CONSULTING INTERVIEWS: A GUIDE FOR STUDENTS

The Boston Consulting Group

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7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM

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1 GOALS FOR THIS DOCUMENT Provide an overview of the interview Provide an overview of the interview Describe the evaluation criteria Describe the evaluation criteria Demystify case interviews Demystify case interviews • What they are and why they’re done • What they are and why they’re done • What to do and what not to do • What to do and what not to do • Provide a case example • Provide a case example Increase your confidence and help you Increase your confidence and help you succeed in consulting interviews succeed in consulting interviews 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 1 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 1 - - .

motivations) Open discussion (resume.2 INTERVIEW FORMAT First Round Consists of Two 45-Minute Case Interviews 1-2 minutes 1-2 minutes Introduction Introduction Set the agenda Set the agenda Be prepared to discuss prior experiences Be prepared to discuss prior experiences Open discussion (resume. your chance to ask questions Q&A. your chance to ask questions 10-15 minutes 10-15 minutes 20-25 minutes 20-25 minutes 4-5 minutes 4-5 minutes 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 2 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 2 - - . motivations) Case introduction Case introduction Case discussion Case discussion Case wrap up Case wrap up Q&A.

3 SOME KEY EVALUATION CRITERIA Success-oriented behavior Success-oriented behavior • • • • • • • • Tolerance for ambiguity Tolerance for ambiguity Toughness/resilience Toughness/resilience Initiative/motivation Initiative/motivation Demonstrated results/leadership Demonstrated results/leadership Analytical skills Analytical skills • • • • • • • • • • Framing/organizing the problem Framing/organizing the problem Prioritization of issues Prioritization of issues Identifying relevant information Identifying relevant information Drawing conclusions from facts Drawing conclusions from facts Identifying key implications and next steps Identifying key implications and next steps Presence/communication Presence/communication • • • • • • • • 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 3 Listening skills Listening skills Oral skills/articulation Oral skills/articulation Charisma/spark Charisma/spark Credibility/maturity Credibility/maturity 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 3 - - .

characterized in a memorable way Your unique strengths. industry • • Usually after the case has concluded Usually after the case has concluded 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 4 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 4 - - .4 OPEN DISCUSSION Some Tips Exhale! Exhale! • • • • It’s natural to feel nervous It’s natural to feel nervous Think of it as an engaging conversation with a colleague Think of it as an engaging conversation with a colleague Be genuine Be genuine • • • • We don’t seek a specific profile We don’t seek a specific profile “Fit” is a two-way street “Fit” is a two-way street Convey your “brand” Convey your “brand” • • • • Your unique strengths. characterized in a memorable way Two or three things the interviewer will remember about you Two or three things the interviewer will remember about you Prepare to ask questions about firm. industry Prepare to ask questions about firm.

5 THE CASE INTERVIEW The What and Why Most consulting firms use some form of case interview Most consulting firms use some form of case interview Cases are mainly taken from real-life examples of BCG casework Cases are mainly taken from real-life examples of BCG casework Typically structured as a 20 to 30 minute discussion Typically structured as a 20 to 30 minute discussion Cases serve as a vehicle for us to gain insight into how you might Cases serve as a vehicle for us to gain insight into how you might approach and analyze a typical business issue approach and analyze a typical business issue • Also gives you a perspective on what consultants do • Also gives you a perspective on what consultants do Not the only metric we use to evaluate candidates Not the only metric we use to evaluate candidates • Education and work experience • Education and work experience • Interpersonal and communications skills • Interpersonal and communications skills 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 5 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 5 - - .

6 WHAT DO COMPANIES LOOK FOR DURING THE CASE? Not “The Answer” Analytics Analytics • • • • • • • • Provide structure to unstructured problems Provide structure to unstructured problems Break problems into components Break problems into components Apply transparent. and generate hypotheses make assumptions. see patterns. logical thinking to each component Synthesize discussion into solution Synthesize discussion into solution Poise Poise • • • • • • • • Appear excited by the kinds of issues consultants face Appear excited by the kinds of issues consultants face Are not intimidated by process or problems Are not intimidated by process or problems Assimilate information quickly and effectively Assimilate information quickly and effectively Ask insightful questions Ask insightful questions Creativity Creativity • • • • • • • • Apply a unique perspective to business situations Apply a unique perspective to business situations See the big picture See the big picture Draw conclusions from partial information Draw conclusions from partial information make assumptions. see patterns. logical thinking to each component Apply transparent. and generate hypotheses 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 6 - 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 6 - .

7. 7. 6. 5. 5. 4. 3.7 THE SEVEN HABITS OF SUCCESSFUL CASE INTERVIEWS 1. 4. 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 7 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 7 - - . 2. 1. 3. Make certain you have a clear understanding of the objective— Make certain you have a clear understanding of the objective— ask for additional information if necessary ask for additional information if necessary Frame/organize the problem to identify key issues to be Frame/organize the problem to identify key issues to be addressed addressed Prioritize the issues you want to address Prioritize the issues you want to address Identify the key information that you need to reach Identify the key information that you need to reach conclusions/make decisions conclusions/make decisions Draw conclusions from the facts provided to you Draw conclusions from the facts provided to you Identify key implications and additional steps Identify key implications and additional steps Summarize findings as necessary Summarize findings as necessary 2. 6.

