Consulting Case Study Write Up

Question about a Written Case Interview:

I have made the second round interview at a consulting firm. I was expecting to have a case interview face-to-face, however I have been advised in this round the format will be a written case where I need to prepare a powerpoint presentation from a large amount of reports, but will not present it.

In further rounds, there will be a standard case format. Do you have any advice on how to approach this style, given I have been preparing for a non-written format? The feedback they gave me in the first round as well, was I need to be more concise with my answers.

Therefore there is pressure to extract the right information in this round to confirm to them I can be more concise.

My Reply:

The process is not that much different. Instead of verbal conclusions, you write it down. The key part is a written case forces you to decide on your main point and makes it impossible to just talk in a roundabout way (which is possible in a verbal format). Here are a few articles on how to best prepare:

In terms of your conclusions, a good way to practice is to read a business magazine and write an executive briefing for each article. Not a summary of what the article said, but instead, articulate the implications of the article for an imaginary client.

Good luck!

Additional Resources

If you found this post useful, I suggest becoming a registered member (it's free) to get access to the materials I used to pass 60 out of 61 case interviews, land 7 job offers, and end up working at McKinsey.

Members get access to 6 hours of video tutorials on case interviews, the actual frameworks I used to pass my interviews, and over 500 articles on case interviews.

To get access to these free resources, just fill out the form below:

Note: All registrations require you to confirm your email address.
Please type your email address carefully, entering your email also subscribes you to my Case Secrets Email Newsletter.

Jan 7, 2013

Tagged as:case interview preparation, written case interview

This approach will allow you to crack any type of case study

Solving a case in a case interview is not very different from the approach a consultant uses in real life to solve clients' problems. You will need to:

  • Develop an exhaustive structure that will guide you throughout the case interview efficiently. The structure ideally will tell you where to look for the solution of the problem
  • Develop a hypothesis early on and prioritize the information you need to gather. Apply the 80/20 rule to figure out which answer to what question will have the biggest impact on the case solution (80/20 rule or Pareto Principle);
  • Gather data and know why you need the information and what conclusions can you draw which would ultimately help you get to the solution

In a case interview, your only source for data is the Interviewer. Hence, it is important that you establish an open bi-directional communication and obviously your rapport with the interviewer is very important.

Make sure you ask for only relevant information and ideally let the interviewer know why you need a particular piece of data, be as open and transparent in your thought process as possible, and think out loud to let the interviewer know your thinking process including your current hypothesis.

The Interviewer will likely provide verbal information or charts based on your questions.

The foundation for a successful case is set at the beginning so follow these steps religiously during your interview practice

1. Restate the question and make sure you understand the problem statement by confirming with the interviewer

Understand the problem really well before structuring or asking for data. Do not simply repeat the question but rephrase it in such way that it would avoid misunderstandings. This is important because in consulting, it is crucial to understand the needs of the customers.

2. Clarify the goals

Ask specific questions to clarify goals. “So our objective is to increase the bottom line. Are there any other objectives I should know of?” If there is more than one objective, do not try to solve them all at once, instead, break the problem into pieces and solve one piece at a time. This will allow you to stay focused.

3. Write out your structure

First, ask your interviewer for a minute to prepare your structure since this part is extremely important and determines whether you will succeed in solving the case. Don’t be afraid of the silence!Practice structuring the case! If you have a good structure that is Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive (MECE), you do not have to worry about running into dead ends because even if you do, you can dig down an alternative branch that will ultimately help you solve the case. Use an issue tree to help in customizing your structure.

4. Ask questions to understand the trends of the company, industry and product

Ask questions about the firm’s business model, the state of the competition and its substitutes, the firm’s position within the industry, and the product. Make sure to ask about changes (or deltas) [how/if things have changed]. Example categories

  • What is the current situation of the client
  • What has changed from previous years
  • What are the financial (& non-financial) predictions given the current situation

Client:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the business model. Even if you have graduated with a business degree, it is impossible to know a company's business model without investigating details. Thus, solving a case based on false assumptions is worse than asking a question you think you should know beforehand. Typically, you'd want to know:

  • The size of the company
  • Whether it is profitable and growing
  • How a business transaction works within the company
  • How is the product being produced and what are some crucial production steps?

Industry:

For cases where external factors are decisive (e.g. market entry), you may want to know:

  • At which point of the lifecycle is the industry?
  • What is its configuration?
  • Who are the key players?
  • Who are the suppliers?
  • What is the client’s position relative to other firms?
  • What has changed? Who has left the industry? Who has recently entered the market? Why? Have any of the competitors changed their pricing? What about buying behavior?
  • Was there a change in regulations?
  • What are the major substitute products?
  • What are the future predictions about the market?

(For a systematic view, see Porter’s Five Forces)

Product:

In some cases, the crux of the matter is the product. In these cases, you want to know:

  • What exactly is the product? What does it do? What are its strengths/weaknesses? What is it mainly used for? Has there been a change in the way it is being used?
  • What is the lifecycle of the product? Is it still in the development phase or about to become outdated?
  • How is the brand/reputation?
  • How do competitors’ products perform in comparison? What are their strengths/weaknesses?
  • Who are the customers? How are they segmented? What do they need? Has the need changed recently (e.g. connectivity, “eco”, social)?
  • What is the price of the product? How is the price compared to competitors?
  • How is the product being promoted? Has a competitor recently changed its promotion activities?
  • What are the distribution channels? Is the sales place where the customers are? Have new distribution channels emerged recently?
  • What is the service (e.g. after sales) like? How does it compare to competitors? Has there been a change?
  • Closely related to the industry part: Are there any new technologies or products on the market?
  • What does the product consist of? What are the parts and where are they sourced?

(For a systematic view, see 4 Ps Framework)

A key evaluation criterion is your ability to structure a case and being able to adapt the structure throughout the case

A good case structure is the most important part of the case. Based on your structure, you will need to interpret the new information and draw conclusions from it. Try to segment your information until you have isolated the problem. If the problem is not captured by your structure, you will likely not be able to solve the case. Remember to practice setting up a case structure during your interview preparation.

Visit the issue tree lesson to learn how to set up a good structure

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *