It takes two to tango – this is especially true during the recruitment process. Both the employer and the candidate, who might be the future employee, has to perform on top if a match is to happen. Think about it. First, the employer has to have an attractive brand and compelling offer so that there are qualified candidates applying in the first place. Second, the employer has to assess the candidate’s ability to actually perform the tasks associated with a specific role.
Assessing a candidate
There are numerous ways to assess a candidate’s ability and experience. The most commonly used method is, of course, the ‘standard interview’ where you sit down and have a chat about the candidate’s previous experience within a certain field. Every industry has its own standard and while there might not be any strict formula for how a recruitment process in general looks like, recruitment processes for a role in consulting almost always include some sort of ‘case interview’. Almost all consulting firms use some sort of ‘case interview’ to better understand the candidate’s ability to solve a business-related problem, a skill that is daily used in consulting every day.
While a ‘standard interview’ often means a 60-90 minute long chat about your experiences in some particular areas of interest, a ‘case interview’ is something else. A ‘case interview’ can take between 30-50 minutes to solve, depending on its complexity and structure and every second spent on not solving the problem and presenting it to your assessor is “time not well spent”. During the ‘case interview’, you will analyze and solve a business problem as one way of showing your skill in breaking down, structuring and synthesizing big amounts of data. The cases are usually inspired by past consulting projects your assessor has worked on.
Typical problems to solve
Here are a few typical problems that might be presented to you:
- “Your client is a brewing company, and their profits have been declining in recent years. Can you help find the root cause of the profit decline and turn the situation around?”
- “Your client is a sports retailer, wanting to launch a new line of private label sneakers in Sweden. How would you go about advising the CEO on what new product to launch?”
- “Your client is an organization in the Swedish public sector who is seeking to restructure its organization. What are the different elements you would consider to make a recommendation?”
While all these problems might seem different at a glance, they all contain the same building blocks; general information that needs to be structured in an orderly manner to understand the problem and to form a recommendation on how to solve it.
During a case interview, the assessor will be rating your ability to:
– Analyze & synthesize information and data
– Structure a problem
– Communicate thoughts and conclusions
– Apply overall business acumen
The start is fundamental
Structuring is important. Mastering structure guarantees a good first impression and serves as a safety net in case things go sour as you go through the case. The only way to guarantee you’re going to solve every case you get is to know how to create your own structure from scratch.
Structuring a problem in a logical issue tree is typically a pedagogical and time-effective way to both solve and communicate your thought process when solving a complex problem. The issue tree is a simple map of your problem and how to solve it. You could say that an issue tree is a graphical breakdown of a question that dissects it into its different components vertically and progresses into details as it reads to the right.
No matter if you want to break down the different components of how ‘Company A’ makes a profit (like the profit tree shown above) or why ‘Company B’ should outsource their call-center department to another country, an issue tree will help both you and the assessor to better understand the depth of your analysis and create acceptance for your conclusions.
The building blocks
There are typically six underlying building blocks in how you solve a case. Some cases require you to master all building blocks, others less. But rest assured, the more of them you feel you can master, the better it will make you feel when you enter your first case interview. The blocks are:
– Brainstorming ideas
– Frameworks that explain problem and solution
– Hypothesis testing
– Analyzing data
– Chart interpretation
Being confident in how to handle a normal case interview takes practice, so don’t try to wing it, practice (a lot) in advance! Why not start now? Scroll down to find a business case that we’ve used to assess graduates’ case-solving skills.
Good luck and happy solving!
Business case: Cobbler.com Ltd. is expanding
Cobbler.com Ltd is the largest online cobbler service in the UK
Customers can send their shoes by mail to the cobbler factory in Manchester where they are repaired by the company’s shoe cobblers and returned the following week. Flexibility, price and quality are considered key success factors for Cobbler as a company according to a recent customer survey.
The board of directors wants to expand the business to other parts of Europe as they have identified opportunities for growth and want to leverage economies of scale. The CEO has therefore reached out to Cupole for support in order to understand the market potential in Sweden.
