LBS Consulting Case Studies Book - 2010 mim, Study notes for Integrated Case Studies. London Business School (LBS)
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twang.mim20121 March 2012

LBS Consulting Case Studies Book - 2010 mim, Study notes for Integrated Case Studies. London Business School (LBS)

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Consulting Interview

Including contributions from:

Inside

Consulting Interview Process Overview of process What recruiters are looking for Tips for success Types of cases Guide to fit interviews Resources for further study

Case Examples 12 cases for practice including 7 new examples Wide range of industries Fully worked answers Written by professional interviewers

Case Book

Consulting Club & Consulting Careers Team

A Practical Guide on How to Crack Case Interviews

2010/2011

1Case book 2010

Contents

Foreword 2 The Interview Process 3 The consulting interview process 3 What are they looking for? 4 Demonstrating problem solving skills 5 Demonstrating personal impact 6 Demonstrating leadership 7 Demonstrating drive and motivation 8

How to Ace Case Interviews 9 Overview of Case Interviews 9 Tackling a Case Interview – A Step-by-Step Illustration 10 Six Major Types of Business Case 16

Fit Interviewing 21 Overview 21 The Importance of Fit 21 Criterion Based Questioning 22 Two key ‘Why do you want to....?’ questions 23 Do you have any questions for me? 24 A Two-Way Process 24 Additional Resources 25

New Cases for Practice 26 Booz & Company 26 Oil tanker case 26 Video game case 27 Pen manufacturer case 29

L.E.K. Consulting 33 UK’s leading “fast fit” automotive retailer 33 UK Premium Confectionary Manufacturer 34

Roland Berger 36 Case 1 – Business Aircraft: Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul 36 Case 2 – Advising a client on acquiring a player in the personal protection equipment market 39

The Boston Consulting Group Cases for Practice 43 Medical software industry case 43 Jet fighter manufacturing case 46 Natural Gas Retail Case 49 Supermarket Deli Turnaround Case 51 Discount Retailer Case 53

2Case book 2010

Welcome! Cases excite me. They are real-life business problems, usually complex or ambiguous enough that a management team engages expensive consulting support to solve them. As such, they fascinate me, and I’m seldom happier than when gathering and organising data to crack a real-life case.

I hope they excite you too. You will get the most out of them if you approach them, not with the narrow aim of convincing employers to hire you, but with a spirit of intellectual curiosity that drives your enjoyment of the interview process and a problem-solving career beyond that. If you don’t enjoy them and find working through this book a drag, well, do you really want to do this for a living in the longer term?

Cases are not just for consultants. Other firms use case interviews in business school hiring (e.g. Johnson & Johnson) and they are a great way to hone your business problem solving skills.

Practise lots. I’m sure you will find that ‘Practise, Practise, Practise’ is the best preparation. People often ask me how much practise is enough? There are two answers – the minimum is ‘practise until you feel confident; the maximum is practise with all your energy until you have nothing left to give. No Olympic gold medallist ever asked ‘what is the least I need to do?’

I hope you use the book in a number of ways: „ An introduction to the concept of the case interview; „ A theoretical guide (how to address cases, what interviewers are looking for); „ A source of practice cases to do with friends/colleagues/anyone who will help; „ An insight into the type of answers you might give to a particular case – this is only a guide (there are no right answers);

„ A reference to at least some additional resources available elsewhere

It just remains for me to wish you good luck!

J-P Martins Associate Director Consulting Careers London Business School

Foreword

3Case book 2010

When applying to work with a consulting firm, you will go through a multi-stage interview process. Most firms’ interviews follow a similar pattern. A couple of regular recruiters at London Business School, notably McKinsey and 2020 Delivery, have a written problem solving test as a screening round before the first round of interviews.

The first round will generally consist of two interviews with consultants at the firm you are applying to join, each lasting around 30min – 1 hour. Case and fit interviews are usually combined, although they may be separate (notably at McKinsey). First round interviews are often held on the London Business School campus.

Often called ‘decision round’, round 2 will be conducted along very similar lines to Round 1, but will generally be held at the office to which you are applying. Increasingly, recruiters are using video-conference where students are applying to remote offices from London. The interviewers will probably be more senior than those who interviewed you in the first round – often including partners. You will be given two or three business cases and, in addition, your ‘fit’ will be tested again.

Interviewers in this round will test ‘weak spots’ based on feedback from the first round (competencies that were not tested, or where performance faltered during Round 1).

Be very self-aware during your first round interviews and afterwards: „ Analyse points on which you feel you might have let yourself down or underrepresented your abilities;

„ Spend time practising answers to questions on these topics;

„ Some firms provide feedback after the first round – use this to focus further preparation (especially important with BCG)

Understanding and preparing for both case and fit components of the interview process greatly improves your chances of securing a consulting offer and also reduces the stress associated with the interviewing process.

Case interviews are dealt with in detail on page 9 – 21 of this Case Book and Fit interviews are covered in detail on page 21 – 25.

The Interview Process

The consulting interview process

The Interview Process / What are they looking for?

4Case book 2010

Drive & motivation

Personal impact

Leadership

Problem solving

What are they looking for?

The purpose of both fit and case interviews is to assess you on a number of selection criteria. These vary from firm to firm but can be broadly grouped into four main competencies, all of which are key to performing well in a consulting job.

Successful candidates will demonstrate both: „ Strong ability on three of the four dimensions (i.e. ‘above the hurdle’ on at least three dimensions)

„ ‘Outstanding’ or ‘truly distinctive’ on at least one of the four dimensions.

Outstanding or truly distinctive is judged as ‘this candidate would be within the top 25% of consultants currently working in the firm on this dimension’.

If you are above the bar on all four dimensions, but not outstanding in one, you will not get the consulting job.

Note: These are a measure of ‘raw talent’ rather than looking for a specific background, industry or functional experience in the consultants that they employ.

4 Key Competencies Sought By Consulting Recruiters

„ Intellectual capacity „ Analytics / quants. „ Creativity „ Business judgement „ Comfort with ambiguity

„ Maturity „ Track record (sporting, clubs) „ Integrity „ Inspirational „ Willing to take personal risks

„ Presence „ Confidence vs. ego „ People skills „ Team player „ Sense of humour

„ Driven by results – action oriented „ Enthusiasm „ Desire to excel „ Other interests

Can I send you to a client on day 1? Can I spend 12 hours on a car/plane with you?

5Case book 2010

The Interview Process / Demonstrating problem solving skills

Intellectual capacity

Comfort with ambiguity

Business judgement

Creativity

Ability to listen & learn

A consultant is, above all else, a problem solver – i.e. they are contracted by clients to solve their business problems. Strong problem solving is therefore key to securing a job in the consulting industry.

Your problem solving ability will be primarily evaluated through the case interview. Although problem solving is not the same as intelligence, very often recruiters use the shorthand term ‘smarts’ – a clue to how they may think about problem solving performance.

