Secrets to opening a case interview – Part 1

In human behavior, first impressions determine more than 50 percent of other people’s overall impression of you. Therefore, in case interviews, the first five minutes or the opening of a case, has a more than 50 percent weight on whether or not you pass the case interview and get into Mckinsey.

There are three key steps in successfully opening a case interview and, in this series of articles, we will elaborate in detail how to master the three steps of opening a case interview to perfection so as to get your foot in a top consulting firm. These three steps are

  1. Reiterate the case prompt (Secrets to opening a case interview – Part 1)
  2. Asking clarification questions about the case given (Part 2)
  3. Laying out your initial structure to approach this case (Part 3)

Before we go into detail on how to perfect these three steps, let us hear a 90-second audio of how to open a case interview from an exemplary candidate.

Now, why is this opening exemplary? And how can you mimic this candidate and open your case successfully?

So here the interviewer gave the following prompt: John is the owner of a hot sauce shop in Manhattan. The type of hot sauce he produces can be used for all kinds of different culinary purposes. Over the 10 years where he has done this business, he has experienced both revenue and profit increases. However, this year, for whatever reason, his profit has declined. You are a friend of his and knowing your background in business consulting, he really wants your help.

So step number one, reiterate the case prompt.
The reason that reiterating the case prompt is important is twofold.

One is that, however confident you are in your understanding of what the case is saying, there is still a probability that your interpretation of what is given is different from what the interviewer’s intention was. Reiterating the key facts of the case prompt makes sure that you and the interviewer’s interpretation of the case are aligned.

And the second, more subtle reason is that if you are an actual consultant in an actual case interview, your client would hope that you understand the problem 100 percent before you try to solve the problem. Failure to do so may indicate to the client that you are a rash consultant that might be making irrational decisions. And obviously, case interviewers are like real clients for you.

So, how do you reiterate the case prompt?

The key is to not repeat exactly word for word what the interviewer said, but to actually paraphrase the case in your own understanding. By paraphrasing the case prompt in your understanding of the case, you will achieve the purpose of dispelling any possible misalignment of your understanding with the interviewer’s understanding. A word for word repetition of what the interviewer said defeats that purpose. In reality, a word for word paraphrasing might actually seem inflexible to the interviewer and have a negative effect on you.

In the next article, we will answer in detail how to ask clarification questions after reiterating the case prompt.

But for now, let’s listen to this candidate’s opening to the case again and hear how he reiterated the case prompt to perfection and put his foot in the door of BCG.

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(from Case Interview Experts and ex-BCG, ex-Bain consultants)

Hi, my name is Jackie Zhao, a case interview expert. As a candidate, I passed 15 out of 16 case interviews and landed 5 consulting jobs offers in BCG, Deloitte S&O, Roland Berger, etc. Here at CasePrep Master, our group of case interview experts and ex-BCG, ex-Bain consultants have helped hundreds of aspiring candidates get offers from top firms like Mckinsey, BCG and Bain.

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