Consulting interviews are unlike any other. They require a different kind of preparation plan to that of its counterpart. The great news is that no one is born with the ability to do a case interview, it is not a talent that is limited to a certain number of people. Anyone can master the skills required for case interviews. If you ask those who have aced a case interview and landed an MBB consulting job, they will all echo this same sentiment. They started from the same point and were able to grow from novice to an expert with practice.
Once you land a first round interview, to some extent, with the right preparation plan, work ethic and dedication to see this through, your chances of getting the offer increases significantly.
Thankfully, we have leveraged our experience to create the ultimate interview preparation plan. You can use this to map out your learning journey to efficiently and effectively use your preparation time. Each section starts with aims and ends with a plan so for those who don’t have time to read the full article, take note of those parts. But remember, you must commit to the process to maximise your learning.
Before you begin, know that this plan is adaptable and will depend on your background and how long you have to prepare. For those who are more familiar with the process (been through it before or experienced hires), you can just skip to step 3 [link] and focus on the quality of your performance. For those with little time to prepare (perhaps 3 weeks till interview), you can tailor the time spent at each phase to accelerate your preparation.
1. Understand the case interview process and what’s being assessed [*T-5 MONTHS]
Aim: To understand and become comfortable with the structure and flow of a case. Try to nail this stage as opposed to having a particular number of cases you should have completed by this point.
Before you start to study or practice anything, you first need to know what the process is and what your interviewer is looking for. Let’s talk about this briefly.
Consulting interviews compromise 2 main parts: the case and the personal fit. The latter is similar to competency interviews you get at most companies but should not be neglected. You need to be good at both to get a job. We will mainly focus on the case interview in this article. Cases are discussion/role-play with the interviewer about a hypothetical business situation/problem (or brainstorming exercise). They require you to structure a problem, analyse it and recommend a solution.
Example: “Your client is a manufacturer of gardening equipment in the UK. They have been facing declining revenues for the past 3 years due to competitors offering cheaper substitutes. They have asked for your help in solving this problem”
Cases assess two key areas: technical skills and soft skills. Technical skills include problem solving and numeracy whilst soft skills include communication (how do you deliver the message) and coachability (how well you learn from suggestions or feedback)
- Watching a case interview is a good way to get a feel of the interview and should help you know where it is that you are headed to by your first round interview – we have a bank of mock case interviews from consultants and candidates to get you started!
- For those who prefer to work with numbers, you can try to watch/listen to roughly 5 case interviews and read through 5 cases.
2. Learn the fundamental skills and concepts
Aim: To be able to start and finish cases. To know common business terminology such as profit margins and breakeven. To understand how to tackle main case types [Link main case types]
Now that you are more familiar with the case interview, you can move on to learning the theory of it. Getting the fundamentals right will set you up nicely for the next two stages where you begin to ramp up your case output. For now, the fundamentals include:
- learning the key types of cases that would be tested
- knowing how to break down a case interview
- learning business concepts, consulting maths and refreshing your mental maths
- how to draw insights from charts and graphs and so much more
For non-business backgrounds, you need to start building your business intuition and acumen. Trust us, it sounds scarier than it is. We recommend starting from understanding A-level economics concepts (unit economics, profit margins etc) to reading business news and articles as the concepts become more familiar – we also have a business fundamentals module included in our membership. The earlier you start to build your basic knowledge of business, the better it is. You can easily weave this into your daily life in discussions with friends (it works). Other suggestions include finding good resources online or reading the books that your consulting friends recommended to you. However, that can get quite tedious and it is important to note that some of these resources can’t work as a stand alone for your learning.
You’re probably thinking, where do I find all the theory. Our courses are structured to help you pick up and practice the theory behind case interviews. Our videos are made by consultants who break down the logic behind these concepts. And, if you are not big on videos, we also have written content that summarises what was discussed in each video. Don’t just take our word for it, see “reviews” to hear from applicants who have benefitted from our content.
- Work through MBB 101 resources (or online resources, but find good resources)
- Practice cases with others ASAP (start with profitability)
- Read over cases and redo them after
- Understand theory in practice
- 5-20 Cases (time dependant)
3. Apply and build on your skills
Aim: To be comfortable structuring, analysing and getting to a reasonable answer for ANY common case type
For most, this can be the toughest part of the process. Why? Because you are in between fully grasping how to handle any case and still fixing recurring mistakes that crop up. If you think of the learning journey as an exponential curve, this would be the steepest part of the ascend. As with any new skill you want to build, you just need to keep going.
Our suggestion is to ramp up the number of cases and complexity. You need to expose yourself to varying cases, even the “out-of-the-box” cases. Otherwise, you can’t understand the theory without seeing its application. Debrief after each case, document improvement areas and actively apply this to your next performance. For this to be effective, you should be casing with partners who give constructive feedback more. Find and learn from those who are at a more advanced level. Pick up the good things they do whilst retaining your own spin. For example, bringing in personal experiences during a market sizing case.
Our MBB-101 platform facilitates partner finding and will allow you to book MBB consultant mentors to case with. This is the best way to assess your performance at this stage.
- Mock interviews with varying levelled partners
- Apply teaching/feedback from partners
- Revisit resources as required
- Targeted practice
- ~10-20 cases
4. Refine and polish your performance
Aim: To establish great techniques for all cases. Have the ability to break down unconventional cases by applying logic. You can generate creative ideas and keep the interviewer engaged throughout.
By this point, you are near approaching your interview date. Your focus should be on quality over quantity of cases. Target weak areas and be more focused in your practice. You can even get your case partners to test you on a case you did earlier on in the preparation process. Note your improvement and continue to reach for those advanced level attributes. This includes structured communication at all times, creative ideas for qualitative questions and drawing out unconventional insights. Keep your recommendations succinct and always include next steps.
Quality partners are more important at this stage because high quality insights are important. For most of us, we had 2-3 consistent people we were running cases with regularly. Start thinking about your approach to curveball and partner level cases which you will find in later rounds. Seek MBB consultant mentors for more refinement at this stage.
- Case with advanced level candidates or real consultant ideally
- Targeted practice on weakness areas + non conventional cases
- Be able to connect with interviewer
- ~20-30 cases