Consulting case interview guide Part 2: Listening


Consulting case interview consists of loose partitioned four sections. And the interviewer looks for different skills in these phases

This is part 2 of eight-part guide to consulting case interview. For Part 1 click


1Listening skill:

At the beginning of the case interview, the interviewer will present you the facts of the case.The case topic can be very diverse and cover a wide range of industries and problem areas. McKinsey, BCG and Bain pride in general consulting and hence you should be ready to receive a case which pertains to an industry which you are unfamiliar with. But, with right structuring and common sense, ‘cracking the case is easier than you would think’.

A typical consulting case description will sound something like this:

Our client IceTectonic is a major producer of ice and dry ice. IceTectonic is based in Alabama. They have 22 small and medium industrial units distributed across the USA. They also have recently acquired a company with 3 ice manufacturing plants in Mexico. Our client has seen steady revenue and a slow but gradual decrease in profitability in last 4 years. What can we do for them?

This takes about 2 minutes. Subsequently, you should paraphrase the case and

Rules in this phase:

A. Assume nothing (except what the case states explicitely)

One of the major pitfalls of case interview is to assume ‘possible situations’ as fact. Some of the assumptions which can naturally come to an interviewee as ‘facts’ from the case study provided above:

One can assume that IceTectonic bought the company in Mexico because they wanted to grow revenue. Now, for a second take a

Possible alternate explanation 1
Possible alternate explanation 2
Possible alternate explanation 2

So, please assume nothing. Ask and clarify at the appropriate time.

B. Paraphrase (but don’t repeat same phrases in the consulting case):

To check if you understood the consulting case accurately, you should repeat the question back to the interviewer. This is supposed to demonstrate your listening skills during the case interview. Even a 1980s cassette recorder or a grade 7 student can repeat words exactly as they hear. You need to paraphrase the problem to show an understanding of the problem.

You can find some basic tips to paraphrasing here. Or you can download this short document to get a quick checklist for paraphrasing. You can also watch this short 15 minute youtube video to get started with paraphrasing.

C. Clarify with the interviewer (But, don’t probe. Yet.):

You need to check

Following questions from the case above could be considered clarificatory questions:

  • What is dry ice?
  • What is profitability, is it net profit divided by sales or gross profit divided by sales?
  • Other than improving profitability does our client have any other objective/ major constraint which I should be aware of?

On the other hand, claiming the following questions to be clarificatory could be more challenging:

  • What was the revenue for the company last year?
  • Has the profit reduced because of competitors reducing their prices?


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