Here are the key questions we need you to answer in order to help Cupole and Cobbler.com Ltd.:
What is the market size for shoe cobbler services in Sweden?
Should Cobbler enter the Swedish market? Elaborate your thoughts.
The CEO has decided not to expand to Sweden as the projected profit margin year four is five percentage points less than the board’s required return. However, an analysis suggests that a profit margin increase is possible by selling Cobbler labeled shoe trees. What volume of shoe trees is necessary to sell in order to reach the profit margin required by the board (assuming all else equal in the business case)?
Additional information for question 3:
Expected key figures 2022
Expected revenue split 2022
Key figures private label products
Don’t go any further unless you’re ready to see the right answers!
Suggested solution to Question 1
This question can be approached in many different ways. Our example relies on the assumption that two of the main demand drivers are an individual’s age and place of living where people living in larger cities are expected to consume cobbler services to a greater extent than people living elsewhere. A good answer can rely on other assumptions provided that the main demand drivers are sufficiently motivated.
Population figures of large cities are based on below estimations
Drivers affecting demand for cobbler services
Outside large cities
Based on the data provided, this is the reasoning we would use to conduct a sanity check:
– A rough estimate would be to assume that an average shoe cobbler has one customer per 10 minutes, open 10 hours a day 250 days a year, with an average transaction value of SEK 250
– The average revenue per shoe cobbler would be SEK 3,5-4 m
– With a market size of SEK 2 bn, this would equal in ~550 shoe cobblers in Sweden (one per 18 000 inhabitants) – sounds fair!
Answer Question 1: Shoe cobbler market size is SEK 2 bn per year
Suggested solution to Question 2
Sample of demand drivers affecting market attractiveness for shoe cobbler services online in Sweden:
– High online penetration
– Large share of purchases online (specifically for shoes and clothes)
– Large share of online sales for similar services
– Large share of population wearing leather shoes
– Expensive shoes are common
– Wear and repair attitude
– Purchases of expensive shoes lead to a willingness to repair rather than buy new
– Delivery is cheap
– Mature delivery infrastructure
Answer Question 2: Sweden matches multiple of the drivers and should be considered an attractive market for Cobbler.
Suggested solution to Question 3
Key figures necessary to calculate the correct answer:
– Customers per year = 30 000
– Cost of purchase shoe tree = SEK 30
– Retail price shoe tree = SEK 200
– Revenue 2022 = SEK 40 m.
– Profit margin 2022 = 10% (SEK 4 m.)
– Profit per shoe tree = SEK 200 – SEK 30 = SEK 170
Suggestion for simplification: Make an assumption that the sales volume of shoe trees doesn’t affect costs other than total purchase price. E.g. space for inventory is available, no additional work for employees.
Multiple approaches for calculation are possible. We believe it to be best to work from total revenue but it could also be calculated per customer etc.
Required return is 15%
Suggested approach to calculate the volume of shoe trees to reach 15% profit margin year 2022:
4 000 000 + 170x / 40 000 000 + 200x = 0,15
0,15*(40 000 000 + 200x) = 4 000 000 + 170x
6 000 000 + 30x = 4 000 000 + 170x
2 000 000 + 30x = 170x
2 000 000 = 140X
X = 14 285
14 285 / 30 000 = 0.47
Answer Question 3: 14 285 shoe trees are required to be sold in order to reach a 15% profit margin in 2022. Cobbler has 30 000 customers per year, meaning each customer needs to purchase 0.47 shoe trees per year. It is reasonable but a student should reflect on that a shoe tree lasts longer than a pair of shoes and that 0.47 could be too high of a number.
These are a few practical examples of how to break down a business case and to clearly explain the reasoning behind it. We would advise you to complete a bunch of cases like this one as a preparation for your real-life case interview. Apart from our example, we highly recommend these other sources of expertise in case solving. Have a look and good luck with your case solving!