How to take notes in Consulting Case Interview

In every consulting case interview I do, even before the case actually started, I pull out three separate pieces of paper, on top of each piece, I wrote … not necessarily in big letters but very clearly labeled each as:

Data sheet
Presentation sheet
Scratch

As their names suggest, each sheet is clearly designated to each specialized task.

The data sheet is where you note down neatly and ideally in a table format all information, data, provided by the interviewer throughout the case. If you have additional data as the result of analyses or calculations performed, put them into the data sheet too.

The presentation sheet is literally what you use when speaking to interviewers. For example, if you say: “… problem A can be broken down into B and C”, literally draw those on this sheet and point to each one as you speak.

Lastly, the scratch paper is there for anything else you need to write out in interviews… brain storm ideas, calculations, etc. The purpose of this sheet is to make the other two clear and neat. So you don’t have to worry too much about what you write here on this scratch paper.

Notice that these three sheets actually refer to “groups” or “categories” of sheets, not necessarily exactly three pieces of paper. If you run out of paper in each category, feel free to take out a new piece and label them as “data sheet 2”, “presentation sheet 2 “, or “scratch paper x”.

See our Candidate-led Case Interview video for overview and other important tips in Case Interview!

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Tags: Case Interviews

Candidate – led Case Interview Secret McKinsey

A good page to learn about Case Interview McKinsey

Candidate-led cases are interesting but also very difficult especially for beginners. I personally really like these cases because it represents very well how an actual consulting project works and the role of the engagement team in it.

So rather than talking specifically about how a candidate-led case works, let me introduce you to the LOGIC behind management consulting Problem Solving Test. It’s ironic that many experienced candidates, having practiced 20 30 cases, actually don’t grasp this very well. That’s why even with that much practice, they can still struggle in certain cases and still feel like they need even more practice.

Well, practice is good, but only when you have mastered the basics. So here we go: the core logical foundation of how management consultants solve problems. We talked a little bit about this in the Case Interview 101 video but here is the much more in-depth explanation. To make this as easy to follow as possible, I divided the whole concept into bite-size elements with numbers.

Element No.1: The problem has to be defined

Element No.2: To solve a big problem, we – management consultants don’t look for solutions right away. Instead, we try to find the ROOT-CAUSE. This ensures us to completely eradicate  the problem and to have a long-lasting impact.

Element No.3: There can be millions of possible root-causes. To effectively and efficiently find the right one, we use a top-down and MECE approach. This is called an “issue tree”. See our MECE and Framework video for more details.

Element No.4: In order for each branch to exist in the issue tree, there HAS to be a chance that the Root-cause is in it. Or in other words, for every branch, there must be at least one hypothesis associated with it.

Element No.5: Now assume we have a structured, MECE, and hypothesis-based issue tree. Pick the best hypothesis, or, in other words, choose a big branch to begin with. Then test if the root-cause is in there.

Element No.6: Depending on each case, different methods are used to test hypotheses. But generally a powerful tool is to use benchmarks. Two main types of benchmarks are historical and competitors’ data.

Element No.7: If data suggests that the root-cause is indeed IN the testing branch, go down one level deeper and repeat the same process: breaking down the branches into sub branches in a MECE, hypothesis-driven way and test each sub-branch using data. See case interview examples and answers

Element No.8: At any point where the data suggests that the root-cause is NOT in the testing branch or sub-branch, move to a parallel branch or sub-branch on the same level.

Element No.9:  Keep doing this until the whole issue tree has been covered or until the interviewer would like you to switch gears.

Element No.10: Lastly, once you have identified one or many root-causes, think of solutions to fix  them!

In theory, the above approach always works. But the following two conditions must be met.

Condition No.1: each and every single part of the issue tree must be perfectly MECE.

Condition No.2: the issue tree, or in other words, the breakdown must somewhat properly isolate the root-cause.

