Business case prep

Case interview preparation

We have all been there... that moment during an interview when we are asked about our approach to solving a case.

How to crack a case

  • Listen carefully; ask questions if there are any points you do not understand.
  • Once the interviewer provides you with the case parameters, summarize the case to the interviewer in your own words to be sure you understand the problem.
  • Then, take some time to think for a minute; don't be afraid of the silence!
  • Find a way to structure the problem; this will guide your discussion with the interviewer. Briefly describe the framework you plan to use to the interviewer, allowing him or her a chance to offer comments. In general, the simpler the framework, the better. Once the interviewer endorses your framework, stick to it!
  • Begin with the first element of your framework, and work through the answer out loud so the interviewer can evaluate your analytical structure and help you along.
  • Try to be aware of the time you have, moving through your framework at a pace that allows you to touch on all the elements you described at the beginning of the case discussion.
  • Pause periodically during the discussion to give your interviewer a chance to course correct. If your interviewer gives you some advice, take it — assume he or she wants to help you!
  • Toward the end of the case discussion, be prepared to take a stand — most case discussions will seek some sort of recommendation from you. Although you’ll likely feel uncomfortable making a call with so little data and so little time to discuss all the issues, respect the exercise and state your recommendation based on the conclusions you were able to glean from your discussion.
  • Be confident and, perhaps most importantly — relax and try to have some fun! Although that may seem difficult, the way you’ll be most relaxed is if you practice, practice, practice before the interview.
  • You can get sample cases to practice with from the consulting club at your school. Don’t read the cases ahead of practicing — find a partner (ideally a second-year student who just completed a consulting internship) to test you, and don’t be embarrassed if you don't do well. No one performs well on all cases, especially in the beginning.
  • Remember there is no single right way of answering a case. If you have demonstrated your thought process and come to logical and reasonable conclusions, you will have successfully "cracked the case!"

Style points

  • Remain calm, take time to think
  • Be succinct, pragmatic and action oriented
  • Take notes if necessary
  • Think out loud
  • Sketch out your ideas if appropriate
  • Maintain eye contact