A case interview or case study interview involves a business or organisational problem the company may have faced, and is a chance to demonstrate your analytical, reasoning and communication skills. They are designed to assess your ability to do the work of a consultant, i.e. work with a client to identify key problems or challenges facing their business or organisation and to develop effective solutions and actions to address these.
You might be invited for a case study interview if you are applying for consulting positions and will generally be invited in the second round of interviews. It will be a one-to-one interview with a consultant, followed by competency based questions.
Case interviews usually work best if they develop into a discussion between the interviewer and you. Ask questions and try out ideas with the interviewer.
What is the company looking for?
Case interviews are not intended to test your business or sector knowledge but it is important to be able to demonstrate your commercial awareness. You will find it helpful to have a basic understanding of key business concepts e.g. revenue, fixed and variable costs, profit, market share, customers, competitors and stakeholders.
As well as this, recruiters will be looking for a genuine curiosity about, and enthusiasm for, business issues and problems.
Try to demonstrate how you can:
- Work with a client to identify key problems facing their company
- Develop effective solutions to these
- Listen actively
- Ask relevant and probing questions
- Problem solve, show you can thinking in a structured manner
- Confidently work within a time limit
- Apply your commercial awareness
- Analyse quantitative data
- Think creatively and on your feet
- Translate analysis into actionable recommendations
- Communication conclusions in a concise and persuasive manner
- Interact well with clients
- Show enthusiasm, motivation and maturity
Having a knowledge of some common frameworks that can be used to structure the analysis of a problem or issue, such as SWOT analysis, Boston Matrix, Porter’s 5 Forces, may help, but do not slavishly apply one of these; your knowledge of frameworks is not important, your ability to think in a structured, creative way is.
How should I respond to a case study?
It is important to understand your primary objective is not to find ‘the’ solution to the case but rather to demonstrate your analytical, reasoning and communication skills.
Do not jump to conclusions or rush towards an answer. It is the process by which you get to your conclusions that interests the interviewer.
- Identify the critical issue from the written case study
- Listen carefully to verbal information or responses to your questions or comments
- Break the problem into parts, describe this out loud. Do not be tempted to follow a common framework (such as SWOT analysis or Boston Matrix) although knowledge of these may help you structure your answer
- Ask relevant questions to gain a fuller understanding of the problem
- Make notes of important facts, figures or thoughts and make calculations if you think this would help – avoiding calculations when they are necessary could look as though you are not confident using numbers
- Describe your overall approach out loud so the interviewer understands your thought processes and can point you in the right direction if you are heading the wrong way – always use this advice if it is given
- Similarly, if you get stuck say so and ask for extra input
- Show that you are enjoying the process – do not show frustration or lack of confidence
- Identify a range of options for consideration
- Conclude by recommending one or two ideas for action
How should I prepare for a case study interview?
- Brush up on your maths (formulae, percentages etc.)
- Practise using sample case studies
- Practise with a friend
- Attend a case study careers seminar
- Book a case study practice interview at LSE Careers
- Come to the careers service and use the paper resources and books
- Read business news
- Look at firms' websites
Practice case study appointment
LSE Careers offers one-to-one practice case studies designed for students with interviews at management consultancy firms coming up. We can offer feedback on the structure, content and presentation of a case study. We have a small bank of practice case studies for management consultancy covering areas like profitability and strategy.
A practice case study can also help if you are preparing for case interview with a Big Four firm but would not be appropriate for an economic consultancy role in a Big Four firm or specialist economic consultancy.
Please see our practice interview information for details of how to book.
Resources from LSE Careers
- Vault: Career insider
Free for LSE students and alumni, this popular careers portal has lots of company profiles for consulting firms as well as general application and interview advice. They produce two e-guides to case interviews contains advice and practice cases - both free to download for LSE students - Vault guide to the case interview and Vault guide to the case interview practice guide 2
Free to students and alumni (up to five years post graduation). CaseCoach is a comprehensive online preparation course for consulting interviews, developed by former McKinsey consultants. The course covers both the case and the fit interviews. It includes a library of 25+ cases with solutions, practice exercises, 12 bite-sized video lectures covering the skills assessed by the top firms and 14 interview videos featuring successful candidates.
More case interview tests and tips
This list below contains links to sample case study interviews and advice articles.
Case interview tutorials and advice on what consultancy firms are looking for in an applicant. Free registration is required.
Gives sample case questions, including 'back of the envelope' questions and business problems
- Dartmouth careers services: Management Services and Consulting
Dartmouth's resources on careers in management services and consulting. Includes powerpoint presentations on case study interviews from Accenture, Bain, BCG, Parthenon and Investor Group. Resources on careers in management services and consulting. Includes presentations on case study interviews from Accenture, Bain, BCG, Parthenon and Investor Group.
- HUB - Guide to Consulting Interviews
This guidebook is designed to help aspiring consultants understand, prepare for and succeed in consulting interviews
- Management consulting - TargetJobs
Excellent UK-based graduate careers website containing lots of advice articles, information about graduate entry to consulting careers and up to date listings for graduate and internship recruitment schemes and insight events.
- MBA Case
Contains case study information and resources including the updated sections of their 'Crack the Case' publication
- McKinsey - interviewing
Learn about the types of interviews at McKinsey.
- PrepLounge - Case interview bootcamp
An online bootcamp to help you prepare for case study interviews.
- Prospects.ac.uk - Interview tests and exercises
Advice and resources for succeeding in psychometric tests, assessment centres, e-tray exercises and case studies
- Strategy Case
Site that offers articles on case study interviews