Practice Case Questions

Practice Case Questions

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If you want to practice case questions, I highly recommend Marc Cosentino’s book Case in Point.

You can also access sample case questions from various consulting clubs here, and from the following consulting firm websites:

  1. McKinsey & Company;
  2. Bain & Company;
  3. Oliver Wyman;
  4. Deloitte;
  5. A.T. Kearney;
  6. Accenture; and
  7. L.E.K. Consulting.

[For more information on consulting interviews, please download “The HUB’s Guide to Consulting Interviews“.]

Sample Consulting Case Questions

Sample Consulting Case Questions

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Below we provide a selection of sample consulting case questions.

The questions are broken down into seven (7) question types to make them easier to digest.

1. Declining Profitability

  1. Our client is eBay. Its share price fell from $310 to $200 per share on reports of declining profits. What’s going on and how can we turn this around?
  2. A large American beverage company acquired a fruit juice company for $350 million five years ago with the goal to increase revenues tenfold. Revenues have instead fallen 50% to $20 million. What’s going on and how can we turn this around?
  3. Our client is a mid-sized retail bank in Kazakhstan. The bank has achieved sustained revenue growth over the last two years but its profits have consistently declined. What is causing the decline in profits? What can we do about it?

2. Entering a New Market

  1. Your client is a low-cost airline headquartered in Philadelphia with frequent service to cities along the East Coast of the United States. The CEO is interested in expanding service into a small town in the Midwest; let’s call it Greenville. What is your recommendation?
  2. A large Korean electronics company is thinking about entering the market for tablet computers. Is this a good idea?
  3. A South Korean company is acquiring a U.S. smart phone maker. What factors do they need to take into account?

3. Pricing Strategy

  1. The CEO of a large Asian electronics firm has come out with a new smart phone, which is much like the iPhone. How should it price this product?
  2. Dr Pepper is trying to boost profitability by raising prices. It’s focusing on supermarkets. How is raising prices likely to affect profitability? Should it go ahead with the plan?
  3. Toyota has invented a car with incredible durability, it can be driven a thousand times further than cars currently on the market before needing to be serviced. The CEO asks you, “How should Toyota price this car?”

4. Growth Strategy

  1. Our client is the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. They want to develop a growth strategy for the next five years. What would you advise them to look at, and what are your recommendations for growth?
  2. You have been brought in as the CEO of Blackberry. The company started making handheld wireless devices in 1999 and gained substantial market share in the initial smart phone market prior to the release of the iPhone in 2007. The company missed the trend towards touchscreen smart phones and has fallen into serious financial difficulty. How can we regain market share, and return Blackberry to its former glory?
  3. Emirates Airline is considering signing an agreement with Ben and Jerries Ice-cream, which would allow them to serve several flavours of ice cream on Emirates flights. Is it a good idea for Emirates to sign this agreement?
  4. Virgin Galactic has developed a new rocket that can take off and land like a normal plane. Virgin Galactic wants to give customers the opportunity to see the earth from space and experience low gravity on a five hour flight. The prototype rocket will cost $1 billion to produce. Each additional rocket will cost $100 million.
    • Estimate the size of the global market
    • What price should Virgin Galactic charge for a ticket?
    • How many rockets should it produce?
    • Should it sell rockets to competitors?
  5. P&G has just discovered a new lightweight metallic compound that could be used to produce metal containers like soft drink cans. What should they do with it?

5. Operations

  1. Coca Cola has a bottling plant in Mumbai. Over the past three months, inventory has tripled and customer complaints have doubled. What should the company do?
  2. Cabana Surfboards manufactures surfboards at a factory in California. It is currently summer, and Cabana is having trouble meeting demand. Cabana’s surfboards are distributed through surf shops located near popular tourist beaches and, in recent years, Cabana has developed a strong reputation among first time surfers. What should the company do to keep up with demand?
  3. A leading financial services company is trying to reduce operating expenditures. How can it achieve its savings target?

6. Competitive Response

  1. CanadaCo, the largest discount retailer in Canada, currently holds the dominant market share in the industry. USCo, the largest discount retailer in the United States, has decided to expand into Canada by purchasing CanadaCo’s competition. How should the CEO of CanadaCo respond?
  2. Our client, let’s call them AcmeCo, is a specialty shoe manufacturer with retail stores in New York, San Francisco and London. AcmeCo has discovered that Nike is planning to enter its segment of the market. What should it do?
  3. Our client is Kellogg’s, a leading international manufacturer of branded cereals. Over the past five years, supermarkets and distributors in America have started selling private label goods including private label cereals. Private label goods are produced by manufacturers and sold by retailers and supermarkets directly to the end user. The private label trend has started to impact Kellogg’s market share. How should Kellogg’s respond to this competitive threat?

7. Turnarounds

  1. Radioshack, an American consumer electronics giant of yesteryear, faced chaotic trading on Wednesday as analysts predicted the company would report its 10th straight quarter of losses. Assuming RadioShack averts bankruptcy and achieves a successful refinancing, what should the strategy be to turnaround and save this iconic company?