Three elements will drive your performance: „ Intrinsic abilities: intellectual capacity, quantitative ability, creativity;

„ Preparation: time/effort spent learning what is expected of you;

„ Practice in solving cases

Demonstrating problem solving skills

„ Using complex/sophisticated reasoning to address issues within the case

„ Picking up on hints given by the interviewer during the interview process

„ Applying new concepts introduced by the interviewer, later during the case

„ Willingness to attempt to solve the problem

„ Not – ‘I don’t know anything about this area/ industry’ – that’s the whole point!

„ Focusing on where the real problem is (Can they identify the ‘big buckets’ and ‘smell money’)

„ Logical and well-structured approach

„ Can you identify the key issues and address these in a logical and structured way?

„ Using frameworks only if they are appropriate; not shoehorning the case into the last framework they learned

„ Clearly summarising ‘conclusions so far’ at each stage of the case

„ Coming up with alternative ideas or creative suggestions

„ Thinking about everything discussed so far and its implications for this

„ Question, rather than answering each question in isolation

The Interview Process / Demonstrating personal impact

6Case book 2010

Consulting is about working closely with clients, so an interviewer will be looking for you to demonstrate that you are intuitive around people – both from your track record and that you interact with him/her in an intuitive and empathetic way during the case and fit interviews.

During the fit interview the interviewer will ask questions about your experience on the various dimensions they want to test, eg: „ Are you a team player? „ How have other people you have interacted with in the past viewed you? (work and MBA colleagues, team mates)

Your ‘personal impact’ is assessed during both the case and fit interviews.

Demonstrating personal impact

Presence

Teamwork

Sense of humour

Credibility

„ Confidence, composure and grace under pressure vs. ego

„ Are you comfortable and in control?

„ Do you remain confident even when you make mistakes?

„ Do you keep forging ahead?

„ Do you use new information or feedback on wrong answers to push forward your thinking?

„ Do you respond to the interviewer’s feedback with – ‘That’s interesting, and it must mean that….’ rather than getting defensive?

„ Have you demonstrated strong team working in your past jobs and extracurricular activities?

„ Are you enjoyable to interview?

„ Can the interviewer see himself having a laugh with you when you’re stuck in a hotel in the middle of Scotland together?

„ Will you be taken seriously by the client?

„ Are you someone that other people will listen to?

Example

It is more intuitive in the case interview to say ‘I’m not familiar with the UK credit card industry. Do you pay off the balance in full each month like we do in Germany?’ rather than making a bald assumption such as ‘I’m going to assume that in the UK you pay the balance on your credit card each month’.

7Case book 2010

The Interview Process / Demonstrating leadership

Leadership is incredibly important to consultants. Not only do MBA level (and above) hires enter firms in positions of leadership (e.g. leading more junior analysts in day-to-day work), but all consultants are essentially expected to lead clients towards good, implementable solutions. Plus consulting firm culture tends to place ‘extra-curriculur’ leadership requirements of one sort or another on all members of the firm.

Your leadership abilities are assessed during both the case and fit interviews, but primarily through exploring your track record as a leader in the fit section, as it is hard to demonstrate real leadership abilities during a case interview.

Demonstrating leadership

Integrity

Comfort with ambiguity

Business judgement

Track record

„ Solving the problem posed

„ Responding to the questions actually asked (also about active listening)

„ Not trying to bend the rules

„ Being articulate, persuasive and credible (leaving the interviewer feeling you could be put in front of a client on their first day in the job)

„ Interviewer will look for the ability to inspire others to follow the candidates and to trust their judgement

„ Having more than one good example of where you have occupied a leadership position and can you discuss these leadership roles convincingly and in depth?

The Interview Process / Demonstrating drive and motivation

8Case book 2010

Consultancies use both case and fit interviews to demonstrate to the candidate the type of work that they do.

Therefore the case study is not just a hurdle to be cleared (e.g., by learning ‘crack-a-case methodology’) to get the job. During the case the interviewer will be looking for you to demonstrate that you are enjoying solving the case, that you are enthusiastic and engaged by the business problem and that you are interested in finding out the solution. Most interviewers will give you a case that they have personally worked on or are currently working on, and they will be pleased and react positively if you show an interest.

Drive/motivation will also be tested in the fit interview, by looking at your levels of achievement in your past work and extracurricular activities.

Demonstrating drive and motivation

Enthusiasm

Desire to excel / results orientation

Other interests

„ Are you enthusiastic about trying to solve the case and wanting to know what the solution was at the end of the interview?

„ Will you thrive in a consulting environment?

„ Persistence in solving the problem; not giving up

„ Striving to excel in everything that you take on

„ Not content with reports or recommendations – demonstrate desire to see actions, results, outcomes

„ Demonstrating success in activities outside the work arena

The challenge

The challenge that you face in interviewing is to convey your excellence on all of these dimensions in a 45 minute time period.

Your ability to achieve this goal is a function of three things: innate ability, understanding of what is required of you, and practice and self-awareness. There is little you can do about innate ability, though the very fact that you are a student at London Business School suggests that you have the ability to get a job in consulting. If, however, you know that you are not strong on a number of the skills highlighted in the previous

section as being critical to success in consulting, then you might want to consider other career options.

With understanding of what is required of you and practice, you will find that many of the elements listed above come across naturally. If you are a quantitative and/or engaging person, you will come across as so in the interview without thinking about it. You still need to practise, however, since these natural predilections will easily be masked if you enter the interview unprepared or nervous. Practice will also help you identify the areas that don’t naturally come across for you in a short interview.

Identify these areas quickly, both by looking at your past performance in interviews and by internalising the feedback given to you from mock interviews at London Business School, and work actively to improve your ability to convey them to an interviewer.

In every interview, you must also maintain significant self-awareness of how you are being (or might be) perceived. Actively manage the image you are conveying. That may seem like a lot to think about while you’re also trying to solve a complex case, but it is very important.

9Case book 2010

Why consultancies use Case Interviews

Many recruiters – consulting companies in particular – will test for a high degree of competence in the area of solving complex, business problems. A management consultant is, above all else, a problem solver and therefore this is the core skill that consultancies look for when interviewing candidates.

Consultancies use case interviews because cases give them the opportunity to see how a candidate thinks about business problems and tests a candidate’s ability to solve these business problems.

The primary purpose of a case interview is, therefore, to test a candidate’s problem solving skills in the widest sense, including his/her skills in: „ Structured, logical thinking „ Issue identification „ Analysis „ Creativity „ Insight „ Business judgement „ Numerical ability „ Taking a collaborative approach.

Case interviews also give the candidate some insight into the type of work that consultancies conduct. If you do not enjoy solving problems during a case interview, it may be an indication that, in fact, a career in consulting is not for you.

Types of Case Interview

An interviewer may use any or all of three types of cases during a case interview:

Business Case

„ You are the CEO of an insurance company. You want to launch an e-commerce business that is synergistic with your current insurance products, but which is not an insurance product. How do you decide what this on-line business should sell and who it should sell to?

