Wharton Casebook 2007-2008

Wharton Casebook 2007-2008

(Parte 1 de 5)

Wharton Consulting Casebook 2007 – 2008 Edition

I. Introduction1
I. What Interviewers Want2
I. Types of Cases4
IV. Using a Framework6
V. How to Crack the Case9
VI. Practice Cases12
A. Practice Case #1 – Bubble Gum Manufacturer13
B. Practice Case #2 – Widget Manufacturer in Brazil15
C. Practice Case #3 – Market Growth Strategy in Retail Banking20
D. Practice Case #4 – Retirement Homes26

Table of Contents E. Practice Case #5 – R&D Portfolio....................................................................28

Page 1

I. Introduction

Being able to confidently and consistently crack cases is an absolute requirement to getting a job in consulting. You may be at the most prestigious business school, have a stellar résumé, and be the lead in Follies – but that will only get you the interview. Once you get to the interview, the ability to handle a case in a thorough and logical manner is what gets you the job.

Fortunately, case interviewing is a skill that is fairly easy to learn with sufficient practice. Even those without a prior background in business can, and do, succeed. It really just comes down to four key factors: (1) approaching the interview in a confident, friendly and conversational manner; (2) being organized and methodical in your approach to solving the problem; (3) having a solid command of a framework for probing the issues of the case; and (4) practicing until all of the above comes naturally, even under pressure.

When you first start doing cases, they may seem daunting and slightly overwhelming. However, the old adage “Practice makes Perfect” are words to live by when developing the necessary skills to “ace” the case interview. Consistent practice, and realistic interviewing situations, will prepare you for that stressful moment when the interviewer says, “So I have this project I’m working on…”

This guide was written to give newcomers to the interview process a primer on what to expect in interviews, ways to approach cases, and how to study for them. The cases included in the Section VI were actual cases given to Wharton students during the 2006- 2007 recruiting season. While you are not likely to get one of these cases when you interview, practicing them will give you a very good idea of what to expect when you get into that interview room.

Good luck and have fun! - Wharton Consulting Club

Page 2

I. What Interviewers Want

are looking for a few key traits in their candidates

The business of consulting is all about charging clients large sums of money to tell them what you think. For them to value your services they need to have confidence in what you are telling them and they need to like working with you. Consulting firms therefore

They need to know that you are smart – but this is pretty much a given for you to get to this point. So beyond this, they want to know that you have the mental “horsepower” to be able to solve client problems quickly with incomplete information. The case is therefore designed to give you a broad, open-ended problem with very little information, forcing you to probe for more information and make rational assumptions where information is lacking. They will ask you both to contemplate expansive concepts through brainstorming, as well as dive into detailed analysis under pressure. Every case is different and case formats differ between firms, but in general they are all trying to see how well you think under pressure.

handle such a (realistically possible) situation

Having mental horsepower still isn’t enough. For this to be of value to the client, you must be able to communicate your ideas clearly and convincingly. So the interviewer will also be taking careful note of how you approach organizing your questions, presenting and validating your ideas, and formulating a conclusion. You must be confident in your questioning and presentation, and you must proceed through the case following an orderly plan and arriving at a concise conclusion. Imagine that you have been turned loose at a client on your first day and the CEO just stopped by to ask about what you have concluded so far – the interviewer wants to be confident that you could


It is often difficult to get relevant information out of a client. Your interviewer likewise will not spoon feed you any of the information that you need to solve the case. Because of this, it is imperative that you are always driving the case. The interviewer will give you an initial problem to solve, but from then on it is your show. She may ask you specific questions or request a certain analysis from time to time, but do not get distracted from your mission: You are to solve the initial question asked and you only have 20 minutes to do so. You must start the case by asking questions to dig for data. If the interviewer asks you to perform a specific analysis, do so, but always return back to the driver’s seat; otherwise you will find yourself at the end of the 20 minutes without a

Imagine the interview is like an Easter egg hunt. When you start, you have no idea where to look for the key information, so you must plan a search path to avoid haphazardly digging for clues in various different places. As the interview progresses, you will gain a clearer and clearer picture of the business problem and will be able to steer your line of questioning towards the key facts of the case. You are looking for the egg in the case – a sort of “aha” moment – that puts into focus the key problem faced in the case. Once you finally feel that you have enough information (or if you are within five minutes of running out of time), you need to bring the case to a close by directly answering the

Page 3 question posed and providing logical support for you answer based upon the facts discovered during the case.

