A question we frequently get from readers is, “Where should I start if I have no experience with case studies or case interviews?” It’s a great question, and we’re all too happy to provide a list of recommendations. If you’ve set your course toward a consulting career but are worried about having little to no experience with case interviews or case studies, keep reading for where to start!
Where to Start with Case Interview Prep
Where to start if you have no case interview experience? We recommend first going through 3-5 cases by yourself. Utilize our free Case of the Month or look into our Consulting Case Library (Directory) for 500+ practice cases. The cases you practice with should represent a spectrum of problem types you might encounter in your interview. For example, some mergers and acquisitions cases, some profitability cases, some market study cases, and some market sizing cases. Variety is important because you can familiarize yourself with the patterns that exist amongst case interview types.
How to Prep for Your Case Interview Like a Pro
After you’ve gone through 3-5 cases by yourself, do a case live with a partner. A friend or colleague will work, but an expert is much preferred if you have the option. We can’t speak highly enough the value of investing in an expert coach. Working with an expert early in your prep journey will help you pinpoint specific weaknesses. It’s important to get case practice with targeted feedback from a coach who knows about case interviews. You can then develop a plan to specifically address those weaknesses in your prep (i.e. doing specific math drills or nailing down your structuring).
This drill-based prep accelerates your progress. It’s the way to work smarter and not just harder.
After you’ve conducted drill-based practice to level-set your weak areas, put it all together and begin doing full mock cases – again, preferably with an expert. Some of you may have been utilizing LOMS, which offers great case interview examples. However, the bulk of your improvement will come with out-loud practice. We recommend practicing a minimum of 20 cases, although 30-50 is typical for candidates who land an offer. However, the golden rule is always quality practice > quantity practice.
What Not To Do In Case Interview Prep
Competing for an offer from a top-notch consulting firm is not for the weak of heart. On average, only 3% of candidates will land an offer. There’s not a lot of margin for error, so let’s touch on what not to do when prepping for case interviews.
Don’t feverishly read every blog and consume all the interview prep materials ever created. Yes, watch a few case interview videos on YouTube, but not 57 of them. You learn by doing, not necessarily reading or watching. Some information is useful, but there is a point where you’ll run into the law of diminishing returns.
Don’t do 1,000 practice cases on your own. While this might seem contradictory to what we just said, without a direction to shoot in (i.e. targeted feedback from a coach), it really is like shooting in the dark. We know it can be tempting to think that this is the best way to prep, and while it can be partially effective, this method will not ultimately get you to where you need to be in case interview readiness.
Helpful Tips for Case Interview Prep
Utilize these pointers to make the most of your case interview prep time.
Structure > The “Right” Answer
In your case interview, McKinsey, Bain, BCG et al. aren’t looking for you to get to the right answer – in most cases, there is none! Consulting firms are looking for how you approach a problem. They want to see how you think by creating a logical structure for the problem at hand and getting to a good answer. Structure, structure, structure!
Use A Hypothesis-Driven Approach
If you want to land a consulting offer with MBB or any other top firm, you won’t get there without a hypothesis-driven approach. Welcome to the life of a consultant! From the get-go in your case interview, you need to be testing a hypothesis about what you believe is the solution for your client. As you work through a case, you will constantly test your hypothesis and revise it as you are provided with new data. The goal is to provide a strong recommendation at the end of your interview, backed up with two or three supporting reasons based on the data in the case. It all starts with a hypothesis.
Insight > Robot-Level Calculations
Doing the right calculations – and getting the business insight from the numbers – is always more important than being accurate to the last decimal place. There is a reason you are being asked to do calculations – to understand what the numbers mean for your client. The only slight exception is McKinsey, where you can only round to the 1s place during an interview. You can round, however, at the final step of a math problem in a McKinsey case interview.
With everything you’re learning about case interviews, we know it’s easy to get bogged down with the details of it all. But keep in mind why you’re pursuing consulting in the first place and don’t forget to have fun along the way! All of your hard work will pay off in a big, big way.
Prepping for a case interview with no experience can be a daunting task. We hope we’ve given you some helpful tips for where to start with your prep. If you need expert help in your interview prep, look into our Black Belt program. The program includes over 8 hours of interview coaching! And we’ll build a customized plan and execute on it to prepare you for the case interview. You’ll also get access to a bank of 500 practice cases, dozens of walkthrough videos, and unlimited math drills. Leave no stone unturned on your journey into management consulting!
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