Estimation

„ How many gallons of white house paint are sold in the UK each year?

„ Estimate the weight of a Boeing 747

Brainteaser

„ What is the angle between the big and small hands on your watch if the time is a quarter past three?

„ Why are manhole covers round?

The majority of consulting interviews are Business Cases because it is the only case type that really tests the skills that a consultancy is looking for, and also demonstrates the work that a consultant will be required to do once in the job.

In a business case, the interviewer presents a business situation and asks the interviewee to ‘solve’ it through discussion.

How to Ace Case Interviews

Overview of Case Interviews

How to Ace Case Interviews / Tackling a Case Interview – A Step-by-Step Illustration

10Case book 2010

Business Cases

“How do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time.”

It’s the same with solving business cases. When you get a case posed in an interview, don’t just think, “Oh no, I have to solve this huge problem in one go”. Solving a case successfully consists of running through the following four basic steps:

Business Case – One Step at a time

Examples: Firm A’s profits have been declining for the past eighteen months. Why has this happened, and what would you recommend to help Firm A improve its performance?

Firm B makes jewellery and is considering expansion into the fashion retailing business. Would you recommend that it does so?

Firm C makes tin cans. It is planning to expand its manufacturing capacity and is debating whether to add to its existing plant or build a new plant. What would you recommend that it does?

An interviewer may ask an Estimation Case either in addition to or instead of a business case. Generally an estimation case would not be used instead of a business case because it does not test for the required intrinsics in as robust a way as a business case.

Example: Estimate the number of BMW cars in Germany

An interviewer may throw in a Brainteaser, but will virtually never use a brainteaser as the sole case in an interview. The problem with brainteasers is that they are binary – the candidate either ‘gets’ them or doesn’t.

Tackling a Case Interview – A Step-by-Step Illustration

Step 1 – Listen and Clarify Step 2 – Structure Step 3 – Analyse Step 4 – Conclude

Ensure complete understanding of business issue: „ Listen carefully „ Take notes if it helps you „ Ask clarifying questions as needed

„ Take time to evaluate the information given

Develop approach to solve problem: „ Structure problem „ Identify key issues & prioritise

„ Formulate an initial hypothesis/ hypotheses

„ Articulate approach & hypothesis

Request information to test hypothesis: „ Ask questions and collect information

„ Develop, test and refine hypothesis

„ Iterate „ Hone in on the solution „ Verbalise your thought process

Synthesise findings into recommendations: „ Summarise your findings (not just by recapping your analysis) – draw out key facts

„ Make a recommendation „ Add next steps

11Case book 2010

How to Ace Case Interviews / Tackling a Case Interview – A Step-by-Step Illustration

Step 1 – Listen and Clarify

The interviewer will introduce the case to you by giving:- „ A bit of background, e.g. type of industry, who your client is „ Describing the specific business situation „ Giving you some initial information

Some of this information will be important, other bits will prove to be irrelevant.

In some cases there may be very little information up front, deliberately leaving the question vague to see how you cope with initial ambiguity.

One thing is vital – make sure that you listen very carefully. Take notes. Make sure that you take a pen and paper with you into the interview. The importance of listening cannot be emphasised enough.

You will create a very bad impression if you need the interviewer to repeat the question or if, through not listening, you have missed the key facts and therefore go on to solve the wrong case or fail to focus on the important issues in the case.

One skill in actively listening is to verbally paraphrase the situation and information back to the interviewer before you begin to tackle the problem to ensure that you have understood the key facts.

Clarifying questions

The interviewer may have used terms that you are not familiar with – ask him/her to explain what those terms mean.

Example: When talking about the insurance industry, the interviewer may use the term ‘loss ratio’. If you haven’t heard of this term, ask them to explain what it means

Clarifying questions show that you are taking a real interest and demonstrate that you are serious about fully understanding the business problem posed.

If you don’t make sure that you understand what the interviewer is asking you to do upfront you are denying yourself the opportunity to perform well in the interview. In general, you should not need to ask more that one or two clarifying questions, and it is fine if you don’t have any.

Take time to evaluate the information

It is polite to ask the interviewer if he/ she wouldn’t mind if you take a minute to think about the problem.

There is no right or wrong amount of time to spend thinking about the problem though, generally, you should spend abouta minute, maybe slightly less than that if you can.

Example: “Would you mind if I take a few seconds to collect my thoughts?”

A minute’s silence will feel like a long time to both you and the interviewer.

Bear in mind that a large part of the interview is about generating a rapport with your interviewer and the only way you can do this is through a quality, two-way dialogue. Too much silence and lack of eye contact, i.e. staring hard at the paper in your hand as if it will give you the answer, are all negative to creating rapport. However, thinking time is a valuable part of the process – do not neglect it.

How to Ace Case Interviews / Tackling a Case Interview – A Step-by-Step Illustration

12Case book 2010

Step 2 – Structure

Your next step should be to ‘structure’ your answer – i.e., give yourself a coherent structure that you can use to guide your analysis. „ The structure that you use can be one that you have ‘made-up’, but one that is logical and fits the problem

„ It could be a framework that you have been taught at business school, e.g., the three Cs or Porters 5 Forces.

„ You may decide that a combination may be the most relevant.

However, it is key to remember that the objective of the exercise is not to ‘fit a framework to the problem’1. A framework is no more than a tool that you can use to help you organise your thoughts and analysis and ensure that you are exploring all the key issues.

Once you have thought of a good structure:- „ Communicate that clearly to the interviewer, so that he/she understands how you are structuring your thoughts

„ Break the central issue into a number of pathways to addressing the problem, based on the structure/framework that you have developed

„ Given that your time is limited it is important to prioritise the issues that you investigate in the case.

Example: Business case: Why Company A’s profits have been declining for the past two years

Using the Profit = Revenue – Costs equation is a good structure to start with. Company A’s declining profits could be due to loss in revenues (price x volume) or increase in costs (fixed costs + variable costs).

„ The interviewer may have given you a hint early on which might steer you towards a particular path first. Otherwise that might become clear as you progress through the pathways you have laid out.

Example: The interviewer might say that a new, aggressive competitor entered the market eighteen months ago, which is a steer that perhaps Company A has been losing market share and hence revenue.

1 Trying to shoehorn an inappropriate framework onto a problem

Important: Most consultancies take a ‘hypothesis driven approach’ to solving actual business problems. This means that they will come up with a ‘straw man’ as to what the likely solution to the business problem might be and use this straw man to guide, and prioritise, their analysis.

At the end of the case they may have either proved or disproved their initial hypothesis in coming up with the answer – and each is equally legitimate. „ If you disprove your initial hypothesis, it shows that your analysis was rigorous and succeeded in disproving the ‘obvious’ straw man. In disproving your initial hypothesis, your analysis should also have revealed what the true solution to the problem is. If you prove your initial hypothesis with your analysis, all well and good.