what will happen when I leave him or her alone with a skeptical client?” Generic or simplistic answer 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 8 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 8 - - .” “Many students tend to be too simplistic in their analysis. They should try not to make any assumptions.” Lack of conviction “If I can get an interviewee to change his or her mind with one question. they should clearly state that it is an assumption they are making.8 SOME COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID Pitfall Unstructured answer Narrowly defined problem Interviewer comments “It is very clear when you are interviewing a student who has not had a lot of case exposure.” “It is very common for a student who has a marketing background to focus only on the marketing issues such as how the product is positioned or someone with a financial background to focus on financing issues and ignore the strategic reasons or fit for an acquisition. Students need to develop a framework unique to the situation presented.” Focus on answer. instead they should explain why they would look at something. but if they feel they need to. not thought process “Too many students try to give the answer instead of walking through the logic.” “Many students tend not to frame the problem. a hypothesis about what types of factors drive the business or a range of possibilities. They say ‘I would look at this’. They tend to lack structure in their approach.” “Interviewers look for a student to dig deep on issues instead of just skimming the issues. Imposing a generic framework is generally a recipe for failure. Students should try to determine the most important issues and ask penetrating questions regarding these issues.

com) Look on the Web for firm-provided practice questions (bcg. . and people at your school’s career services your school’s career services Look on the Web for firm-provided practice questions (bcg.. most questions have no “right answer” Practice Practice • • • • • • Case interviews are an acquired skill Case interviews are an acquired skill Use classmates. not a hurdle Remember. friends who interviewed last year. most questions have no “right answer” Remember. friends who interviewed last year.9 HOW DO I PREPARE? No Magical Formula Prepare mentally Prepare mentally • • • • View the interview as an opportunity. and think Read. . read.com) Read. read and think • • • • Wall Street Journal Wall Street Journal New York Times business section New York Times business section 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 9 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 9 - - .. read. and people at Use classmates. not a hurdle View the interview as an opportunity. read ..

After dollar spent in the restaurant by a member would earn one point.10 A BCG CASE EXAMPLE Your client is the CEO of a national fast food restaurant chain which Your client is the CEO of a national fast food restaurant chain which operates 500 restaurants. The chain is thinking of instituting a frequentoperates 500 restaurants.00 • How would you determine if this is a good business proposition? • How would you determine if this is a good business proposition? • Should they institute this program? • Should they institute this program? 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 10 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 10 - - . After 20 points have been accumulated they can be redeemed for a sandwich 20 points have been accumulated they can be redeemed for a sandwich priced at $2. Each The program would be modeled after the frequent-flier programs. Each dollar spent in the restaurant by a member would earn one point. The chain is thinking of instituting a frequentdiner program diner program The program would be modeled after the frequent-flier programs.00 priced at $2.

Suggest a hypothesis on what chain wants to do: increase revenue. etc. those that just stop in once in a while) 5.11 A SUGGESTED APPROACH (I) Fast Food Frequent Diner Program Case Develop a framework Develop a framework 1... Recognize that it may impact different customers differently (i. Suggest a hypothesis on what chain wants to do: increase revenue. loyalty with 1.) and whether or not they are less than the additional marketing. Will want to look at what competitors are doing: Is this becoming a necessity to compete. want to think about how can make this one unique think about how can make this one unique 3. marketing.e. or is it a way to differentiate chain? Even if others are doing. those that already come frequently vs. Need to assess how program will impact customers’ behavior: frequency of visits. cards. etc. Recognize that it may impact different customers differently (i. 2. 3. Will want to look at what competitors are doing: Is this becoming a necessity to 2. those that 4. want to compete. 5. or is it a way to differentiate chain? Even if others are doing. loyalty with customers. Also need to assess the costs associated with the program (free sandwiches. Also need to assess the costs associated with the program (free sandwiches. customers. cards. etc. Need to assess how program will impact customers’ behavior: frequency of visits. dollars spent at each visit dollars spent at each visit 4.) and whether or not they are less than the additional revenues revenues 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 11 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 11 - - .e. etc. those that just stop in once in a while) already come frequently vs.

Should be able to use the data from the focus group to estimate the additional 7. etc. Ways to use the program to gain other advantages: more effective marketing. data needed and ideas for getting the data 7. etc. test new products. interviewee should outline the factors they would consider. 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 12 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 12 - - . Give a recommendation as to whether to go ahead with program Other areas to think about Other areas to think about 10. Interviewee should then move on to the cost side and identify and estimate the 8. guesstimate other expenses) guesstimate other expenses) 9. Give a recommendation as to whether to go ahead with program 9. relevant expenses (can estimate sandwich costs from focus group data. Interviewee should then move on to the cost side and identify and estimate the relevant expenses (can estimate sandwich costs from focus group data. Should be able to use the data from the focus group to estimate the additional revenue revenue 8. Likely competitor responses 10. Focusing on the revenue side. test new products. interviewee should outline the factors they 6. 11. Likely competitor responses 11. Focusing on the revenue side. Ways to use the program to gain other advantages: more effective marketing. data needed and ideas for getting the data would consider.12 A SUGGESTED APPROACH (II) Fast Food Frequent Diner Program Case Dig deeper into a couple areas: additional revenue expected and expenses Dig deeper into a couple areas: additional revenue expected and expenses 6.

00 4.000 Number visits/year 30.13 SOME BACKGROUND DATA Focus-group Results by Customer Segments Customer segment Heavy Light Percentage of customers 40 60 100 Number of customers/store 8.000 20.0 9.000 12.00 4.00 Key questions Key questions • How will the program impact customers’ behavior? • How will the program impact customers’ behavior? • Will this impact the customer segments differently? • Will this impact the customer segments differently? 91100-39/A5893/Jan 22 02/RS/RSajeh/Chi (7/2/2003 1:39 PM) 13 7/2/2003 1:39:19 PM 13 - - .0 17.5 $ per visit 4.

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