A common mistake consulting students make when preparing for interviews is focusing so much on case prep that they neglect preparation for the behavioral elements. Similar to interviews for nearly any other position, consulting candidates will participate in a "fit" interview where they are asked to expand upon experiences as examples of personality, character development and work-habits. Take time to practice your responses to prompts like "tell me about yourself", "what are your strengths?" and "why should we hire you?" as they should come across as confident yet specific to the firm with which you are interviewing. You can find lengthy interview prep materials on the Undergrad Career Services website.
The case interview is often considered the biggest hurdle for consulting candidates. It's purpose is to test students on the skills necessary to the role as the process mirrors the foundation of the consulting profession.
What is the case interview?
As part of the recruiting process for both internship and full-time positions, most consulting firms require that candidates participate in multiple rounds of case interviews. There are several types and styles of case interviews, the general pattern presents a candidate with a business problem or scenario that tests his or her ability to think critically and analytically under pressure. The case interview is not pie-in-the-sky estimation (e.g. how many golf balls fit in a 747?), even though some cases involve estimation elements. Each case asks a candidate to provide a logical process for creating the optimal (in her or his opinion) solution to the client's request. Case interviews can last anywhere from 30 - 45 minutes and can be interviewer-led, interviewee-led, group-based, or in a presentation format. The format is up to the firm and its preference for evaluating each candidate's analytical processes.
Why do firms use the case interview?
The case interview is intended to simulate the reality of being a consultant. Most first and second-year analysts are not expected to solve problems at such a high level as the case requires, but this specific interview process does test important skills of any consultant such as stucturing, quantitative analysis, clear communication, and synthesizing large amounts of information. Furthermore, since the case requires candidates to think like a consultant, preparing for it provides a glimpse into a career that can be otherwise difficult to understand prior to entering. If practicing cases is unpleasant, the job will likely feel the same!
How should I prepare for the case interview?
PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. It's that simple.
The next most important piece of advice is to start early. The generally recommended amount of preparation is 4-6 months and 30+ practice cases, but naturally the approach varies by individual. No matter what stage of career development you find yourself, finding a way to enhance your case skills will be beneficial.
We recommend that your preparation follow a four-level process:
Independent Skills: First, hone skills needed to succeed in the case interview independently. This should involve a relatively short phase (1-2 weeks) durich which you practice the skills of stucturing and developing frameworks, sharpen your mental math, and develop business intuition and creativity. The Management Consulted platform has lots of material to help you get started on your own. They also visit campus periodically for workshops. Keep in mind that you'll also be revisiting these basic skills to maintain preparedness throughout the process.
Live Peer-to-Peer Feedback: Soon you'll be ready to put the skills you've learned into practice by running cases with your peers. Reading case books and watching tutorials provide a useful baseline for the "how," but the vast majority of your practice should come in a "live" mock interview setting. Don't be afraid to mess up! Making mistakes is the only way to discover which skills need refining. It is best to practice giving and receiving cases with multiple people in order to gather a wide range of feedback and learn from others' styles. An appropriate goal is to run one to two cases each week - Management Consulted has a rich reserve of cases from which to choose.
Live Incoming Consultant Feedback: After roughly 10 cases, reach out to a fellow student who has successfully navigated the case interview process and received a consulting offer. Peer mocks are provided by Consulting Connect during the spring semester, and are a great way to stay sharp prior to summer. These experienced students will be able to provide a deeper level of feedback that you can take back to your regular peer practice. Don't be afraid to ask them to run a follow-up case with you a few weeks later after you've worked through their initial feedback. The checks and balances are crucial to your growth.
Live Employer Feedback: Once you've worked with an incoming consultant to deepen your case expertise, it's time to connect with a consultant at one of your target firms for a case. This is the most valuable level of preparation, since these contacts have access to the cases that make their way into the live interview process. Many are also interviewers themselves and will give you the most direct feedback. Consultants are busy, so be courteous when reaching out, but know that they also want you to succeed and will likely be happy to help based on their availability. Many firms will host case mocks throughout the year. Asking your incoming consultant contacts for introductions is also great place to start.