Practicing case interviews is arguably the most important part of successfully preparing for a management consultant interview. At the top consulting firms, competition is fierce. Watching videos and reading books can be helpful, but at the end of the day, it’s out-loud practice that sets apart successful and unsuccessful candidates.
The crucial difference-maker is almost always which applicants have completed the most effective preparation for the case interview. One aspect (but an important one!) of effective case interview prep is the use of case interview practice partners. We’ll get there, but first, let’s introduce practice case interviews.
Introduction To Practice Case Interviews
Most applicants don’t like to waste time. Unfortunately, that means that many applicants don’t start preparing until they have an interview scheduled. Typically, that will only leave you 3-7 days to study. For most people, that is not enough time to adequately prepare and get a leg up on the competition.
Tip: invest a significant amount of time in doing case interview prep. Practice makes perfect and know that your competition will be practicing case interviews.
Successful new hires report studying dozens of case interview practice cases in advance of their interview. Treat this process the same way you would treat studying for finals or the GMAT – the more time you allow yourself to prepare, the better off you’ll be. But there’s a crucial difference here, in that this is not a proctored written exam! Ideally, you will have several weeks or even a few months to study and get ready for the actual interviews, including practicing these conversations out loud with a partner.
Keep reading for tips to structure your study process for the case interviews. We’ll also take a more in-depth look at how to prepare for a Bain case interview in particular. Bain is one of the top consulting firms in the world and their case interview process is unique. We’ll also explore whether you should practice case interviews with a partner and provide some ideas for how to practice cases.
How To Practice For Case Interviews
The most important resource in your Case Interview preparation is going to be working through quality practice cases. There is a huge selection of these available, so be sure to take practice cases from a trusted source. Many consulting firms offer some sample cases for free on their websites. Real, past case interview problems, as well as expert-designed practice cases, are also available from trusted consulting education companies like yours truly.
Choose A Variety Of Practice Cases
The practice cases you use should represent a variety of different case interview problem types. This should include add capacity cases, investment cases, math problems, new products, profitability cases, new business cases, business expansion cases, market sizing cases, and others. This way you’ll be sure that you’re prepared for any kind of scenario you face in your actual case interview, whether it be with Bain, BCG, McKinsey, Deloitte, or a top boutique like Advancy or L.E.K.
Practice Working With Different Frameworks
You don’t want to be surprised by a situation you could have easily prepared for, but at some point, studying different frameworks will offer diminishing returns. Focus on mastering a couple specific frameworks that work for you, which you can then modify to fit unfamiliar scenarios in your interview. Good, flexible frameworks to familiarize yourself with include the mergers & acquisitions framework, the market study framework, and the profitability framework. But remember, if all else fails, common simple structures could help you get started in a difficult case. You could start by suggesting that you want to look at the situation from an internal and external perspective, for example.
Variety Also Applies To The Kinds Of Practice Case Materials You’re Working With
Practice cases come in many shapes and sizes, from video demonstrations to physical books of practice cases, to electronic case banks. You’ll probably find that electronic practice case libraries offer the most workability, but it can be good to explore other sources too. Different people have different learning styles and having a well-rounded practice regimen can make you a well-rounded interviewee.
How To Practice For A Bain Case Interview
If you’re looking to land a job at a world-class management consulting firm, Bain is sure to be on your list. But Bain has some unique criteria by which it judges its applicants. Let’s take a closer look at what you should focus on in your Bain case interview practice. In terms of structure, Bain applicants can go through up to four rounds of interviews before being hired. Some early rounds may involve written case problems before applicants move on to a case interview with one or two interviewers. These interviews get more interactive and gradually involve more challenges, complexities, and interruptions from the Bain interviewers.
As Jenny Rae Le Roux, a former Bain interviewer, notes, Bain looks for very specific things. First, the firm looks for energy – interviewers want to see applicants who walk into the room smiling, confident, and immediately ready to go. Bain interviewers are looking for applicants they themselves want to work with. So, in your Bain Case interview be sure to make the interviewers feel comfortable collaborating with and challenging you. You should also focus on the integration of different skills in your Bain case interview practice, as Bain does not score different case sections separately as other firms do. Also, as part of your practice, be sure to focus on time management. Bain allows their consultants unparalleled freedom. The ability to organize and manage your time as you approach the problems in your case interview is crucial to getting hired at Bain.
