Case Interview Secrets .pdf

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'Case Interview Secrets .pdf'
Victor gave me a clear understanding of how to structure a case interview using a highly logical approach. This helped me get offers from BCG and a boutique firm and make it to McKinsey's final round before opting out. Thanks, Victor! ---Martin Pustilnick Associate Boston Consulting Group, Argentina In my first attempt to break into consulting, I failed every one of my interviews with McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Oliver Wyman, Monitor, Booz and probably a few others. On my second attempt two years later, I followed everything Victor Cheng suggested and took advantage of every resource he provided.and received an offer from McKinsey! ---Daniel Suo Business Analyst (Offer Recipient) McKinsey, Stamford Without Victor's help, I never would have gotten an offer from BCG. What he teaches really makes the difference between getting an offer and not. ---Puttipath Tasnavites Associate Boston Consulting Group, Thailand After following Victor's guidance, I had a complete breakthrough in my case interview performance and got an offer from Monitor. ---Marine Serres Senior Consultant Monitor I needed to put at least as much effort into learning the one skill that could get me hired. The path I took to learn about case interviews was ridiculously time-consuming. Books like this one and websites like mine (www.caseinterview.com) didn't exist back then. I basically “infiltrated“ this seemingly elite industry to beg people on the inside to share with me hints about how the case interview works. Hundreds of hours later, I had learned enough to assemble an overall picture of how the case interview process unfolds. I remember thinking at the time that it shouldn't have to be this hard just to learn how to do well in an interview. A year after I spent more than 100 hours learning about case interviews, including participating in 50 practice interviews with friends, I interviewed with every consulting firm I applied to, including McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Booz, Oliver Wyman (formerly Mercer Management Consulting), LEK, Monitor, and A.T. Kearney. I received a total of six consulting job offers, from McKinsey, Bain, Oliver Wyman, LEK, Monitor, and A.T. Kearney. (I voluntarily dropped out of my Booz final round, and I did not pass my first-round interview at BCG.) After passing 60 case interviews out of 61 attempts, I accepted an offer from McKinsey. Of the 400 Stanford students who had applied for jobs with McKinsey, only six received job offers---a 1.5 percent acceptance rate. Had I known this statistic before I applied, I would have been far too intimidated even to try. Success as a job seeker is not the only factor that has shaped my perspective of the case interview; my experience working in consulting has too. At McKinsey, I was one of the firm's rising stars and even conducted case interviews (in addition to reading applicants' cover letters and résumés). About 100 people were in my starting class when I joined McKinsey as a business analyst. Two years later, only ten 10 of us globally were promoted directly to associate (the post-MBA, post-PhD position). The remaining 90 were asked to leave the firm permanently or attend business school, or were directed to continue their work as business analysts. I was in that elite group of consultants in the top 10 percent globally---and at 24 years old was one of the youngest associates in McKinsey history. Through this promotion I learned how consulting firms work and how consultants think. I also learned why consultants, who also serve as case interviewers, ask the questions they do in the interview process. An interviewee who understands life on the job can better anticipate what these firms are looking for in candidates. I will share this knowledge with you throughout the pages that follow. During my time at McKinsey, I read cover letters and résumés from applicants and also conducted case interviews. Thus, my perspective on case interviews is based on my experience as (1) a multiple-job-offer candidate, (2) a top 10 percent McKinsey consultant, and (3) a case interviewer. In short, I've developed an uncommon insight into the case interview from having been on both sides of the table, and that's what I share with you here. How This Book Is Organized I've organized this book into seven parts. Part One provides a big-picture view of the case interview process and the different types of evaluation tools used. Part Two covers quantitative assessments. Though not technically case interviews, quantitative assessments are often injected into the recruiting process before or during hypothetical-situation, or “real,“ case interviews. Part Three addresses the fundamentals of tackling “real“ case interviews. You'll discover the core problem-solving tools needed to succeed in any case interview. Part Four discusses the primary frameworks you'll use to solve the business problems presented in the case interview. Part Five covers the traditional candidate-led case interview format, which is the oldest and most common approach. New case interview variations have emerged over the past few years, but they all are derived in large part from the original candidate-led format. This section offers plenty of suggestions, by way of numerous examples and practice tips, for honing your case interview skills. Part Six describes the other types of case formats and how to handle them successfully. It also provides useful tips for practicing and mastering your case interview skills. Part Seven discusses how to pull all the skills together to get the job offer. How to Get the Interview This book focuses on how to pass the case interview. Of course, to pass the interview, it helps to get the interview first! For more information on getting the interview, I recommend that you read my free online tutorials on this subject: www.caseinterview.com/jump/resume www.caseinterview.com/jump/cover-letter How to Stay Current on Case Interview Developments Consulting firms are under enormous pressure to compete for the best talent---to find the hidden gems in a quarry of rocks. As part of that ongoing effort, the firms continually evolve their recruiting methods. To keep you current on the latest case interview developments, I publish an email newsletter with the latest insights on what the major consulting firms are doing right now. With tens of thousands of visitors a month to my website and a global network of aspiring consultants in 100 countries, I receive daily emails from around the world keeping me up to date. In turn, I keep my newsletter readers up to date. My readers knew about the opening of McKinsey's new Nigeria office even before the news appeared on McKinsey's website. One day after BCG started experimenting with a problem-solving test in Scandinavia, my readers were learning how to prepare for it. When Bain Western Europe started testing a written case interview, my readers found out by the end of that same week and were given tips on how to prepare for it. In addition, my website includes video demonstrations of many of the techniques described in this book, as well as printable versions of many of the key diagrams that appear in these pages. To receive my real-time updates, the video demonstrations, and the printable diagrams, visit www.caseinterview.com/bonus. I recommend visiting the website right now, while it's fresh in your mind, to guarantee that you do not miss out on these important, free companion