A few tips to meet those conditions:

(1): Make sure you understand the concept of MECE really well. Please refer to our MECE video for more detail.

(2): Try to improve your business intuition in order to be able to pick good frameworks or correctly draw spot-on issue trees. We devoted a whole eBook in our End-to-end program for this.

(3): Most importantly, develop the habit of aligning with the interviewer. No matter how good you are with the two tips above, there will always be cases that are hard to be MECE inside out and hard to draw frameworks that are spot on. The interviewer is actually a great resource you can use.

You should use Case Interview End-to-End Secrets Program for exclusive practice cases and insightful tips!

Source: mconsultingprep.com

 

What is Case Interview Question?

This is one of the most popular question type you will get in case interview. These questions ask you to estimate or to smartly guess a quantitative variable relevant to the case you are solving. When a guesstimate question ask you to estimate the size of a market, it is called a market sizing question.In term of approach, there is no difference between guesstimate and market sizing questions. There are many tips you can apply. Example of a guesstimate question: How many people wearing red in New York on a typical MondaySkills tested: It is the way you approach and solve the problem that matters, not the final answer that you give out.

Strategy
  • Step 1: Clarify the question, make sure you and the interviewer are on the same page on every assumption.
  • Step 2: Break the problems into smaller pieces in a MECE way.
  • Step 3: Use Estimation and Judgement to solve each pieces.
  • Step 4: Consolidate all of those pieces into a final conclusion.

Lets solve the above question example using the strategy just introduced.Question: How many people wearing red in New York on a typical Monday?

1. Step 1 – Clarification:

How do you define “wear red“? – If any cloth on a person is red, he/ she is considered as “wear red”. If a person wearing red go out more than once, do we double count them? – No! “New Work” here refers to New York City or the state of New York? – New York City.

2. Step 2 – Breaking down the problems:

OK, so here is how I would want to solve this problem. The number of people wearing red in NYC on a typical Monday will be determined by these following factors: How many people are there in NY? What are chances that people will wear red? This depends on two smaller factors:How many pieces of clothes people wear and people preference in color.

3. Step 3 – Solving each piece:

Work with the interviewer to answer and estimate each of those elements. Population is about 20 millions chances: 5% staying at home, 70% going out once, 25% going out twice. Those staying at home have 2 pieces of clothes (pants and shirt); those going out once have 5 pieces, and those going out twice will therefore have 10 pieces. There is no specific preference on color.

4. Step 4 – Consolidating:

Let’s analyze the number of people wearing red at each group.

  • Staying at home: 1,000,000 * 2 * 1/10 = 200,000. 1,000,000 people have 2 pieces of clothes. Chance of wearing red in each piece: 1/10 (7 color + gray + black + white)
  • Going out once: 14,000,000 * 5 * 1/20 = 3,500,000. 14,000,000 people have 5 pieces of clothes. Chance of wearing red in each piece: 1/20 (on Monday, most of these people go to work, thus black and white will be the main color they wear)
  • Going out twice: 5,000,000 * 10 * 7.5% = 3,750,000. 5,000,000 people have 10 pieces of clothes. Chance of wearing red in each piece: 7.5% (the first trip is probably the business trip: 1/20; the second trip is the casual trip: 1/10)

So in total: there are about 7.5 million people in NYC wearing red on a typical Monday.

Case Interview Questions of the Top 10 Consulting Firms Ask

The key to any good interview is preparation—and there’s no better preparation than knowing the kinds of questions that you’re likely to face. This post’ll focus on many common types of questions, feel free to test out your answers.

