Case in Point has been the go-to source for hopeful management consulting applicants for many years.
However, consultants themselves never use these kinds of frameworks, as they are known to be unreliable in dealing with complex business cases.
Here, we’ll follow a longer article by MyConsultingCoach taking a look at why exactly you shouldn’t use case interview frameworks and similar sets of generic solutions for your case interview prep.
The Same Old Story
Each recruiting season, thousands of wannabe consultants applying to McKinsey and similar firms stump up the $20 or so to get Cosentino’s book from Amazon and read about the Ivy Case System’s legendary 12 case interview frameworks.
These applicants head off to interview full of confidence that whatever case is thrown at them by the interviewer, all they need to do is pick out the right framework, work through the steps, and the correct answer will drop out, as if by magic. The job offer is sure to follow, they imagine.
Except that the reality is somewhat different. In the real world, almost none of these applicants land jobs.
Very nearly all the applicants for the big MBB firms – McKinsey, Bain, and BCG – report that they have encountered frameworks during their preparations. Yet the success rate for applicants at these firms is only around 2%.
Already you can see that something must be fishy about these frameworks from Case in Point. Let’s take a quick look at why frameworks are not the answer.
What Exactly Are Case Interview Frameworks?
A case interview framework is a set of instructions and algorithms that helps you to solve case studies. Typically, the frameworks come in sets of ten or twelve, which is supposedly enough to give a solution for any problem you may encounter.
The problem with this approach is that the frameworks are often too generic, and the problem you are trying to solve doesn’t fit any of the frameworks well.
Some well-known framework-based management consulting study material, include Cosentino’s Case in Point and the work of Victor Cheng. These are all readily available to purchase, but will probably not help you very much with your case study interview.
Why Don’t Case Interview Frameworks Work Properly?
The biggest issue is quite simple. The ten or twelve frameworks presented by the author are sold as the solution to any problem you may encounter.
There is a flaw in this logic. If it was really that easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? Why would companies pay thousands to management consultants, if all they needed to do was buy a book for around $20 to solve all their problems?
When you apply for that position with a top management consultancy firm, consider what they expect from you. Of course, they want bright, smart people with excellent communication skills and the drive to succeed. They are not looking for someone good at memorizing a set of generic approaches to problem-solving.
Learning how to solve problems using a method, such as issue trees, instead of following a framework is the key to successful case study interviews.
Have I Wasted My Time Reading Case in Point?
Certainly not. Although frameworks are not suitable for use during your case interview, they do make excellent study aids. You just need to remember that’s all they should be used for.
Frameworks introduce some basic ideas, such as differences between cost-based and value-based pricing. In some cases, a framework could ensure you don’t miss essential aspects of a case by providing you with a useful checklist.
It’s imperative to note that although frameworks are useful for practice, they will never help you succeed in an interview. If the interviewer realizes you are merely following a framework, you will fail the test.
How Do I Prep, Then?
So, the frameworks in Case in Point do have some limited utility – but this is only as a supplement to a proper case interview prep where you learn how to address cases on their own merits – closer to working from first principles than generic frameworks.
However, if Case in Point is a 400+ page book and is too simple to be reliable, we won’t be able to give a full alternative case method in a short blog post like this.
Instead, we can give you a few key tips to help you start to plan out an excellent prep, doing your research, and finding more comprehensive sources.
Remember that this way of doing things will take longer than learning a few frameworks, but the rewards are far greater!
Our four key points to keep in mind, then:
Make sure you know the basics inside out. The ability to quickly breakdown a complex problem into logical smaller, more straightforward tasks is paramount.
If you are facing business case studies, you’ll need the necessary financial, accounting, and economics skills.
2. Mental Mathematics
The ability to work through mathematical problems in your head is one of the quickest ways to improve your case interview performance. Given a set of complex data and graphs, you need to quickly find the critical information and use it in your solution.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
We cannot emphasize this enough. Practice as often as you can. Learning the theory is a great start, but you need to be able to use it in real-life situations. Make sure you practice with a case partner, or a professional coach to improve your performance.
4. Build Communication Skills
Knowing the theory and being able to put it into practice is great, but in an interview situation, you also have to communicate your plan to the interviewer. Fail to communicate effectively, and you’ll fail the interview. Practicing with other people will definitely help.
Down to Work!
Unfortunately, now the illusion is shattered, and you know that there are no easy solutions to be had from the case interview frameworks in Case in Point. You are going to have to work harder than that.
However, you can set about this work in the knowledge that you are setting yourself ahead fo the majority of your competitors vying for that coveted MBB role.
The tips we have provided here give you your first few steps in your new journey towards landing your dream management consulting job.