Example: For Company A above, an initial hypothesis might be: “Given that Company A’s profits are declining and that you’ve mentioned an aggressive new entrant has come into the market, I would hypothesise that it is more likely to be a revenue rather than a cost issue, and so I’ll start my analysis by looking at revenues first”.

As you conduct your analysis throughout the case interview, remember to relate your findings back to your initial hypothesis: “This seems to support my initial hypothesis….”, “This seems to refute my initial hypothesis”, and if you are refuting your initial hypothesis indicate that “Actually, Z is more likely to be where the solution to this problem lies”.

13Case book 2010

How to Ace Case Interviews / Tackling a Case Interview – A Step-by-Step Illustration

The analysis phase should form the bulk of the case interview.

This is an iterative process.

In this phase you will:- „ Ask your interviewer questions „ Collect the information you need to conduct your analysis „ Develop, test and refine your hypothesis „ And hone in on a solution based on the facts

Important: Throughout the analysis phase you must verbalise your thought process to the interviewer so that they can see how you are thinking.

Interpersonal style

Remember the interview is a dialogue between you and the interviewer. In addition to judging your Problem Solving abilities through the business case, they will be judging you on Personal Impact, Drive and Aspiration and Leadership, so you need to work on building a rapport.

Therefore during your case interview you must demonstrate that you are: „ Good with people (clients) „ Convincing in your arguments „ Can take feedback/challenge without becoming defensive „ That you are a good listener, etc.

In meetings with a client you need to have a non- confrontational, collaborative style. Use this as a model for your interactions with the interviewer

Try to ensure that the interviewer enjoys the interview. Bear in mind that they will probably be seeing twenty or

thirty candidates over a two or three day period and interviews can blend into each other for the interviewer. However, if they really enjoy the interview they will remember you very positively.

Questions

There is also a skill to drawing information out of the interviewer. Many interviewers will give candidates who they believe are asking questions in a structured, thoughtful way much more information that they would give to candidates who they believe are just reeling out an unstructured laundry list of questions in the hope that they will be able to piece some kind of analysis together from that laundry list. You must only ask questions that you can justify – and then demonstrate that you are using the answer to that question to further your analysis and push the case forward.

By asking questions and bringing to light new information, you will be able to determine whether your initial hypothesis was valid or not.

If your analysis proves that your initial hypothesis was invalid: „ Systematically follow your structure and progress to the issue with the next highest priority

„ Then, based on the new information you receive, develop a new hypothesis as soon as possible.

Example: “Based on what I’ve learnt from my analysis so far, it appears that actually a reduction in market share and therefore revenue is not responsible for Company A’s declining profitability. It appears to be a cost issue. Though we haven’t lost any market share due to the increased competition in the market, our COGS have increased as we’ve tried to increase the quality of our product but maintain the same price to hold on to our market share. To solve the profitability issue, Company A probably needs to look at ways of maintaining the additional quality, whilst reducing COGS, or perhaps saving on costs in other areas if this proves difficult.”

Calculations

When doing calculations, explain all of the steps you are taking to the interviewer. This illustrates your thought process and maximises the ability of the interviewer to coach you.

Once again, it is key to continually verbalise your thoughts and analysis to the interviewer.

If you then get the wrong answer at the end of the calculation, the interviewer will be able to see where you went wrong and see whether it was a minor error which they can ignore, or if it was a major error which may indicate you do not have the quantitative skills to be a consultant.

Step 3 – Analyse

How to Ace Case Interviews / Tackling a Case Interview – A Step-by-Step Illustration

14Case book 2010

Step 4 – Conclude

Once you feel that you have exhausted all the issues and, consequently, lines of analysis, finish the interview by summarising the situation and providing a recommendation or recommendations.

NB – Try not to just recap the analysis you have just conducted in your summary. Rather, summarise the key things that you learnt as you performed your analysis and how these added together to reach your recommendation.

Example: Company A – “I recommend that Company A looks at ways to reduce their indirect costs to try to reverse the slide in profitability. Given that the industry is characterised by intense competition, it will be difficult to grow their market share or to increase prices.” Reducing COGS without negatively affecting the quality of the product and losing customers would be difficult. Therefore they should look at other ways to save money through, for example, reducing factory overheads, saving money through supply chain efficiencies, reducing head office costs, and improving marketing spend and sales force efficiency.’

You may also want to add some next steps or additional considerations, as appropriate, to your conclusions and recommendations. „ This shows that you recognise the limited amount of time and information you had available in getting to your conclusion

„ There may be issues you haven’t had the time or the information to address properly

„ Cases are short – Implying to the interviewer that you have covered every base in a complex business issue in 30 or 40 minutes, might indicate that you are short sighted, naive or perhaps even arrogant

It is much better to make reasonable recommendations – but also to acknowledge that you haven’t been able to be completely exhaustive and highlight the areas you’d like to penetrate further (if you had more time).

Estimation Cases

An estimation case is usually in the form of something like – “How many gallons of white house paint are sold in the U.K. each year?”

Other examples of estimation cases are: „ How many tube trains are there on the Underground? „ How many golf balls would fit in Canary Wharf tower? „ If a male and a female goat are put on a deserted island that has plenty of food and water on it, what would be the island’s goat population after ten years?

„ How many wedding dresses are sold in the UK each year? „ How many divorces are there in the US each year? „ How many fire extinguishers are there in London Business School?

„ How many coke cans would fit in Buckingham Palace? „ And so it goes on!2

If you run into one of these cases: „ Make sure that you have clarified, and therefore fully understand, the question.

„ Remember the interviewer may deliberately not have given you all the information.

„ Another sensible, perceptive question to ask in this case is whether the paint is internal or external:

„ The paint is actually for external walls only „ An interviewee may be marked down if they failed to establish that at the start, though they would probably not fail the case on this point alone.

„ Break the problem down into logical steps Solve each step one at a time.

2 They could be based on anything – this actually makes it very easy to practice estimation cases, because you can come up with a list of at least twenty estimation cases in under five minutes

If you conduct your calculations in silence and just reveal the answer at the end, and this answer is then wrong, the interviewer will have no idea as to whether your mistake is major or minor and may just assume the worst.

While asking questions is a fundamental part of the process, you must ask these questions in the context of your structure and the issues you are exploring – rather than just firing off questions randomly or in no particular order.

As you work through the case, it is also a good idea to summarise where you are at various stages – what you have learnt, what this learning means in diagnosing the problem, and which issue you are going to explore next.

15Case book 2010

How to Ace Case Interviews / Tackling a Case Interview – A Step-by-Step Illustration

Clarify: For example, with the house paint case, if you do not come from the U.K you may be unfamiliar with gallons. Ask the interviewer what a gallon is (approx 4.5 lts).

Assumptions -v- additional information

How do you decide whether you should be estimating required information or requesting it from your interviewer? There is no clear answer to this, as it varies from case to case.

