Our unique case interview preparation approach
Hey, it’s Kris Safarova. And this is Fridays with Firmsconsulting!
In the previous episode we discussed 3 foundational skills you need before you should start learning full cases. If you missed it, go and check it out RIGHT NOW as you need those insights to fully benefit from this episode.
In this episode we will explain the general case interview preparation sequence you need to follow AFTER you have mastered the 3 foundational skills. And this is based on the 509 clients we have placed into McKinsey, BCG and Bain, which is a 68.9% success rate, the highest in the industry.
After you have mastered the 3 foundational skills, the next step is to do very simple profitability cases and only focus on the technique. Ignore speed and communication. Here is an example of such a case. Mary Elizabeth Moss wants to build a lemonade stand in Times Square. But the city of New York wants her to pay a licensing fee, which is quite high. Mary wants to increase her profits. She has come to you for help. Simple right?
Don’t start with complex profitability cases such as General Electric wants you to raise profits in its financing division. It’s too complex and you are not ready for this. Start with a simple case to see if you can apply the 3 foundational skills – estimation, brainstorming and business judgment – in a full case.
Once you feel you understand how to apply these skills do another simple profit case but this time focus on communication, in addition to masterfully applying the 3 foundational skills. Most candidates don’t focus on communication because they think it is not important, and they are just shooting themselves in the foot.
In fact, applicants to our case interview coaching program rarely come to us and say, I failed because my communication was bad. They usually come to us and say, “I failed during case interviews because I was bad in structuring and math”, or something along those lines. Yet we have trained over 500 successful clients and I can tell you that most case interview DISASTERS occur due to poor communication.
The issue is often communication because in most cases either the applicant did not understand what the interviewer was saying and responded incorrectly, or the applicant understood what the interviewer was saying but could not communicate clearly or the applicant just did not have a great way of building rapport with the interviewer and that is why they were declined.
A key insight is that an average applicant with PHENOMENAL communication skills will ALMOST ALWAYS beat a brilliant applicant with average communication skills. Data from over 500 client profiles does not lie.
So HOW do you communicate effectively? It requires a significant MINDSET shift.
You need to go into the case thinking about the interviewer’s needs. That is what you need to do differently. Try to make the case interesting, entertaining and exciting for the interviewer. Begin by asking yourself, “How will I make this an enjoyable experience for the interviewer?”
To most applicants, the interviewer’s experience is just collateral damage. Most candidates act as if the interviewer is obligated to be there. They assume the interviewer is there to sit around and put up with whatever they are going to do. You need to be different. Ask yourself, is this case fun for the interviewer? Am I talking in an enjoyable way? Do I look stressed? Does my demeanor stress out the interviewer? Am I having a conversation with the interviewer? Am I giving the interviewer good insights? Do I take accountability for bringing the right level of enthusiasm and energy to the interview?
Once you get that sequence going of applying the 3 foundational case interview skills to simple profit cases ALONG with better communication techniques, then you can move on to more complex cases.
So what should you do NEXT? The order that we use for most, but not all, of our case interview coaching clients is we start from interviewee-led simple profit cases, then move to more complex profit cases whereby we don’t want to change the price but we only want to increase the volume, called volume-profit cases. This forces clients to learn about market analyses.
We will then move to more complex estimation cases: estimation cases where the size of the market is not demand driven but supply constrained. This is like the very popular Moscow visa case on our website. It never fails to impress clients and teaches them valuable new skills.
We, thereafter, focus on market entry cases using an approach that always impresses interviewers. This is a derivation of the Bain approach.
Then we move to McKinsey-style cases where there is a lot of data given upfront and these are answer-first cases requiring hypotheses built off decision trees.
Next we move to operations cases. Operations cases are difficult. I would say they are more difficult than strategy cases and most clients require more guidance here. Yet they are not common, so do not worry too much about them.
Finally we move to complex profit cases using the cost-volume-profit curve. And here we teach clients some fancy skills. We teach them how to build accurate hypotheses with practically no data and how to quickly analyze the business model and economics of a company. It is NOT an exaggeration to say that if you understood the cost-volume-profit curve and its application, you could solve EVERY SINGLE profit-based case.
If you examine TCO II very carefully, you will realize that ALL the cases COULD be solved using this curve. That is the way we designed TCO II.
Our 68.9% placement rate for McKinsey, BCG and Bain tells you our training philosophy does have IMPORTANT insights that WORK, so consider adjusting your case interview preparation approach to give yourself an EDGE.
And of course you can make sure you DON’T MISS OUT on key case interview techniques we teach by subscribing to The Consulting Offer, our online case interview training program thought exclusively by former strategy consulting partners. It’s a subscription program so you can check it out for one month and if it will not be THE BEST case interview preparation program you have EVER SEEN, and I am pretty sure it will be, you can always unsubscribe, just as easily as you can unsubscribe from Netflix.
Thank you for joining us. If you have any questions or comments or you want to see future episodes where we analyze different aspects of our 509 clients let us know in the comments.
If you enjoyed this conversation I will be so grateful if you jump over to itunes and share a quick review. It helps more people find us.
I look forward to seeing you next time. Until then, go take action. Evaluate you case interview preparation approach and make necessary adjustments. Then do the work. Make your own future.
Here is a fun fact about Firmsconsulting. The oldest associate we ever placed into McKinsey, (drumroll please), was a very charming, helpful and friendly 44 year old PhD from Europe. So its never too late to eat, pray and love. In other words, its never too late to reinvent your life.
Session 2: Starting to Rewrite the Resume
A coach needs to know his/her student. That is why we start with the resume. By asking careful questions about every part of the resume, and we mean every part, not only can we write the resume to build the profile we want to create of the candidate, but we can also understand how the candidate thinks, explains business issues and sees herself/himself. This process allows us to truly understand the candidate versus the simplified, and usually poorly portrayed, information on an A4 sheet of paper. Resume rewriting takes a lot of time, at least 2 to 3 weeks. It is vital that all ambiguous, subjective, technical, jargon and/or industry driven terms are removed. We want English. Moreover, each bullet must be about a single accomplishment and additional data must reflect achievements as well. We will provide substantial edit requests in each session and it is up to the candidate to go back, remove the existing bullet and create a new bullet to address the concerns we have raised. The effort taken by the candidate to do this will ultimately determine the quality of the resume. That said, we will not sign-off on a resume until we believe it has reached the appropriate standards.
Minor and unimportant items such as the GMAT score must be purged. It really concerns us when a candidate believes one of their greatest accomplishments is a GMAT score, especially when consulting firms place so little stock in this measure. GPA is far more important. As a partner, I have never hired someone with a low undergraduate GPA, but several times with a low GMAT score. That is a general rule of thumb.
For effective time-management, Samantha is expected to load new iterations of her resume into her online folder. We provide feedback in the format of a podcast. This ensures we do not lose time due to scheduling conflicts.
In the session descriptions which follow, we are using one description for 4 different candidates. Yet candidates do not perform the same, and while the descriptions are mostly accurate, there will be some differences as a few cases are brought forward, others moved back or candidates fail to prepare adequately. While these differences are minor, they sometimes occur.