. Take the test first. Figure out what you already know and what you need to know. Then, go through and identify how you study or those specific parts of the test, and then take the test again. So should you practice out loud? Absolutely! Should you practice out loud first? Absolutely!

How should I resource myself after I’ve identified what I need to work on?

The second part of that case interview prep question is, “How should I resource myself after I’ve identified what I need to work on?” And that’s again a great recommendation. We have a diagnostic tool, as well as a scoring chart, that you can use in your first few cases to identify what you should do afterwards. And we recommend a number of different resources. We have a lot on Management Consulted. Such as drills for math, so just structure drills. Cases that you can do on your own. And videos, that you can watch and listen to that help you understand both how somebody who has no idea what they’re doing, progresses through the process. And how experts sound so that you can mirror what they’re doing. But knowing
specifically what part of the case you need to work on, will be incredibly important.

We also refer you to outside resources. We’re big fans of some of the other players in our space. They do a great job with books and listening materials, Victor Cheng is an example, Mark Cosentino and Case In Point is another example, David Ohrvall and Cracked The Case, does a really good job with many of their materials. But again, you can buy those materials and start with them, and never crack the case. If you really want to do an excellent job you need to start with out loud cases first, and then you need to go back and identify what you’re going to do later.

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Case Prep Question 3: How will I know when I’m ready?

The third case interview prep question is, “How will I know when I’m ready?” And our recommendation for this is twofold.

First of all, you will know when you’re ready when you have practiced with at least one expert who is incredibly honest with you, who has told you that you’re ready. That’s the definite way that you know. And if you haven’t done that, you should get on it. You need to work with somebody who is currently or recently has worked at one of the firms, who’s been in an interviewer chair, who’s willing to give you very honest feedback. So it can’t be a family member or a friend, who is likely to temper your feedback. And ideally if you work with them the night before the interview, they’re not gonna want to crush your hopes. So you need to work with them at least a few days before the interview, so that you get an idea of where you really stand.

The second way that you can tell is more of a self diagnosis. Which is that you can do a total of twenty cases, and as you review each one of the cases after doing them, you realize that you would not be scared by any of those problems, if they came up in that form, or in some variation of that form. Once you’ve done 20 cases you’ve covered multiple industries, different kinds of business problems, and there will always be continued variety as you move into the case in the case process. But when you alone are not scared of going into the case interview, that’s the second telltale sign that you are ready.

Question 4: Do I really need to know all the case archetypes?

The next case interview prep question that we get is, “Do I really need to know all the case archetypes?” And that’s a great question. The answer is, “Yes, you do.” But you don’t need to use them, and you should not use them verbatim. Which is why it’s super important that you don’t do 50 cases, using three case archetypes. You’re going to be too restrictive, not creative enough, you’re going to be thrown for an entire loop when you actually have to do something that’s outside the norm or creative inside your case interview.

So you need to know the case archetypes, you need to know what they are, and you need to know their limitations. And we have great videos on case frameworks, and styles of cases, so that you’re able to understand what some of those differences and the nuances are.

Case Prep Question 5: How good at math do I need to be and what kind of math should I prepare for?

The next case interview prep question, is a really good one, “How good at math do I need to be and what kind of math should I prepare for?” Here is a common point of confusion. There are two definitions of mental math inside cases. One definition is the speed of your mental computation when you take away your calculator. And the other one is the ability to derive insights using data. You have to be good at the second. There is a non-negotiable on that. You need to be able to identify how data ties to insights, and you need to be able to do calculations that give you insights. So insights are a non-negotiable.

Speed of calculation without a calculator, is something that you will not have to do regularly on the job. So it’s important to create a level playing field for everyone. That they take away the calculators and Excel and the tools, for the case interview. But you need to be able to calculate any single function inside your interview in 20 seconds or less, without using a calculator or writing down every mechanic between point A and point B. As long as you can do that as long as you can calculate something in 20 seconds or less, you’re going to be in great shape for your case interview.

And we have amazing tools in our mental math course, and our mental math trainings, on site where we work through exactly what you need to know in terms of math.

Question 6: Do I really need expert help?

Now, the final case interview prep question is, “Do I really need expert help?” Going back to what I talked about before. And this is a great question. And here’s the answer, “You do.” You might not have to pay for it, some of you all have a network of people that you work with, somebody who is a former colleague or a friend from school, but if you don’t have someone who has been an interviewer, at the firm ideally, that you’re interviewing with. Or at one of those pure firms or at a firm that is more rigorous in their case interview process than those peer firms, you are risking being blindsided inside your interview.

There is a general sense that reading and thinking in preparation for the interview gives you an inflated sense of confidence. An expert won’t do that for you. So it is critical that you do get expert help in your case interview. Now if you want to work with somebody, we have the best team in the business. We take them through a process where we hand select them, we train them, and we work together to make sure that clients get what they want. There’s no internal competition at Management Consulted. So if you are interested in working with an expert, we would love to work with you.

If you have any other questions about case interview prep, we would love to include them in future videos or answer them directly. So come visit us at Additional resources available from McKinsey, Bain, and BCG as well.

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Filed Under: Case Interview