Should I Use A Case Interview Practice Partner?
It seems like the answer to “Should I use a case interview practice partner?” is obvious: that working with a partner is preferable to working alone. We agree. After all, the case interview itself centers on a dialogue with other people, right? It’s true that working with a partner is immensely helpful.
For example, there is a major difference between reading through a case and solving it in your head (an okay approach at the beginning) vs. talking through it out loud by yourself under time pressure, and self-grading your structure and solution (a slightly better approach). Even better would be to record yourself (think Zoom, MS Teams, etc.) and then watch it back. It can be a helpful early look to see how you come across when you’re thinking and talking!
Better still is engaging in a 1:1 setting with another person. This is the best approach purely from the perspective of replicating the actual case interview environment. A good case interview partner can give you useful feedback on your performance in the case.
There is also a lot to be gained by learning to approach case interview practice cases from the interviewer’s perspective. You’ll get a sense for how the interviewer might lead and prod you in one direction or another. Of course, collaboration like this also doubles your time investment – you and your partner both must interview each other, and your partner must be wise enough to give you the feedback you need.
So, working with a case interview partner is always a worthy investment, right? Not so fast. The merit of case interview practice partners is far more nuanced because the quality of each interaction varies so widely. Factors that influence the quality of a case interview partner depend on the partner’s case experience, business acumen, understanding of case interviews, emotional intelligence, and ability to give constructive feedback. In some cases, having the wrong partner can detract from your case interview skills.
Prepping with other applicants offers no guarantee of their expertise – it can be a lot like the blind leading the blind. If your partner has limited – or no – case interview experience, working with them is probably not a good use of your time.
In fact, even casing with a newly hired consultant doesn’t guarantee an A+ case experience, because being able to effectively deliver a case is very different from being good at solving cases yourself. A well-meaning but inexperienced case partner may tell you that your structure is robust enough and using a framework isn’t worth it (wrong). Or, they might say that you must force fit all responses into one of a few frameworks that the interviewer will be looking for (also wrong).
At the end of the day, the best solution is to find someone who has been successful in the case interview process and has delivered numerous cases, whether to friends/colleagues, or as a consultant involved in the recruiting process as an interviewer for their firm. If you have an acquaintance who already landed an internship at MBB or is finishing up their first year in the job, they will probably be a helpful partner. Your friend also recruiting at the same time as you may not be the best case interview practice partner. Try searching your extended network, including friends of friends and colleagues of colleagues, or joining an online group (see MC’s group for FREE partner practice). Some may be willing to help out of the kindness of their heart (if so, make sure to buy them a cup of coffee or their favorite adult beverage as a way of saying “thanks!”).
While you don’t have to invest any money to find a reasonable practice partner, for a guaranteed return on your investment, working with an expert coach is the ideal solution. Coaches can charge upwards of $1,000 an hour, but we offer far more affordable case interview coaching options, including our signature case prep program, Black Belt. Working with a trained, established interview coach who’s been there and done that may end up being one of the wisest investments you make in your career.
Where Can You Find Practice Case Interviews?
Now you know what it takes to prepare, whether for Bain case interview practice or a regular case interview. The next step is to get to work setting up your interview prep routine. Establishing a consistent routine takes all the guesswork and admin time out of the studying process, so you can maximize your efficiency. Once you get organized, you’ll be ready to start working with actual case interview practice cases. And if you’re ready to work with an expert case interview partner, consider signing up for a session with a former MBB consultant on our team today.
Now you know what it takes to prepare, whether for Bain case interview practice or another firm’s case interview. The next step is to get to work setting up your interview prep routine. Establishing a consistent routine takes all the guesswork and admin time out of the studying process, so you can maximize your efficiency. Once you get organized, you’ll be ready to start working out loud with actual case interview practice cases. And if you’re ready to work with an expert case interview partner, sign up for a session with a former MBB consultant on our team today.
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