Situational & Personal Questions

These are the standard questions that almost every professional in any walk of life will have to negotiate successfully if they’re to find themselves getting a job offer. However, just because they’re not specific to the consulting industry doesn’t mean that you should take them lightly—tripping up on a question about your long-term career goals can do your application just as much harm as blowing the case interview portion. Some examples:

  1. “Please describe your most important leadership experience and the impact that you had as a leader.”
  2. “Describe a problem that you would like to tackle at [this firm], why and how would you pursue it.”
  3. “If I were to speak to your colleagues from your most recent internship (or friends in school), what would they say about you? What are the strengths and weaknesses they would share?”
  4. “Describe a situation where you failed. What did you learn about yourself and how did you change as a result?”
  5. “Why our firm instead of your current firm? What do you know about us compared to your firm?”
  6. “Tell me about a project that didn’t go well and why and what you would do differently next time?”
  7. “How do you quantify a lead?”
  8. “Can you describe your brand?”
  9. “How have you dealt with low team morale in the past? Provide an example of when you had to give a bad performance review.”
  10. “Describe a project which challenged you. Describe a client relationship which was challenging.”

 Market Sizing/ Estimates 

Market sizing and estimation is a crucial skill in the consulting world, and is also something that is conveniently easy to test for in interviews. In fact, every single firm in the top 10—and a clear majority of the firms we survey every year—ask candidates to estimate the size of something, whether it’s ice cream cones sold in Beijing in a day, or the potential market for electric cars in the United States. Regardless of what you’re asked to figure out, you should always start by explaining your assumptions—population size, percentage of the population likely to use said product (and why you’ve settled on that percentage), and any other factors that are likely to have a significant effect on the estimate. Indeed, showing that you can logically approach the problem is far more important than whatever number you might eventually arrive at, so be sure to do the bulk of your reasoning out loud, and make the process a conversation with the interviewer, so that they can follow your thought process.

Here are some sample market sizing questions from this year’s survey:

  1. “How many airplanes leave from Boston’s Logan Airport on Monday?”
  2. “How many light bulbs are there in Manhattan?”
  3. “What is the market size for a cancer diagnostic technology in the U.S.?”
  4. “How many passengers fly through LAX in a calendar year?”

 Case Interview Questions 

No consulting interview would be complete without case interview questions that test a candidate’s ability to think strategically about problems. Answering them is all about preparation (that’s why you’re at business school—and why there’s no shortage of guides to help prepare) as well as a continuation of the approach for market sizing questions—make it a conversation, and explain every step of your thinking/process along the way. Again: showing that you can arrive at a solution after thoughtful questioning and analysis is far more important in these questions than being able to throw out a brilliant new strategy on the fly, so focus on the process, and allow it to lead you to a solution.  Some examples:

  1. “Client X is deciding how best to enter a new market. They have a choice of buying an existing company, or developing the technology in-house. How would you think about advising them to make the best decision?”
  2. “How should a nuclear plant deal with waste products?”(Hint: the same person who submitted this question told us that the answer “involves heavy analytic calculation about the recycling of plutonium, various storage option with different cost structures, and recommendations taking into account various green initiatives and business risks.”)
  3. “An online brokerage is growing well but can’t seem to reach their profitability goals; what could be going on?”
  4. “You’re discussing a contemplated divestiture with the CFO of a large corporation. What are some of the points you’d want to make in considering how our firm can potentially assist him or her? What key themes would you want to hit on?”
  5. “Your client is a Fortune 50 aerospace and defense company interested in entering adjacent markets through organic or inorganic expansion. Which markets should she enter and how?”
  6. “How would you go about advising a hypothetical client on commercializing a teleportation device that they have invented?”
  7. “Should I open Chick-Fil-A on Sunday?”
  8. “Should I put Wi-Fi on my airline?”
  9. “Our client is thinking of acquiring a company that makes a certain type of medical device; what do they need to consider in making their decision?”
  10. “Our client wants to enter the wine market; how should they go about doing so?”

Brainteasers/ Random Knowledge

While it’s now rare for consulting firms to ask the “golf balls in a 747”-type questions that were in vogue a few years ago, there are occasional interviewers who like to stretch candidates to see how they perform under pressure. Here are a couple of questions that stood out in this category.

