Consulting Case Study Presentation Tips

Email:

Greetings from Western Europe.

Thank you very much for all the material.  I have found it extremely useful and much more insightful than the books recommended by MBB in Sweden.

I am writing to share a method I have been using for case interview preparation.

My context for learning is that it has been entirely independent, as I have found no one to practice with.

To try and make the transition from reading/writing to verbalising my cases, I have been using a voice recorder.

As I listen to the LOMS cases, I stop the player at the end of each interviewer answer and record my own response, and then play it back.

This seems to have:

1) It increased my confidence in verbalising my reasoning, as well as making apparent some of the problems in my articulation skills ( I used to speak in a very melodic way -- very annoying!)

2) I have found this to be a good a way to internalise the hypothesis driven methodology in solving cases because it is 'proactive'.

Keep up the good work. I hope to get back to you in the near future with a very exciting offer notification.

 

My Reply:

I'm glad my materials have been helpful in your preparation, and thank you for sharing your case interview practice tip.

I have been encouraging others to record themselves and play it back, but unfortunately not that many people do it.

Hour per hour, it is probably the single best way to improve one's verbal communication skills (listening to how you actually sound vs. how you think you sound).

Keep in mind, "thinking out loud" by verbalizing your reasoning to an interview is a specialized skill that is different than just being able to do public speaking.

Critical reasoning is a left brain (the logical part of your brain) activity. I believe verbal communication is a right brain (emotional/sensory part of your brain) activity.

To explain your reasoning out loud to an interviewer requires you to integrate these two normally distinct skills.

It takes some practice to do this well.

And the more that I think about it, that ability is something I did while I was at McKinsey all the time.

When working with clients and partners, I often felt like I was a diplomat at the United Nations:

1) thinking to myself my real opinion

2) considering how to best communicate that point

On the one hand, I often felt like my verbal communication was very guarded -- being extremely precise in what I said so as not to mislead... almost like being in a legal trial, and an attorney asks you a very specific question on the witness stand.

While it is not always like this in consulting, there are moments when you need this skill to be "on".  Practicing syntheses with an audio recorder is one very useful way to do this.

The reality is that in our head, we all sound brilliant to ourselves.. but once you actually hear what you sound like, sometimes it is not as good. But, once you notice any weird habits (very normal -- if you have not done this before) you can look out for them and change them.

I did the exact same thing when preparing for live national television interviews I did for Fox.  I both audio recorded and video recorded myself for hours and hours (just to prepare for a three-minute interview... which I will tell you is a lot harder than a case study interview. Not only do you only have time to cover three points in a TV interview, you often only have time to cover three sentences!)

So if your verbal skills are not especially articulate or concise (two traits consulting firm partners love), it is possible to improve those skills with practice.

Additional Resources

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Feb 8, 2011

Tagged as:Case Interview Articles, case interview practice, case interview tips

One of the key steps in the consulting recruitment process – particularly when it comes to management consulting roles – is the case study interview.

Consulting is all about solving problems for (often high-profile) clients, so employers want to know up front that you have excellent problem solving skills and that you can communicate solutions effectively.

If you’re in a business program, you probably already know all about case studies.

Here, we’re going back to the basics for students who are interested in a consulting career but don’t have the advantage of in-class case study experience.

We also have some crucial tips for tackling a case interview.

What is a case interview?

In a case interview, you’re given a common business problem and asked to analyze the situation, identify key issues, and discuss how you would address the problem. These interviews average about one hour in length but can even be as short as 15 or 20 minutes; the interviewer will indicate how much time you have.

In many cases, there may not be a “right” or “wrong” answer – what the interviewer really wants to know is:

  • how you think about problems
  • how you reach solutions

They’re looking for creativity and the ability to challenge assumptions. They want to know that you’re naturally intellectually curious, that you can look at complex problems from different angles, and that you can reach a logical conclusion that is well supported.

 

How to prepare for a case interview

Whether you encounter case studies in class or not, it’s a good idea to prepare for your interview in two ways:

Practice on different types of cases

Long term: Get hands-on business experience through volunteer work, internships and co-ops, and participate in activities such as case competitions. Many business schools and competition clubs hold local case competitions and give the best students the opportunity to represent their school at larger provincial, national and even international competitions.

Short term: There are plenty of books, websites, videos and other resources out there that will help you study different types of cases. Many firms even post practice case studies on their websites so you’ll know what to expect. Your career centre may also have resources or workshops to help you prepare for case interviews.

Whether you participate in the competitions or not, case competition websites often feature past cases and winning presentations. For example, McGill Management International Case Competition, Copenhagen Business School Case Competition and CaseIT MIS Case Competition.

Research the employer, its business and its clients

No matter how many practice case studies you complete, you’ll be dead in the water if you don’t have critical knowledge about the firm, the clients it typically deals with, and how risk averse it is.

Check out employers’ company profiles on TalentEgg and study their websites carefully – many firms have detailed information many pages deep that you might miss on first glance.

 

How to handle yourself during the interview

Unlike the practice case studies you work on independently, the real case interview will be presented to you and evaluated by the interviewer. You’ll have the opportunity to ask them questions and they might ask you questions too when you present your solution.

  • Don’t rush – take the time you need to fully understand the case and the question you must answer.
  • Don’t assume anything – ask for additional information if you really need it.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence – it’s a good idea to take a moment to organize your thoughts before you begin speaking.
  • Don’t just provide a solution – tell the interviewer which alternatives you may have rejected and how you arrived at your conclusion.
  • Insert your business knowledge and judgment where you can, but don’t become a walking, talking business textbook.

Have you ever taken part in a case study interview? Share your experiences and best practices in the comments below.

Visit the Consulting Career Guide to learn more about careers in consulting, and find student and entry level consulting jobs from top employers.

Special thank you to Erin Miller for generously providing many of these tips.

Photo credit: The Case Study by Binuri Ranasinghe on Flickr

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