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What Is a Case Study?
When you’re performing research as part of your job or for a school assignment, you’ll probably come across case studies that help you to learn more about the topic at hand. But what is a case study and why are they helpful? Read on to learn all about case studies.
Deep Dive into a Topic
At face value, a case study is a deep dive into a topic. Case studies can be found in many fields, particularly across the social sciences and medicine. When you conduct a case study, you create a body of research based on an inquiry and related data from analysis of a group, individual or controlled research environment.
As a researcher, you can benefit from the analysis of case studies similar to inquiries you’re currently studying. Researchers often rely on case studies to answer questions that basic information and standard diagnostics cannot address.
Study a Pattern
One of the main objectives of a case study is to find a pattern that answers whatever the initial inquiry seeks to find. This might be a question about why college students are prone to certain eating habits or what mental health problems afflict house fire survivors. The researcher then collects data, either through observation or data research, and starts connecting the dots to find underlying behaviors or impacts of the sample group’s behavior.
During the study period, the researcher gathers evidence to back the observed patterns and future claims that’ll be derived from the data. Since case studies are usually presented in the professional environment, it’s not enough to simply have a theory and observational notes to back up a claim. Instead, the researcher must provide evidence to support the body of study and the resulting conclusions.
As the study progresses, the researcher develops a solid case to present to peers or a governing body. Case study presentation is important because it legitimizes the body of research and opens the findings to a broader analysis that may end up drawing a conclusion that’s more true to the data than what one or two researchers might establish. The presentation might be formal or casual, depending on the case study itself.
Once the body of research is established, it’s time to draw conclusions from the case study. As with all social sciences studies, conclusions from one researcher shouldn’t necessarily be taken as gospel, but they’re helpful for advancing the body of knowledge in a given field. For that purpose, they’re an invaluable way of gathering new material and presenting ideas that others in the field can learn from and expand upon.
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Types of Case Interviews: 6 Must Knows
There are multiple types of case interviews you must pass before landing a coveted job offer. That’s right – writing the perfect resume and preparing for the fit interview are just the beginning of your work! Just as there’s always a dragon to slay before rescuing the princess, there’s a case interview process to master before landing the job. To effectively prepare for the case interview, you must understand the types of case interviews you will see. In this guide, we break down 6 popular types of case interviews and how to navigate each one.
Table of Contents (click on link to jump to section):
Brain teasers, consulting math, market sizing framework, profitability framework, market study framework, merger & acquisition cases framework.
Before we get into the specific types of case interviews, let’s start with a quick overview. You can find a great overview and case prep guide here .
Consulting firms rely heavily on case interviews to find the right candidate and therefore, you should practice strategically, start practicing early (at least 2-3 months prior to the interview), and then keep practicing often.
Why? The case interview is where you demonstrate that you have the skills to do the job.
Case interviews offer an in-depth view of how you think, function under pressure, solve problems, and marry big-picture context with attention to detail.
In addition, they are excellent test scenarios for your communication ability. A winning candidate does more than spout business knowledge – you are tested on how you build and communicate a clear framework , break down problems into small pieces, develop real-world options, and recommend actionable solutions with executive presence.
Two case interview styles exist: Interviewer-led (used at McKinsey) and interviewee-led (used almost everywhere else) . When we coach candidates 1:1, we will focus on the differences in great detail – but that’s not the point of this article. Within both case styles, you will encounter a variety of case interview types.
Today, we’re focusing on 6 of the most popular types of consulting case interviews. You will see any one of these 6 variations (and probably multiple ones) throughout your case interview process. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with each one of these interview types.
It’s important to note, that in all likelihood, your case interview won’t be a singular type, but a mix of multiple from those below. That said, you still need to have a solid understanding of each of them, and be able to leverage different parts of them to create your own framework to meet the business problem presented to you.
Types of Case Interviews:
Market sizing questions are fairly straightforward, solved in 6-10 minutes with 6-9 steps (including 1+ levels of segmentation) . You are calculating the annual sales of a good or service, although the interviewer could alternatively ask you to calculate total units sold. Market sizing questions are common in Big 4 interviews, as one piece of longer MBB cases, and at the undergraduate level across firms.
Sample market sizing questions include:
- What is the size of the U.K. market (£) for helium balloons?
- Size the market for housecleaning services in New York City.
- How many hamburgers are consumed in the U.S. in one year?
When part of a longer case, you are using the size of the market as a baseline to answer strategic questions like:
- How many of X exist in the market?
- How fast is the market for X growing?
- What is the $$ opportunity if a client introduces X into the market?
In many market sizing cases, the interviewer has no clue of the exact solution – nor does she care. When this happens, the market sizing prompt is an estimation question. In an estimation problem, the emphasis is more on how you arrived at your conclusion (Did you go off on a tangent? Did you state your assumptions? Could you defend your assumptions? Could you gut check your answer?) rather than the conclusion itself.
Also, in market sizing questions, be prepared for adjustments at the end of the question – “What if the % of the population used was this? What is your most sensitive assumption?” Because you are basically preparing a manual spreadsheet (a mini-financial model) on the fly, be prepared to adjust your inputs – just like you would on a real-life consulting project.
Profitability is the ultimate business metric , and profitability cases can address a business in any industry. This case type names a company and gives some detailed history and factual data, and poses one of three questions:
- What should Company X do about revenues (prices x volumes)?
- What should Company Y do about costs (fixed costs + variable costs)?
- What should Company Z do about overall profits (including both sides of the profit equation using metrics such as profit/unit or profit/channel)?
In our worldview, there are 4 types of profitability questions:
- Declining profitability
- Profitability – revenue-focused
- Profitability – cost-focused
- Profitability – scenarios
In the first type, profitability questions can cover why a company might be losing profits or what a company should do to increase profits creatively. Your job is to set up a framework to help them find the source of the issue .
Revenue- or cost-focused profit questions aren’t necessarily posed as profit questions (the word profit isn’t used in the set-up). For example, maybe a company is integrating a new software infrastructure and they want to know if it’s a “good idea” . The focus is on quantifying the benefits of new business infrastructure solutions – benefits that translate to increased sales or reduced costs .
Also, revenue and cost questions may be focused on non-financial decision making – for example, “X is deciding whether or not to run for office. Should they or shouldn’t they?” Meaning, they are not referring to financial outcomes, but are still quantifiable – your job is to think about the issue with a 360-degree view and develop a well-structured pro (“revenues”) and con (“costs”) list of questions.
Lastly, you might encounter a scenario question. You will be given 2 options and will need to compare the profitability of one against the other. An example of this might be comparing the use of the U.S. Post Office for mailing needs versus UPS . Or maybe the company is t rying 2 different types of packaging for a product; one is 3 oz. and the other is 8 oz . Which packaging would you recommend and why?
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Market study questions come in 3 main forms:
- Market Entry
- Revenue Growth
- Market Share
The first point in this case interview framework, market entry, addresses a scenario where a company is interested in entering a new market. You are really answering another question – how much money will they make, will they be profitable entering that market, or how should they enter that market?
In the second scenario, a company is trying to grow their revenues. Your job would be to ultimately determine how they could obtain this goal. If you look at it through the lens of profitability, would it be by increasing prices or volumes? (Market study would be the second level of analysis). If you look at it through the market study lens, you look at market factors (competitors, customers, supply/demand, etc.) that would affect growth plans – and profitability would be the second level of analysis. In either case, you will want to make a clear recommendation on how to grow revenues and identify identify warning signs that might hinder this company from achieving this goal.
Another type of market study question would address a company declining in market share . In this scenario, you need to focus on overall company growth/decline and how it has been affected by competitors, market changes, and customer loss. You are looking for a way to grow in context to the current market and competition.
M&A cases are the mac-daddy of all consulting cases because they include market sizing, profitability, and market study components – with a fair share of case math thrown in. The cases will either be about whether Company A should merge with Company B or if Company Y should purchase Company Z.
These case prompts often start with a limited amount of factual data relating to both the target business and client company. When asking 1-3 clarifying questions and creating your framework, focus 80% on the target and only 20% on the parent/acquirer/client.
There are 2 key types of Merger and Acquisition purchasers – financial and strategic acquirers . Understanding the motivations of both short-term financial purchasers and long-term strategic acquirers will help you identify how best to evaluate the target. Remember, however, the goal for both types of acquirers is…as always…increased profitability.
Brain teasers are most commonly logic puzzles or riddles. They are meant to test both your analytical and creative thinking process.
Here are some sample brain teaser questions:
- How many golf balls can fit in a football stadium?
- How many miles of road are there in the United States?
In their purest form, brain teasers are uncommon in management consulting interviews , but we include them for 2 reasons. One, it’s good to be prepared for them in case you have an interviewer who decides to throw them in. Two, you solve them the same way you solve a market sizing question (see above) – by breaking down the solution into its component parts. Always state your assumptions, back them up with rationale, and talk the interviewer through your entire thought process.
Consulting is a data-based industry – and where there are no facts, there are well-developed estimates. During the case interview, you will not have the privilege of using a calculator. You will face math ranging from simple addition/multiplication to more advanced concepts like calculating ROI or other business formulas .
These are not usually stand-alone case interview questions for MBB (although they could be in a time-pressured partner interview), but they are great practice for Problem Solving Tests (PST’s), digital assessments , and as components for longer strategic case interviews. Here’s a sample question:
- About 225 of Smith Investments’ ~20,000 employees have the title of partner. What percentage of all Smith’s Investments employees are partners?
- The market for lead pencils has been declining at 4% per year for the last 3 years. The original market was $24M per year. What is the market in year 3 (now)?
Unlike scientific math calculated to multiple decimal points, consulting math only expects close-to-correct rounded answers. In science or technology, a tiny margin of error can lead to major accidents. However, in business, decisions can be effectively and efficiently made based on near-perfect data/calculations. Plan to calculate to the ones place in all case math and propose rounding to your interviewer after you’ve already proven yourself in a few calculations.
In digital assessments, multiple consulting math questions like these are asked with a time limit – either in spoken form or in written form, and you usually have under 2 minutes to answer each question . In written form, they are usually multiple choice questions.
Our FREE mental math drills are a great place to begin your practice.
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After you have a better understanding of the case types, that’s where the real work begins – developing actionable case interview frameworks for each.
In any case type, you will need to start the opening sequence by recapping the question back to the interviewer. This will help you ensure that you understand the scenario presented as well as the case objective. Make sure you include all the factual details given. Your recap should take 30-60 seconds and reflect your understanding of what the company does, what the company is trying to decide, and how they currently make money. Be confident – it’s your first impression.
Then you ask the interviewer 1-3 clarifying questions to help repeat information you’ve missed, confirm your understanding of the business, or get greater clarity on the case objective.
When developing your case interview framework (2 minutes in silence!), remember to set it up like you would set up the workstreams on the project if you were leading it. You are not being asked to conduct a hypothetical analysis, and you’re not brainstorming solutions. What are the key data points you need and what key questions do you want answered that will help lead you to solving the case objective?
Okay, now that we’ve walked through these 6 popular case interview types, it’s time to get cracking! Work with us through our Black Belt interview prep program. You’ll work 1:1 with a MBB coach to fine-tune your case interview skills and land your dream consulting offer!
Want more reading? Check out more articles around this topic:
- Market sizing case interview
- Market sizing question examples
- Profitability Case Interview Framework
- Case Interview Questions by Type
- Case Interview: Complete Prep Guide
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Case Interview Types: Master Common Ones Before Your Interview
- Last Updated February, 2023
Former McKinsey Engagement Manager
On Case Study Preparation , we described what a case interview question is and how you should approach answering one. You can think about that page as your Consulting Case Interview 101 course.
But if we could tell you how to ace your consulting case interview in just one page, Bain, BCG, McKinsey, and other top consulting firms would give out a lot more offers than they do every year.
On this page, we discuss the most common types of case study interview questions . We’ll take your understanding of how to answer these to the next level by outlining the key issues to consider when structuring your answer.
Let’s get started!
Here are the types of cases you might come across during your case interview :
- Profitability Cases 1.1 Profit Optimization 1.2 Revenue Growth 1.3 Pricing Optimization 1.4 Market Entry 1.5 M&A 1.6 Cost Optimization 1.7 Startup / Early-Stage Venture
- Non-Profitability Cases 2.1 Lives Affected 2.2 Retention 2.3 Industry Landscape and Competitive Dynamics
- Market Sizing Questions (also called dinner conversation cases)
- Case Interview Math (also known as consulting math) 4.1 Consulting Math Example 4.2 Summary of Key Things to Remember on Consulting Math Questions
How To Make the Most of Case Interview Practice Time
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On this page , we discussed case interview frameworks that can help you structure your answers to case study interview questions, we introduced the profitability equation. It’s 1 of 2 basic business frameworks you can use to answer any type of case question.
This formula can help ensure you address all the key aspects of straightforward profitability cases like the following:
A sports apparel retailer has experienced declining sales in its stores over the past year and declining profits. How would you recommend they address their profitability problem?
A cell phone manufacturer is experiencing declining profitability despite strong sales. What should they do to improve their bottom line?
For more detail on the components in this formula and an example of how to use it to solve a case interview question, see our Case Interview Frameworks page . Below, we’ll discuss types of profitability problems that go beyond the basics.out
Perhaps a company is profitable… just not profitable enough .
Maybe its margins are lower than those of an industry rival.
Maybe they’ve dipped below its own prior-year performance.
Perhaps management sees an opportunity to launch a new product, leapfrogging the competition, but needs to generate more cash to invest in development.
Any of these can be reasons to improve the performance of an already profitable company.
A nationwide fast-food chain failed to meet Wall Street expectations on its latest investor call and as a result, its stock price fell significantly. Management wants help identifying opportunities to improve the bottom line.
The CEO of a regional hospital chain is concerned that his company’s profitability is half that of the market leader. How can the company grow its net income?
Use the Profitability Equation
In structuring your analysis of a profit optimization case, you should touch on all 4 components of the profitability equation to understand what the company is doing well and where things have taken a turn for the worse.
But the underlying problem in this type of case may be more subtle than in a basic profitability question.
Instead of a big jump in costs or the loss of a large customer wiping out a significant chunk of revenue, the company may be experiencing a couple of small problems that add up to bad news for the bottom line.
Benchmark Relative to Competition of Past Performance
For example, if our client is a TV manufacturer and we find out that our cost of producing a TV has increased overtime while our prices have remained the same, we can see that rising costs is the reason for our profits declining.
To turn around the situation, we could look into what the competition is doing to reduce costs. For example, if a competitor is sourcing the same materials as us but from a cheaper supplier, we want to see if we can lower our cost by sourcing from the same supplier.
Benchmark One Business Segment to Another
Another way consultants benchmark performance on revenue and cost levers is by comparing the performance in one business segment or type of end-customer to another .
Continuing with our TV manufacturing example, we might find that the client has seen costs rise on components in its high-end models but remain constant for its low-end models.
We can look into what is being done differently in the low-end product group: low-cost sourcing, process improvement, etc. to find opportunities to improve the cost position in the high-end segment.
Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
The company may also need more disciplined business processes and a system for measuring key performance indicators .
Our TV manufacturer might institute a system for measuring cost per unit on a weekly or monthly basis in order to ensure they have an early warning system to monitor if costs are getting out of line.
To go with these KPIs, a regular process for reviewing the costs and taking necessary action could be instituted. Disciplined processes and performance indicators will help to fine-tune operations over time, taking them from good to best-in-class.
Key concepts to consider when addressing a profit optimization case:
The profitability equation including all its components,
- Benchmarks of cost and/or revenue relative to best-in-class competition and prior year performance.
- Benchmark the company’s performance segmented by product or type of customer .
- Opportunities for business process improvement and key performance indicators that will allow management to monitor profitability more closely.
Revenue growth case questions focus on companies that, while already profitable, still want to grow.
They can do this by increasing market share, by selling their existing products to new markets, by selling new products to their existing customers, or by pursuing a combination of these opportunities.
They can also capture more revenue by increasing prices.
A national chain of fitness centers wants to leverage its brand equity by selling additional products and services to its client base. What incremental products and services can profitably grow revenue?
The president of a printer and ink manufacturer thinks there is an opportunity to provide after-sale service to its customer base. What might be the impact on revenue from entering this market?
Capture Additional Market Share
As its name suggests, this type of case study focuses on the first half of the profitability equation — revenue = price x quantity of units sold. in examining units sold, you should consider the company’s ability to capture additional market share for existing products in the markets it already serves. , what is the company’s current share of the market that of its largest competitor what would it take to capture additional share product improvements a shift in marketing and promotion.
If a chain of fitness centers was our client, for example, we’d look at whether the primary competition was 1 or 2 large chains or a number of small, single-location gyms and tailor our strategy to increase market share accordingly.