Here is an example that expresses the alternatives well, leaving the interviewer the option of providing additional information if it is available. “I know capacity per hour, and in order to determine maximum capacity, I need to know how many hours per day the factory is working. Can you give me this information or should I make an assumption?”

Sample Solution to the House Paint Question

Step 1 (Homes) „ The population of the UK is about 60 million „ One quarter of the population live alone – 15 million homes „ Three quarters live in families of between two and six – I’ll assume an average of three people per household – 15 million homes

„ Total number of homes in the UK is 30 million

Step 2 (Houses or Flats) „ Some of these are houses, some are flats „ Every single person I know lives in a flat. However, because I live in central London, I’ll assume that is not entirely typical. I’ll assume 80% of single people live in flats, 20% in houses. 12 million flats; 3 million houses

„ Assuming the opposite for families is probably fair „ 15 million houses; 15 million flats

Step 3 (Paint Colour) „ Because the UK is a cold country, most houses are not painted white.

„ There are centres where white houses are popular: Devon and Cornwall, some coastal towns, ‘chocolate box’ villages.

„ But the population in these areas is sparse and mostly houses. I will therefore assume that only 2% of flats are painted white, and 10% of houses.

„ 300,000 flats and 1,500,000 houses

Step 4 (Area to be covered/house) „ My house is 1,500 square feet. I’ll assume that’s average. The height of a wall is about 10 foot, so, in the average house there is 2[(150*10) + (10*10)] = 3,200 sq foot of external wall per house, ignoring windows

„ The average flat is about a third the size of the average house – 500 sq foot. (50*10) + (10*10) = 600 sq foot of external wall per flat (assume 50% of flats exterior walls are on building’s exterior)

Step 5 (Total Area to be covered) „ Total external ‘white’ wall space is (3,200*1,500,000) + (600*300,000) = 4,800 million + 180 million = 4,980,000,000 sq foot (round to 5,000 million sq foot)

Step 6 (Frequency) „ But an external wall will only be painted once every ten years

„ So the total external white wall space to be painted every year is 5,000 million/10 = 500,000,000 sq foot. I’ve done a lot of painting in my life and, on the side of a gallon, it says that coverage is about 20 sq foot per gallon. But I’d give a wall two coats, therefore coverage is 10 sq foot per gallon

Answer 50 million gallons of white house paint are sold in the UK every year. „ Each step involves making estimations – hence the name estimation case

„ However, the estimations are (hopefully) sensible, relevant and are based on sound reasons

„ It is legitimate to use any information that the interviewer might have given you and to estimate other facts you need based on your own best judgment

„ While you do have some liberty to make guesstimates, your guesstimate is an indication of your common sense „ You will not be expected to know exactly how many people live in the UK, but you should have a ball park figure for key, likely statistics

„ Guesstimating the population of the U.K. at 1 billion people is likely to make a very poor impression.

„ If you have no idea about the magnitude of what you are guessing at, state that and see if the interviewer offers up some information

„ State all your assumptions out loud „ Lead the interviewer through your solution

That said, do not panic, and do not spend an undue amount of time trying to get the answer to be perfect – a good approximation is fine.

If you are planning to interview in the U.K.: „ Have a general idea of the population of the UK (also for France, Germany, the US, etc.)

„ Knowing volume formula of a sphere (like a tennis ball) is also useful, e.g. for something like ‘How many tennis balls would fit in Buckingham Palace3?’

„ It is 4/3 * pie * r3 (Similarly, you should know the formulas for the radius and diameter of a circle, information for a rectangular cube such as for a building, etc.)

3 it is probably sufficient to show that you are using the relative volumes to determine how many balls would fit in the building

How to Ace Case Interviews / Six Major Types of Business Case

16Case book 2010

Brainteaser

Brainteasers are not cases in which a technique can be learnt, mainly because a brainteaser can be about virtually anything and posed in any way. However, brainteasers are increasingly rarely used as interviewers seem to be realising that they do not give a good insight into a candidate’s ability to ‘do the job’.

If you get a brainteaser, just try to stay calm and take some time to think about the problem. Also, and very importantly, don’t panic if you don’t manage to solve the brainteaser. They are binary – you either get the answer or not – and, if you don’t, it certainly does not mean that you won’t get the job. It will just be one of many data points that the interviewer will use to make a decision.

Other points to remember

In addition to solving the case in a sensible way, the interviewer will be looking for you to generate some rapport with them

Saying things like – “Every single person I know lives in a flat. However, because I live in central London, I’ll assume that is not entirely typical” – is chatty and gives a little of yourself away. It also serves to illustrate to the interviewer that you are not just pulling your numbers out of the air

Level of detail to use in your answer This depends on whether the estimation case is given to you as the only case in the interview or as an add-on to a business case. You should adjust the response accordingly

Key statistics and formulae It will be useful to know some common numbers and formulae to get you through these types of questions

Six Major Types of Business Case

Types of Business Case

In general, there are six main types of business case: 1) Profit improvement 2) Industry analysis 3) Market entry 4) Capacity expansion 5) Acquisition 6) Investment

However, it must be remembered that these six categories are not mutually exclusive or completely exhaustive.

For example, a market entry case might require industry analysis, and an acquisition case may involve evaluating return on investment.

Some cases may not fit neatly into any of the six major business case types, but may incorporate certain elements from one or more of them.

1) Profit Improvement

Profit improvement cases are probably the most common business cases that you will encounter in an interview. They are also arguably one of the easiest as the problem is easily structured through systematically examining each aspect of the profitability relationship: Profit = Revenue – Costs.

In this business case the interviewer will typically ask you analyse why a firm’s profits have decreased and what a firm could do to reverse this decline and bring itself back to profitability.

You should ensure that you are familiar enough with each of these formulae to be able to use them in a case interview situation.

A good way to tackle this kind of case is to use the profitability formula to structure your answer up front – laying this structure out for the interviewer - and then exploring each dimension in detail.

In addition to the formula, you should have a sound understanding of both revenue and cost related issues.

Example: “Company A’s profits have declined by 30% over the last eighteen months. The CEO would like you to help him/her understand why this profitability decline has happened and what he/she can do to return Company A to profitability.”

As mentioned above, Profits = Revenues - Costs

= [(Price - Variable costs) x Quantity] - Fixed costs

Using the expanded form of the equation (in italics) adds an additional degree of depth to your analysis and ensures that you don’t neglect the difference between fixed and variable costs during your analysis.