[For more information on consulting interviews, please download “The HUB’s Guide to Consulting Interviews“.]

Concluding A Consulting Case Question

Concluding a Consulting Case Question

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At the end of a case question it is important to provide a summary of the problem and a set of actionable recommendations that answer the question.

Recommendations should be justified with the key findings that you had been noting down as you progressed through the case.

For example, you might say something like “the company is trying to decide whether to enter the Canadian market. Our recommendation is that the company should enter this new market because they will capture significant market share, face limited competition, and break even within 3 years.”

[For more information on consulting interviews, please download “The HUB’s Guide to Consulting Interviews“.]

Tackling A Consulting Case Question

Tackling the Case Interview

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The second stage of a consulting case question, after setting it up, is to solve the problem.

Here are six (6) tips for successfully tackling a case question:

  1. Find the source of the problem – You might get asked a question such as “Profits have declined, what should we do?” Before diving head long into an analysis of the company’s revenue and cost drivers, try to better understand the source of the problem. What’s been happening in the economy? Is the problem company specific or industry wide?
  2. Find the trend – If you are given figures for a particular year, it is important to understand how things have changed over time. You might say, “I understand that industry growth for 2015 was 10%, how does that compare with growth in prior years?”
  3. Break things down – Aggregate figures can hide important details. For example, you might know that total revenues have been flat. Can you segment revenues by product line, distribution channel, customer type or region? When looking at costs, can you segment by value chain activities or into fixed and variable costs?
  4. Think out loud – State your hypothesis, and state your assumptions as you progress through the case. The interviewer is trying to assess the quality of your thinking, and you can’t score points for things that you think but don’t say.
  5. Keep it simple – When doing numerical calculations, use round numbers where ever possible. For example, assume that the population of America is 300 million not 316.1 million.
  6. Highlight key findings – As you progress through the case, record key findings so that you can refer back to them later. You might do this by noting key findings on a separate piece of paper, or by circling or highlighting them as you progress through the case.

[For more information on consulting interviews, please download “The HUB’s Guide to Consulting Interviews“.]

Setting Up A Case Question

Setting Up the Case Question

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When it comes to answering a consulting case question, there are three stages to the answer: setting it up, solving it, and providing a recommendation.

The first stage is setting it up, and below we provide five (5) steps to setting up a case question:

1. Summarize the question

Give yourself time to think by writing down the question and considering the key facts. You can safely pause for up to 90 seconds or so in order to capture your thoughts on paper. When you have finished doing so, summarize your understanding of the question out loud.

2. Clarify vague information

Ask questions to help you understand the situation and clarify any unfamiliar concepts or vague information provided by the interviewer.

3. Determine the goal

Be clear about the objective of the case. Is the company concerned with maximizing profits, increasing market share, or something else? Does the interviewer want a “go/no go” decision, or a list of recommendations?

For example, you might say “From what you have told me I understand that the company wants a list of recommendations on how to maximize profits, are there any other objectives that I should be aware of?”

4. Structure the analysis

When answering a case question, structure is crucial. The interviewer wants to know not only that you can provide a coherent answer but that you can deliver your analysis in a “client friendly” way.

That means having a clear structure.

Select an appropriate framework for analysis. This will allow you to gather the right kinds of information. However, don’t nominate the framework by name, for example don’t say “I want to use the three C’s framework”. Instead, use the framework to identify the relevant issues and draw out a structure for the interviewer to see. A good way to do this is to use a tree diagram. You can then walk the interviewer through your structure and start asking for data or diving into the details.

5. State a hypothesis

If the case is broad and open ended, for example “profits have declined, what should we do?”, then it is helpful to state a hypothesis about the source of the problem.

For example, you might say “Profit is a function of revenue and costs. My hypothesis is that declining profits have been caused by falling revenue.” This will give your analysis a starting point, and allow you to drive towards a solution.

[For more information on consulting interviews, please download “The HUB’s Guide to Consulting Interviews“.]

Purpose of the Consulting Case Question

Purpose of the Consulting Case Question

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The business case question is the cornerstone of the consulting interview, and consulting firms use it to assess a candidate for a number of qualities:

  • Structured thinking;
  • Numerical ability;
  • Communication skills;
  • Comfort with ambiguity;
  • Speed of thought;
  • Knowledge of key business concepts;
  • Enthusiasm for consulting;
  • Calm resolve under pressure; and
  • Ability to represent the firm.

As part of a case question a candidate will be required to consider a hypothetical business situation, uncover the source of the problem, develop a solution, and provide recommendations.

This process will involve presenting a structure for analysis, making a series of common-sense assumptions, and asking the interviewer clarifying questions.

A case question is not intended to test your knowledge of a particular industry, but is designed instead to test your thinking process. It is important to have a structured approach and to think out loud.

[For more information on consulting interviews, please download “The HUB’s Guide to Consulting Interviews“.]