If the competition was single-location gyms, we could promote flexibility for members to use our facilities in multiple locations to bring in new customers. We could also leverage the client’s greater size to outspend the small gyms on advertising.
Branch into New Products or Markets
Also, consider the new products and/or markets the company could branch into . What products do competitors sell that the company doesn’t? Does the company have capabilities that would help them succeed in other markets?
Our fitness center client could consider selling new products like fitness apparel or vitamins. They could expand into new markets, such as towns and cities adjacent to ones currently served.
Offer Services to Existing Customers
In addition, consider services that can be sold to existing customers . Post-sales support for equipment, for example. Or consumables used with their products, like ink for a printer manufacturer. Our fitness center client could look into providing personal fitness coaching services to members.
Lastly, consider the company’s flexibility to raise prices . Where do their prices stand relative to competitive products or services? Do their products or services have higher quality or value-added capabilities that would command a higher price?
A company must have a solid product or service offering to be able to take a price increase without seeing a significant loss of sales to competitors.
If their products or services are strong, then optimizing price can be an important lever to grow revenue.
A manufacturer of kitchen knives sells a range of products, from low-end to professional, to customers at different price points. They’ve developed a new line of knives in collaboration with a celebrity chef and would like help setting the prices for these products.
The airline industry has experienced significant changes in its pricing model over the past few years, with some airlines charging separately for checked baggage, meals, and beverages. A global carrier has asked us to help optimize the pricing of the additional services it provides to customers who fly with them.
Elasticity of Demand
When prices rise, demand for a product goes down and when prices fall, demand rises. You’ll remember this from Economics 101, or perhaps just from common sense. Pricing optimization is all about how much .
If you can raise prices with demand going down just a little, you can improve a company’s revenues by raising price. If a change in price has a big impact on demand, then raising price could be a big mistake.
The term for this is Price Elasticity of Demand . If demand for a product or service changes a lot in response to a change in price, it’s said to have price elasticity. Products with many substitutes or ones that consumers can easily do without are the most sensitive to price changes.
For example, if McDonald’s raised the price of the Big Mac, more customers might go to Burger King, Taco Bell, or just eat lunch at home. McDonald’s hamburger sales would fall dramatically.
For some products, demand is relatively insensitive to changes in price. This can be the case for luxury goods, for products that have few substitutes , or for when there are large switching costs. When the cost of home heating oil rises, some customers consider switching to natural gas to heat their homes. But if doing so will require buying a new furnace to run on gas or paying for pipes from their house to the gas distribution network, they won’t make the change unless the change in price is dramatic and/or expected to persist for a number of years.
3 Methods for Setting Prices
Competitive-based pricing — Setting prices based on the prices of other similar products in the market. This is the simplest method for setting prices. Companies who use competitive-based pricing are price takers.
Cost-based pricing —Setting prices as a function of the cost to provide a good or service plus a profit margin. Cost alone can’t be used to set pricing because if a company’s costs are out of line with its competitors, it may price itself out of the market.
Value-based pricing — Setting prices based on the value provided to customers. Luxury goods are priced well above the cost of their production because customers of these products value association with the prestigious image the product conveys. Products that provide significant value to customers in terms of saving time or providing features not found in other products can be priced higher because they are worth more to customers.
Value-based pricing the best pricing method but it can only be used for products and services that are sufficiently differentiated in the eyes of the customer that they will not change their buying behavior in response to higher prices.
Significant start-up costs will be incurred to develop and manufacture a new product, to launch the marketing campaign, or to build the sales force needed to find customers.
To ensure that spending money on start-up costs are worthwhile, due diligence needs to be done to estimate the size of the market being considered and the cost of successfully entering it.
A teen fashion retailer has seen its sales boom in the North American market for the past 5 years. They’re considering expansion into international markets. They’d like help identifying which markets provide the best opportunities for their line of clothing.
A not-for-profit organization has been successful at hiring the long-term unemployed to manufacturer furniture made from pallets and other recycled items. They’ve not only designed and created beautiful pieces of indoor and outdoor furniture, but also helped to improve the lives of individuals in one city. They’d like to expand to other products and potentially to other cities and have asked for our help in assessing their options.
There are 4 parts to any market entry case : market size, market attractiveness, costs of entry and capabilities required. Let’s look at each.
Market sizing is sometimes used as a case interview question on its own. See below for more details . It’s also usually the first part of a market entry case. It addresses how large a market is in terms of annual revenue, number of units sold, or both. The underlying issue is whether there is enough opportunity in a market to make it worth the up-front cost.
To determine whether the amount of sales revenue or unit volume is “enough,” estimate the size of the market based on the information provided by your interviewer or by using factors you can reasonably estimate about the market. You can then consider profit margins and what portion of the market the company must capture to break even.
The market a company is thinking about entering may be huge, but it can still be unattractive. Key questions include: What is the profit margin for companies already in the market? What does the competition in the market look like? Large firms with huge marketing budgets or small companies?
Costs of entry
Will new technology, equipment, sales staff, or something else be required to succeed in the new market? If so, what will it cost? The greater the investment required to enter a market, the more difficult it will be to recoup the initial investment.
Does the firm being discussed have what it takes to succeed in the new market? In some markets, the key to success is marketing expertise and distribution. In others, it’s low costs and disciplined business processes. Identify the key attributes of success in the market and whether the company possesses those attributes.
To learn how you can structure and break down a case such as these, visit the Case Interview Frameworks page can help you think through important factors in this type of consulting case interview question.
Above, we looked at how to analyze a market entry case.
If a market is attractive but the client does not have all the capabilities required to succeed in it, it may decide to buy the right capabilities through a merger or acquisition (M&A).
They could also consider M&A opportunities if they need to enter the market fast rather than build capabilities over time.
The number 3 competitor in the cellular phone services market is at a disadvantage relative to its larger competitors. Providing cellular phone service has high fixed costs—for the equipment that transmits calls, the retail stores that sell phones and provide in-person customer support, and the marketing spend that is key to customer attraction and retention. The CEO is considering acquiring a smaller competitor in order to gain market share. He would like our help thinking through this decision.
The president of a national drug-store chain is considering acquiring a large, national health insurance provider. The merger would combine one company’s network of pharmacies and pharmacy management business with the health insurance operations of the other, vertically integrating the companies. He would like our help analyzing the potential benefits to customers and shareholders.
When you get this type of case, ask your interviewer why the company is considering the merger or acquisition. They may provide key information on the size and attractiveness of the market the target company is in. Assuming the target company is in a large, attractive market and has the critical capabilities required to succeed in that market, then you should consider whether it is better to build the new business internally or undertake a merger or acquisition.
If two companies are considering a merger, they still have to persuade their shareholders that the 2 companies would be more valuable working together than on their own. The value the companies can create by working together is called synergy .
Synergies from a merger or acquisition can be on the cost side, the revenue side, or both. Cost synergies include leveraging fixed costs across more business or cutting costs duplicated in both firms’ operations. Revenue side synergies include selling a broader range of products through the existing sales force or distribution channel.
The synergies created by the merger or acquisition must be greater than the premium that must be paid to secure the deal in order for the transaction to make sense.
Mergers and acquisitions are large and complicated transactions. They require integrating the talent, systems, policies, and processes of the 2 organizations. Synergies that look good on PowerPoint slides do not always accrue in real life. In addition, key employees may quit during the disruption and uncertainty the M&A activity causes. Even if substantial synergies are identified, a company should consider whether it can successfully undertake the integration.
Lastly, mergers of large companies in regulated markets (financial services, telecommunications) and concentrated markets (ones with only a few large competitors) can require government approval . The possibility of the government blocking the merger or acquisition should be considered in this type of case.
A top-3 home improvement retailer has seen price increases from several of its vendors, squeezing its bottom line. The company wants to know how it can cut costs to restore its margins to their previous levels.
The head of an automobile manufacturer has seen its production costs rise over the last several years. She wants your help in turning around this trend.
The most important thing to understand when addressing this type of case is what is going on with fixed costs and variable costs . The costs can be broken down and compared to competitors’ costs or costs in prior years to identify opportunities for improvement.
As a reminder, here are the definitions of fixed and variable costs:
Costs that you incur just because you are in business regardless of how many units you sell. Examples: factory rent, equipment depreciation, compensation for salaried employees, and property taxes. A way to think about fixed costs is that a cost that does not change over the short-term, even if a business experiences increases or decreases in its sales volume.
Costs that only incur when you begin to produce units (if you sell nothing you have no variable costs). Examples: sales commissions, credit card transaction costs, and sales taxes. A way to think about variable costs is that a cost that does change over the short-term. More sales volume will mean more variable costs.
Startup / Early-Stage Venture
Startup and early-stage venture cases have some similarities to market entry cases.
Ensuring that the market the company is going after is big enough and has high enough margins to be attractive is important, as is understanding their competition.
Startups are small, nimble companies with only a handful of key employees and limited access to cash. These factors need to be taken into account.
A student from Iceland studying in the U.S. has determined there’s a big opportunity to bring Icelandic-style yogurt to this market. How would you recommend he proceed?
A software company has developed video technology that can be used to quickly and easily create short videos that can be sent to a colleague in place of typing a long email. This disruptive technology will take advantage of the cameras built into cell phones and laptops as well as consumers’ preference for watching a video rather than reading text. The company has a small number of beta customers and is looking for advice on how to ramp up their product to attract a wider audience.
When answering this type of case, focus on the key things that help these small, fast-growth ventures move with agility as they search for the product and business model that will attract customers and investors.
The Right People
They need the right people —ones with product savvy, marketing savvy and investor savvy to make it.
A Minimum Viable Product
They need a minimum viable product . This is an initial version of their product offering that will attract paying customers, allowing them earn money and to collect feedback that can be used to improve the product. It will also serve as a proof-of-concept to investors.
A Business Plan
Start-up and early stage venture also need an initial business plan addressing how they will bring their product to market.
Some might focus on charitable organization. Others might focus on businesses issues that don’t relate directly to profits, such as employee retention or understanding the competitive dynamics in an industry.
An overview of how to approach non-profitability cases is found on this page .
This section focuses on key concepts to address in a few common types of non-profitability cases.
Government agencies and charitable organizations don’t aim to maximize profits. Nonetheless, they do important work that affects many lives.
They might hire a consulting company to help them improve their effectiveness, or a consulting firm might take on an important project for a charitable organization on a pro-bono basis.
The state agency that administers the free summer lunch program for children of families under a certain income threshold wants to increase the reach of its program. How would you advise they approach this?
Malaria is a devastating disease, affecting hundreds of millions of individuals each year. It’s transferred to humans by mosquitoes, with most of the cases occurring in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Though drugs to treat the disease exist, many in the affected regions don’t have access to or can’t afford these drugs. The disease is a strain on the economies of several nations, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. What can be done to alleviate this disease and its adverse economic effects?
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
A detailed example of how to approach a lives affected case is provided here . As discussed in that case, the key to answering this type of question is to find the key performance indicator (KPI) the organization is trying to improve. In the case of the first sample question above, this is the number of free lunches served to needy children.
Once you’ve established the KPI, the case can be answered in the same way you’d answer any case question on business improvement. You can benchmark the organization’s performance by looking at trends in the KPI over time or comparing the growth of the organization’s KPI to that of other organizations serving the same target population to assess whether the agency is doing a good job meeting their mandate or falling behind. If they are falling behind, drill down into the factors that might be causing them to do so.
Cases focused on employee retention are not directly about profits, though the loss of key skills when employees depart and the cost of training new hires require hurts the profitability of organizations with high turnover.
A fast-food chain is experiencing an increase in the already-high rate of employee turnover typical in its industry. It’s also experiencing trouble attracting qualified new employees. What would you suggest?
The school system in a middle-class suburban town is experiencing higher-than-normal rates of teacher attrition. With a tight budget, they are unable to simply raise salaries to hold onto experienced teachers. What options does the school system have for increasing teacher retention?
Conducting retention interviews —interviews with departing employees to find out why they’re leaving the organization—is a standard practice in most organizations. Because of this, there should be data available on what employees like about their jobs, don’t like about their jobs, why they looked for new opportunities and what new job they’re taking. Ask your interviewer for this information, as well as survey data on the job satisfaction of all employees. It can be used to develop a multi-pronged approach to improving employee retention.
- Look for opportunities to enhance aspects of the job that appeal to employees and change the negative aspects of working for the organization. For instance: What about the job is appealing?
- Do employees see the work of the organization positively impacting the broader community?
- Do employees like their colleagues, recognition they receive from management, the financial package provided?
Industry Landscape and Competitive Dynamics
Cases focused on the landscape of an industry and its competitive dynamics are about the big-picture strategic issues that must be taken into account to compete effectively in that industry.
The traditional newspaper industry is facing heavy pressure from free online news organizations that don’t face the cost of printing a traditional newspaper and are able to leverage Internet ads as a source of revenue. The publisher of an award-winning regional paper would like your help in assessing and responding to this new threat.
The food and beverage industry faces disruption to their traditional brands as organic and small-batch products gain favor with consumers. How should companies in this industry respond to this new of competitive threat?
When analyzing this kind of case, first look for what is changing in the industry —consumer preferences, brand loyalty, barriers to entering the market, regulation, the industry’s cost structure, etc. Ensure you know what the source of change is before you begin to look for a strategy to help the client succeed in the new marketplace.
For tips on structuring a case like these, visit the Business Frameworks page . SWOT analysis and other frameworks include some factors to consider in this type of consulting case interview question.
Market Sizing Questions (Also Called Dinner Conversation Cases)
Market sizing cases are focused on establishing the size of a market in terms of annual revenue or the number of units sold rather than determining how to compete successfully in the market.
Consulting firms often ask market sizing questions early in the consulting interview process or in interviews of undergraduate students who may not have a deep business background.
They can also be one component of complicated, multi-step cases in later-round interviews. Market sizing questions focus on making logical estimates, showing creativity, and doing basic math.
What is the size of the market for organic toothpaste in the United States?
How many golf balls would fit inside the Empire State building?
What Are Consulting Interviewers Looking for on Market Sizing Cases?
With case interview questions of this type, you’re not expected to know the answer, but instead to show a logical way of deducing it. Committing a few key facts to memory would serve you well. For example, knowing the population of the United States (or the country you live in) would give you a good place to start as you think through the size of the market for various retail goods. Gross domestic product can help with sizing industrial markets.
Key Statistics to Know for Market Sizing Case Questions:
The Population of the United States 2019 – 329 million according to the US Census Bureau .
World population in 2015 – 7.4 billion according to the United Nations DESA / Populations Division .
2018 Gross Domestic Product of the United States – $20.5 trillion according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce .
Statistics like these give you a good foundation to start your market size analysis. For instance, you could begin estimating the size of the U.S. market for organic toothpaste with the US population. From there, make logical assumptions:
- How many times a day does the average American brushes their teeth?
- How many toothpaste applications are in the average tube of toothpaste?
- How much does the average tube of toothpaste cost?
These assumptions will allow you to calculate the size of the overall toothpaste market in terms of annual revenue. To get to the annual revenue of organic toothpaste you’ll also need to estimate:
- What portion of toothpaste consumers prefers organic toothpaste?
You can (and should) bring paper and a pen into consulting interviews. Use these to keep track of your assumptions as you work through them and to do the basic math required to come to a conclusion.
Our Market Sizing Questions article has a list of the 7 steps to answering this type of question.
Key Things to Remember When Answering a Market Sizing Question:
- Ask clarifying questions. Does the interviewer want the market size in terms of dollars or units? For the United States, North America, the world?
- Use round numbers for simplicity. For instance, using $20 trillion for U.S. GDP rather than $20.5 would be fine.
- Creativity in your approach to approximating the market is important, but so is good sense. Don’t be so creative that your answer lacks credibility.
- Practice case math so you can do it quickly and correctly even under the stress of an interview.
- Give your answer a sniff-test at the end. Does it make sense? This will both show that you are careful in your analysis and give you the chance to fix an arithmetic mistake if you find you’re way off.
Case Interview Math (also known as consulting math)
Management consulting interviewers screen candidates to ensure that they can do basic math.
Don’t worry if you didn’t ace multivariate calculus, the math is usually basic arithmetic—addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fractions/percentages. You may also be asked to extract data from charts and convert from one unit of measure to another.
As mentioned in the discussion of market-sizing case questions above, you can and should bring a paper and pen into the interview. It’s fine to write out your calculations.
Consulting Math Example
In each step, we’ll provide a sense of how we are making the estimate so that the interviewer knows we’re not just grabbing a number out of the air. We want our answer to be as grounded in fact as possible.
The population of the United States: 329 million. We’ll round to 330 million for simplicity.
The number of times the average American brushes their teeth – 2 times per day. Some people brush at lunchtime too, but that’s probably offset by people who only brush once a day.
330 million people brushing 2x’s per day gives us 660 million toothpaste applications/day.