Other valuable profitability formulas that you could incorporate in your analysis include: Revenues = (Price * Quantity) Costs = Fixed costs + Variable costs Break even quantity = FC/ (Price - Variable cost)

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How to Ace Case Interviews / Six Major Types of Business Case

Revenue related issues to consider during your analysis include: Factors that impact price:

„ Market power „ Price elasticity „ Product differentiation „ Opportunities for differential pricing of the same product, e.g., airline seats

„ Methods of Pricing: cost plus, matching, market based (think about the pros and cons of each of these)

„ Brand Implications, e.g. strength „ Factors that impact volume:

„ External factors: – Competition (share of market, positioning/image,

customers, profitability, differentiation, future plans – Substitutes/complements – Market forces (declining market size, technology,

regulation) – Customers (needs – latent vs demonstrated, price

sensitivity, segmentation – product extension) „ Internal factors:

– Distribution channels – Manufacturing capacity – Logistics/supply chain/inventory management

„ Growth strategies: – Sell more existing products to existing customers – Sell existing products to new customers – Sell new products to existing customers – Sell new products to new customers; think of

product extensions

Note: New products do not need to be completely new. A line extension, e.g., Diet Coke, is classed as a new product, so remember line extensions when thinking growth strategies

Cost related issues to consider during your analysis include: „ Fixed versus variable costs „ Short-run versus long-run costs „ Capacity utilization and its impact on total average cost per unit

„ Benchmarking costs against industry competitors „ Relative percentage weighting of cost components:

„ Cost of Goods Sold: labour, raw materials, overheads „ Operating Costs: sales and distribution, marketing, general and administrative, research and development

An analysis of costs will vary with the type of industry being considered. It is very important to demonstrate sound business sense by showing the interviewer that you understand, for the specific industry that you are examining in your case, where the big money buckets are, i.e., that you can ‘smell the money.’

For example, for a pharmaceutical firm, research and development expenses will be the biggest cost buckets. For an airline, fixed costs (i.e., leasing of or depreciation on the planes, fuel costs, landing fees, maintenance costs) are huge. In the case of a firm with multiple products, how the company is allocating their costs between the products and, therefore, their ability to properly understand which products are making a positive contribution and which are not, may be an important issue.

2) Industry Analysis

With an industry analysis case an interviewer will ask you to evaluate the structure and/or desirability of a particular industry.

Porters 5 Forces is a tool to analyse industry attractiveness, but if you are going to use this to structure your answer, ensure that you don’t say to the interviewer – ‘Oh, an industry analysis case, I’ll use Porters 5 Forces.’

Suggested phrasing: ‘There are six areas I’d like to look at to determine whether the rolling stock industry is potentially a good one for our client to be in. I’d look at the overall industry structure and market conditions as a whole, then I’d like to look in more detail at customers, competitors, suppliers, threat of substitutes and finally what barriers there are to entry/exit.’ You can then analyse each of these in turn.

Issues to consider in industry analysis business cases include: „ What is the industry’s structure (competitive, oligopoly, monopoly)?

„ What are the relevant market conditions, e.g. size, growth, profitability, segmentation, technological change, regulatory issues?

Competition: Who are the key players? How concentrated is the industry in terms of competitors? What are the strategic positions of the key competitors in the market? How is market share divided? How differentiated are competitors? What is price competition like? What are competitor’s relative cost positions? How vertically or horizontally integrated are competitors?

Suppliers: What is the industry’s vertical chain of production? Who are the industry’s buyers and suppliers, and how powerful are they? What economies of scale/ synergies are there? Are there any alternatives? What are the trends? How stable/continuous is supply?

Example: “Your client is the CEO of Company B, a U.K manufacturer of rolling stock for the railways. He/she would like you to help him/her understand whether the rolling stock industry a good one to be in. Why or why not?”

How to Ace Case Interviews / Six Major Types of Business Case

18Case book 2010

Barriers to Entry/Exit: How significant are barriers to entry and exit, e.g. economies of scale, learning curve, high fixed costs, and access to distribution channels? How frequent is entry/exit? What is the likely competitive response? How steep is the learning curve? How important is brand equity? Is the industry regulated?

„ What current and potential substitutes exist for the industry’s product/service?

Overall: What factors drive success in the industry, e.g. technological leadership, consumer insight, brand equity? That is, what are the benefit and cost drivers?

„ Are there any trends that affect the benefit or cost drivers?

Don’t forget to summarise, with an overall conclusion, as to whether this is an attractive market to participate in, in terms of likely profitability and growth, and how your earlier analysis supports or explains that view.

3) Market Entry

In a market entry case, the interviewer will ask you to decide whether a company should expand into a new geographic region, a new/related business, or a new customer segment.

Example, ‘Company C manufactures and sells costume jewellery in the USA. They are considering expanding their operations to include fashion clothing, still within the USA. Would you recommend that they do so?’

The three C’s (customers, competitors and capabilities) is a valid framework to use to solve this case.

As with the industry attractiveness example, you should not just blurt out to the interviewer that you are going to use the 3Cs framework. Think what you can add to the three Cs to enhance its value.

Another approach that can be useful is to contrast the company’s current business model, with an outline of the proposed business model for the new business. A comparison between the two is a good starting point to identify potential synergies and risks of the proposed expansion.

A general approach to market entry cases is to: Size the market: Define the market: product, geography, etc.

„ Evaluate industry structure „ Assess market size, profitability, and growth by asking how much capacity is in the market

„ Identify relevant trends (regulatory, technological, demographic, etc.)

„ Identify key success factors „ Evaluate risks

Understand the competition: „ Key players „ Competitive situation (concentration and intensity) „ Share and positioning „ Core competencies (strengths and weaknesses) and resources

„ Likely reaction to entry „ Differentiation „ Cost structure

Analyse customer needs: „ Segmentation (size, profitability, share, growth) „ Drivers of purchase behaviour (product, price, promotion and place)

„ Power in the market

Identify Gaps in Customer Needs

Match between the company’s strengths and those needed for the new market: „ Core competencies

– Product/service portfolio – Differentiation – Management – Workforce – Key skills – Resources - can the firm establish a competitive

advantage –v- key success factors „ Potential positioning and price positioning „ Source of volume - steal share (from whom?) or expand category?

„ Niche or mass strategy? „ Cost structure - scale –v- scope economies „ Capital expenditure required „ Potential returns

Evaluate Barriers to Entry „ Customer-related:

– Product differentiation – Brand loyalty – Switching costs – Access to distribution channels

„ Non-Customer-related: – Proprietary technology – Economies of scale – Capital requirements – Experience curve – Regulation

Evaluate Methods of Entry „ Build, acquire, partner? „ Quantify investment cost and risk

Analyse how firm has entered markets in the past, whether it has it been successful or unsuccessful, and why?

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How to Ace Case Interviews / Six Major Types of Business Case

Bear in mind this is a very long list, and will not all apply in each case. It is vital, having used this approach to structure your thought processes and initial discussion on the topic, to identify a prioritised list of those areas that seem to be the biggest potential issues/factors in the decision making.

Highlight this prioritised list during a summary of the preceding discussion, in order to build up to a go/no go recommendation. It is perfectly acceptable to say that you need further information in certain areas, but that your initial hypothesis is:

“We should (or should not) explore this business opportunity further”.

4) Capacity Expansion

Capacity expansion cases usually revolve around how a firm can optimally increase its output potential.