resources. Chapter 2 THE SEVEN TYPES OF EVALUATION TOOLS STRATEGY CONSULTING FIRMS use the term case interview to describe several methods of assessing a candidate's problem-solving abilities. Firms have been modifying the traditional case interview format to add their own twists, thereby creating many different types of case interviews. Today, the major consulting firms use seven primary formats grouped into two categories: (1) quantitative assessments, and (2) hypothetical-situation case interviews. Even though quantitative assessments are not technically case interviews, I've included them here for two reasons. First, many of the written quantitative assessments include a mini case as part of the assessment process. Second, sometimes interviewers give candidates a quantitative assessment in the middle of a hypothetical-situation case interview. Because consulting firms intertwine these two categories of evaluation tools, you will need to familiarize yourself with both. Below are overviews of the various case interview formats. I address how to tackle each type of case in subsequent chapters. The following summaries will give you some idea of what interviewers expect from you. Quantitative Assessments Format #1: The Quantitative Test The quantitative test assesses math skills, data interpretation, and numerical critical-reasoning skills. For example, a math skills question would evaluate your ability to do arithmetic, fractions, and percentage calculations. A data interpretation question would ask you to examine a chart or graph and determine which of four conclusions would not be supported by the chart. A numerical critical-reasoning question would use words and numerical data to test your reasoning abilities: “Assuming the data in chart A is true, sales of product A increase by 10 percent, and sales of product B decline by 15 percent, should the client proceed with the proposed decision?“ Among the major firms, McKinsey was first to incorporate this type of assessment into its recruiting process. McKinsey named its version the McKinsey Problem Solving Test (also known as the McKinsey PST), which is discussed in more detail in Chapter 3. For additional information on the McKinsey PST, including sample questions and sample tests, visit www.caseinterview.com/jump/pst. Because quantitative assessments such as the McKinsey PST involve many computations during a timed exam, you'll need to practice your basic arithmetic for both speed and accuracy. To facilitate the improvement of these skills among my readers, I've developed a case interview math drill. This tool gives you practice math questions on a timed practice exam and allows you to compare your performance to that of other candidates, so you'll know if you're faster at math than 25 percent, 50 percent, or 75 percent of other users. You can access this free tool here: www.caseinterviewmath.com. Format #2: The Estimation Question The estimation question tests a candidate's ability to do math and use assumptions to simplify complicated math problems so they can be solved with only pen and paper. An estimation question involves the interviewer asking you to estimate some number without the benefit of any research or access to Google. Typically, you'll be asked to estimate the size of a particular market. Below are a few examples of estimation questions: How many gallons (or liters) of gasoline does a typical filling station pump each week? Assume the year is 1980, and Motorola just invented a new technology called the cellular phone. The first three years of revenues for this technology have been terrible. As manufacturing costs and prices decline, what will sales for cellular phones be in 1985? Justify your estimate. How long does it take to relocate an average-size mountain 10 miles elsewhere using an average- size dump truck? You might be wondering if these odd questions represent actual interview questions. Well, interviewers asked me these questions during my own interview process, so I can assure you that they very much represent the type of questions you may be asked. Remember: The only tools you will be given are a pen and a piece of paper. There's no web access, Google, or calculator. And to make things even more challenging, the interviewer expects an answer in five to seven minutes. It's impossible to determine the answer to these questions accurately, given the constraints, but one can estimate an answer by (1) making a few simplifying assumptions, and (2) doing math. Interviewers ask these questions more to assess how you answer them and less to assess the accuracy of your answer. You're probably thinking this must be the way consulting firms torture candidates, because that was my initial reaction. But once I started working at McKinsey, I realized that clients ask consultants these questions all the time. So if you want to blame someone for what you endure in the recruiting process, blame the clients. It's their fault. Hypothetical-Situation Case Interview Format #3: The Candidate-Led Case Interview In the traditional candidate-led case interview, the interviewer (the person pretending to be the client) asks you an incredibly ambiguous question such as “Should we enter the Latin American market?“ or “We're losing a lot of money, so how do we fix it?“ After the interviewer asks you the opening question, he will promptly stop talking---for the rest of the interview. You can ask the interviewer questions and request certain types of data, and some interviewers will give you hints, but others will sit silently for 30 minutes unless you request specific pieces of data. Because of the enormous ambiguity of this type of case and the lack of direction from the interviewer, we call this a candidate-led case interview. Because this format is the foundation upon which the other types of case interview formats are built, I've devoted an entire section of this book to how to solve this type of case. Format #4: The Interviewer-Led Case Interview Although the interviewer-led case interview requires the same problem-solving skills as the candidate- led case interview, the dynamic between interviewer and candidate differs significantly in each instance. McKinsey uses the interviewer-led format nearly exclusively, so you will want to familiarize yourself with how this format is applied. Its two distinguishing features are as follows: 1. The interviewer (not you) determines which parts of the case are important, decides which questions are worth asking, asks you those questions, and then expects you to answer them. In contrast, in the candidate-led interview, you decide which questions are worth asking to solve the client's problem, and you find the answers to your own questions. 2. The flow of the case is very abrupt. If a case has four key areas, in a traditional case you would determine which of the four areas is most important, analyze the first area, move on to the second most important area, determine your conclusion, and present that conclusion. In the interviewer- led case, the interviewer might ask you which of the four areas you think is most important and why and then (regardless of how you answer) say, “Let's tackle area number four.“ (This can happen even if you thought that area was least important.) In an interviewer-led case, you jump around a lot, which can be unsettling if you don't anticipate it happening. Format #5: The Written Case Interview In a written case interview, you are given a lot of charts and exhibits; expect somewhere between 5 and 40. Typic
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