The PwC case interview is one of the most intellectually demanding interviews you will encounter at top-tier consulting companies. Part of what makes PwC interviews difficult is that you must drive the case! This means that you, as the candidate, are expected to tell the interviewer what you want to examine next, develop innovative frameworks, discover creative insights, and suggest logical next steps. Take a deep breath before we get started; we’ll provide you with pointers below.
If you can do well in a PwC case interview, then it’s very likely that you will excel in interviews for almost any other consulting firm. This is one of the reasons why we often have candidates start by practicing candidate-led cases, regardless of which firm they’re interested in.
Table of Contents
This article will act as a guide for the following topics:
- An Overview of the PwC Case Study Interview
- What PwC Looks for During Case Studies
- What to Expect in the Different Interview Rounds
- PwC Case Interview Framework
- PwC Case Interview Questions
- PwC Case Interview Examples
- What to Expect in the Fit Interview
- What to Expect if you are Given a Written Case
Overview of the PwC Case Study Interview
PwC interviews can be difficult for several reasons, such as:
At PwC, the candidates take more initiative and there is less direction compared to the interviewer-led style, which is most prominent in McKinsey interviews. In a McKinsey case interview, you are given a set of questions that you answer one by one. However, PwC interviews are much more conversational – the interviewer gives you some guidance instead of telling you the next piece of analysis to conduct.
No two PwC cases are alike. The business problems you could be asked to solve can go from more straightforward inquiries (for example, profitability; enhancing revenue) to very tailored cases (like pricing for pharmaceutical items; distribution strategy). The latter in particular necessitates that you possess keen business intuition.
As a consultant, you will be tasked with using your problem solving skills and creativity to develop original solutions for clients. Many of PwC’s clients are Fortune 500 executives who have already spent millions on bringing in a consulting firm – they want cutting-edge thinking, not regurgitated information. To show off your creativity, extract insights from each piece of the case and don’t be afraid to rely on your own experience and business acumen when recommending solutions.
The PwC case study interview is extremely difficult, so it is key that you understand the essential skills that PwC interviewers are looking for. Once you grasp those skills, you will be on your way to acing the interview.
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Core Skills PwC Is Looking For and Keys To The PwC Case Study Interview
The basic abilities that top-tier consulting firms seek are quite similar. Here are the core abilities required to succeed in a PwC interview:
Conceptual Problem Solving
It’s not enough to develop a solution to a problem. You must first break down a complicated problem into categorized, component parts, and then share the thought process and analysis you conduct to arrive at a solution. Keep reading for tips to showcase your ability to solve problems:
The beginning of the case is your chance to determine how you will approach the problem (a.k.a., build a framework). For PwC, the framework should be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive (MECE) so that your approach is easy to follow, your analysis is sound, and you’re examining everything you need to to solve the problem. Your approach must be unique; using a canned framework that doesn’t address the prompt won’t make a good impression on PwC (to learn more about frameworks, see our guide).
It’s crucial to explain the “why” for each category you create as well as any emerging hypotheses about why that category is important to examine. For example, if you’re trying to figure out why a CPG firm’s earnings are down, one place to start is with revenue and how it varies by channel over time versus competitors. Given the growth of DTC consumer brands (e.g., Honest Company) and people’s desires to buy more specialty goods, one hypothesis is that your client is losing share to ecommerce.
Furthermore, while working on short timelines with high expectations, it is essential to be able to prioritize which areas you would like to focus on. Understanding where you need to focus more of your time and analysis is critical in the case and on the job.
Second Level Insights
Top candidates offer more robust, deeper, and a higher number of insights after each quantitative and qualitative piece of the case. It isn’t enough to state the surface-level takeaways (i.e., what the number is) – that’s table stakes. Next, you must tell the interviewer what the implications are for the client now, as well as what you want to examine next. Furthermore, when developing an insight, utilize all of the information you have acquired through the case up until that point to connect the pieces together.
For example, if the data from the previous example shows that your client is losing share due to e-commerce competitors, possible second and third level insights could be: “Since more consumers are shopping online, we could refocus on our ecommerce operations by ensuring our product mix and pricing make sense for the space. Next, I’d like to confirm my assumptions by identifying what sets competitors’ e-commerce offerings apart.”
You could also take the case a different direction: “Our customers find the digital experience clunky (e.g., limited coordination between mobile and online activity), and our product is not differentiated enough to make them put up with the inconvenience. So, we can differentiate our product offerings (either through new product introduction or acquiring a smaller brand with a strong consumer following) or update the online experience. Ideally, we’ll do both, but I’d like to determine which should take priority.”
It is not necessary (or expected) to arrive at the “correct” answer during an interview, but it is critical that your conclusions and takeaways be logical and data-backed. If you discover during the interview that your client is cash-strapped, you shouldn’t recommend they acquire a competitor (how would they pay for it?). Furthermore, demonstrating business judgment rather than implying that your idea is the only right answer can be done through making a nuanced suggestion.
