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Case Interview Workshop


Title: Office for Strategic Business Initiatives Author: slanessk Last modified by: Business Created Date: 1/31/2003 3:21:44 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Case Interview Workshop

  • Case Interview Workshop
  • 16 September 2005
Illinois Business Consulting (IBC)
Mission of Illinois Business Consulting
  • To establish IBC as a premier consulting
    organization managed by students, to deliver high
    quality solutions to client problems and to
    nurture future consultants for the business

Description of IBC
An integral component of the College of Business,
IBC is a student managed consulting organization.
IBC performs 40-50 projects per year for Fortune
500, mid-sized, new venture and not-for-profit
clients. The organization enables graduate
students and select undergraduate students to
apply their classroom learnings to real business
What is a case interview?
  • Simulation of a realistic situation between a
    client and a consultant, similar to a
    mini-business case
  • Typically found in later rounds of interviewing,
    as the process becomes more competitive
  • More likely to be used in interviews for
    consulting or finance-related positions (i.e.
    investment banking)
  • Usually part of a longer interview that includes
    fit and behavioral questions as well
  • Can range widely depending on the company

Why do companies use case interviews?
Case interviews evaluate much more than
functional and technical skills.
  • Interpersonal skills do you appear confident and
  • Communication skills can you articulate your
    thoughts and do you listen carefully?
  • Organizational skills can you see the broad
    picture and can you identify an appropriate
    framework for your analysis?
  • Strategic thinking skills have you considered
    all the aspects of the case and how your solution
    will affect the organization?
  • Creativity skills are you able to think outside
    the box?
  • Analytical skills can you identify the important
    data and explain the implications it may have on
    the organization?

What are recruiters looking for?
Recruiters will assess if you have the minimal
skills necessary to succeed in the position.
Types of case interview questions
There are a number of different types of case
questions that you may encounter.
  • Brain teasers
  • Profitability or sales analysis
  • New market or market expansion decision
  • Value chain and/or organizational efficiency
  • Organizational review or change
  • Industry analysis
  • Investment decision

Brain teasers
  • Objective to understand how you think through a
  • Can you think logically? Does your approach make
  • Are you creative in your thought process?
  • Example How many McDonalds hamburgers are sold
    in the United States each day?
  • How to handle it
  • Estimate based on what you know
  • Talk through your approach to demonstrate your

Recommended approach to case questions
Be sure to follow a logical structure. Use the
following approach to structure your response to
the question
  1. Listen closely to the client situation and the
    question(s) you are being asked to address.
  2. Confirm your understanding of the case by
    paraphrasing the situation and question(s) back
    to the interviewer.
  3. Select an approach to structure your analysis
    that focuses on the critical issues of the case.
  4. Analyze the problem. Ask the interviewer focused
    questions to clarify your understanding of the
  5. Summarize your key observations and conclusions.

Structuring your response
In order to make sure you cover all relevant
aspects of the case question, it is helpful to
break down the question into a number of smaller
questions you can address. You may want to begin
by mapping out the issues that you want to
address first, and then more thoroughly analyzing
each area you identify.
Case question
Question A
Question B
Question C
Question 1
Question 2
Question 1
Question 2
Question 1
Question 2
Profitability/sales analysis
  • Objective to determine your understanding of
    what impacts profitability/sales
  • Do you understand how different financial
    statements are related and what they can reveal
    about a company?
  • Can you tailor your analysis to the specified
    company or industry?
  • Example A computer manufacturer is experiencing
    a decrease in profits. What should the company
  • How to handle it
  • Think through all aspects of the income statement
    (both revenues and expenses)
  • Consider costs (fixed vs. variable, economies of
    scale, utilization, etc.), customers (price
    sensitivity, segmentation, cost-benefit
    trade-off), competition (pricing, capacity,
    differentiation), channels (relative leverage,
  • Remember to consider the market that the company
    is in what are the market/industry trends?

Example response structure
Why are profits decreasing?
Market/ Competition
Relative leverage
Price sensitivity
Costs vs. benefits
  • Fixed vs. variable
  • Utilization
  • Economies of scale

New market/market expansion decision
  • Objective to determine your understanding of
    what to consider when entering into or expanding
    in a market
  • How would you assess the attractiveness of the
    market? What market trends do you expect?
  • Have you considered both the capabilities of the
    company and of the competition? Does the company
    have a competitive advantage?
  • Example A fast food chain is considering adding
    delivery service to its offerings. What should
    the company consider before implementing this
  • How to handle it
  • Consider the size of the market and growth
    trends, the competition, customer needs and
    desires, implications on the production process
    and the clients capabilities, synergy with
    and/or potential cannibalism of current products,
    and the economics of the market
  • If the case is more focused on marketing
    strategy, consider the 4Ps product, promotion,
    price, and placement/distribution

