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“.]