For example, if you are suggesting that the client outsource components of their supply chain, it is crucial to pinpoint the financial repercussions and some potential risks (e.g., reduced quality; delayed turnaround; lacking control over the process). An excellent candidate will also discuss additional implications of outsourcing (e.g., tariffs; currency exchange; geopolitical instability; PR / reputation).
Your math skills will be put to the test during through verbal, chart, and graph math questions. You will have to demonstrate an ability to do quick calculations, interpret visual data, and drive to insights. This ability to do ‘back of the envelope’ math is especially important in the real world when talking with clients and needing to give ballpark estimates in meetings.
For example, your client wishes to assess how much income a certain project might produce. It will be your duty to quickly size up the initiative and determine whether it is a $1 million, $10 million, or $100 million opportunity. This part of the PwC case also measures if you have the intuition to know whether you need to supply a precise answer versus an order of magnitude approximation.
Ability To Push The Case Forward
Being able to push a problem-solving process forward is one of the Analyst and Associate’s key skills. Analysts and Associates are responsible for their own workstream, identifying what needs to be assessed in detail, as well as proposing next steps. The case interview tests your ability to “follow the thread” until you come to a resolution.
PwC’s case interview structure, therefore, is set up to see if you can be hypothesis-driven and propose logical next steps – even if they are incorrect. In PwC’s eyes, candidates that stand out in this conversational style excel at proposing (and providing a rationale for) a problem-solving approach. “If you want to succeed in a PwC case, you must know how to extract value on your own,” warns MC CEO Jenny Rae. Candidates that wait until the interviewer tells them what to look at next will have difficulties performing well in these interviews.
Another essential skill to exhibit in the case interview is communication. Being a good communicator includes being adept at:
As you begin an answer, it’s critical to start with the key takeaway and then back up your points with supporting evidence. Assume you’re in a PwC case interview and as a final recommendation want to suggest that the PE client acquire a direct-to-consumer startup. You might phrase your answer as follows: “Our client should purchase the DTC firm for three important reasons, which are:
- Market environment: The target plays in a multi-billion dollar market that is expanding at 10% per year. While there are five to ten major competitors, the target’s product is more popular with customers, as seen by the target’s greater Amazon reviews.
- Customer retention: The target has a loyal customer base with ~70% returning for more purchases, as well as a tremendous social media following of over 100,000 people on Instagram.
- Financial returns: In the best-case scenario, our client can double its money in five years or less. This already meets the client’s expectations. Plus, there is more potential for return that we didn’t even factor into our analysis.”
Effective communication starts with the key takeaway first. Utilizing the Minto Pyramid Principle helps to keep your communication clear and persuasive by leading with the punchline. For more information on how to become a better top-down communicator, please click here.
Top-down communication is complemented by structured communication. When navigating a case interview, you should compartmentalize your responses into buckets or categories. Whether you’re presenting a framework or brainstorming ideas, categorize your answers so that the interviewer can follow your thought process.
The best consultants don’t get mired in every last detail. It is critical that you learn how to distill and communicate the key takeaways, as well as the big picture conclusions from your case analysis. You want to convey your ideas in a succinct and effective way (rather than word vomiting).
One of the goals of a PwC case interview is for the firm to identify if you possess the executive presence to be in a client-facing role. The following skills can help you improve the way you present:
It’s crucial to not blurt out your answers and then talk too fast (which can happen when you’re nervous!). To help, remind yourself to pause and take a deep breath as you speak.
Keep your voice at an even tone and avoid raising it at the end of sentences.
PwC has compiled some tips for candidates preparing for the case interview here.
What To Expect In A PwC Case Interview
PwC Case Interview Timeline
The PwC interview timeline may vary depending on where you are applying and what type of position you are interviewing for. In general, the entire process takes 4-6 weeks and consists of an application, two rounds of interviews, and feedback in between. After your final interview, you should hear back within 7-10 days about whether or not you have an offer. For more details on each round, see below:
The PwC application is similar to MBB and other Big 4 applications. You must generally submit your resume and a cover letter. Make sure the resume is consulting-specific and the cover letter is PwC-specific before submitting the application.
The first round is generally 1.5 hours, made up of 2, 45-minute interviews. Each interview will include both fit questions and a case, with time set aside for additional queries at the conclusion. The case is usually the longest section of the interview (20-30 minutes)
PwC emphasizes providing feedback to candidates who pass the first round. After all, the firm has invested a lot of time and money into you as a candidate already by this point – they want you to clear the final hurdle and land an offer!
After the first interviews, you can expect some high level feedback on your strengths and gap areas. It is important that during your preparation for the second set of interviews (or other consulting interviews), you focus mainly on these development objectives. For professional help and guidance, work with one of our ex-MBB coaches today!