To get to an annual number of toothpaste applications, we need to multiply by 365. That’s 241 billion toothpaste applications. We’ll round to 240 billion for simplicity.
A tube of toothpaste usually lasts me about 2 months. That means we need to divide by 120 toothpaste applications per tube to come up with the number of tubes sold annually (2 months x 30 days/month x 2 applications/day). 240 billion toothpaste applications / 120 applications per tube = 2 billion tubes of toothpaste sold in the U.S. every year.
The cost of toothpaste ranges from $1 for inexpensive brands to $4 for expensive brands, but the average cost is probably about $2. This means the total revenue for toothpaste sold in the U.S. is 2 billion tubes x $2 or $4 billion.
The percent of the toothpaste market that’s organic is a little tricky to estimate. In the grocery store I shop in, there’s 1 aisle of organic goods in a store that has 20 aisles – that means organic products make up 5% of shelf space (and presumably also of sales).
I think that people would be less likely to buy organic toothpaste than organic food, because you eat organic food, but you spit organic toothpaste out into the sink. Organic products always cost more and organic toothpaste doesn’t seem quite as important to your health.
Conclusion: Based on that, I’ll say that 1% of the market for toothpaste is organic, so if $4 billion in toothpaste is sold in the U.S. every year, $40 million of it is organic toothpaste.
Is our answer right?
Probably not exactly. There are different sizes of toothpaste tubes, a complication that we did not consider in this analysis. There might be some people who don’t brush their teeth every day. That would mean that we overestimated consumption.
But our estimate of the market size for organic toothpaste is reasonable and grounded in logical assumptions. We could sniff-test our answer by comparing it to a market size we know, or to GDP, one of the facts we suggested having in your back pocket for market sizing case questions.
U.S. GDP was about $20 trillion in 2018. Our estimations suggest that the overall toothpaste market is $4 billion. That means toothpaste is 1/5,000 of the U.S. economy, and the market for organic toothpaste is 1% of that.
That sounds plausible. If your answer showed that the market for organic toothpaste was larger than U.S. GDP, it would be a clear indication that you made a mistake somewhere along the way.
For the 4 types of math problems you’ll be asked to compute as part of case studies, read Case Interview Math.
Above, we’ve provided you with 11 different types of case interview questions you might be asked during your consulting interviews. We’ve also told you that you need to get great at doing case math.
Overwhelming? It can be.
But it doesn’t have to be.
The best way to prepare for your consulting case interviews is NOT to spend hundreds of hours reading every case study question and answer you can get your hands on. Instead, see our page on Case Interview Practice to find out how to make the most of your interview prep time. In addition, check out this video where Davis Nguyen, Founder of My Consulting Offer, talks about how mastering the case interview is made easier when you focus on the most common types of cases.
Here in an online workshop he conducted for Columbia University, NYU, and Cornell students, you can see why this approach is so effective:
After studying the information on this page, you have an in-depth understanding of the types of cases you could be asked to analyze in consulting interviews. From Davis’s video, you know why this is so important to focus on the main types of cases. You’re well prepared to find a case study practice partner and begin practicing.
As you prepare for case interviews, you should use this page in conjunction with Case Interview Examples , where you’ll find links to sample case study questions and their answers. Remember that while it is important to discuss all the appropriate aspects of a business case, it’s important to structure your analysis and your answer. Refer back to our page on Case Interview Frameworks to ensure that you’re not just practicing more cases, but doing them better.
If you still have questions, leave them in the comments below. We’ll ask our My Consulting Offer coaches and get back to you with answers.
- Market Sizing Questions ,
- Case Interview Workshop Video , and
- Written Case Interviews ,
Thanks for turning to My Consulting Offer for advice on case study interview prep. My Consulting Offer has helped almost 89.6% of the people we’ve worked with get a job in management consulting. For example, here is how Thomas was able to get a BCG offer with just a short time to prepare..
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3 Top Strategies to Master the Case Interview in Under a Week
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S T R E E T OF W A L L S
Consulting case study types.
In the previous chapter , we described some well-known frameworks for evaluating companies and industries—frameworks that are important in Management Consulting Case Studies, and can broadly be applied to many different types of Consulting Business Situation Cases . We also described a number of analytical techniques that frequently come up in Business Situation Cases. In this chapter we’ll take a deeper look into common types of Business Situation Cases, evaluating the core concepts in them and the methodologies for approaching them (using ideas from the frameworks from the previous chapter to help us organize our approach, and the analytical techniques from the previous chapter to help us drive to an answer).
Each of these Case Study categories occurs very frequently in Management Consulting Case Study interviews, so you should be familiar with the basic issues that tend to occur over and over when they come up. In short, you should practice each of these Case types multiple times until you feel confident that you could a new Case of this type in a live interview.
Here are the eight primary types of Business Situation Case Studies as we see them:
Pricing optimization, industry landscape & competitor dynamics, new product or project, growth plan/strategy, market entry or expansion, merger/acquisition/joint venture, start-up/early-stage venture.
Note that in most situations, a given Case will lend itself to several different categories. In the discussion below, we will attempt to enumerate the different combinations of Case Study situations that tend to occur together in the same Case.
In both good and bad economies, companies continually seek to optimize their Revenue model and their Cost structure. The goal, ultimately, is for the company to use Invested Capital as efficiently as possible.
The two core components of a Profitability Optimization case are a Cost Assessment and a Revenue Assessment. Sometimes, only one of the two will be required for the Case. Note that Profitability Optimization situations often arise as part of a Case Study of another type—for example, in a Case Study involving pressures from competitors or substitute products, you may need to assess and optimize the Company’s Cost structure to determine it is competitive. Or, it could be that the case revolves around the Company’s Cost structure optimization, the job candidate may need to perform some qualitative analysis of the competitor or supplier landscape. As you can see, a variation on Profitability Optimization can arise as part of many different Business Situation Cases.
Whenever Profitability Optimization is a key issue, the interviewer will usually highlight that profitability has been declining (or is projected to decline) and the Case will involve identifying the sources of the decline and potentially how to reverse or obviate it.
Example Case Situations
- The client is a low-cost airline based in Singapore, serving 24 destinations in the Southeast Asian market. The Airline’s profitability was strong until 2010 and has since seen a declining trend and is now only just barely profitable. The CEO would like you to determine what is causing the profitability decline and suggest a strategy to reverse this trend.
- The client is a market-leading, niche ski equipment manufacturer based in Colorado. Profitability has remained steady but the CEO has noticed from reading industry annual reports that two publicly-listed competing ski equipment manufacturers have meaningfully higher profit margins and have also been increasing their top line (Revenue). The CEO would like to understand the drivers of these differences.
Note that both of these Cases would involve some degree of Market Landscape/Competitor Dynamics analysis in addition to Profitability Optimization.
Core Concepts and Structure
Scenario: The client has determined that profitability margins have been (or are projected to be declining) and has requested that you analyze the causes of this decline and put forth recommendations to reverse it.
- Gather current expense breakdown and historical expense breakdown (this question alone will only help to get you towards the key focus area, as the interviewer will only have so much information).
- Identify the “bang” areas (this is Consultant lingo for expense areas that account for a large percent of the total).
- Analyze the key Fixed and Variable expense components and identify any meaningful changes in expense areas.
- Fixed Expenses might include overhead, fixed equipment expenses or depreciation, distribution, rent, and/or interest
- Variable Expenses might include raw materials, labor, sales, and/or distribution costs
- Request information on competitor Cost structures from the interviewer to see where the company’s Cost structure may be inefficient.
- Assess whether any expense areas could be cut with minimal or no impact on sales.
- Gather as detailed of information as possible on current sales volumes and pricing and historical volumes and pricing. Use this information to determine growth rates.
- Identify the “bang” areas (consultant lingo for revenue streams that account for a large percent of the total, and/or a large percentage of the growth in the total).
- Analyze the key product areas and identify any meaningful changes in volumes and prices.
- Request information on competitor Revenue models (volume and pricing) from the interviewer to see where the company is potentially missing profitable business activity.
- Assess whether any changes could be made to improve overall Revenue or Revenue per unit sold.
- Pricing change suggestions/analysis (e.g., factors behind price elasticity; see Pricing Optimization Case descriptions below)
- Volume assessment and ways to improve volumes
- Identify changing customer desires/demands and respond accordingly.
- Invest in and/or reformulate marketing strategy.
- Expand distribution channels.
- Expand sales force or customer service.
- Expand production capacity.
- Expand product/service portfolio (see New Product or Project, Growth Plan/Strategy, and Market Entry or Expansion Case descriptions below).
- Make an acquisition or enter into a joint venture.
- Assess which products/divisions might have the largest growth opportunities and allocate investments accordingly.
- What would customers be willing to pay if Facebook shifted to a subscription model (we heard that this Case was conducted by the San Francisco office of a major Consulting firm recently, though the client being analyzed was not Facebook)?
- A long-stay hotel chain would like to maximize profitability by determining the optimal pricing for different lengths of stays and types of rooms.
- An online movie-streaming company is seeking to select the optimal price mix for its product offering in order to maximize profitability.
Like Profitability Optimization, this is a type of Case Study in which many of the other Case Study types might be relevant (for example, Industry Landscape, Competitor Dynamics, Growth Plan/Strategy, etc.)
Scenario: The client is deciding how to set prices so as to maximize profitability.
- Competitor/substitute pricing is the key element here—particularly if there is no major differentiation or benefit to the client’s products relative to substitutes.
- Price of substitute products/services
- Is the product sufficiently different to justify a higher price? (This points to the threat of substitutes.)
- Customer loyalty/lock-in (as an example: many lower-priced colas have failed to successfully compete against Coca-Cola due to consumer brand loyalty)
- Remember to ask about: Price Elasticity, Price Elasticity, Price Elasticity!
- Interviewers will often give you sufficient information to assess the impact on volume with a price adjustment and expect you to make the calculation.
- The higher the absolute value of Demand Elasticity (i.e., the more volume decreases when prices increase), the more likely it is that a price reduction would be beneficial. Likewise, the lower the absolute value of Demand Elasticity (i.e., volume barely decreases when prices increase), the more likely it is that a price increase would be beneficial.
- Expense-driven pricing analysis
- What is the fully-loaded cost for the client to produce the product or offer the service? How does this compare to the price?
- How does client’s fully-loaded cost compare with competitor pricing?
- Note: In situations in which the client’s cost is higher than the competitor price , it is usually a good recommendation to exit this product or service unless it can be demonstrated that:
- There is a clear path to reduce client production costs, or
- The competitor price is temporary and unsustainable.
- Customer-driven pricing analysis
- How much would customers be willing to pay for this product? (You are not expected to be able to answer such questions, but ideas on how you might approach such questions are important—for example, running a survey, looking at applicable Case examples, looking at pricing structures for comparable products, etc.)
- What is the current state of demand and supply for the product or service (for example: would an increase in the number of orange juice manufacturers and orange tree groves be putting significant pressure on orange juice prices)?
- What are the alternatives for the customer and the relevant prices? I.e., is the threat of substitutes substantial or can it be mitigated?
- A client is a large nutrition, health & wellness Company and is considering divesting its non-core infant foods subsidiary in order to free up capital to invest in higher growing industries. The CEO would like you to assess the industry landscape of the infant foods business in Western Europe.
- A client is a global financial services firm that is considering allocating more resources to the facilitation of electronic fund transfers globally. The CEO wants to better understand the market landscape and develop a strategic plan to increase the Company’s share of the market.
Scenario: The client wants you to understand and assess an industry (this often overlaps with Market Entry, New Product or Project, or Growth Plan/Strategy Cases, described in more detail below). Usually, the goal is to assess the characteristics of an industry and to determine whether or not it is an attractive industry to enter, to ramp up, or potentially to exit.
- Market/Industry Landscape
- Current market size
- Projected market growth
- Customer mix (a.k.a. Customer Segmentation )
- Industry-wide profitability
- Mergers & Acquisitions activity in the industry
- Competitive Advantage/ Barriers to Entry
- Supply chain: who are the key suppliers to the industry? (Assess this only if relevant)
- Brand loyalty
- Technology, regulatory issues, or other key topics relevant to the market
- Competitor Dynamics
- Key competitors in the market and their strategies
- Current market shares and shares over time
- Used to derive Market Concentration (i.e., what portion of the market is served by the top 3/5/10 companies in the market?)
- Product/service differences among competitors
- Any recent moves/threats by a key player to the market or a new entrant?
- A client is a durable consumer equipment manufacturer attempting to develop a “green” washing machine that employs special technology, resulting in 60% less water use and cleaning 10% more effectively than standard washing machines. The CEO would like help to determine the product’s market potential and the strategy to bring it to market.
- A client is a pharmaceutical company that is engaged in Research & Development on a drug that would both lower cholesterol and reduce obesity (i.e., help in significant weight loss). The CEO would like to know whether this drug would gain traction, and if so, what is the potential market size and the optimal price for such a drug.
Once again, this is a type of Case Study where many of the other Case categories might be relevant (Industry Landscape, Competitor Dynamics, Growth Plan/Strategy, Market Entry or Expansion, etc.). Note that such cases could also involve decisions such as the purchase of a major information technology system (in this case, many of the acquisition concepts could be applied). It could also involve the assessment of a new investment project, such as the development of a new major manufacturing or sales facility.
Scenario: The client is developing a new product and would like your assessment of the feasibility of this product. Would the product be profitable and beneficial in the marketplace?
- Product Snapshot (Less relevant for New Project cases)
- Will the client have any competitive advantage that prevents competitor entry (such as a patent or a way to lock in customers) once the client has unveiled the new product?
- How is the client’s product different from and/or better than competing products? What are the substitute products?
- Pros and cons of client product (for example, environmental and social considerations)
- Is there a risk that that the new product will cannibalize another of the client’s products?
- Customer Strategy (Less relevant for New Project cases)
- What is the appropriate customer mix to target? How does this affect profitability and marketing strategy?
- What are the distribution channels? Can the client use its existing distribution channels?
- What is the methodology/strategy to attract customers to try the product and potentially switch?
- What is the methodology/strategy to retain newly acquired customers?
- Market Entry Strategy (Mostly less relevant for New Project cases)
- Competitive advantages/ Barriers to Entry
- Approach to entering (Acquisition or enter organically?)
- Time/investment required to enter market
- Product pricing strategy
- Technology, regulatory or other risks to entering this market
- Market Landscape
- Future market growth
- Current customer and product mix
- Key competitors in the market, their strategy, Market Shares (current and historically over time), product differences and potential response to client’s actions
- Product/Project Funding
- Does the projected profit justify the required the Research and Development expenditure, the initial capital requirements, and any ongoing investment needs?
- What is the Opportunity Cost of the required funding?
- What is the required financing and how is the Research & Development being financed?
- Will the project result in Economies of Scale (i.e., cost reductions for increased production) elsewhere in the company? (Less relevant for New Product cases)
- The client is a German carpet manufacturer that has seen sales decline dramatically in its North American operation. The client would like you to help it develop a strategic plan for sales growth in North America and to determine the root causes of the sales decline.
- The client is a surf apparel Company that has three stores on the West Coast of the United States and is looking to grow its store base significantly across the continent. The CEO would like help designing a store rollout strategy across North America.
Yet again, this is a type of Case Study where many of the other Case categories might be relevant (Industry Landscape, Competitor Dynamics, New Product or Project, Market Entry or Expansion, etc.)
Scenario: The client is seeking to grow its business, whether it involves growing a certain product’s sales, growing in a certain geographical region, increasing total sales, etc.
- Ways to increase number of units sold
- Optimize prices (See description of Pricing Optimization above)
- Increase share of wallet (fancy term used by Consultants to mean that the client captures more of a typical customer’s spending in a particular area than it previously did; analogous to Market Share )
- Determine which products/divisions have the largest growth opportunities and allocate investments accordingly
- Identify changing customer preferences/demands and respond accordingly
- Invest in and/or reformulate marketing strategy
- Investigate means and requirements to expand distribution channels
- Investigate means and requirements to expand capacity
- Investigate means and requirements to expand sales force / customer service
- Investigate means and requirements to expand product/service portfolio (see description of Market Entry or Expansion below)
- Make an acquisition or enter into a joint venture (see description of Merger/Acquisition/Joint Venture below)
- Always drive towards Profitable Growth : in any growth case, be sure to discuss this issue. Growing Revenue in and of itself is usually not a good outcome if the Costs of the growth exceed the Revenue, or if there were other growth opportunities that would have yielded a higher return on investment but are mutually exclusive (see Opportunity Cost).
- The client is an online yoga apparel retailer looking to enter the European market. The CEO would like help in formulating an entry strategy.
- A high-end watch manufacturer has developed a high quality watch called the “outdoors” watch in order to attract the wealthy, younger audience. The CEO would like to develop a strategy to attract this customer segment.
