Stephanie Horn, Managing Consultant at the Consulting Career Academy; Kellogg MBA and former McKinsey consultant, responds to this question posted on Quora.
I appreciate your question because it highlights the important distinction between the tangible and intangible parts of the case interview process.
In a case interview, the consultant is looking to see how the candidate will attack the problem.
Will he or she grasp the main question that needs to be solved? Will he ask the pertinent questions to get the relevant information needed to come up with an answer? Will she develop a logical solution based on the evidence?
In addition to solving the problem, “cracking the case”, the consultant is also examining the intangibles in the situation.
Does the candidate walk through her logic clearly? Is she comfortable doing calculations in her head? How does he present himself? Is he confident and positive? Is he building rapport with the consultant?
What role does creativity play? It informs how you attack the problem, the kinds of probing questions that you ask, the connection you forge with the interviewer, and the conclusions you present at the close of the case.
Your creativity will certainly set you apart from the rest.
However, that creativity must be based on solid preparation on the basics. When you go to a jazz concert, the improvisation of the soloist may seem purely spontaneous and inspired, but it is based on a deep foundation of practice in the basics. Similarly, creative problem solving will only work if it comes from a deep understanding of the logic and process behind case interviews.
The trick to creative case interviews is significant practice, with skilled partners.
You can find a lot of practice cases on the internet, but the best practice is doing cases with someone who can give you targeted feedback not only on the obvious factors such as correct case math, appropriate frameworks, and logical structure, but also on the intangible components of the evaluation, such as your communication skills and client-facing presence.
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- A team of 20 former management consultants with extensive experience from working in worldwide offices of 11 leading management consulting firms. We know what this industry is about and what it values most in new hires.
- MBA graduates of top business schools who succeeded through the rigorous process of job search, recruiting and interviewing at multiple consulting firms. We then served as recruiters and interviewers for the firms that hired us.
- Skilled advisors from The MBA Exchange who have helped nearly 5,000 applicants gain admission to highly selective business schools worldwide. We have a CPA-verified track record for helping individuals compete and win against all odds.
As consultants, we are reviewing resumes and giving fit and case interviews regularly, and making hiring decisions. We have a grounded understanding of what separates those who get offers and those who don’t. These experiences allow us to give targeted feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, which help our clients develop focused prep plans.
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