The second round, which is typically 2-3 weeks after your initial interviews, is conducted by more senior members of the firm (i.e., Engagement Managers, Partners). The format of the second round is similar to that of the first – the interviews are made up of fit questions and a case. Keep in mind that in the second round of interviews, the behavioral portion of the interview makes up 50% of your score. However, for certain offices, you will also be asked to complete a written case interview.
PwC Case Interview Framework
One of the most crucial keys to success in a PwC case interview is to develop a strong framework. This provides you with a strong roadmap that you can follow to answer the case prompt. In addition, you demonstrate to the interviewer that you are able to take a problem, discern root causes, and categorize your analysis. A majority of widely used frameworks (e.g., Porter’s 5 Forces) cannot be applied directly to the case’s problem statement. Consequently, the PwC interviewee’s framework must be different and created specifically for the case at hand.
PwC Case Interview Questions
PwC case interview questions cover a broad range of topics. Why? Because for most roles, the firm isn’t testing you for subject matter expertise, but rather, for problem-solving ability, communication skills, structure, and business acumen. With two example cases on its website, PwC is a great starter resource for those preparing for interviews.
Example Case 1
Distribution strategy for cereal manufacturer: “Our client specializes in sugar cereals traditionally distributed through grocery stores. Sales to Big M Mart, a discount chain, have been growing at 15 percent per year, and the chain has recently become the largest distributor of the client’s product nationwide. We are here to help evaluate the distribution strategy in light of Big M Mart’s growth.”
Example Case 2
Growth strategy for medical devices and services company: “Your client is GenCo, a large, international, diversified company with a health care division that produces a wide variety of medical instruments and related services. The parent company produces medical devices and services, but before the acquisition was not involved in health care software. The company it purchased, MedCount, sells only administrative systems software to large hospitals. It is now looking for opportunities to increase revenues.”
An additional example below is from Management Consulted. You can watch a video of the candidate solving this case here.
Pharma Commercial Strategy: “Your client is a pharmaceutical company that is ready to launch a new drug. It’s a drug for severe asthma, essentially the same as what is in the market today. It’s better, stronger, faster, and can treat severe cases that are not properly treated with today’s medicine. The drug is seen as a breakthrough. The client is planning to launch this drug in Canada. They’re coming to you to determine how they should price the drug. What would you need to explore to determine a good price?”
PwC Behavioral / Fit Questions
The behavioral/fit questions at PwC are more similar to Bain’s fit questions than McKinsey’s. You’ll be asked questions about your suitability for PwC and how your background and skills match the company’s culture. The following are some examples of typical inquiries:
- Why consulting?
- Why PwC?
- Tell me about a time you faced adversity
- Tell me about a time you used an unconventional approach to solve a problem
- Tell me about a time you worked on a team
- Tell me about a situation where you were responsible for others
- PwC Case Interview Preparation
- PwC Case Interview Examples
PwC case interviews may address a variety of subjects in a number of industries. Watch the video below to see what a PwC case interview might look like, when Management Consulted Coach and ex-BCG consultant Ryan Smith interviews a consulting applicant.
A few key elements to note while watching the video:
- The conversational element of the case (as opposed to the command and control style that you would see in McKinsey cases).
- The candidate’s framework is concise and easy to follow. For example, pay attention to the inclusion of hypotheses on why each bucket was important to look at, as well as proposing which bucket to look at first.
- The candidate used the framework throughout the case to stay organized and continue driving the case forward.
For more PwC case interview samples, please see the Management Consulted Case Library.
PwC Case Interview Practice
The best way to prepare for a PwC case interview is to practice out-loud as much as possible! Then, practice some more! Live practice will help you understand the flow of a PwC case, simulate the interview environment, and identify your weaknesses. From here, you’ll be able to drill your weaknesses through resources like our math drills.
The most effective live practice is with an expert. If you’re able to, you should sign up for 1:1 case coaching with one of our ex-MBB coaches. For the best case preparation assistance, sign up for Black Belt. Your coach will assess where you’re at, build a prep plan according to what you need, give incisive feedback, and run mock cases until you’re ready for the interview. In addition, Black Belt includes a live group training on case structures, case math, and a live case walkthrough.
PwC Interview Variations
PwC Written Case Interview
It’s not out of the realm of possibility to have to face down a PwC written case interview before you land an offer. In a written case, you receive a packet of data (usually 40 pages). You’ll be given 1-2 hours to go through the documents and develop a presentation (often 3-5 slides) on your key findings. Some advice for performing well in the PwC written case interview:
- Include an executive summary with your key takeaways at the beginning of the presentation to demonstrate your synthesis skills and prioritization ability.
- Spend time early creating a storyboard for your presentation, similar to how you would develop a framework in a verbal case interview. This will help you maximize your time and focus your analysis.
- Always end with clear next steps.
See Management Consulted’s guide to the written case interview.
If you want to work for PwC, you’ll need to prepare for the case interview. In fact, we recommend at least six weeks of preparation time. So, start your prep with our free case interview course. If you need assistance, book an hour or two of 1:1 coaching with a professional coach. Best of luck!
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