Example: “Your client, the CEO of Company D has decided that he/she needs to expand Company D’s manufacturing capacity and is considering either building a new plant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or increasing the scale of its current plant in Singapore. Which would you recommend that it do?”

A good approach to tackling capacity expansion cases is: 1) Estimate the potential benefit of capacity expansion by

quantifying market demand and potential revenue gains 2) Evaluate the means of capacity expansion (existing plant or

new plant?). Issues to consider here include availability of desirable location for a new plant, proximity to customers and suppliers, transportation costs, cost and availability of labour, technology, time required to complete expansion, capital costs of new –v- existing plant

3) Market considerations 4) Impact on industry demand & pricing: will expansion

create excess capacity in the market? 5) Likely competitive response 6) Cost/Benefit analysis 7) Alternatives: investigate other options to ensure that you

have fully analysed the problem; other options could include outsourcing, leasing or acquisition of an existing plant.

As in the earlier cases you need to summarise your analysis, in order to support a go/no go recommendation. It is perfectly acceptable to say that you need further information in certain areas, but that your initial hypothesis is: “We should (or should not) explore this business opportunity further”.

5) Acquisition

In acquisition cases, an interviewer will typically ask you to evaluate whether a company should purchase another firm.

Example: “Company E, a manufacturer of engines for sports cars, is considering an acquisition of Company F, which makes sports cars. Would you recommend that it do so?”

Potential Synergies: When approaching acquisition cases, the easiest thing to remember is will 1+1=3?, i.e. will the acquisition add value over and above the value of the two component companies?

Understand the acquiring company’s line of business: „ Core competencies „ Cost structure „ Structure of the industry in which it currently competes

Assess the rationale for acquisition, e.g. Why is the company considering the acquisition? What potential synergies exist? „ Acquire resources: increase capacity, increase distribution, broaden product line, improve technology, human capital, brand name, customers (network effect)

„ Decrease Costs: economies of scale, economies of scope (brand, distribution, advertising, sales force, management talent, etc.), climb the learning curve more quickly

„ Other strategic rationales

Assess the likely response of competitors if the acquisition occurs

Consider organisational issues „ Will potential synergies be realized? „ Might the firm make any changes in advance of the acquisition to be better positioned post-acquisition?

„ Is the firm in a position to perform the integration?

Determine whether the potential revenue increase/cost decrease exceeds the price of acquisition (NPV analysis)

Consider alternatives to the acquisition; other targets; organic growth

If the acquisition is vertical as opposed to lateral (new business) or horizontal (increasing the firms current scale) consider the following: „ What are the benefits of using the market that is keeping the entities separate?

„ What are the co-ordination costs associated with using the market?

How to Ace Case Interviews / Six Major Types of Business Case

20Case book 2010

„ How might the firm enhance the benefits of using the market or reduce the coordination costs associated with using the market? That is, how might the firm improve its situation without integration?

„ How does ownership add value? „ What organisational issues might be introduced (agency costs) as a result of ownership?

While you may not have enough information to answer many of the questions above, indicating that you understand the importance of these questions is useful, so do bring up a few. They are all questions that you would find critical to answer in coaching a firm through an acquisition to demonstrate that you understand what this type of analysis is likely to focus on.

As in the earlier cases, you need to summarise your analysis in order to support go/no go recommendation. It is perfectly acceptable to say that you need further information in certain areas, but that your initial hypothesis is: “We should (or should not) explore this business opportunity further”.

6) Investment

Investment cases usually take the form of examining the potential purchase of a new business or installation of new infrastructure.

Example: “Company G is considering whether or not to purchase and install a new inventory management system. Would you recommend that it do so?”

A general approach to investment cases is: 1) Ensure that you understand the firm and its line of

business, and the fundamentals of the industry it competes in

2) Determine why the firm is considering the investment

3) Do financial analysis (NPV analysis) „ What are the up-front costs of the investment? „ What are the projected cash inflows and outflows of the investment and how will they occur over time?

„ What are the opportunity costs of the investment upfront and ongoing?

„ What is the firm’s cost of capital? „ What is the investments upside/downside potential (sensitivity analysis)?

4) Other Considerations „ Effect on competition - if the investment is made or not made, what will the competition do?

„ Does the investment have option value, e.g. follow-on opportunities?

„ Timing: should the investment be made now? „ Other strategic considerations

5) Alternatives to making the investment.

As in the earlier cases, you need to summarise your analysis in order to support go/no go recommendation. It is perfectly acceptable to say that you need further information in certain areas, but that your initial hypothesis is: “We should (or should not) explore this business opportunity further”.

21Case book 2010

Fit Interviewing

Overview

The Importance of Fit

In addition to your case interviews, you will be given one or more fit interviews during the consulting interview process with each firm. These interviews may either be combined with the case interview (hybrid case and fit) or conducted separately, depending on the firm.

While students increasingly understand the importance of preparing for and practising case interviews, it is a common misunderstanding that fit interviews are less important in the interview process. While it is true that consultancies will spend less time testing fit than case, be under no illusions: a poor performance in the ‘fit’ interview can destroy your chances of securing a consulting job. So please remember when you are preparing for your interviews that performing well on both is critical to landing the job.

In a fit interview, the interviewer does not need to believe you’d make a great best friend – that’s not the point. However, they do need to: „ Respect you „ Want to work with you „ Think that you would fit into the company’s culture „ Believe that you’d be a great representative with clients „ Be happy to spend ten hours on a plane with you „ Feel that you are ‘above the bar’ on key dimensions4

„ Leadership „ Personal Impact „ Drive/Aspiration.

4 As discussed at the beginning of this Case Book

If the ‘fit’ aspect of an interview is not working and you don’t feel like you’re gelling with the interviewer, it is your responsibility, not the interviewer’s.

If the interview doesn’t seem to be working: „ Try to analyse on the hop what is not working „ Change your behaviour „ Often the interviewer will give you quite strong hints about why you not ‘gelling’ „ If they keep asking you to go into more depth in your answers, make sure that the next answer you give, and all the others after that, are very detailed

Preparation is vital. Know why you want to work for that company (how is it different?). Understand what they are looking for and be prepared to illustrate your fit with this through anecdotes from your past experience.

Don’t expect to ‘wing it’ in the interview – you would not go into a client meeting unprepared. Why should your interview be different!

