Crack the case
A case interview consists of a business problem taken from a real-life business situation from a Bain case or an example drawn from your résumé. It focuses on your analytic/structured approach to the problem rather than specific business knowledge.
The interviewer takes you through a series of steps to see how you tackle the various levels. The steps can range from identifying a critical issue, to breaking a problem into component parts, to finally identifying one or more solutions.
- Get started early.
- Practice introductions, discussing your prior work experience and asking questions. It isn't just about "cracking the case."
- With each practice case, work through the analytics so you are confident and efficient during this portion of the interview.
- Don't spend too much time trying to learn the nuances of a particular industry. Focus instead on tackling common challenges faced by most businesses (e.g. declining profitability, merger integration, improving performance).
- Practice with a diverse group of people to gain exposure to different types of cases, problems, solutions, and interview styles.
- Learn to hone in on the most important issues using an "80/20" approach, instead of obsessing over the details.
- Get comfortable making assumptions as you arrive at an answer. Your interviewer may not always give you additional data when you request it. Instead you might be asked: "What would you have to believe in order to be convinced our client should head in that direction?"
- Practice "bringing it all together" with a one- to two-minute summary. It should include your final client recommendation.
- Don't panic if your case is based on an unfamiliar industry. We're interested in how you analyze the problem, not your specific business knowledge.
- We encourage you to ask clarifying questions. If you don't understand the case facts, it will be tough to ace the interview.
- Approach the problem in a structured manner and then continue to refer back to that structure to logically work through the case.
- Bain uses an "answer-first" approach by developing an early hypothesis and then refining/ proving it throughout the client engagement. Using this technique during your interview will help you reach an answer efficiently.
- Don't get thrown off track by follow-up questions. Your interviewer is your ally and uses questions to get a better understanding of your thought process, not to stump you.
- Always include a final recommendation to the question at hand—the best recommendations are practical, actionable, and will be implemented by the client to generate results.
- There is no one "right" answer. Case interviews should be thoughtful dialogues about potential approaches to solving a tough business problem.
- Relax and have fun! Case interviews are not isolated tests, but reflections of our work as consultants. This is a chance to show your passion and enthusiasm for the job.
Advice from the pros: Preparation tips
"There are a lot of great resources available for case interviews. Get a book, a few friends, and practice. It will quickly help you get comfortable with the format and how to structure a good answer."
- Matthew, Associate Consultant, Boston
"You know you are ready and well prepared for your interview when you are excited to 'crack the case.'"
- Mariame, Manager, New York
"The biggest thing I look for is people who are structured thinkers. You need to prepare in your own mind how you will demonstrate this skill... laying out a tree at the beginning is effective, as is playing back the key questions and then planning your approach in such a way that I can really see your thought process."
Julie, Partner, Chicago
Make sure you use several sources to prepare for your interview and try to talk to many consultants to get their advice on interview preparation."
- Ada, Manager, Paris
"'Cracking the case' is a learned skill; you really will get better with practice."
- Dana, Manager, San Francisco
Advice from the pros: Interview tips
"You want your case interview to be a conversation and discussion with your interviewer, not a rehearsed speech. Get comfortable using frameworks to help you structure your answer but use your own creativity and be yourself."
Lea, Consultant, Boston
"My advice to potential candidates: be yourself and make the interview as interactive as possible—it is important to have fun even in an interview!"
Lisca, Associate Consultant, Amsterdam
"When you have a chance to talk about yourself during the interview process, don't simply say what you think firms are looking for—talk about your true passions and career aspirations. Bain wants to find people with enthusiasm, motivation, and leadership potential."
Christina, Associate Consultant, Boston
"Don't feel like you need to answer questions immediately once they are asked. Take a moment, collect your thoughts, plan your answer, and deliver your thoughts logically and coherently."
Derek, Associate Consultant, London