Having recently asked more than 120 candidates in my coaching sessions, there is a very clear picture of what causes quite some headache in solving case interviews:
9 out of 10
candidates say their single largest issue in solving case interviews is getting the
Going slightly into more details of this little survey, candidates mostly refer to both the initial, overall structure at the beginning of the case, as well as structuring individual parts at later stages of the case interview.
At later stages of the case interview, the case usually gets much more focused and the questions get more specific and narrow. Nevertheless it is incredibly difficult to come up with the right issues, and at the same time being structured in your answer - almost impossible for even a strong candidate to do both things at the same time on the fly!
This is exactly the right situation in which having a solid toolbox of frameworks at hand is worth one's weight in gold - for this type of situation, chances are extremely high that one of the more or lesser known frameworks can give you a headstart over other candidates.
Even though a standardized framework might not fit to 100% in your individual situation - having covered 80% with a framework as a basis is in any case much better than 0% and trying to come up with a solid structure from scratch by yourself.
And starting with 80% rather than 0% will put you in a good situation that you will cover the remaining percentage points very well with either adapted parts of another framework, or with an individual issues for this specific situation.
Having the right toolbox will definitely give you a strong advantage over other candidates - we all know that "ABS - Always Be Structured" clearly is a must-have for a successful case interview. Even though this is true for all major consulting firms, there is one firm which is even more picky when it comes to being structured - it is the very firm which coined the term "MECE - mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive", and by now you probably already know which firm I am talking about: McKinsey.
But wait - what about the initial, overall structure at the beginning of a case interview?
For this part of the case interview, I definitely share Victor Cheng's opinion on frameworks to a large extent. In short, he says that for most candidates it is easier and more promising to remember 3-4 key frameworks to cover a large part of interview cases, rather than trying to remember a large, complex set of different frameworks for different types of interview cases. Yes, this absolutely makes sense!
While this holds true for the first and mostly the second level of your structure, you will quickly notice that being able to lay out another level of structure would be really helpful - namely when the interview is specifically asking for it because he wants to go deep in a certain part of the case.
Also here, developing a MECE structure on the fly is immensely difficult, even for strong candidates, let alone average ones.
Therefore I can tell from experience that having a good toolbox of case interview frameworks at hand is also immensely useful when laying out the overall structure of the case interview. Not in order to cover the full interview case with a simple, standardized framework (which would be rather foolhardy to believe that this works in reality!), but to cover specific parts of the case in layers further down in your structure!
As structuring case interviews is such a big pain point for basically all candidates applying at major consulting firms, I put together a "Case Interview Frameworks" book to cover all need-to-know frameworks for consulting case interviews, which is now already available in the 2nd edition after incorporating the feedback of many coaching candidates.
Click on the book cover above or the orange download
button right now to immediately download your copy of "Case Interview Frameworks: The #1 Guide to Structuring Your Consulting Case Interview" (2nd ed.)!
(Your download link will be sent to your PayPal emailaddress immediately after purchase - please check your spam and junk email folder when in doubt. If you encounter any problems, please contact me first.)
(Sorry for not keeping this up to date regulary - I rather prefer helping candidates instead..)
Juliette (Paris, France)
"I always had big troubles with giving structured answers spontaneously to the interviewers' questions. Knowing and understanding all those frameworks really gave me an advantage over other candidates as being structured is one of the key criteria interviewers are looking for."
George (Chicago, US)
"Incredibly helpful - best overview of the most important frameworks for consulting prep on the market!"
Abdullah (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
"With a business education backgrounds I already knew a lot of the frameworks covered in the book, however what really made the difference is having a good understanding how those frameworks are used in a very concrete situation. There is a big difference between having a shallow, artificial knowledge of this frameworks and having a deep understanding about the underlying concept and implmentation steps. Great stuff, definitely recommended for any case interview prep!"
Yafeng (Seoul, South Korea)
"Awesome work! It is a perfect overview of case interview frameworks with the right level of detail in order to really understand the concept behind. In addition, the step-by-step implementation guide for those frameworks helped me a lot to really use the frameworks in my case interviews. I guess also interviewers notice quickly whether it is just shallow B-school knowledge or whether you really understand a specific framework and being able to apply it to real business situations."
Karl (Frankfurt, Germany)
"I got excellent feedback from my interviewers on structuring my cases. For sure the Case Interview Frameworks book contributed a lot to my success!"
Sarah (Los Angeles, US)
"One of the most important things in case interviews is being structured all the time. And this is so much easier once you know all those frequently used frameworks and how to actually apply them."
For a more detailed view on Case Interview Frameworks and how to use them, please feel free to download and share the following quora.com post published on Sep 09, 2015,