Inside HBS

Harvard Business School, MBA Blog

Inside HBS header image 2

Consulting Case interviews

January 26th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

Interviews are a week away and I’m already intimidated.  I was fortunate enough to be invited for interviews at each of the top 3 consulting firms: McKinsey, BCG, and Bain (along with a few others).  Which wouldn’t be so bad – I have a decent presence and can tell good leadership, influence, and teamwork stories like the rest of them, but the consulting interview is a different beast entirely. 

McKinsey Logo

BCG Logo

Bain Logo

It’s called the “case interview”.  Firms like this didn’t recruit at my undergrad, but it seems to be something a bit more common at Ivy-class colleges.  Instead of just checking out the cut of your suit, developing rapport, and listening to your prepared stories, case method interviews try to figure out how quickly & effectively you can think.  The recruiter spends 30 second laying out a situation, kind of like this: 

Our client is a private equity firm that has recently acquired a struggling shoe manufacturer.  They design and manufacture shoes for the US market and have recently been experiencing declining profits.  They would like to increase profitability while tripling the size of the business.  How would you diagnose the declining profitability and what growth strategies would you recommend they pursue?

Then they stare at you.  And you’re supposed to spend the next 45 minutes trying to figure out how to setup the problem, what questions to ask, and what recommendations you’d give.  The interviewer often has charts and data available, but you have to ask the right questions to be given them.

In the end, I really think it’s just about being smart and thinking quickly, but there are DOZENS of courses over the next week that try to familiarize you with the process, help you memorize frameworks, etc… 

I think there’s definite value in practicing (after all, there are only so many business problems that you can talk about and diagnose in 45 minutes), but I just haven’t had the drive to prepare lately.  It’s intimidating to know that some of my peers have been preparing 3 cases / day for months now!  That’s a crazy level of preparation, but what else do you expect from HBS kids?  I have a few practice case interviews set up this week (with the Big 3 firms & classmates), but it won’t get me anywhere near the level of some people!

Maybe I should just skip this stressful mess and stick with industry?

Tags: ·····

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Alex

    Thanks for posting the details on the consulting interviews and on grad school life in general, very helpful to those of us contemplating the jump from the working world.

  • Top 10 Case Interview Tips

    […] be nice to give back with a few bits of advice for others trying to decide how best to prepare for consulting case interviews.  I went to a bunch of the sessions provided by the consulting club & career services […]

Leave a Comment