This category of Case Study frequently overlaps with several other Case categories (Industry Landscape, Competitor Dynamics, New Product or Project, Growth Plan/Strategy, etc.)
Scenario: A client is seeking to expand or enter into a new market, whether it be a new geographical region or an additional customer segment.
- Competitive advantage/ Barriers to Entry
- Entry Strategy
- Approach to entering (acquisition or enter organically?)
- Customer mix/segmentation
- Your client is a European online white goods retailer that is considering acquiring a North American online furniture retailer.
- Your client is a U.S. specialty chemical producer that is considering acquiring a regional specialty chemical producer in Indonesia.
As you might expect by now, this is a type of case where many of the other case segments are relevant. In particular, Merger/Acquisition/JV activity often represents one method of implementing a Growth Plan/Strategy, a New Product or Project, or a Market Entry or Expansion.
Scenario: The client is considering either acquiring a company or entering into a Joint Venture, driven by many potential factors such as wanting to increase market share, widen product portfolio, take out a potential competitive threat, etc.
Important: For this Case type, you should ask questions as to why the Company is contemplating such an action . The responses to these questions can help steer you to the right analysis, as the responses will often indicate what the key considerations behind the acquisition/JV are from the client’s perspective. Thus you should perform a standard Merger/Acquisition/JV analysis as outlined below, but then generally pivot to the right framework for analyzing the business scenario from the aforementioned categories, depending on the situation.
- Evaluate price to acquire (use back-of-the-envelope Valuation techniques to consider whether the deal is reasonably priced, such as those based on Comparable Company Analysis or Precedent Transaction Analysis )
- Market position
- Customer Concentration and customer certainty
- Supplier relationships and supplier certainty
- Barriers to Entry
- Reputation and brand loyalty
- Product/regulatory/technology risks
- Pay-Back Period / Net Present Value / Internal Rate of Return based on current operations and growth estimates
- Add in Cost or Revenue improvements from Synergies (see below)
- Subtract out Integration and Restructuring expenses (also determine whether the project is feasible)
- Compare with similar projections if the Company were to endeavor to grow organically (required capital expenditures, cost of marketing strategy, etc.)
- Ability to combine or leverage joint distribution channels across products produced by acquirer or target
- Value of expending geographic/market reach
- Cost synergies (such as spreading overhead costs across a larger combined business or combining redundant IT systems)
- Strategic fit
- Cultural challenges
- Competitor response
- Plan to exit (if relevant—note that this will always be relevant for Private Equity firms)
- Plan to restructure the organization, if any, and how/why
While consulting firms rarely work for Start-up companies due to the high fees typically charged, there are increasingly Case Study questions that discuss start-ups. Some Consulting firms have even begun the practice of working for Start-up companies and receiving equity compensation from the Start-up in exchange for reduced cash Consulting fees.
Importantly, this topic is in many ways covered when thinking about a company entering a new market or developing a new product, although there are usually some additional issues to consider for a Start-up company. (Most of these additional issues fall into the “Business Plan” category for a Start-up company.) Additionally, there is generally significant overlap with the industry landscape section.
- Two real estate entrepreneurs are contemplating setting up a co-working space in downtown Chicago to attract the increasing number of young IT entrepreneurs in the area. Discuss the key considerations for a business plan for such a venture.
- Siggi, a student from Iceland at Stanford University, has determined that there is an enormous opportunity for Icelandic-style yogurt in the North American market. He is in the process of securing funding to produce the yogurt on a farm in Oregon and would like input regarding the key considerations for the yogurt to be a success.
Situation: A potential client has launched a new company to develop a new product or technology that is expected to have positive yet disruptive consequences for a particular market or industry. The client would like your advice regarding specific issues in the company development or product rollout, and any thoughts regarding optimal company strategy.
- Competitive advantage/ Barriers to Entry (with a Start-up, this is a crucial piece of the analysis —can the Start-up enter the market successfully? Will the Start-up will have some sort of competitive advantage, whether it be proprietary technology or access to particular distribution channels?)
- Current market size (if the product a new concept, then you would typically be asked to assess the industry of a substitute product or service, or use relevant comparable products or services to estimate the potential market size for the new concept)
- Key competitors in the market, their strategy, current market shares and shares over time, product differences and potential response to entry
- Likely customers and customer mix (a.k.a. Customer Segmentation )
- Industry-wide profitability (to the extent applicable)
- Technology, regulatory issues, or other key topics relevant to the product or market
- Business Plan (the interviewer might ask you to compile a very simple business plan, after he or she gives you some information; key components are given here)
- What is the product/service? What are pros and cons of this product/service? How does this compare to existing products on the market?
- What will be the competitive advantage and/or barriers to entry for a product of this type?
- Customers and Distribution
- Who are the target customers?
- What are the core distribution channels?
- What is the marketing plan?
- What are the initial funding requirements prior to cash flow Break-Even? How does this compare with expected future profitability?
- What are the projected Revenue and Costs for the next three years?
- Management and Oversight
- Management: experience and abilities
- Preliminary Investors: reputation, expertise, and ability to add legitimacy to the new enterprise (and potentially invest more in the company)
- Key Directors and Advisors
Being able to discuss the core aspects of analyzing a Start-up company highlights your ability to quickly answer questions about a new project or idea that may be thrown at you when you are with clients.
There are a number of guides published and online that attempt to discuss different types of Consulting Case Study questions in a comprehensive and informative way. Our feeling is that most of them are not particularly helpful or are too expensive. There are two, however, that we have found to add quite of a bit of value as an “add-on” to the discussion above, and are therefore worth checking out. Please comment on this page or email us directly if you have a suggestion for an additional resource:
- INSEAD Consulting Club Handbook (see pp. 47-53 for discussion of different Case Study Types)
- Crack the Case System by David Ohrvall
- career developmenttips job seekersinterviewing
- Case style Interviews
Case interviews have been popular with management consulting firms for years, and in recent years they've become more commonly used by employers in other industries. Those considering a career in consulting, finance, operations and supply chain, and others who've learned that cases are used in that industry should prepare to tackle a case interview along your job search path.
Many organizations use case interviews to test a candidate's communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills. They will want to see that you can listen well, respond quickly to issues, and summarize your results clearly. It also allows them to see how candidates respond to situations that they may face every day in their field. As a consultant, you may be asked to visit a city to meet with a new client about a business problem. How will you respond in that situation? Will you be able to ask good questions that will provide you with the information needed to resolve the issue? Can you listen well enough to the client to hear the true problem? Your success in a case interview will demonstrate your ability to take on such tasks in your work.
In a case interview, you will be given a business problem or scenario that generally falls into one of three types: the brainteaser; the guesstimate; or the business scenario. While most problems don't have one "right answer," it will be important for you to ask appropriate questions, analyze the situation accurately, and formulate a clear and concise response. Be creative in your thinking, but realistic in your assumptions.
Generally, you will get your case question verbally from the interviewer and will work on it alone. You may receive your case before the interview, allowing you time to prepare, or be asked to work on it in a group setting. If you are in a group interview, you may be judged on your ability to work on a team and your leadership skills.
According to Vault.com , the consulting industry looks for the following skills in a case interview:
Types of Case Questions
There are three basic types of case questions that you may encounter in a case interview.
Riddles or puzzles that will showcase your ability to think logically. Some brainteaser cases may be timed. Remember to stay calm and think creatively when faced with this type of problem.
Examples : "If we call oranges 'orange' why don't we call bananas 'yellows' or apples 'reds?'" or "Why are manhole covers round?"
Questions may be based on real or hypothetical situations. They may test your common sense and your ability to ask appropriate questions to ascertain relevant information. Always make sure that you know the specific problem to be addressed and take into account general business issues, such as market share and competition.
Examples : "A small airline company based out of Cleveland wants to add a new route between Cleveland and New York. The CEO wants your advice on whether they should go forward with service to the new destination." According to Vault.com, there are generally eight types of business scenario cases:
- Falling Profits
- Introducing a New Product
- Entering a New Market
- Entering a New Geographic Market
- Selecting a Location to Site a New Facility
- Handling Mergers and Acquisitions
- Preparing a Competitive Response
- Responding to Change in Government/Regulatory Environment
Require you to answer "how many? or "how much" of something. Remember that your goal is to reduce the huge problem into smaller, more manageable parts. Rough calculations are accepted, as long as they are realistic, and you don't need to get the exact answer (although you should be close).
Examples : "How many CD's were sold in the United States last year?" Or, "How much money is spent each year on hair gel in Ohio?"
Preparing for a Case Interview
In preparing for your case interview, make sure you are familiar with the three basic types of questions you may be asked. Many students have found it helpful to form a group and do case studies together, many of which can be found online or in books. Through consistent practice with your peers, you will become more confident in your interviewing and presentation skills. You will also want to make sure that you remember how to do some basic math calculations, such as averages and percentages, without using a calculator. As with any interview, arrive on time, which means about 10 minutes early. You may want to bring with you something to write with, paper, a watch to keep track of time, and a calculator, which you might not be able to use, but will be very helpful if you can.
During the Case Interview
One of the most important things you can do in a case interview is to listen to the question being asked so that you know you are addressing the right issue. Take notes when the interviewer is telling you the case and summarize the highlights for your interviewer. You will also ask clarifying questions about the case, such as company type, market share, competition, long term and short term goals. Be sure to break down the problem into manageable parts and prioritize them. Think about the issues before speaking. As you are responding to the case, write down or chart your answer. This will help you recall some assumptions you made along the way and keep your response organized and logical. It will also show the interviewer that you are making logical assumptions that can be supported by calculations.
Keep an eye on the clock to be sure to cover the case fully and remember to summarize your response at the end. The interviewer may provide you with some feedback at the end of your case - be sure to listen. If you feel like you made a huge mistake in responding to the case, don't panic. Ask the interviewer for feedback and ideas on how the case could have been answered better.
Additional Resources for Case Interview Prep
Listed alphabetically by title:
- Ace Your Case: The WetFeet Insider Guide to Consulting Interviews - An introduction to the case interview, with explanations of the most common question types and how to answer them. Detailed examples of good and bad answers. Each books contains different sample cases.
- Case in Point9: Complete Case Interview Preparation , by Marc P. Cosentino - Focuses on the skills you will need to handle a case interview confidently. Includes recently asked case questions and Ivy case drills.
- Case Interview Secrets: A Former McKinsey Interviewer Reveals How to Get Multiple Job Offers in Consulting , by Victor Cheng - Step-by-step instructions on how to dominate the case interview, considered by many to be the most complex, most difficult, and most intimidating corporate job interview in the world.
- Crack the Case System: How to Conquer Your Case Interviews , by David Ohrvall
- Vault Guide to the Case Interview, 8th edition - Frameworks for constructing and handling case questions, plus practice questions. Vault has an entire series of guides dedicated to the field of consulting and the case interview.
Consulting/Case Interview Prep Online
- Management Consulted - Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education maintains a subscription, this site, with content from former MBB consultants. MC provides access to 500+ cases and their solutions, 90+ hours of video content on case interviewing, personal experience interviews, mental math, Excel and PowerPoint for consulting, and more. Request an account by logging in to your Handshake account, clicking Career Center, and selecting Resources. The account request link is there.
Each of these sites has high quality case prep resources. Portions are available at no cost, and all of these have additional resources available for sale.
- CaseInterview.com - Site of Victor Cheng, author of Case Interview Secrets. Sign up for their informative daily newsletter.
- CaseQuestions.com - Site of Marc Cosentino's, author of Case in Point.
- ConsultingCase101.com - Library of practice cases.
Consulting Company Websites
Listed alphabetically; many contain not only solid interview advice but sample cases, written and video.
- Bain & Company
- Boston Consulting Group
- Deloitte Consulting, LLP
- McKinsey & Company
- Oliver Wyman
Case interview frameworks or consulting frameworks are arguably the most critical component of a case interview. Outstanding case frameworks set you up for success for the case while poor frameworks make the case difficult to solve.
By the end of this article, you will learn four different strategies on how to create unique and tailored frameworks for any case interview.
Strategy #1: Creating Frameworks from Scratch
Strategy #2: Memorizing 8 – 10 Broad Business Areas
Strategy #3: Breaking Down Stakeholders
Strategy #4: Breaking Down Processes
You will apply these strategies to learn how to create case frameworks for the six most common types of case interviews.
Market entry framework, merger and acquisition framework, pricing framework, new product framework, market sizing framework.
You will also learn six consulting frameworks that nearly every consultant knows.
Porter’s Five Forces Framework
Swot framework, 4 p’s framework, 3 c’s / business situation framework, bcg 2x2 matrix framework, mckinsey 7s framework, what is a case interview framework.
A case interview framework is simply a tool that helps you structure and break down complex problems into simpler, smaller components. Think of a framework as brainstorming different ideas and organizing them into different categories.
Let’s look at an example: Coca-Cola is a large manufacturer and retailer of non-alcoholic beverages, such as sodas, juices, sports drinks, and teas. They are looking to grow and are considering entering the beer market in the United States. Should they enter?
In order for you to decide whether Coca-Cola should enter the beer market, you likely have many different questions you’d like to ask:
- Does Coca-Cola know how to produce beer?
- Would people buy beer made by Coca-Cola?
- Where would Coca-Cola sell its beer?
- How much would it cost to enter the beer market?
- Will Coca-Cola be profitable from selling beer?
- How would Coca-Cola outcompete competitors?
- What is the size of the beer market in the United States?
This is not a very structured way of thinking through the case. The questions are listed in no particular order. Additionally, many of the questions are similar to one another and could be grouped together.
A case framework would provide a structure to organize these ideas and questions in a way that is easy to understand.
A framework for this case might look like the following.
Notice that we have simplified the list of questions we had into four main categories. These broad categories are frequently called framework “buckets.” Also notice that we have grouped similar questions together under each framework bucket.
This case framework tells us what areas we need to explore in order to make a recommendation to Coca-Cola. It also clearly shows what questions we need to answer under each area.
This is the power of a case interview framework. It simplifies a complex business problem into smaller and separate components that we can tackle one at a time.
So how do you develop a case framework? The next section will reveal four robust strategies for creating unique and tailored consulting frameworks for any case interview.
Case Interview Framework Strategies
There are four case interview framework strategies you should have in your toolkit:
When given a case interview, you will need to decide which framework strategy you want to use. Some framework strategies will be more effective than others depending on what type of case interview you get.
Therefore, choose the case framework strategy that is easiest for you given the type of case that you get.
This case framework strategy can be used for any type of case. This is the most time-consuming strategy, but yields case frameworks that are the most tailored and unique for the given case interview.
To create a framework from scratch, ask yourself what 3 – 4 statements must be true for you to be 100% confident in your recommendation. These 3 – 4 areas will become the buckets in your framework.
Once you have your framework buckets, brainstorm a few questions for each bucket that you need answers to.
Let’s return to the Coca-Cola case example in which we are asked to determine whether or not they should enter the beer market. What 3 – 4 statements must be true for us to recommend that Coca-Cola should enter the beer market?
The four major statements that must be true are:
- The beer market is an attractive market
- Competitors in the market are weak
- Coca-Cola has the capabilities to produce outstanding beer
- Coca-Cola will be highly profitable from entering the beer market
These will be the major areas or buckets in our framework.
Next, let’s add a few bullet points under each area to add more detail to our case framework.
To determine whether the beer market is attractive, we would need to know the market size, the market growth rate, and the average profit margins in the market.
To assess whether the market is competitive, we would need to know who the competitors are, how much market share they have, and if they have any differentiation or competitive advantages.
To decide whether Coca-Cola has the capabilities to produce beer, we need to know if there are any capability gaps or if there are significant synergies that Coca-Cola can leverage.
Finally, to determine the expected profitability of entering the market, we would need to know what expected revenues are, what expected costs are, and how long it would take Coca-Cola to break even.
This gives us our case framework.
You can repeat this process for any case interview that you get to create an outstanding case framework.
Creating case frameworks from scratch can be quite time-consuming. Because of this, many interview candidates make the mistake of using memorized frameworks for case interviews.
Candidates will either use a single memorized framework for every case or memorize a different framework for every type of case interview.
The issue with using memorized frameworks is that they aren’t tailored to the specific case you are solving for. When given an atypical business problem, your framework areas or buckets will not be entirely relevant.
A poor framework makes the case interview significantly more difficult to solve.
Additionally, Interviewers can easily tell that you are regurgitating memorized information and not thinking critically.
Instead of creating frameworks from scratch each time, this second case framework strategy provides a method to speed up the process while still creating frameworks that are unique and tailored to the case. Additionally, you won’t need to memorize multiple different frameworks.
First, memorize a list of 8 - 10 broad business areas, such as the following:
When given a case, mentally run through this list and pick the 3 - 5 areas that are most relevant to the case.