  1. “You are sitting on a camel on the edge of the Sahara desert. How far can you see?”
  2. “Who is Sancho Panza?”

Check out Case Interview End to End Secret for all the information about Case Interview.

 

Case Interview Question

Most of the Case Interview Questions you found online would be about business cases and market sizing problems. Though highly  important, those are only parts of the actual Case Interview. In fact, most Case Interview would include 3 parts: PEI (Personal Experiences Interview), Market Sizing and Business Case Solving.
This round is for the interviewer to get to know you, as a person. In this case, of course first impression is crucial, then you would also want to demonstrate your leadership skills and interpersonal skills.

1. PEI/ Behavioral Questions:

“Describe a situation where you failed. What did you learn about yourself and how did you change as a result?”
“Why our firm instead of your current firm? What do you know about us compared to your firm?”
“Describe a problem that you would like to tackle at [this firm], why and how would you pursue it.”
“If I were to speak to your colleagues from your most recent internship (or friends in school), what would they say about you? What are the strengths and weaknesses they would share?”
“Tell me about a project that didn’t go well and why and what you would do differently next time?”
“How do you quantify a lead?”
“Can you describe your brand?”
“How have you dealt with low team morale in the past? Provide an example of when you had to give a bad performance review.”
“Describe a project which challenged you. Describe a client relationship which was challenging.”
“Please describe your most important leadership experience and the impact that you had as a leader.”

  1. Market sizing:

How many people wearing red in New York on a typical Monday?
“How many airplanes leave from Boston’s Logan Airport on Monday?”
“How many lightbulbs are there in Manhattan?”
“How many jerseys are sold in the US per year?”
“How many passengers fly through LAX in a calendar year?”

You can see more about Market sizing here.

  1. Business case solving:

Your client is a $300 million a year copper mining company. This year it has lost $50 million. How do you turn it around? – Oliver Wyman Case
“How should a nuclear plant deal with waste products?”(Hint: the same person who submitted this question told us that the answer “involves heavy analytic calculation about the recycling of plutonium, various storage option with different cost structures, and recommendations taking into account various green initiatives and business risks.”)
How many gallons of gasoline does an average gas station in America sell on an average day? – Oliver Wyman Case

Your client is Motorola. The year is 1980. They just invented the cellular phone 3 years ago. They want you to estimate the market demand for cell phones over the next 30 years and tell them if there is a market for this invention (and prove it) – Bain Case
“How would you go about advising a hypothetical client on commercializing a teleportation device that they have invented?”
“Should I open Chick-Fil-A on Sunday?”
Your nephew runs a lemonade stand. Yesterday was Monday and he was open from 2pm – 5pm, and sold 2 cups. What should he do differently tomorrow? – McKinsey Case
“Client X is deciding how best to enter a new market. They have a choice of buying an existing company, or developing the technology in-house. How would you think about advising them to make the best decision?”

“An online brokerage is growing well but can’t seem to reach their profitability goals; what could be going on?”
“Our client is thinking of acquiring a company that makes a certain type of medical device; what do they need to consider in making their decision?”
“You’re discussing a contemplated divestiture with the CFO of a large corporation. What are some of the points you’d want to make in considering how our firm can potentially assist him or her? What key themes would you want to hit on?”

Your client is a ski resort. Global warming has made it such that natural snowfall has been reduced by 50%. They client is concerned. What should they do and why? – McKinsey Case
Your client is a gas station and the market is so competitive that they make no money on gasoline sales. All the profit is in convenience store sales. What is the profit maximizing way to layout the convenience store and why? – McKinsey Case

“Should I put Wi-Fi on my airline?”
Volvo claims it is the safest car in the world because fewer people die in a Volvo than in a car made by any other manufacturer in the world. What’s wrong with this conclusion? – McKinsey Case

“Our client wants to enter the wine market; how should they go about doing so?”