going to recommend that day

Let me emphasize: You must answer the problem posed by the case to pass the case interview. During the interview process, each interviewer will see a dozen or more candidates, but will only advance a couple to the next round. You may have been polished, confident, and likeable, crushed the analytics of the case, and answered every question posed by the interviewer with ease, but if you didn’t address the problem of the case you are not likely to stand out as one of the one or two stars that the interviewer is

number of directions. This is fine – just be sure to come to a conclusion

Note that you don’t necessarily need to have the “right answer.” Often you will be asked to come up with your own assumptions for different facts in the case, and therefore the final answer may vary from candidate to candidate. What is important is that you have made a concise conclusion that is consistent with the facts given and assumptions that you have made. Interviewers like to say that you are exploring a business problem together. If you have a good rapport with the interviewer you may take the case in any

Don’t be tempted to hedge in your conclusion. Cases generally ask you either for a recommendation (“Should company X invest in expanding production?”) or for the answer to some problem (“What is the market for Silly Putty?”). Do not say something like “Expanding production is good because it will lead to increased market share and will help defend against the strengthening competition. On the other hand, it may increase fixed costs to the point that the firm becomes unprofitable.” Take a stand, back up your reasoning with logic and facts, and know when to shut up and finish the case.

find out what areas of questioning you might have missed

So you muddled your way through 15 minutes of questioning, managed to formulate a concise and (hopefully) correct conclusion, and fought the urge to keep talking about the case. You’re almost done. Not all interviewers will do so, but you should try to get them to give you feedback about the case that you can use for your next case. If you had a good discussion about a real-life case and came to a definite conclusion, it is often easy to ask “so what actually happened?” Interviewers often use their own cases and are happy to talk about what they did. This is an excellent way to gauge how well you did and to

Finally, remember that the interview isn’t over until you are out the door. Collapsing in despair after the case is over does not convey the sense of confidence and poise that you are going for. No matter how poorly you thought it went, stay upbeat and act as though you had a challenging but enjoyable experience and thank your interviewer for his time.

Page 4

I. Types of Cases

As you interview with different firms, you will likely encounter a number of different variations of the case interview. It’s a good idea to know beforehand what types of cases you might encounter. Below are a number of different case styles that companies used in the 2004-2005 recruiting season.

assumptions for all case facts. These cases will always require you to drive to a conclusion

Standard Case – Most case interviews will be of the style contained in this book and in the David Ohrvall casebook. These cases generally ask you to consider a broad business problem and come up with a recommendation for responding to it. In some cases, the interviewer may provide a substantial amount of data either verbally or in the form of charts or graphs. Other times, the interviewer will provide no facts whatsoever and ask you to make reasonable

the math correctly

Market Sizing Case – Market Sizing cases are not common in MBA interviews, though you may encounter one. In these cases, you are simply asked to estimate some unknowable amount. This could be estimating the market for Silly Putty in the US. It could be estimating the number of ping-pong balls that would fit in a football stadium. Solving these cases is all about coming up with reasonable assumptions, approaching the problem clearly and logically, and crunching

Command and Control Case – McKinsey has begun using cases in which the interviewer takes substantial control over the interview, essentially incorporating Market Sizing type questions into a broader Standard Case. These cases can be difficult because you must maintain control over the case in order to reach a reasonable conclusion, yet the interviewer will periodically derail your questioning to have you solve a particular problem. The key here is to keep moving quickly, addressing the problems they pose and then moving on in your questioning.

Crunch and Interpret – Some cases will be simply about the numbers. You may be given a graph, a chart, or even a set of equations and be asked to analyze the data to answer a particular question. ZS used this format for their first-round interviews with a series of slides, starting with a graph, then a table of data, and finally an equation. Candidates were asked to analyze the data presented in each slide and then reach a final conclusion that synthesized all of the data provided. In these cases, you don’t need to worry about driving the case because the interviewer will be doing that. Instead, focus on getting the math right and trying to pull insight from the data provided. Be ready to provide a concise conclusion that pulls together everything that you have discovered.

Read and Discuss – Monitor used a case format for their first rounds that involved reading a three-page case in a short period of time and then discussing the case with the interviewer. The interviewer asked questions about the case that required both synthesizing information from the overall reading, as well as pulling specific numbers and performing analysis. These cases are difficult because you will have very little time to read the case, but must still be able to pull the case facts from memory and analyze them. Take a deep breath and read the case quickly but carefully, underlining or noting key facts in the case so that you can more easily find them when you need them.