This will be your framework.
If the list does not give you enough areas for your framework, brainstorm and add your own ideas as areas to your framework.
Finally, add a few bullet points under each area to add more detail to your case framework.
This strategy guarantees that your framework elements are relevant to the case. It also demonstrates that you can create unique, tailored frameworks for every business problem.
Let’s return to the Coca-Cola case example in which we are asked to determine whether or not they should enter the beer market.
Running through our list of memorized framework areas, the following six areas would be relevant:
- Market attractiveness : Is the beer market attractive?
- Competitive landscape : How tough is competition?
- Company capabilities : Does Coca-Cola have the capabilities to enter the market?
- Profitability : Will Coca-Cola be profitable from entering the market?
- Risks : What are the risks of entering the market?
- Strategic alternatives : Are there other more attractive markets Coca-Cola should enter?
You can pick 3 – 5 of these areas as the basis for your framework.
This strategy is a shortcut for creating unique and tailored frameworks for every business problem. Even if you and a friend used this same strategy, you both may end up with different frameworks.
That is completely fine. As long as the buckets in your framework are major areas and are relevant to the case, your case framework will be significantly better than most candidates’ frameworks.
You do not need to develop a framework entirely from scratch every time to create outstanding case frameworks. This case framework strategy can be applied to over 90% of case interviews.
For the remaining 10% of case interviews, you will need to learn and use the next two case interview framework strategies.
The first two case framework strategies can be applied to over 90% of cases. However, some cases may require you to identify and focus on various stakeholders that are involved in running or operating a business.
For these cases, the primary areas of your case framework will be these major stakeholders.
Let’s take a look at an example: Your client is a non-profit blood bank. They have volunteer nurses that go to schools and companies to collect blood from donors. They then sell this blood to hospitals, which use this blood for emergency situations when a blood transfusion is required. Currently, Hearts4Lives is not profitable because they are not able to collect enough blood to sell to their hospital partners. What can they do to fix this?
This case involves many different stakeholders:
- Volunteer nurses
- Blood donors
- Schools and companies
For cases in which many different stakeholders are involved, it will be useful to look at each stakeholder and determine what each could do to address the problem.
One potential framework could look like the following:
Similar to the previous case framework strategy, some cases may require you to focus on improving or optimizing a particular process.
For these cases, the primary areas of your case framework will be each major step of the process.
Let’s take a look at an example: Your client is a waste disposal company that manages a fleet of drivers and garbage trucks that go to residential homes, collect garbage, and then dump the garbage in city landfills. They have an obligation to collect each home’s garbage once a week. Recently, they have been failing to meet this requirement and are backed up with garbage disposal requests. What is causing this issue and what should they do to fix it?
For cases involving processes and efficiencies, it can be helpful to look at the different components or steps in the process.
We can think about the process of collecting and disposing of garbage in the following steps:
- Get in a garbage truck
- Drive along a designated route
- Collect garbage at each stop
- Dispose of the garbage in the landfill
Using these steps as the primary areas of our framework, we can create the following case framework:
Once you have systematically listed all of the steps in a process, you can identify the pain points or bottlenecks that are causing the issue and determine ways to improve the process.
Case Frameworks: The 6 Most Common Frameworks
There are six common case frameworks in consulting case interviews.
Profitability frameworks are the most common types of frameworks you’ll likely use in consulting first round interviews.
A profitability case might look like this: “An electric car manufacturer has recently been experiencing a decline in profits. What should they do?”
There are two steps to solving a profitability case.
First, you need to understand quantitatively, what is the driver causing the decline in profits?
You should know the following basic profit formulas.
Is the decline in profitability due to a decline in revenue, an increase in costs, or both?
On the revenue side, what is causing the decline? Is it from a decrease in quantity of units sold? If so, is the decrease concentrated in a particular product line, geography, or customer segment?
Or is the decline due to a decrease in price? Are we selling products at a lower price? Is there a sales mix change? In other words, are we selling more low-priced products and fewer high-priced products?
On the cost side, what is causing the increase in costs? Is it from an increase in variable costs? If so, which cost elements have gone up?
Or is the increase in costs due to an increase in fixed costs? If so, which fixed costs have gone up?
Next, you need to understand qualitatively, what factors are driving the decline in profitability that you identified in the previous step.
Looking at customers, have customer needs or preferences changed? Have their purchasing habits or behaviors changed? Have their perceptions of the company changed?
Looking at competitors, have new players entered the market? Have existing competitors made any recent strategic moves? Are competitors also experiencing a decline in profitability?
Looking at the market, are there any market trends that we should be aware of? For example, are there new technology or regulatory changes? How do these trends impact profitability?
Putting all of this together, we get the following profitability framework.
Once you have gone through this profitability framework and understand both quantitatively what is causing the decline in profits and qualitatively why this is happening, you can begin brainstorming ideas to address the profitability issue.
Among the ideas that you brainstorm, you can prioritize which recommendations to focus on based on the level of impact and ease of implementation.
See the video below for an example of how to solve a profitability case using this profitability framework.
Market entry frameworks are the second most common types of frameworks you’ll likely use in consulting first round interviews.
A market entry case might look like this: “Coca-Cola is considering entering the beer market in the United States. Should they enter?”
To create a market entry framework, there are typically four statements that need to be true in order for you to recommend entering the market:
- The market is attractive
- Competition is weak
- The company has the capabilities to enter
- The company will be highly profitable from entering the market
These statements form the foundation of our market entry framework.
Note the logical order of the buckets in the framework.
We first want to determine whether the market is attractive. Then, we need to check if competition is weak and if there is an opportunity to capture meaningful market share.
If these two conditions are true, then we need to confirm that the company actually has the capabilities to enter the market.
Finally, even if the company has the capabilities to enter the market, we need to verify that they will be profitable from entering.
This is a logical progression that your market entry framework will take you through to develop a recommendation for market entry cases.
Merger and acquisition frameworks are also common frameworks you’ll use in consulting interviews.
There are two common business situations.
The first situation is a company looking to acquire another company in order to access a new market, access new customers, or to grow its revenues and profits.
Another situation is a private equity company looking to acquire a company as an investment. Their goal is to then grow the business using their operational expertise and then sell the company years later for a high return on investment.
In either of these situations, mergers and acquisition cases typically involve acquiring an attractive, successful company.
It is rare to get a case in which a company or private equity firm is looking to acquire a poorly performing company to purchase at a discount. Nevertheless, you can always clarify the goal of the merger or acquisition with the interviewer before beginning the case.
In order to recommend making an acquisition, four statements need to be true.
- The market that the acquisition target is in is attractive
- The acquisition target is an attractive company
- The acquisition generates meaningful synergies
- The acquisition target is at a great price and will generate high returns on investment
These statements become the basis of our merger and acquisition framework.
Synergies is an area that should absolutely be included in any merger or acquisition framework. A merger or acquisition can lead to revenue synergies and cost synergies.
Revenue synergies include:
- Having access to new customer segments
- Having access to new markets
- Having access to new distribution channels
- Cross-selling opportunities
- Up-selling opportunities
Cost synergies include:
- Eliminating cost redundancies
- Consolidating functions or groups
- Increasing buying power with suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, or retailers
Pricing frameworks are used in cases involving the pricing of a product or service. To develop a pricing framework, you should be familiar with the three different ways to price a product or service.
- Pricing based on costs : set a price by applying a profit margin on the total costs to produce or deliver the product or service
- Pricing based on competition : set a price based on what competitors are charging for products similar to yours
- Pricing based on value added : set a price by quantifying the benefits that the product provides customers
Your answer to pricing cases will likely involve a mix of all three of these pricing strategies.
Your pricing framework will look something like the following.
Pricing based on costs will determine the minimum price you can realistically set. Pricing based on value added will determine the maximum possible price. Pricing based on competition will determine which price in between these two price points you should set.
In order to get customers to purchase your product, the difference between your price point and the customer’s maximum willingness to pay must be greater than or equal to the difference between your competitor’s price point and the customer’s maximum willingness to pay for their product.
New product frameworks are used to help a company decide whether or not to launch a product or service.
New product frameworks share many similarities with market entry frameworks. In order to recommend launching a new product, the following statements would need to be true:
- The product targets an attractive market segment
- The product meets customer needs and is superior to competitor products
- The company has the capabilities to successfully launch the product
- Launching the product will be highly profitable
Expanding on these areas, your new product framework could look like the following:
A comprehensive guide to market sizing questions and market sizing frameworks can be found in this article .
As a summary, market sizing or estimation questions ask you to determine the size of a particular market or to estimate a particular figure.
There are two different market sizing frameworks or approaches:
- Top-down approach : start with a large number and then refine and break down the number until you get your answer
- Bottom-up approach : start with a small number and then build up and increase the number until you get your answer
To create your market sizing framework, simply write out in bullet points, the exact steps you would take to calculate the requested market size or estimation figure.
Consulting Frameworks Every Consultant Knows
There are six consulting frameworks that nearly every consultant knows.
I would not recommend using these exact frameworks during a case interview because the interviewer may think you are just regurgitating memorized information instead of thinking critically about the case.
Instead use the four framework strategies that we covered earlier in this article to create tailored and unique frameworks for each case.
Nevertheless, it is helpful to review these common consulting frameworks in order to understand the fundamental concepts and business principles behind them.
Porter’s Five Forces framework was developed by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. This framework is used to analyze the attractiveness of a particular industry.
There are five forces that determine whether an industry is attractive or unattractive.
Competitive rivalry: How competitive is the industry?
The more competitive an industry is in terms of number and strength of competitors, the less attractive the industry is. The less competitive an industry is, the more attractive the industry is.
Supplier power: How much power do suppliers have?
Suppliers are companies that provide the raw materials for your company to produce goods or services. The fewer suppliers there are, the more bargaining power suppliers have in setting prices. The more suppliers there are, the weaker bargaining power suppliers have in setting prices.
Therefore, high supplier power makes the industry less attractive while low supplier power makes the industry more attractive.
Buyer power: How much power do buyers have?
Buyers are customers or companies that purchase your company’s product. The more buyers there are, the weaker bargaining power buyers have in setting prices. The fewer buyers there are, the more bargaining power buyers have in setting prices.
Therefore, high buyer power makes the industry less attractive while low buyer power makes the industry more attractive.
Threat of substitution: How difficult is it for customers to find and use substitutes over your product?
The availability of many substitutes makes the industry less attractive while a lack of substitutes makes the industry more attractive
Threat of new entry: How difficult is it for new players to enter the market?
If barriers to entry are high, then it is difficult for new players to enter the market and it is easier for existing players to maintain their market share.
If barriers to entry are low, then it is easy for new players to enter the market and more difficult for existing players to maintain their market share.
A low threat of new entrants makes the market more attractive while a high threat of new entrants makes the market less attractive.
A SWOT framework is used to assess a company’s strategic position. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Strengths : What does the company do well? What qualities separate them from competitors?
Weaknesses : What does the company do poorly? What are the things that competitors do better?
Opportunities : Where are the company’s opportunities for growth or improvement?
Threats : Who are the most threatening competitors? What are the major risks to the company’s business?
The 4 P’s framework is used to develop a marketing strategy for a product. The 4 P’s in this framework are: product, place, promotion, and price.
Product : If there are multiple products or different versions of a product, you will need to decide which product to market. To do this, you will need to fully understand the benefits and points of differentiation of each product.
Select the product that best fits customer needs for the customer segment you are focusing on.
Place : You will need to decide where the product will be sold to customers. Different customer segments have different purchasing habits and behaviors. Therefore, some distribution channels will be more effective than others.
Should the product be sold directly to the customer online? Should the product be sold in the company’s stores? Should the product be sold through retail partners instead?
Promotion : You will need to decide how to spread information about the product to customers. Different customer segments have different media consumption habits and preferences. Therefore, some promotional strategies will be more effective than others.
Promotional techniques and strategies include advertising, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, video marketing, and public relations. Select the strategies and techniques that will be the most effective.
Price : You will need to decide how to price the product. Pricing is important because it determines the profits and the quantity of units sold. Pricing can also communicate information on the quality or value of the product.
If you price the product too high, you may be pricing the product above your customer segment’s willingness to pay. This would lead to lost sales.
If you price the product too low, you may be losing potential profit from customers who were willing to pay a higher price. You may also be losing profits from customers who perceive the product as low-quality due to a low price point.
In deciding on a price, you can consider the costs to produce the product, the prices of other similar products, and the value that you are providing to customers.
The 3 C’s framework is used to develop a business strategy for a company. 3 C’s stands for customers, competition, and company.
The business situation framework was developed by a former McKinsey consultant, Victor Cheng, who added a fourth component to this framework, product.
Both of these frameworks are used to develop a business strategy for a company in a variety of situations, such as market entry, new product launch, and acquisition.
The BCG 2x2 Matrix Framework was developed by BCG founder Bruce Hendersen. It is used to examine all of the different businesses of a company to determine which businesses the company should invest in and focus on.
The BCG 2x2 Matrix has two different dimensions:
- Market growth : How quickly is the market growing?
- Relative market share : How much market share does the company have compared to competitors?
Each business of the company can be assessed on these two dimensions on a scale of low to high. This is what creates the 2x2 Matrix because it creates four different quadrants.
Each quadrant has a recommended strategy.
- Stars : These are businesses that have high market growth rate and high relative market share. These businesses should be heavily invested in so they can continue to grow.
- Cows : These are businesses that have low market growth rate, but high relative market share. These businesses should be maintained since they are stable, profitable businesses.
- Dogs : These are businesses that have low market growth rate and low relative market share. These businesses should not be invested in and should possibly even be divested to free up cash for other businesses.
- Unknown : These are businesses that have high market growth rate and low relative market share. The strategy for these businesses is not clear. With enough investment, these businesses could become stars. However, these businesses could also become dogs if the market growth slows or declines.
The McKinsey 7S Framework was developed by two former McKinsey consultants, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. The 7S Framework identifies seven elements that a company needs to align on in order to be successful.
These elements are:
- Strategy : The company’s plan to grow and outcompete competitors
- Structure : The organization of the company
- Systems : The company’s daily activities and processes
- Shared values : The core beliefs, values, or mission of the company
- Style : The style of leadership or management used
- Staff : The employees that are hired
- Skills : The capabilities of the company’s employees
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Table of content
Case interview 101 – The online guidebook
“Case Interview” is the cornerstone of consulting recruitment, playing a decisive role in final results. In 30 minutes, your “consulting” qualities will be tested to the limit as you cruise through a hypothetical “consulting project” with the interviewer. Yes, this is a BIG topic. The depth of content in this single article is HUGE with various chapters ranging from beginner’s topics to more advanced ones. You would want to bookmark this page and go back often throughout your whole preparation journey.
What is a case interview?
A case interview is a job interview where the candidate is asked to solve a business problem. They are often used by consulting firms, and are among the hardest job interviews, testing both problem-solving skills and “soft” skills. Case interviews often last 30-45 minutes each, and firms can utilize up to 6 case interviews, usually divided into 2 rounds. Example case questions:
Case interview are modelled after the course of actions real consultants do in real projects – so success in case interviews is seen by consulting firms as a (partial) indication of a good management consultant. Along the interview, the interviewer will assess your ability to think analytically, probe appropriate questions, and make the most client-friendly pitches. Be noted that the analytical thought process is more important than arriving at correct answers. Generally, there are 2 styles of conducting case: Candidate-led and Interviewer-led.
Candidate-led cases On this end, the interviewer rarely intervenes; the candidate will lead the approach from structuring the problem, drawing frameworks, asking for data, synthesizing findings, to proposing solutions. This format can be difficult for beginners but it provides you much control over the case.
Interviewer-led cases On this end, the interviewer controls the process in significant ways. He or she has the candidate work on specific parts of the overall problem and sometimes disregard the natural flow of the case. The game here is not to solve the one big problem, but rather to nail every question, every pitch, every mini-case perfectly. Because the evaluation is done on question basis, the level of insightfulness required is higher.
Most cases will fall somewhere in the middle section of that spectrum, but for education purposes, we need to learn case interviews from both extreme ends. Great details in each and every aspect of the case, as well as tips, techniques and study plans are coming in the chapters below. You may skip straight to Chapter 3 if you have business background and confident in your own understanding of the terminology used in case interviews. To better understand or practice candidate-led and interview-led cases, let’s book a personal meeting with our coaches . At MConsultingPrep, you can connect with consulting experts who will help you learn the ins and outs of both cases and the solving approach to each one. Get “real” practice now!
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Case interview starter guide for non-business students
All consulting firms claim that all educational backgrounds have equal chances. But no matter what, case interview reflects real-life business problems and you will, therefore, come across business concepts . Not everybody has the time to go to a full Business Undergraduate program all over. So through this compact Chapter 2, I will provide you, the non-business people, every business concept you need in case interviews.
