You’re going through a case interview and out of the corner of your eye, you notice the interviewer furiously taking notes. You start to sweat a little – what’s she writing? Is it good or bad? Am I saying the right things? If you have ever gone through a case interview, you know how nerve wracking it can be. You are trying to showcase your competency while analyzing a complex problem to convince a really smart person you just met that you can be an outstanding consultant. Interviewers are purposefully hard to read and it is difficult to tell what they are thinking. To help shed some light on an interviewer’s perspective inside the case interview, we are sharing case interview secrets compiled from our many years of interviewing aspiring consultants.
Case Interview Secrets: Interviewer Perspectives
We Cringe When We See Candidates Try to Force Fit Frameworks
If you think memorizing frameworks and applying them to the cases you see is enough to land you an offer – sorry to break the bad news! Candidates often forget that the consultants interviewing them went through a similar case interview prep process. Case In Point, Crack the Case, Porter’s 5 Forces, 4 P’s, 5 C’s – you name it, we’ve seen it. That may not be a case interview secret, but it’s no less important!
When working through a case, do your best to make your framework as specific to the client’s objective as possible. Sometimes this might simply mean mixing and matching categories from frameworks that you’ve studied. Other times, you might need to come up with a completely new bucket in your framework that you’ve never used or practiced before.
Furthermore, it’s important to be able to adapt your framework as the case goes on. Chances are, the framework you set up at the start won’t include everything you need to successfully crack the case. You’ll need to be flexible on the job as a consultant when new data is provided, so we like to see candidates who can think on the fly and adjust their frameworks as needed.
We’re Paying Attention to Your Persona Just as Much as Your Intellect
The way you carry yourself in a case interview is extremely important. Consultants work with high level management teams on a consistent basis, so we’re evaluating whether we would feel comfortable putting you in front of a client.
Make sure you are on your A game from the start. Everything from your handshake to your smile to the confidence in your voice matters. You’ll earn extra bonus points if you can maintain your personality or even make your interviewer laugh (with an appropriate joke).
One of the biggest case interview secrets is not a secret at all – at the end of the day, we’re all people. Consulting interviewers evaluate for both competence and personality.
Sometimes We Purposefully Try to Stress You Out
Before you think there’s any bad intent here: we don’t do this because we like seeing candidates squirm with anxiety (well, most of us anyway). Interviewers ask difficult questions because clients ask difficult questions!
If we see candidates who freak out in an interview setting, chances are they’ll freak out in a client setting. That’s why we ask questions like “what else can you think of?” multiple times even when it’s clear that you’ve already provided five great options.
Knowing this case interview secret will be helpful in your interviews. Don’t worry if you’re getting increasingly challenging questions that force you to stretch your business creativity. Interviewers are just trying to see how you react, so maintain your poise and confidence under all circumstances. In fact, the harder we push you, the better we think you are performing!
We Don’t Mind if You Take a Little Bit of Extra Time at the Beginning of a Case
Candidates are often anxious to get started on a case right away – after all, they want to show they are quick thinkers! After networking, crafting a perfect resume, and practicing tons of cases, you’ve finally made it to the interview, so it makes sense!
However, with all that work you’ve put in, it would be a shame to have it all go to waste because you didn’t take enough time at the start of a case. Though speed is important in consulting, thoughtful work is a higher priority.
At the start of your case, make sure you fully understand the context surrounding the client’s problem. If you don’t understand anything about what the client does, it’s imperative for you to get that clarification. Take your time at the start of the case and be crystal clear on what you’re working towards, and your interviewer will be impressed.
We Don’t Expect You to Get Everything Right
A little known case interview secret is that you’re allowed to make mistakes. Because of the high caliber of competition at consulting firms, it’s easy to think that you have to be perfect. The truth is, however, that you can make a math mistake, set up an incomplete framework, and still land an offer.
With that said, you do need to get the important things right. If you make a math error, you need to be able to quickly fix it and adjust your thinking. If you missed something in your framework, you need to be able to catch that and adjust your framework on the fly.
Consultants on the job aren’t perfect either – they make mistakes and need to adjust accordingly. Perfection isn’t required to land an offer – so focus on being relaxed, and trust that your preparation has been adequate enough. Not sure if that’s the case? Join Black Belt today – 60% of Black Belts land offers at Top 10 firms.