Page 5

You still need to drive these cases, but doing so is more difficult since the interviewer will be asking a number of specific questions. Try to put the case into an overall question that needs to be answered (e.g. “Is this a business we should enter?”) and then approach the analysis of the interviewer’s question in this light.

the presentation

Present to the Board – A variation of the Read and Discuss case was used by ZS and Monitor in second round interviews. Candidates were given a larger amount of case and other supporting materials to read and had 40 minutes to read them and then prepare a presentation to the board of a fictional company. At the end of the 40 minutes, the candidate was asked to come into a room where 4-5 interviewers were playing the role of the board. The candidate then had to present their findings and answer (sometimes aggressive) questions from the board. To ace this case, you must be able to maintain composure and present well. Because you will not have a chance to ask questions while you are formulating your recommendation, the dynamics of the case analysis are a bit different. Make assumptions, draw clear conclusions, and stick to you guns in

IT Case – Diamond and the Booz Allen Hamilton IT practice perform IT-specific interviews which will combine a Standard Case with a deep dive into associated IT technology. In firstround Diamond interviews, candidates were asked to solve a business problem relating to poor automation of sales force activities. Once the candidate diagnosed the problem, they were then asked to describe an IT solution that would solve the problem. You will not get these interviews if you have no IT background, but if you do, definitely expect to be tested on your knowledge.

display of empathy in the solution

HR Case – KPL conducted its case interviews in a manner fitting with their focus on the organization aspects of strategic implementation. Candidates were asked to start solving a Standard Case. After about five minutes of a typical case when the overall problem had been diagnosed and some solutions posed, the interviewer then stopped the case and switched gears, asking how the solutions would be implemented from an HR perspective. The recommended solution would have created significant impact on morale and answering the case well required a

Stress Case – While not different in format from a Standard Case, these cases are distinguished in that the interviewer attempts to throw you off your game by creating an environment of high stress. Often, the problem will be fairly straightforward but the interviewer will give little or no information and then be stone-faced or even combative in response to the candidate’s questions. In one interview last year, a candidate was given a graph and no information and asked to interpret the situation. The interviewer would not provide any more information, so the candidate postulated different scenarios that might account for the graph. The interviewer’s response to each incorrect hypothesis was a curt “No, that’s wrong.” The key to mastering a Stress Case is realizing that you are in one and keeping your composure.

Page 6

IV. Using a Framework

Having a framework memorized and at your fingertips is essential to doing well in cases. The framework allows you to quickly pull up areas for questioning and exploration without having to think. You should use a framework that you can remember and that makes sense to you. It is essentially a starting point for your planning that you can use to help you through the initial moments of panic as you start the case.

that when you get to the real thing, it is second nature

A framework is not, however, a map of how to solve any particular case. It seems that many people get caught up trying to fit a framework to a case and completely miss the point of the case. You need to practice using the framework as a guide throughout your practice cases, so

And what about the 4 C’s, 5 P’s, Growth-Share Matrix, or Porter’s Five Forces? Don’t get confused between business analysis frameworks and a framework for approaching case interviews. Trying to analyze a case based on the 4 C’s is a recipe for failure. These types of frameworks are useful for analyzing aspects of a case and will definitely add to your credibility if you can appropriately pull them out. For instance, if your plan is to investigate profit drivers first, then customer segments, supplier relations, and finally competition, using Porter’s Five Forces as a way to synthesize your findings into an analysis of the attractiveness of the industry would be completely appropriate. But using Porter’s alone would completely miss the profit drivers and thus might miss the key to cracking the case.

So how do you use the framework? After the interviewer has given you the introduction to the case, you will want to ask for a minute to plan your approach. In this time, you must quickly develop a set of three to five major areas of the business to investigate, such as drivers of profitability and/or cost, sources of competition, changes in customer needs, etc. You are trying to figure out some problem or opportunity for the company in question, and these investigative areas are your first best guess as to where these problems lie. You will not know at this point exactly where to look, but if the interviewer says that profit margins have been declining, it’s a good bet that either revenues have been hurt or costs have increased. These would be two very good areas to begin questioning about.

Think of the framework, then, as a mental checklist that you can run down to be sure that you are covering all of the bases. You will want to pick the 3 to 5 most likely areas for exploration based on your initial assessment of the problem. Some of them will likely be unimportant. You also may discover other areas that are important once you get into questioning. Your initial plan is therefore not set in stone and your interviewer will not think less of you because you included an irrelevant topic. But if you leave out an important area for investigation, it is likely that you will miss the point of the case and not be able to come to a conclusion.

The WCC framework breaks down into 8 major topics. These are the topics that you must memorize and be able to recall easily under pressure. Each of these topics then has a number of sub-topics that you can use to direct you exploration. It is less critical to memorize these topics than to be able to come up with drivers for each of the issues that are relevant to your case.

Page 7

With a little practice, you should be able to quickly write down 3 to 5 major topics and then 2 to 4 subtopics for each case you encounter. This forms your plan for attacking the case.

Major Topic Possible Drivers

Revenue Volume

Price Product

Cost Variable Costs Fixed Costs

(Parte 1 de 5)