Accounting and financial terms – The language of business
Accounting & Financial Terms are often called the language of business, which is used to communicate the firm’s financial and economic information to external parties such as shareholders and creditors. There are three basic financial statements : Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Cash Flow Statement. Balance Sheet A snapshot of the current stage of the company’s property, debt, and ownership at one given point in time, showing:
The neat thing about the Balance sheet is that it’s always balanced. Every action, every transaction changes the three components but it’s always in harmony. Income Statement A record of the business performance through a period of time , given it a quarter or a year. The Income Statement directly tells you how the company is doing in terms of making money, the heart of any business. From the top to bottom, the Income Statement shows the Revenues, Costs, and Profits. That’s why often, Profits is referred to as the “bottom line”. There are a few types of cost to notice – see the two pictures below this table. One important thing to notice is that even though it may seem like, the Income Statement does NOT necessarily relate to cash. Many of the times, especially for B2B transactions, the selling happens before the money flow. Therefore, we may have to record revenue without having the cash. Cash Flow Statement There’s a famous saying that: Income statement is an opinion, Cash Flow statement is the fact. The Cash Flow statement just strictly monitors the cash flow in or out, categorized in different sections. Three of them are:
Upon completion this section, you should be able to read and interpret financial statements for business diagnosis and decision-making. More importantly, you possess the conceptual base to start solving case interviews on your own. Do not forget that, as with any other language, becoming proficient with accounting and financial terms require constant practice.
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Organizational structure – The heart of a company
When it comes to organizational structure, it is important to notice the fine line between the company’s ownership and management . Technically, at the highest level, there are shareholders . For private companies, the group of shareholders and their shares are not necessarily disclosed and publicly tradable. For public companies, on the other hand, shares are publicly traded on different stock exchanges. One of the most famous is the NYSE, which stands for New York Stock Exchange.
Below CEOs, there are two generally two ways of structuring the company. One way is through business lines and the other one is through functions. Think of business lines as mini-companies themselves inside the big company.
Within functions, here are a few most typical divisions most companies have:
Business strategy concepts
Even with business students, strategy is a challenging topic – especially with those without a strategy major. These fundamental concepts will get you started.
For example, let’s look at Kim’s family picnic process.
B2B vs B2C : stand for “business-to-business” and “business-to-customer”. These two terms refer to two types of transactions a company typically does: transactions with other companies and transactions with individual customers. Bottom-up vs Top-down: this refers to two opposite schools of thought or action. Top-down usually encompasses various general branches while bottom-up tends to narrowly focus.
Management consulting terms & concepts
These are the most common consulting terms you may encounter not just in case interviews but also in consulting tasks .
There are three parameters the consulting world uses in the categorization of businesses.
Normally two consultants ask each other “What do you work on?”, they need to give 3 pieces of information in all of those three parameters, such as “I worked on a Cement project, focusing on Finance, in Southeast Asia”. In fact, all of the McKinsey support networks are organized in this way. During my projects, I would need to speak to some Cement experts, some Finance experts, and some local experts as well. This chapter is relatively long, yet it is still way shorter than 4 years at business college. I hope this will act as a great prerequisite to your case interview study. Make sure that you have mastered all of these content before really tackling the Case Interview.
Case interview example – The typical flow
In a simplified way, a typical case would go through these phrases (we will talk about exceptions in great detail later): Case question -> Recap -> Clarification -> Timeout -> Propose issue tree -> Analyze issue tree -> Identify root-causes -> Solutions -> Closing pitch
Problem-solving fundamentals – Candidate-led cases
Though most cases will be conducted in mixed format, let’s dive deep and learn about each extreme end of the spectrum to get the full picture. Even though this is the harder format, it shows us the foundation of how management consulting works, i.e: the consulting problem solving logics! If you were exposed to case interviews, you have probably heard about some of these concepts: framework, issue tree, benchmark, data, root-cause, solutions, etc. But how do they all fit into the picture?
It all starts with the PROBLEM
Before getting into anything fancy, the first step is to define and be really clear about the problem. This sounds easy but can be quite tricky. Here are a few guidelines: 1. What’s the objective? 2. What’s the timeline required? 3. Any quantified or well-described goals? For example, one client can state a problem as: “I lost my car key”. In normal contexts, this is a perfectly simple and straight-forward problem. But a consultant tackling this would go ask clarification questions to achieve even more details: 1. Objective: the client in fact just needs to be able to use the car. 2. Timeline: this is an urgent need. He is happy only if we can help him within the next hour. 3. Specificity: help the client put his car into normal operation like before he lost the key.
Find the ROOT-CAUSE, don’t just fix the symptom
To completely wipe out the problem and create long-lasting impacts, consultants always search and find the root-causes. For example, fixing the symptom is like you breaking the door lock, getting into the ignition electrics behind the wheel, and connecting the wires to start the car. That does fix the surface symptom: the client can drive the car. But it does NOT create a long-lasting impact because without you there, the car can’t be started. The client will need to rely on you every single time. Plus, more problems even arise (now he needs to fix the broken door lock too). A much better approach is to find the root-cause. What is the bottom-line reason causing the problem? Once we trace, find, and fix it, the problem will be gone for good. In this example, the root-cause is “the lost key”. We need to find its location!
Use ISSUE TREE to isolate potential root-causes into groups
There could be thousands of possible root-causes. How do we make sure every possible one is examined? If we are to list out all thousands and test one by one, there is simply not enough time. On the other hand, if we just list out some of the most “possible” ones, we run a high risk of missing the true root-cause. This is where we need issue trees ! We would group possible root-causes into big groups. Those big groups will have smaller sub-groups and so on. All is done in the spirit of top-down and MECE. By doing this, we have an organized way to include all possible root-causes. Continue with the example: A “bottom-up” approach to search for the car key is to go straight to specific places like the microwave’s top, the black jacket pocket, under the master bed, etc. There can be thousands of these possible locations. The top-down approach is to draw an issue tree, breaking the whole house into groups and examine the whole group one by one. For example: first floor, second floor, and the basement.
Issue Tree only works if it’s MECE
What happens if we break down the search area into the First floor and East wing? The search area would not cover the whole house and there will be some overlapping which creates inefficiencies. So for an issue tree to work properly, it has to be MECE – Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive … which in simple language just mean 2 things: no overlap and no gap
How to draw MECE issue trees? Use FRAMEWORKS!
Each problem requires an unique issue tree. Coming up with MECE and spot-on issue trees for each problem can be really difficult. This is where “framework” helps. Think of frameworks as “frequently used templates” to draw issue trees in any particular context. Many people use the word “framework” to refer to “issue tree” but this is conceptually incorrect.
We will talk about frameworks in more detail in the below chapters. You can also check out this deep-dive article on Frameworks.
Choosing which branch to go to first? Use HYPOTHESES!
So let’s say you have an issue tree of First floor, Second floor, and Third floor. Now what? To make the problem solving process even faster and more efficient, we use hypotheses. In simple language, it’s the educated guess of where the root-cause may lie in. So we can prioritize the branch with the highest chance. So let’s say, the client spends most time on the first floor, it’s where he/she most likely leaves the car key. Any consultant would hypothesize that the root-cause is in the first-floor branch and go search there first. Notice: hypothesis and issue tree always go together. It doesn’t make sense to draw an issue of First, Second, and Third floor and hypothesize that the key is in the East wing. Many times, hypotheses are even the inspiration to draw issue trees.
How to test a branch? Use DATA and compare it with BENCHMARK
Now that we decide to test branch “First floor”, how do we do that? We prove or disprove our hypothesis by collecting DATA. That data is then compared with benchmarks to shed more meaning. Two main types of benchmarks are: historical and competitive. For example, let’s say by some magic, the client has a metal detection machine which can measure the metal concentration of any space. To test the “first-floor” branch, the consultant would come to the first floor, measure the metal concentration and compare it with the data before the car key is lost, a.k.a: historical benchmark.
If a hypothesis is true, drill down; if it’s false, go sideways
What happens when we test a hypothesis? Assuming that we have access to enough data, it either gets proven TRUE or proven FALSE. How do we proceed from here?
Test, Sleep, Test, Repeat … until the ROOT-CAUSE shows up!
Once identified the ROOT-CAUSES, go for SOLUTIONS
With all proven root-causes identified, the last step is to come up with solutions to kill the problem … and we are done! There can be multiple solutions to each root-cause. These solutions should attack straight to the root-cause.
Case interview questions – Interviewer-led cases
While candidate-led cases are all about the logical foundation of problem solving, interviewer-led cases are more about tackling each individual question itself. The structure of the whole case is relatively loose and flexible. In this chapter, we touch on some of the most popular ones. You can read in-depth about each in this designated article.
Framework/Issue Tree questions
This is one of the most popular question types in case interviews, often asked in the beginning. It comes with several shapes and forms, but the real meaning is always: “Give me the bloody issue tree!” So how do you tackle it? Just like in candidate-led cases. Take a timeout; brainstorm about the problem and how it should be broken down into; plug a few frameworks to see how it looks; and go for the most appropriate issue tree. Unlike in candidate-led cases where you only present the upper-most layer, here you should walk the interviewer through the whole issue-tree, covering at least 2 layers. Interviewer-led cases are much less interactive. It’s more like they ask you a question, you deliver a comprehensive and big answer. They ask you another one. And so on.
Market-sizing / Guesstimate questions
This is among the most popular question types and you will likely face a few of them throughout several interview rounds. These questions ask you to “guess” and come up with number estimations in non-conventional contexts. These questions are called “Guesstimate”. When a guesstimate question asks you to “guess” the size of a market, it’s called a “Market-sizing” question. Though this variation is very popular in consulting, the nature is nothing different from other Guesstimate questions. It can be intimidating to face a question like this. Where to start? Where to go? What clues to hold on to? The key is to understand that you don’t have to provide an exactly correct answer. In fact, nobody knows or even cares. What matters is HOW you get there. Can you show off consulting traits, using a sound approach to come up with the best “estimate” possible? Read the designated article on this for great details. Here, let’s walk through the 4-step approach that you can apply to absolutely every market-sizing question.
Almost all cases involve some math. So you will face math questions for sure. These “questions” can go at you either explicitly and implicitly. Sometimes, the case interviewer will ask out loud a math problem and have you solve. But sometimes, you have to do multiple calculations on the background to push the analysis forward. Either way, a strong math capability will help you a lot during cases and the future career in consulting. See this Consulting Math article for more details.
Chart insight questions
Consultant works with data and a big chunk of those data are presented by charts. Many times, the interviewer would pull out a sanitized exhibit from an actual project and have you list out insights you can see from it. There are many types of charts. Getting yourselves familiar with the most popular ones is not a bad idea.
Tips on tackling chart-insights questions: 1. Read labels first: from Chart titles, Axis title, Legend title, etc. Don’t jump straight to the content of the chart. It takes more time to get lost there and having to go back to read the label. Besides, you may also run a risk of mis-understanding the content. 2. Look for abnormalities: important insights always lie in those unexpected and abnormal data. Look for them!
Value proposition questions
In simple language, this question type asks you: what do the customers want? Understanding exactly this need will put any company into the best position to tailor products / service. Like any other questions, Value-proposition questions are not only about correctly identifying customer preferences (insights), but also about analyzing and delivering the answer in a structured fashion. Here are a few tips for you to do that: How to be more insightful:
How to appear more structured:
What kind of data do you need to test this hypothesis? How do you get data? Consulting is a data-driven industry. As consultants, we spent most of our time gathering and presenting data to clients ( see the What the heck does a consultant do video ). No surprise information questions are relatively popular in cases. The best way to tackle this question type is to understand inside out the types of data actual consultants use in real projects. Because almost no candidate knows about this. This is also a very quick way to build rapport. The interviewer will feel like he/she is talking to a real consultant.
Case interview example video – Pandora case
Enough theory! Enough cute little illustration here and there. Time to get our hands into a serious case interview example. Notice the following when watching the video:
Every case is unique in its own way but principles are universal. The more examples you see, the better. This video is extracted from our Case Interview End-to-end Secrets program, where you can find 10 complete examples like this and many other supplement contents.
How to prepare for case interviews
Case Interview preparation is a long and tough process. In an ocean of books, videos, programs, how do we navigate to maximize learning? Most materials floating around are quite good, at least in terms of substance. But the timing and the organization of them can be confusing.
So a good study plan is constantly switching between 3 activities: reading theory, watching examples, and practicing, with cases increasing difficulty level. It’s so crucial to start with super easy cases, be patient, and stay on that level until you are ready to move up. There are so many skills, habits, and scripts to develop and these take time. “The quickest way to do just about everything is … Step by Step” Even for candidates with cases coming up urgently, I still strongly recommend spending the most valuable time practicing cases that match your level. After all, cases are just the context. What you will be evaluated on is your approach, your skills, your techniques, etc. So, this is a sample study plan you can adopt for yourselves:
Case interview tips – With instant results
Imagine a case interview just falls out of the sky and into your lap, scheduled for tomorrow – how can you even prepare? The answer lies in a few “quick and dirty” tips, which I’ll share with you in a moment. I am a firm believer in the 80-20 rule – which states that 20% of the causes lead to 80% of the consequences. In the case interview prep context, 20% of your learning efforts will bring about 80% of the improvements – so the key to instantly and dramatically improve your case performance is to identify and focus on that 20%.
In the next 8 chapters, I’ll tell you the killer tips and tricks that helped me get a McKinsey offer, the majority of which were previously only available in the premium End-to-End Secrets Program , including:
One thing before you proceed: don’t forget to learn the fundamentals, the question types, and the frameworks. Remember, these 20% tips can only get you 80% performance; if you want 100%, there’s no substitute for hard work.
10 case interview Tips & Techniques videos +1,400 Consulting Math questions 60+ Business Intuition exercises PEI & Fit Interview deep-dive guide
How to deliver the perfect case opening
The result of a case interview is determined the first 3 minutes – and I’m not even exaggerating. Most people will be put off by this fact – indeed, with all those efforts spent on learning for the later part of the case, and the hiring decision is made when you’re not even properly warmed up yet. However, putting a spin on it, this is the 20% to focus on – if you nail the opening, you’ll make a better impression than most candidates; it’s also easier to perform well in 3 minutes than in 30 minutes, especially when the case hasn’t gotten tricky. Additionally, you can prepare the opening in a formulaic manner – essentially learning by heart until it becomes natural. There are 7 steps in the perfect case opening formula: 1. Show appreciation 2. Announce case introduction 3. Recap 4. Clarify 5. Announce case approach 6. Align 7. Ask for timeout In this chapter I’ll walk you through each of those steps.
Case opening – Example script
Now it’s time to see how you can put all those steps into action!
Does that correctly summarize the case? <assume the interview confirms that your playback is correct> Great, now I’d like to ask my three clarification questions:
<wait for answers> Thank you for the clarification. Is there anything else I should be aware of? <wait for answers> Thanks for all the insights. It’s great that we all agree on the key details. For the overall approach to this case, to completely wipe out the problem for a long-lasting impact, we will need to find out the root causes of this problem. To do that I will try to break the problem down into bite-size pieces with issue trees, in order to quickly isolate the root causes inside the branches, then drill down accordingly to gather information until we can draw actionable solutions. So before I go on to establish my first issue tree, does that approach sound reasonable to you? <assumes the interviewer agrees with your approach> It’s great to see that we’re on the same page regarding the key details as well as the overall approach to the case. I do need some time to gather my thoughts, so may I have a short timeout?
Being structured throughout the case
The high stress and large amount of information in case interviews make it easy for even the brightest candidates to derail from the objective or present in an unstructured manner. I’ll be sharing with you my 3 most impactful tips to keeping the structure in case interview: 1. The map habit 2. Numbering your items 3. Sticking to the big problem
The map habit
It means regularly and explicitly checking where you are, and where you’re doing next. I call it the map habit because it’s similar to using a map while traveling – pausing every once in a while to check your location, destination, and direction. This habit gives you a sense of direction and authority while making it easier for the interviewer to follow your case progress. It also makes you sound organized and systematic – a definitive mark of management consultants – and the interviewer will love it! You’ll see this habit a lot in our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program, where candidates would often pause at each key step during the case. Do the same thing in your own case interviews, and you’ll greatly impress the interviewer.
Numbering your items
A very easy and effective way to make your pitches sound structured is to number each item. The formula is simple: “There are X items that I’m going to say; they are: No.1 … No.2 … No.3 …” By now you may have noticed that I use this structure many times throughout this guidebook – it’s already quite effective in written language, but it’s even more impactful in spoken communications! Having this numbering habit will make it very easy for the listener to follow your speech, and it creates an impression of MECE (even if content-wise it’s not MECE).
