Group case interviews are all the rage as firms like EY expand their use in the consulting interview process. Case interviews are the dreaded and most challenging parts of a consulting interview, but they are typically conducted in a one-on-one context. Most candidates focus all their prep on these individual interviews. However, candidates should also start preparing for the group case interview.
Let’s dive into how group cases are different from traditional interviews, how they’re the same, and how to effectively prepare.
What is a Group Case Interview?
A group case interview is exactly what it sounds like: a case study solved with a group of competing candidates. Underscore the use of the word ‘with’ in the previous sentence, as that is pivotal to understanding the entire exercise. That can often be the deciding factor in the end.
The idea behind group case interviews is to mimic the reality of problem solving in consulting. A consultant almost never works alone. Most consulting engagements are staffed by teams of 4-6 and the business problem is solved by a collective of consultants led by Managers and/or Partners.
Teams are often composed of strangers, each with different personalities. Thus, it becomes critical for interviewers to not only evaluate a candidate for his/her problem-solving skills, but also for the interpersonal skills the candidate brings to the table.
This means that, even though you are solving a group case with competitors for the same job, you must work in a collaborative way throughout your group case interview. Your job is not to make others look bad – it’s to showcase you know how to lead, collaborate, inspire, and contribute toward the achievement of a common goal.
Group Case Study Interview Examples
Let’s look at an example of a group case study interview and how it might play out.
Our client is a company suffering from declining profitability. The prompt is presented to a group of 3-6 eager candidates. There are two ways (or formats) to evaluate the candidates – either via interviews, or presentations.
In the interview format, the candidates, after being provided with the prompt, are allowed some time (usually 15-20 minutes) to discuss the case. Because the interviewer is observing the process, the candidates will need to soon bring order to a potentially chaotic discussion. In such a high-pressure environment, it is easy to start going back and forth without fitting your conversation within a defined structure. A candidate is not only trying to solve the case, he/she is also trying to work ‘with,’ and not ‘against’ the other team members.
Once the discussion is over, the interviewer may take charge and ask the group a set of questions to move the case ahead. The trick here is to use the initial time to come to a set of conclusive answers that can form a narrative when the interviewer starts asking questions.
In case of the presentation format, which is generally used when there is no paucity of time, the candidates are again divided into groups of 3-6. Once the case prompt is provided, the candidates will have about 1 hour (this can change depending upon the firm) to develop a short presentation outlining their recommendation, key insights, and the process used to arrive at them. A presentation template may or may not be provided.
After the scheduled time, the candidates present their deck to the interviewer, followed by a round of questions.
Irrespective of the format of the group case study, the skills tested remain the same:
- Business acumen
- Problem-solving skills
- Collaborative spirit
- Ability to lead/coordinate with the group
- Ability to communicate effectively with peers and the “client” (interviewer)
How to Prepare for Group Case Interviews
Most preparation for group case interviews is the same as normal case interview prep (AKA out-loud practice with a partner). One preparation tip that is specific to group interviews: practice with a group! Get a few peers together and go through a case.
In addition, build up your communication and teamwork skills via your current context: consulting club on campus, your job, even your housemates. These people skills are critical to succeeding in the group case interview and life on the job.
Important Points to Keep in Mind for Group Case Studies
As mentioned earlier, the most important facet of group case studies for consulting is the collaboration. For candidates, it is vital to go into the exercise with a mindset towards collaboration, not competition.
It is also important for the candidate to make sure that he/she is contributing to the discussion and helping shape the narrative of the answer. Make sure the group is hypothesis-driven, and bring the conversation back to a defined problem-solving approach if it starts to veer off course. These are the kinds of leadership skills consulting firms are looking for.
As in any case study, maintaining structure and asking questions that will help solve the client’s problem are of prime importance. Don’t be the one in the group who asks questions for the sake of asking them, or conducts unnecessary analysis. Stay focused on what is most important and tie your work (and the group’s work) back to solving the initial question being asked! More than one candidate within the group or no one within the group may get an offer.
Which Firms Typically Use Group Interviews?
PwC, Deloitte, and EY are known to utilize the group interview format. In addition, Analysis Group, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and ZS Associates have also been known to surprise candidates with a group case interview at some point in the interview process.
The group case interview is gaining more popularity as candidate evaluation evolves, so you must be prepared. Group case interviews are an opportunity to demonstrate your executive presence, communication/leadership skills, and ability to add value to any team you are staffed on. We trust the above group case study interview examples help you in your prep process. Our team of MBB coaches has years of experience preparing people for group case interviews. Work with us today.
- Case Interview: Complete Prep Guide
- Interpersonal Communication: What Is It?
- Key Leadership Competencies For Consulting & Management
- Expert Case Coaching