“Your client is a Fortune 50 aerospace and defense company interested in entering adjacent markets through organic or inorganic expansion. Which markets should she enter and how?”

To learn and know all about Consulting Interview, you can use Case Interview End to End Secret”, written by Kim Tran.

References: caseinterview.com, vault.com

 

Case and Interview Preparation

The consulting interview process consists of two parts: the personal experience interview and the business case portion.

The personal experience interview consists of a “get to know” conversation including questions about your resume, motivations to become a consultant, strengths, experiences working in teams, and many other possible scenarios.

The case portion of the interview consists of the interviewer presenting a business problem, often one the consultant has actually faced, to consider. During the case portion (often 75% of a 30 minute to 1 hour interview) interviewees are expected to logically, creatively, and in a structured manner describe how they would approach the problem.

While problem solving skills and the ability to present logical arguments and hypotheses are skills that Ph.D., masters, law degree, and medical degree students have in spades, the ability to think on the spot and coherently address issues relevant to businesses takes practice.

There are a few general suggestions from alumni to consider when preparing for the interview.

Firstly, do not neglect preparing for the personal interview section of the interview. While performing well on the case is a necessary component of getting a job, it is not a sufficient criteria. Interviewees should come prepared to answer the commonly asked interview questions with stories that demonstrate the interviewee’s key abilities and achievements.

Secondly, when interviews come, there are often up to five in one day so be prepared to spend many hours each week for the months preceding interviews practicing and building stamina. A bench mark is to practice cases with a partner (NEVER ALONE) 3-5 times per week for two months before interviews.

Finally, when applying for firms, remember that consulting jobs are very difficult to land. However, with enough determination, enough preparation, enough networking with companies, and by spreading your job search net wide you will be able to enter this exciting industry!

Source: Collected

McKinsey PST Pass Rate and Passing Score

problem solving test There has been so many people asking me about this topic. So it’s time to tackle this topic. Today’s question come from David Bäcker from Germany.

Hi Kim, thank you so much for such helpful materials on theMcKinsey PST. The question breakdown gives me a much better understanding of what to expect on the test. It also helps me have a very sound approach to questions rather than just purely intuition and ad-hock technique.

However as I practice some tests, I really wonder what is considered a good score? Do you have any data on the average score across different offices? Do they have a passing rate (e.g: top 1% get in regardless of score) or do they use a cutoff score (i.e: minimum passing mark where you will pass if you reach that bar? In each case, what is the exact level? What should I target on my practice test?

I would appreciate your time response!

Let me try to address your question through a seri of bullets.

1. McKinsey uses a Cutoff score, NOT a Passing rate!

Yes, there is a fixed minimum passing score that you will be guaranteed to pass if you get that score or better. And yes, this is regardless of how many applications taking the Problem Solving Test with you and regardless of how many points they score on their test.

You will be competing with yourselves only!

2. Passing score is identical across McKinsey offices and across history, sources said.

This information is never confirmed by McKinsey but I believe we have enough reports to reasonably assured that the difficulty level of you applying to the McKinsey Tokyo office is the same as applying to the McKinsey New York office.

In very rare occasions, you will be granted extra time depending on very specific program at some particular offices. The McKinsey Hanoi office actually give local students (who do not study abroad) 10 minutes extra when applying to internship positions. But make sure you ask the HR specialist of your targeted office on details. Don’t assume every office applies this program.

3. My best estimation of the McKinsey PST Cut-off score is 70% – 75%.

Again, McKinsey would never reveal or confirm this score. My estimation is based on my interview with former colleagues from various offices. Most of them got 60% – 80% on the practice test and believed that they do a little better on the real test.

4. If I were you, I would worry about getting enough practice, not about the Passing score.

Thinking about the Passing score just makes you feel stressed during your test. The more important thing is, no matter what the exact Cut-off score is, the more Practice you did, the better chance you have.

So read a little about the question allocation, do some practice tests, try some math drills! Those actions do maximize your chance of passing!