Sticking to the big problem
There are two ways to keep yourself on-track all the time in those high-stress case interviews 1. Occasionally check your position on the issue tree, and quickly get back on track if it seems you’re “derailing”. If this sounds like the previous map habit, you’re right, it is the map habit. 2. Take good notes, with the case question being written big and bold on top of your scratch paper. That way you’ll be reminded every few seconds. That last point brings us to the next issue: how to take notes.
How to take notes in case interviews
The best notes for case interviews are always clear-cut, structured, and relevant. Even the smartest candidates suffer from seemingly silly problems in case interviews – forgetting data, messing up the numbers, getting stuck with frameworks, losing sight of the original objective, etc. And in the true management consulting spirit, I set out to find the root causes. And looking back at hundreds of coaching sessions I did, I found one thing in common – none of those candidates could take good notes.
I’ll tell you precisely how I took notes to get a McKinsey offer; however, I hope that after this chapter, you can install the spirit of the method, not just the method itself. So here we are, with the 3 groups of sheets laid out for the ideal note-taking: 1. Data sheets 2. Presentation sheets 3. Scratch sheets
Data sheets are used to store and process every piece of incoming data . Try to draw tables for these sheets, because this not only makes the calculation process easier, but also gives the impression that you’re a careful and organized person. Also, remember to write only the results of calculations on this sheet, to keep it neat and tidy. Most of your calculations should be done mentally (see the article on Consulting Math Consulting Math for more details); if you really need to jot down the calculations, do it on the scratch sheets.
Presentation sheets are used to develop and present any “outgoing” contents. Your issue trees should be drawn on these sheets, along with the big-and-bold case question/objective right on top. When delivering your pitches, always turn around the presentation sheets so the interviewer can clearly read what’s on them. As with the data sheets, avoid any messy “mid-process” drawings. Put them on the scratch sheets instead.
Scratch sheets exist to keep other sheets clean. Ever felt irritated receiving a notebook full of correction marks? That’s exactly how the interviewer feels if you present with untidy notes. You should try your best to hide all the unorganized, messy parts of your thought process. The scratch sheets provide a sanctuary for that unstructured part of yours – it’s okay to go all over the place for brainstorming, as long as you can organize the incoming resources and present in a systematic manner. “I took the notes just as you instructed, but I still get stuck in cases. How can I avoid it?” – Well, that’s the subject for our next chapter – “Stuck” situations and how to get out of them.
Stuck in cases – What to do
We’ve all been there – that scarily awkward feeling when you don’t know what to do next in a case interview, that fear of being rejected. In every “stuck” situation, the most important thing is to remain calm and collected (you’ll lose points if you panic) – then methodically work your way out. I’ll teach you how to get out of those situations, with style. There are actually 3 different kinds of “stuck”, and for each, I have a different solution: 1. The “Framework” stuck 2. The “Data” stuck 3. The “I-Cannot-Find-The-Problem” stuck Let’s go through each in detail.
The framework stuck
This situation happens when the candidate does not know which framework to use, and the secret tool for it, is “segmentation”. Segmentation works just like any framework, and like a Swiss Army knife, it’s usually safe and easy to use. So if you’re unsure how to break things down, say these magic words: “At this point, I’d like to break down this X item, and one good way is to use the natural segmentation within this line of business. So may I ask how they break this X item in this industry?” If you get it right, the interviewer will reply with the most industry-relevant way to segment the item. You may be wondering why I’m not talking about issue trees and frameworks here, after all the theory at the beginning of the guidebook. The answer is that the textbook and “ideal” solution – learning the problem-solving fundamentals and deep-diving the frameworks to increase your flexibility – takes a lot of time, while the “cliched” solution – learning as many frameworks as possible, usually at the cost of depth – is inherently dangerous.
The data stuck
The “data stuck” happens when the candidate can’t extract relevant insights from the given data. And when this happens, ask for benchmarks. Comparing with benchmarks is the quickest way to put data into perspective, yielding useful insights. There are 2 kinds of benchmarks – if you remember from the chapter on Candidate-led Cases:
To ask for benchmarks, Just say the following lines: “For now, I hypothesize that the root cause of the problem comes from the X branch of this issue tree. However, to further break down the problem in a spot-on way, I do need some information on the context of our client’s problem. One of the quickest ways to grasp that context is to use competitor’s data; so can I have the X figure for our client’s competitors?”
The “I-Cannot-Find-The-Problem” stuck
This is the scariest “stuck” because there’s no obvious reason or solution – you’ve done your math right, your framework is suitable, and you’ve got a lot of interesting insights from data. Why are you still stuck? From my experience in coaching sessions, there are 2 scenarios where this happens: (1) your issue tree is not MECE, and (2) if your issue tree is MECE, it does not isolate the problem. You can try to avoid this in the first place by mastering the MECE principle, improving intuition, as well as aligning with the interviewer early and often. But what if you still get stuck? The answer is to calmly admit you’ve hit a dead-end, and ask for time to fix the problem; be it the first or second scenario, you have to redraw your issue tree. Literally use the following script: “My whole analysis seems going towards a dead-end, which means either part of my issue tree is not MECE or my method of breaking down does not isolate the problem. Either way, I would like to take a timeout to have a look at it.” You likely get stuck when practicing on yourself. That’s the reason why you need personal coaching. Veteran coaches at MConsultingPrep will give insightful feedback, propose actionable steps, and help you significantly enhance your performance. Find my coach! .
How to ask for data
Data is the fuel for the case interview engine. Without it , your analysis can’t progress. The problem is that interviewers don’t simply give out precious data for free. It has to be earned. There are 4 tips you can use to show that “worthiness”, and prompt the interviewer to supply you with the best information: 1. Create a good impression 2. Explain the purpose of the data 3. Explain the method of acquiring the data 4. Ask open-ended questions
What to do when receiving data
Suppose the interviewer agrees to give you data. Now what? Time to shine! If you do these following 3 steps, even just once, in the interviewer’s mind, you already pass: 1. Acknowledge the data and show appreciation 2. Describe the data, especially its notable features 3. State the implications of the data Let’s dive into each separately.
Example – Handling revenue data
Suppose you’re working on a profitability case (how to fix low profits), and you’re trying to dictate whether the root cause comes from the revenue side. The interviewer gives you this data:
How would you respond? Try to answer it yourself before revealing the sample answer.
Delivering the perfect closing pitch
“You have one minute to summarize all of your findings to the client CEO. What would you say?” Your answer must be short, to-the-point, action-oriented, and client-friendly. The closing pitch of the case interview is sometimes called the “elevator pitch” , where you supposedly meet the client CEO inside the elevator and must somehow deliver the results of the project before the elevator arrives at its destination floor (it’s even worded like that sometimes). Regardless of the wording, the principles remain the same, and your closing pitch must consist of these 4 parts: 1. Introduction / Lead-in 2. Summary of the root causes 3. Summary of the solutions 4. Next step
Develop personal interview scripts
Every tip I’ve mentioned in the previous 7 chapters are for recurring situations in case interviews, and they can be dealt with using formulaic responses. What that means for you – the candidate – is that you can make personal scripts and learn them by heart until they all become your second nature. That will save you a lot of brainpower to use on the issue tree. This approach has proven successful with all of my coachees, and it’s also a major part of our Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program. You will find my own personal script I used back in the day, and I will also personally give feedback to scripts of members of the program. So open your document tool and start writing now. Once you’ve finished the scripts, learn them by heart one at a time. When you feel comfortable with every one of them, you can move up to a higher level and practice with whole cases.
Inside the case interviewer’s mind – Consulting culture
The best way to impress your consulting interviewer is to act like a consultant. And to do that, you need to know what goes on inside their mind – both the conscious and unconscious – then install it into your own personality. In this chapter, I’ll guide you through 15 ingredients that make up a consulting mind. However, I won’t tell you how to apply this in case interviews because it will sound fake – what you need is to immerse yourself in a consulting environment, and incorporate these “ingredients” into your own mindset.
Responsibility & proactivity
Everyone talks about responsibility and proactivity these days, but in management consulting, we have a much more powerful word – “ownership” . When you “own” the work, you deeply and sincerely care about it, and you always try to go beyond what is required. If you ever spend your efforts trying to improve a piece of work that your boss already approved, just because you know it is the right thing to do, because you feel so good seeing a job well-done, you have that “ownership” mindset. In management consulting, you are expected to possess that mindset. In my early days at McKinsey, I was almost thrown out the window for working on a cement project but not knowing where the aggregate mines were (which was outside my responsibilities, but my boss expected me to know it, since I “owned” that cement project).
If you fail to do your work, don’t ever blame anyone or anything. Your responsibility is to draw up contingency plans for the “worst-case scenarios”:
In short, if you want to be a consultant, don’t make excuses.
Result-oriented / Can-do attitude
“There’s nothing I can’t do” – that’s the mindset you need to work in management consulting. The result orientation inside a consulting firm is intense – saying that it’s “Mission Impossible” everyday would not be an exaggeration, but at the end of the day it’s always “Mission Accomplished”. The boss doesn’t pay much attention to how you do a task, or what resources it takes, as long as you get it done. The firm has enough resources of every kind to help you with that, so there’s no reason you can’t pull it off.
Communications made by consultants are always short, concise, to-the-point, action-oriented, and structured. We were all given full-on lectures by our parents back when we were kids, for wasting food or not exercising (or not studying, for Asians like me). If they were management consultants, most of those lectures would be replaced with powerful, action-oriented messages: “Go study. If you don’t get an A+ for the next test, I’ll have to discipline you”.
A consultant seeing something non-MECE is like your mom seeing your messy bedroom. It’s that discomforting. If you wish to be a consultant, train yourself to be MECE in everything you do. Once you can be MECE effortlessly, and you start spotting the annoying non-MECE-ness in everything around you, you know you’ve got it.
If you’re unstructured, you won’t get in the business. Being “structured” is a pretty vague concept, but everyone in the consulting industry knows when they see it. It’s about being organized, logical, top-down, MECE, etc.. Basically, if you can approach things the same way as real consultants, you will be deemed “structured”
If you can’t meet the deadline, you’re dead (of course, not literally). A consulting firm works like the perfect machine, where every part operates as intended. When consultants promise to help you with something, you can be nearly 100% sure that they’ll keep their word. This makes work management that much easier. Consequently, if you start missing the deadlines, you’ll be out of the game soon enough.
Manager from Day 1
You’ll get the idea right away if you watched this video on the job of management consultants: <insert link> In short, even as an entry-level associate, you’ll be managing a multitude of resources (experts, specialists, etc.), contents (reports, client data, expert knowledge,…), and stakeholders (the two most important being your client and your boss). Pulling all of these together to create impactful results would be an impressive feat, even for the best and brightest new hires.
Don’t. Ever. Piss off. The client. Management consulting is a special service industry – besides the usual “don’t disrespect the client” and “don’t leave a bad image of the firm”, there’s also “don’t make them hate you while telling them to do what they probably hate.” (which is a good way so sum up a consultant’s job). In case interviews and PEIs, the interviewer will be asking himself a big question: “Can I trust this guy to represent me and my firm before the client?” – if the answer is anything below a stellar impression, you won’t be receiving an offer.
A consultant will have valid reasons for everything they do. In both consulting work and case interviews, you need to be very explicit about the basis of your actions – every conclusion must have backing data, every idea must be explained, and every request must serve a purpose. Don’t ever assume that you’re justified. Being fact-based is part of the foundation for the trust people place on consulting firms, so people who draw ideas out of thin air and act impulsively will never get into the industry.
Effective time & resources management
Every consultant works hard, so the only way to stand out is to work smart. Yes, I know it’s a buzzword, and I know it’s cliched, but the 80-20 rule really does apply in this line of work. The best performers are always the ones to identify the most important lever and focus on it. With the intense workload and up-or-out policy at major consulting firms, this skill is vital. Don’t be surprised if you pull all-nighters and work hard all the time but still get fired, while that one guy who goes home at 5 gets promoted. If you want to survive, learn from him.
Key take-aways & key messages
To a management consultant, everything has a key takeaway. Consultants are efficient people, they don’t simply waste time, effort, and resources on irrelevant things. Things are only worthy of their attention if they have an interesting, helpful “so what”:
If you already think like this, trust me, the interviewer will love you.
Think on your feet first
You should only ask leadership assistance only after you’ve thought well about the problem. Just pause for a second and think: would you be more ready to help someone who really tries their best at the job, or someone who does nothing and relies solely on you? The same thing is true in consulting work, and even in case interviews: the interviewer will assist you if you can deliver well-informed opinions. With that said, “asking without thinking first” is a very common mistake in case interviews, which you can see in the numerous examples from our End-to-End Secrets Program.
Align early, align often
Always try to reach and maintain a consensus with co-workers and your boss, from the most mundane tasks to the largest projects. Nobody wants to spend a whole week building a model that the team doesn’t need; it’s a huge waste of time and resources. As such, consultants have this aligning habit very early and often – a little time spent on reaching an agreement now will save a lot of trouble later. Remember to align in case interviews as well – at the start of the case, and every important step.
Consultants are very action-oriented people who always think about the next step. Every meeting, phone call, even random catch-ups must end with everybody being explicitly and absolutely clear about what to do next. So what’s YOUR next step, after reading this guidebook? Leave a comment below, show your consulting mindset, and I’ll personally reply with advice on your case interview prep.
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Want to speed up your interview prep dramatically? By dividing case interview questions into these 8 clear-cut types, you can do just that!
Elevate your case interview skills with a well-rounded preparation package
Identify your Case Type
Learn more about Market Sizing Questions in Case Interviews.
Market Entry may be a great solution to apply in your Case Interview if your client is searching for growth alternatives.
Learn how to solve Profitability Cases.
Learn everything about the Growth Strategy in this article.
How to solve M&A consulting case studies in your case interviews.
Learn everything about Competitive Response consulting case studies.
Pricing case studies can either stand alone or be a part of another case study. You can crack pricing Case Interview in three steps.
Valuation case studies require you to estimate how much a firm, patent, or service is worth.
Learn how to tackle Brainteasers and what purpose they serve in consulting case interviews.
Here's the announcement about a special offer - learn more here
Top 7 case interview frameworks (and how to create your own)
Today we're going to cover the top case interview frameworks, as well as how you can create your own custom frameworks.
Understanding frameworks has always been critical for the 8,000+ candidates who we've helped with consulting interview preparation.
And one of the first things you'll want to know is that you should AVOID using pre-made frameworks, like those recommended in Case in Point and in Victor Cheng's LOMS programme. But more on that later.
Let's start with the list of top frameworks.
Top 7 frameworks for case interviews
- 1. Profitability
- 3. Porter's 5-forces
- 5. Market entry
- 7. Merger and acquisition
Don't reuse pre-existing frameworks
How to create custom frameworks, 1. profitability framework.
The profitability framework is the most basic framework in business analysis. It simply breaks down profit into its basic revenue and cost components and is commonly used to identify the root cause of profitability issues.
- Revenue can simply be broken down into the Number of Units Sold x Price Per Unit.
- Costs can be broken down into Variable and Fixed Costs. And Variable Costs can be further broken down into the Number of Units Produced x Cost Per Unit.
2. The 4Ps framework
The 4Ps framework is widely used by company executives to design their marketing strategy. There are different variations of this framework, which is also sometimes referred to as the “Marketing mix” framework, but the 4Ps is the most common one.
This framework is commonly used when launching a new product or when reviewing the positioning of an existing product.
- Product : What are the key characteristics of the product sold? Key elements of the product definition could include: customer need fulfilled by product, product usage (E.g. who, where, how, etc.), good vs. service, product lifecycle (new vs. established), competing products and substitutes, etc.
- Price : At what price should the product be sold? Different considerations need to be taken into account here: the customer perceived value of the product, the price of competitive products, the customer price sensitivity, the cost of producing the product, etc.
- Promotion : Which promotion strategies should be used to sell the product? Key elements to consider include: promotion messages, media type (E.g. TV, social media, radio, etc.), best time to promote, competitors’ strategies, etc.
- Place : Through which channels should the product be distributed? Key elements to consider include: possible channels to distribute the product (E.g. in store, web, mail-to-order, etc.), customer expectations in terms of channel, requirement of a sales team or not, competitors’ strategies, etc.
3. Porter's 5 forces
Porter’s 5 forces is a framework commonly used by CEOs to explore the competitive dynamics of industries. Indeed not all industries are structured the same way.
Some industries are really hard to get into (E.g. banking) while others have very low barriers to entry (E.g. newspapers).
Suppliers have strong bargaining power in some industries (E.g. high-end medical equipment) but little power in others (E.g. small milk producer), etc.
Understanding these dynamics is extremely important when you're considering entering a new industry or when assessing the competitive dynamics of the industry a company is already in.
- Bargaining power of customers : How much bargaining power do customers have? If there is only one buyer but multiple suppliers, then that buyer will be at a strong advantage. Key elements to consider here include: customer concentration (percentage of industry revenues from Top 3 buyers), customer price sensitivity, customer information availability, etc.