Value chain/organizational efficiency
  • Objective to determine your understanding of the
    manufacturing process and the value chain
  • Can you identify the driving factors that affect
    efficiency in the specified industry?
  • Example Congratulations, you were just hired as
    the manager of a video rental store. How would
    you measure its efficiency?
  • How to handle it
  • Think through the value chain for this industry
  • Manufacturing value chain includes suppliers,
    design engineering, manufacturing, marketing,
    sales, distribution, service
  • Consider the expenses, the production time,
    inventory turnover, product availability (down
    for repairs, etc.), seasonality of the business,
    number of employee sick days, employee turnover

Organizational review or change
  • Objective to determine your understanding of
    organizational design and internal management
  • What is the culture of the organization? How
    will changes affect the employees and the
    organizational environment?
  • How does the internal organization compare with
    its competitors?
  • Example Your client needs to cut 10 of its
    budget and plans to downsize in two major
    business units. What would you recommend they
  • How to handle it
  • Think through the elements of organizational
  • Consider the clients business, the scope and
    timeline for the change, the organizational
    culture (open to change, committed, etc.), major
    risk factors
  • Also consider what messages the company should
    send regarding the changes to employees who are
    let go and those who are retained, as well as to
    customers and the media/public

Industry analysis
  • Objective to determine your understanding of
    what to consider when entering into a new
  • How would you assess the attractiveness of the
    industry? What are the industry trends?
  • Example A computer retailer is considering
    offering technology consulting services. They
    have asked you to assess the attractiveness of
    the industry and whether they should enter it.
  • How to handle it
  • Consider the attractiveness of the industry using
    a framework such as Porters 5 Forces
    (substitutes, buyer power, supplier power,
    barriers to entry/exit, rivalry)
  • Also think about the companys capabilities and
    if the new industry would be synergistic with
    current products/services, and consider any
    potential partnerships

Investment decision
  • Objective to determine your understanding of
    what to consider when making a financial
  • What are the key drivers that will affect the
    profitability of the decision?
  • How will this decision affect the companys
    current operations?
  • Example A toy manufacturer is considering
    building a new plant in Southwest Asia to take
    advantage of less expensive labor. What factors
    should management consider?
  • How to handle it
  • Think about the industry market size and
    dynamics, future industry trends, pricing
    dynamics, product differentiation and standards
  • Think about the company current position in the
    market, how the company is performing,
    distribution of costs
  • Consider the competition plans to expand,
    strength of competitors

Case interviewing tips
  • Use the five-step recommended approach
  • Think out loud to demonstrate your train of
    thought as you consider the case question
  • Use a framework to structure your response and
    let the interviewer know that you are doing so
  • Ask clarifying questions as you go to better
    understand the situation
  • Make your assumptions clear to your interviewer
  • There is no single right answer, but it is
    important to provide rationale for your
    conclusions and to demonstrate a logical thought
  • Take your time and do not rush to conclusions
  • Practice case interviewing with others as much as
    you can because the best way to prepare yourself
    is to practice

How does it really work?
  • The case
  • Whole Foods is considering opening a new store in
    Champaign-Urbana. The store would be located in
    southwest Champaign. Would you recommend that
    they move forward with the store opening?

Example response structure
Should Whole Foods open a store in Champaign?
Market/ Competition
Market size
Current position
Plans for expansion
Market dynamics
Current performance
Number/strength of competitors
Industry trends
Cost distribution
Pricing dynamics
Practice makes perfect
  • Pick a partner and take turns cracking the
    following cases
  • Case 1 Subway is considering implementing
    delivery service of its products. They have
    asked for your advice. Would you recommend that
    they do so?
  • Case 2 Sears has been struggling to remain
    profitable over the last several years. They are
    seeking your help in determining how they can
    increase their profits. What do you recommend?
  • Case 3 Ford Motor Company has decided to close
    another U.S. plant and move its operations
    overseas to Asia. Ford management has asked you
    to assist with delivering the message to its
    workforce and the media. What would you
  • Case 4 Carle Foundation Hospital in Champaign
    wants to maximize its efficiency in response to
    concerns about rising health care costs.
    Management has asked you to help them determine
    their current efficiency level and how they might
    improve it. What would you recommend?

Additional resources
  • Business Career Services advice, resources,
    mock interviews
  • Consulting firm websites check the careers
  • Vault and Wet Feet publish various case
    interviewing guides
  • Other business school websites

Sources for presentation content include,,