Smart Preparation: The most common case interview types
One of my first managers once told me that the secret to getting things done is to "work smart, not hard". And while success will always require hard work, there are a few things you can do to make the process a little bit smoother for you. Short on time? London Business School has conducted an analysis on the most popular types of case interviews. By studying up on your approach to these types of cases, you can maximize your odds of success.
Found at http://www.slideshare.net/JPStrategy/creative-problem-solving-practical-tools-final, if you go to slides 7 and 8,you can see the breakdown of interview topics as well as sectors.
The clear winners are profitability and market entry, accounting for almost 40% of case interviews. Make sure that you have a solid understanding of how to approach these types of cases!
I've found in my own experience that a profitability case is very common in first round interviews. Why? 3 main reasons:
1. It's an easy concept to grasp (so engineers aren't at a disadvantage)
2. It requires some understanding of how a business model runs (maximize revenues, minimize costs)
3. It requires quantitative analysis (ensures students meet a minimum criteria for comfort with numbers)
Similarly, market entry cases test for a few key qualities:
1. Understanding of the fundamentals of a business (profit models, competition, customers, etc.)
2. The ability to think creatively (coming up with ideas for dealing competition, appealing to customers, marketing your product, etc.)
In a twist on a standard market entry case, Bain has given a case involving a little girl who wants to open up a lemonade stand in order to buy her mom a necklace. It encompasses all the key elements of any new market entry (What is the profit model? Does she have competition? What differentiates her product? What is her timeline? What is her tolerance for risk?) while giving the interviewee a simple idea to grasp. A creative student could discuss coming up with new types of lemonade, negotiating with the jeweler for a better price, hiring other students to man her lemonade stand, or even forgoing the idea to sell cookies door-to-door)
A great first-round combination will have 1 profitability case and 1 market entry case, as they will allow you to prove your hard skills (quants) and your soft skills (creativity).
4 key industries are heavily represented here: Telecom, Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Retail. Each of these industries has important characteristics to understand. For example, the telecommunication industry:
1. Tends to be oligopolistic in nature (especially in Canada) due to the high initial capital outlay (setting up towers).
2. Variable costs are incredibly low (1GB costs a couple of cents to distribute...)
3. Customers tend to have high lifetime value (lock them into a TV/Phone/Internet contract at good rates early on and they'll stick with you unless they really hate your service)
One of the things I did when prepping for cases was make a list of the key characteristics for each industry, to better understand and explain them in interviews. In collaboration with 2 of the 5 students I worked with last year, we expanded the list and a chunk of it is now available for registered members.
Thanks to Nevin Kamath from The Case Coach for the great link to the LBS slideshow.