- Bargaining power of suppliers : How much bargaining power do suppliers have? Similarly to the previous point, if there is only one supplier but multiple buyers, then that supplier will be at a strong advantage. Key elements to consider include: concentration of suppliers (percentage of industry revenues to Top 3 suppliers), difficulty of switching from one supplier to another, differentiation between suppliers, etc.
- Threat of substitutes : What are the substitutes for the product and are they increasingly popular? As a reminder, water is a substitute for Coke while Pepsi is a competitive product for Coke. Key elements to consider here include: potential new substitutes, ease of substitution, evolution of customer propensity to substitute, etc.
- Threat of new entrants : How difficult is it to enter the industry for potential new players? Key elements to consider here include: regulation authorisations, capital requirements, economies of scale, network effects, etc.
- Existing rivals : How competitive are existing rivals in the industry? Key elements to consider include: number of competitors and their market shares, similarity between their products and products of the firm analysed, financial health of competitors, etc.
4. 3Cs framework
The 3Cs framework is also commonly used to put together strategies for companies. As you will notice below, a lot of its components overlap with the Porter’s 5 forces.
- Customers : Who is the customer? Key elements to consider include: customer demographics (E.g. age, sex, income, etc.), customer needs, customer segments' size and growth rates, customer willingness to pay and price sensitivity, etc.
- Competition : What are the competitive dynamics? Key elements to consider include: competitors’ value proposition and brand, competitors’ market share and growth, competitors’ financial health, etc.
- Company : What defines the company? Key elements to consider include: product offering, profitability, core competencies, unique selling point, financial performance and resources, etc.
5. Market entry framework
The market entry framework is commonly used to make decisions on whether a company should enter a new market or not.
For instance, you could use it to decide if Starbucks should enter the Chinese market, or if Nike should enter the sports broadcasting business.
- Market : What are the characteristics of the market we are trying to enter? Key elements to consider include: market size and profitability, products already available in the market, intensity of the competition, heaviness of the regulation, etc.
- Client capabilities : Does the client have the right capabilities to enter that new market? Key elements to consider include: differences between the client's current market and the new one they are now targeting, number of times client has entered new markets and achieved success, other companies already in the new market, etc.
- Financials : Does it make financial sense to enter the new market? Key elements to consider include: current financial situation of the client, cost to enter the new market, ongoing costs once the market is entered, expected revenues and return on investment, etc.
- Entry strategy : How should the client go about entering the new market? Key elements to consider include: timing of market entry (now vs. delay), speed of market entry (test region vs. whole country), opportunity to buy competitor or do a JV, management approach (control from HQ vs. decentralise), etc.
6. Pricing case framework
Companies always face a difficult issue when launching a new product or service. What should its price be? The pricing framework is extremely helpful for answering that question.
- Cost-based : What price do we need to set to cover all our costs? Key elements to consider include: fixed costs and their allocation across products, variable costs and number of units produced / sold, profitability targeted, etc.
- Value-based : How much are customers willing to pay for our product? Key elements to consider include: price of the next best alternative to our product, features that make our product better than the next best alternative, value of these features, etc.
- Competitor-based : What is the competition charging for similar products? Key elements to consider include: available substitute products from the competition, price of these substitute products, value of our product vs. substitutes, etc.
- Overall strategy : Given the elements above, what should our pricing strategy be? Key elements to consider include: objective of the pricing strategy (E.g. high profitability or high market share), opportunities for upsell / cross-sell that should be taken into account (E.g. Kindle and ebooks), possibility to sell different versions of the same product (E.g. iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro), etc.
7. Merger and acquisition framework
Finally, the merger and acquisition framework is used when companies are looking to acquire or merge with competitors.
These situations are not very frequent in a CEO's life, but they are highly stressful, which is one reason why consultants are often asked to support such initiatives.
- The market : What are the characteristics of the target company's market? Key elements to consider include: market size and growth, market profitability and intensity of the competition, market regulation, etc.
- The target : How attractive is the target to be acquired? Key elements to consider include: current and future financial position of the target, important assets or capabilities owned by the target, quality of the target's management team, target / buyer culture fit, etc.
- The buyer : What's driving the buyer to make the acquisition? Key elements to consider include: acquisition rationale (E.g. target undervalued, etc.), acquisition financing, buyer's acquisition experience, acquisition timing, etc.
- Synergies and risks : What are the acquisition synergies and risks? Key elements to consider include: value of individual and combined entities, cost synergies, revenue synergies, biggest risks of failure, etc.
Once you are generally familiar with frameworks, the question becomes: how do you actually use frameworks in case interviews?
There are a lot of opinions about how you should do this on the Internet. But the two main schools of thought are Marc Cosentino’s Case In Point and Victor Cheng’s LOMS .
But both of these methods share the same flaw: they try to force pre-defined frameworks onto cases. In our experience, this is bound to produce average results because all cases are unique.
Not convinced? Let's cover each of these two popular methods in more detail.
Why NOT to use the Case In Point frameworks
In Case In Point, Marc Cosentino attempts to classify case interviews into 10+ categories and then suggests that candidates should memorise a specific framework for each of them.
This is an interesting exercise as it exposes you to a range of business problems and helps you think about them in different ways. However, in our experience, learning 10+ frameworks is difficult and time consuming.
More importantly, in live case interviews, trying to recognise one of the 10+ case categories and then remembering the associated framework is a real nightmare!
Instead of focusing on solving the problem at hand, you end up trying to remember a framework that will not even perfectly fit the case you are solving. In our experience, the best candidates avoid this strategy.
Why NOT to use Victor Cheng's LOMS frameworks
In his LOMS programme, Victor Cheng advocates for a much simpler method and suggests you should only learn two frameworks: the profit framework for profitability cases, and a general framework for all other cases (Product, Consumer, Company, Competition).
The benefit of this approach is its simplicity. It gives you a starting point that’s easy to remember when you are putting a framework together.
However, in our experience, this approach has a fatal drawback. In practice, there aren’t that many profitability cases, and you basically always end up using the general framework.
Even if you adapt this general framework, it won't be perfectly tailored to the case you are trying to solve. More importantly, your interviewer will quickly realise that you are using a pre-made framework and that will reflect negatively on you.
Why to create custom frameworks instead
A good framework is a bit like a tailor-made suit: it is adapted to the problem you are trying to solve, the company, the industry, and it is also as MECE as possible.
If you use pre-existing frameworks, you run the risk of missing important elements of the specific problem you are trying to solve. In real life, consultants rarely use pre-defined frameworks. They are familiar with them, but they do not directly re-use them as-is on projects.
Instead, they create a customised framework or issue tree that addresses the specific details of each case. To do so, they rely on conversations with their client as well as past experiences.
This might sound intimidating, but the good news is that creating custom frameworks is actually much simpler than you might think.
Now, let's turn our attention to HOW you can create your own custom frameworks during case interviews.
Here's a brief summary of the steps you'll need to take:
Summary - IGotAnOffer method (framework development questions)
- Step 1: Ask for time to gather your thoughts
- Step 2: Create the framework
- Extract the main elements from the case question
- Break down the main elements into components
- Step 3: Communicate the framework
Spin your paper around
- Begin with an overview
Highlight 3-5 considerations for each branch
Summarise your points, prioritise next steps.
Now let's cover these steps in more detail. We'll also be digging into a real case example below, in order to illustrate the framework creation process.
1. Ask for time to gather your thoughts
Regardless of the case you get, you should always ask your interviewer for some time to gather your thoughts, before you begin to develop the framework.
This is a normal part of the interview process. Your interviewers will expect you to ask, and they'll almost always give you this time.
But don't get carried away!
For reference, you should only take 30-60 seconds to quietly think-through your framework. We recommend that you also sketch out your framework on a piece of paper during this time, as that will help you to organise your thoughts more clearly.
Without practise, it's really difficult to estimate how long 30-60 seconds actually is, so we highly recommend that you practice this process with a stopwatch. This exercise will help you get a clear idea of how much time you're actually using.
2. Create the framework
During that 30-60 second time window, you'll need to do the real work of crafting your framework.
The essence of framework creation is actually quite simple. A framework takes the business situation presented in the case, and breaks it into smaller "bite size" pieces.
By isolating the various components of a case, you'll be able to better identify the root cause of an issue, or find the best opportunities for improving the underlying business.
And the best way to develop your framework creation skills is with practice on realistic case problems, so let's walk through an example together.
Star Production case example
In this case we need to analyse the short-term profitability of a movie production company. So, you would begin crafting your framework by thinking about the different factors that would contribute to the company's overall profits.
The first two components of this framework are fairly straightforward: revenues and costs. That's because the profitability of any company is determined by a combination of their revenues and costs.
Then, we can further deconstruct both revenues and costs based on our knowledge (or perhaps some assumptions) of the movie production business. And as you break down the components further, it's important to consider the concept of MECE, which stands for Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive.
In simple terms, MECE means that you should aim to have a framework where the branches do NOT overlap with each other, and where the framework is comprehensive (i.e. no branches are missing). You can learn more about this in our separate MECE guide .
Now here's an example of what your draft framework might look like for the Star Production case:
As you can see in the example above, we've broken down the revenues and costs into specific components that would make sense for a movie production business.
And we've used bullet points to highlight the information we would need in order to determine how each individual item contributes to the overall revenues or costs of the business.
For example, we would need to know the expected ticket sales, the average ticket price, and the share of the ticket revenue that Star Production would be entitled to, in order to calculate the total ticket revenue.
Once you've drawn out a rough framework like the above example, your next task will be to explain your framework to your interviewer.
3. Communicate the framework
Even if you created the world's best framework, it won't get you an offer if you're not able to explain it in a clear and structured way.
Here's how we'd recommend you communicate your framework during your interviews:
Start by showing your interviewer the framework that you've drawn on paper. Having this visual structure will make it much easier to explain (and understand).
Start with an overview
Before jumping into the details of your framework, you should start with an overview of the framework.
In our example above, you could simply explain that the profitability of Star Production will be determined by the expected revenues and costs of the business, which can be broken down into more specific categories.
You should also tell your interviewer the order in which you plan to walk through each individual branch, so they'll know what to expect.
Next, go through each branch of your framework and mention several considerations that came to mind while you were drafting the framework.
For example, for the "upfront costs" branch of the Star Production case, you could explain that you'd want to find out what costs the company would incur before it can start releasing movies, like filming equipment, studio space, and post production expenses.
And throughout your explanation of the framework, you should pause periodically to summarise your key points, and to check in with your interviewer.
You're likely going to be covering a lot of ground in your framework, and you want to make sure that your logic doesn't get foggy in the details.
For example, you could summarise the most important considerations that impact the revenues of Star Production, after you've walked through each individual sub-branch under revenues.
Finally, after walking through your full framework, you should tell your interviewer the 2-3 next steps you would recommend, in priority order.
There's a variety of ways you could rank next steps, but three good options would be based on importance, ease, or speed.
Returning to the Star Production example, you could recommend the following next steps in priority order:
- Identify the biggest cost drivers. Star Production's business model is focused on producing a high volume of low cost movies, so controlling costs will be essential to the profitability of the company.
- Develop a production process that minimises costs. Once the primary cost drivers are identified, we should develop a production process that keeps those costs as low as possible.
- Look for opportunities to increase the hit rate. Star Production is counting on a few box office hits to drive revenues. As a result, increasing the percentage of movies that succeed could be a big win.
Get MBB offers by mastering frameworks
To succeed in case interviews, you MUST be able to create and apply frameworks effectively.
And custom framework development is explained in even greater detail in our case interview training programmes.
If you'd like to fast track your case interview preparation and maximise your chances of getting an offer at McKinsey, BCG, or Bain, come and train with us.
More than 80% of the candidates training with our programmes end up getting an offer at their target firm. We know this because we give half of their money back to people who don't.
The IGotAnOffer team
Photo: Roberto Taddeo / IM
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Interview Type: Case
Management Consulting, Finance, and other industries using case interviews typically include business cases or other analytical questions. Here are some pieces of advice and types of questions for you to consider.
Tips for Case Interviews
- Always explain the rationale behind your responses to questions to show employers that you have a grasp on business strategy in problem-solving.
- Seemingly “ridiculous” questions may be testing your ability to analyze and reason through a situation/problem.
- If you are asked quantitative questions during interviews, such as calculating yield-to-maturity, costs of capital etc. the interviewer is trying to evaluate your analytical skills and how you approach answering these types of questions.
- Some companies use a Super Day Interview format .
- For an upper-level finance position, additional questions may focus on business strategy or philosophy.
Adapted from afponline.org
Examples of Case Interview Questions
- A client is experiencing declining profits and sells gourmet coffee in Lexington. How can they approach this?
- We have a client whose company is experiencing issues with cash flow and needs to do a reduction in force or manage its costs- what would you recommend?
- How would you approach an opportunity to buy a business? Assuming money was not an issue, what criteria would you use to evaluate whether to purchase it and how to value it?
- We have a company who needs a good turnaround person to help save it. Where would you start and how would you proceed?
- One of our clients is experiencing a decline in business because one of their competitors has decided to enter the market with a similar product. How would you approach this issue as a consultant to the client?
- How many greeting cards do you think Hallmark sells for Mother’s Day?
- What types of issues would you anticipate if you are given a start-up to grow? How would you evaluate market size?
Preparation and Research
Preparation is key to the case interview! Here are some resources to help you prepare for your case interview.
Bain & Company – Case interview
YouTube Channel – Case Interview 101: A great introduction to Consulting Case Study Interviews
Articles and Examples to Practice
Oliver Wyman Group
The Boston Consulting Group – Practice Case Interviews
Vault – How to End a Case Interview on a High Note
Management Consulting Case Interviews – Top 10 Case Interview Tips
Bloomberg , Hoovers , CEO Express , and various business journals to conduct your research and develop questions. You should also review the company’s annual reports and financial information, as well as recent Form 8-Ks and 10-Ks. Additionally, social media sites, like LinkedIn and Twitter, are great for gaining additional insight into a company and its culture.
Vault and Glassdoor for reviews of companies, interview questions, and more!
How to Use Your Interview Time Efficiently , including the top 25 commonly asked interview questions, with best answers and red flags.
Below are some resources to help you practice your answers to case questions.
Vault – Sample Interview Questions: Consulting
YouTube channel – Consulting Case Interview and other
McKinsey & Company (optimal for management consulting and finance roles)
Mergers & Inquisitions – How to Dominate Your Investment Banking Interviews and Win Offers
PrepLounge is a case interview community, focused on management consulting, where candidates with similar career goals get connected, practice cases and sharpen their consulting skills. PrepLounge has video cases, cases students can practice, a community where folks can find each other and practice together, and brain teasers, quant teasers, etc.
If you are trying to explore a business, finance or consulting role, you should start interview preparation in advance. Here are some books you can read to help you prepare and practice potential Case Interviews.
- Ace Your Case II! : Consulting Interview: The WetFeet.com Insider Guide (Insider Guides Series: Company Insider), WetFeet (2011).
- Case in Point : Complete Case Interview Preparation, Marc P. Cosentino (2013)
- Case Interview Secrets : A Former McKinsey Interviewer Reveals How to Get Multiple Job Offers in Consulting, Victor Cheng (2012)
- Crack the Case System : Complete Case Interview Prep, David Ohrvall (2011)
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Market Sizing Framework · Profitability Framework · Case Interview Bootcamp · Black Belt Interviewer · Market Study Framework · Merger & Acquisition
Rebecca Smith-Allen · Profitability Cases · Non-Profitability Cases · Market Sizing Questions (also called dinner conversation cases) · Case Interview Math (also
Consulting Case Study Types · Profitability Optimization · Pricing Optimization · Industry Landscape & Competitor Dynamics · New Product or Project · Growth Plan/
In a case interview, you will be given a business problem or scenario that generally falls into one of three types: the brainteaser; the guesstimate;
A case interview framework is simply a tool that helps you structure and break down complex problems into simpler, smaller components. Think of a framework as
Types of case interview questions · 1. Framework/issue tree questions · 2. Market-sizing and guesstimate questions · 3. Valuation questions · 4. Brain teaser
Be noted that the analytical thought process is more important than arriving at correct answers. Generally, there are 2 styles of conducting case: Candidate-led
Identify your Case Type · Market Sizing · Market Entry · Profitability Case · Growth Strategy · M&A · Competitive Response · Pricing · Valuation.
1. Profitability · 2. 4Ps · 3. Porter's 5-forces · 4. 3Cs · 5. Market entry · 6. Pricing · 7. Merger and acquisition.
Management Consulting, Finance, and other industries using case interviews typically include business cases or other analytical questions
Case interviews can be broken down into 7 types of questions. If you learn how to consistently answer each question type, you will know how