Fit Interviewing / Criterion Based Questioning

22Case book 2010

In fit interviews you will be asked about your background, motivations, experiences and capabilities. Many consultancies are reasonably sophisticated in the fit interview and, instead of just ploughing through the biographical aspects of your CV, they will interview you using a technique called criterion based questioning:

Fit Interview – Criterion Based Questioning

Knowledge / attitudes General experience

Specific examples

Self evaluation

Comparison with others

Others’ Appraisal

Candidates ability on a specific criterion, e.g., integrity (not Leadership)

Probe

Pr ob e

Pr ob e

Probe

P ro be

P robe

In criterion based questioning, the interviewer will explore in detail the candidate’s experience and ability on a specific criterion5, e.g., drive, teamwork, entrepreneurial spirit. „ Problem Solving: criterion – tested mainly through the case „ Personal Impact: criterion – listening/understanding/ responding, empathy, influencing, teamwork, confidence –v- ego, sense of humour

„ Leadership: criterion – integrity, maturity, willingness to take personal risks, ability to take initiative

„ Drive and Aspiration: criterion – enthusiasm, desire to excel, self-development, energy, perseverance

The interviewer will explore these criteria by probing the interviewee in detail on the six different topics highlighted in the slide above, though of course they will probably not run through all six probing questions for each and every criterion they are testing an interviewee on, because of time constraints.

5 Those highlighted at the beginning of this Case Book

An explanation of the six probing questions is as follows:

General Experience: „ The amount of experience a candidate has had overall in using/developing that criterion

„ Example – Desire to excel: How important has working hard and being driven been in your career to date?

Specific Examples: „ Specific examples where a candidate displayed that criterion

„ Example – Desire to Excel: Describe a previous achievement for which you had to strive?

Self-Evaluation: „ How the candidate assessed his/her ability on that criterion „ Example – Desire to Excel: Could you have done more to make sure you achieved your full potential over the past three years?

Criterion Based Questioning

23Case book 2010

Fit Interviewing / Two key ‘Why do you want to....?’ questions

Comparison with Others: „ How the candidate compares with others on that criterion „ Example – Desire to Excel: How would you compare your level of drive and aspiration to succeed against the top quartile of your peers at…..?

Appraisal: „ What others think of the candidate on that criterion „ Example – Desire to Excel: How did your manager in X role appraise your desire to excel?

Knowledge/Attitudes: „ How well the candidate understands the need for that criterion in consulting

„ Whether the candidate has a good perspective on the attributes necessary for good performance on that criterion

„ Example – Desire to Excel: In what circumstances do you think it would it be appropriate to give up on an objective?

To prepare for the fit aspect of your interview:

Identify: You should go through your CV6 and experience to date, both professional and personal and, for each criterion, come up with at least two anecdotes which demonstrate your experience, abilities, etc., on that criterion.

6 The achievements database may be a good resource for this

Prepare: Once you’ve done this, write an answer to each of the six probing questions for each of your two/three/four/five examples

Practise If you can, run your examples and answers by a fellow MBA (preferably someone who has had some consulting experience) and see if your examples and answers are convincing

Once you get into an interview – a situation which is stressful, and at which you will be required to give well- developed, relevant answers very quickly – you will be grateful for this level of preparation.

In addition to testing the above criterion, the interviewer will almost certainly ask you two key questions: “Why you want to go into consulting?”, and “Why their particular firm?”. Your ‘story’ is very important in answering these questions. You should very succinctly be able to tell the interviewer why you have made the choices that you have made to date, e.g. choice of college, choice of post college/pre MBA work experience, choice of London Business School over other MBA colleges and, flowing from all this, why you are now seeking a position in consulting and why, in particular, their firm.

This story needs to convey to the interviewer exactly why you are at London Business School and convince him/her that you are serious about a career in consulting and about his/her firm in particular.

Getting the balance right in your answers to these two key questions is important. Remember that most of your interviewers were in your shoes not too long ago, and they will be well aware that most people joining consulting firms from their MBA view it as a reasonably short term, career accelerating move. As such, stating that you have always wanted to be a consultant and that your ultimate aim is to become a Partner in their firm may come across as sycophantic and somewhat less that true.

Conversely, saying that you want to work in consulting for two to three years as a career accelerator may be viewed as uncommitted. It is all about balance!

If you do envision yourself being in consulting long term there is nothing wrong with saying that, but you might want a slightly less emphatic approach than the one above.

If you believe that you won’t be in consulting for the long term, be honest about the fact that you may want to look elsewhere after a while. For example: “My ultimate goal is to run my own business in the travel industry, and I think that consulting as a medium term post-MBA career will provide me with great experience to do that in the longer term. Having said that, if I really enjoy consulting, I am very open-minded about making it my long term career.”

You will also certainly be asked a question about “Why their firm in particular?”. You must be able to articulate a few reasons why that firm is the best fit for you. Read the website, go to the company’s presentation, talk to their representatives after the presentation, read the ‘Who are the consultants?’ presentation on portal, use the Consulting Club discussion threads and talk to Career Services.

Two key ‘Why do you want to....?’ questions

Fit Interviewing / Do you have any questions for me?

24Case book 2010

However, do not put yourself under undue stress researching little known facts about the firm or trying to come up with genius questions that no-one else will ever have thought of. The interviewer is only trying to assess that

your interest in their firm is genuine and that you have good reasons to back up this interest. Keep that in mind when you’re preparing answers to this question.

The fit element that is most common in consulting interviews and is often overlooked by candidates as being a fit question, is the “Do you have any questions for me?” question that most interviewers will pose at the end of their interviews. Your questions communicate your level of interest in their case, their firm, the type of work that they do and also demonstrates – or not! – your ability to ask insightful questions.

Spend time preparing firm specific questions before each interview. Try to make these high calibre questions, not just questions that can be gleaned from a quick scan of the company’s website.

And finally, make sure you listen to and show interest in the response and think about asking a follow-up question to demonstrate that interest.

Fit interviews are very much two-way conversations between the interviewer and interviewee. You should feel that you are interviewing the firm as much as they are interviewing you. In addition to having insightful questions about the firm, try to analyse the people that you are speaking with when you’re interviewing with that firm. If you get the job, you will also need to sit on a ten-hour flight with people similar to your interviewers and work very, very long (often stressful) hours with them. Is that really something you want to do?

‘Career Search’ is not just about getting a job (any job). It is about getting the right job – even though it may be hard to remember that at times. The recruitment opportunities at London Business School (especially if you are participating in ‘on-campus recruitment’) are unlike anything else you will experience in your life. You have a whole array of fantastic firms all wanting to hire talented students – all of whom are prepared to come to you and lay out their wares. Make sure that you don’t waste that opportunity by not having the confidence to ensure that the firm you end up working for is the one you really want to work for. Getting the job is not the only goal here. The goal is to be happy and professionally satisfied long after you have left London Business School, whether that is in consulting or in another field altogether.

It is also very important to go to interviews having confidence in yourself and your abilities. As I mentioned earlier, students can be too concerned about being career changers – forgetting that 80% of people who go through the consulting selection process are career changers.

Do not feel that you have to apologise for your past career choices. However, as mentioned previously, do have a good story that illustrates a ‘train of thought’ running through your career decisions.

Also think hard about what you have learnt and how this learning applies to a new career in consulting. There are aspects of almost any job that can relate to consulting. Consulting firms are looking to hire the best people, regardless of background, so remember that and have confidence when you interview.

Do you have any questions for me?

A Two-Way Process

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