Charles River Associates Case Interview: Full Guide (2024)

Charles River Associates case interview


Charles River Associates case interviews are one of the most difficult parts of the interview process. You will need to ace every single Charles River Associates case interview in order to land a job offer.

 

If you have an upcoming interview with Charles River Associates, we have you covered. In this article, we’ll cover exactly what you need to do to crush your Charles River Associates case interview and land the job offer. In this article, we’ll cover:

 

  • Charles River Associates interview process

 

  • What is a Charles River Associates case interview?

 

  • What does a Charles River Associates case interview assess

 

  • How to solve a Charles River Associates case interview

 

  • Charles River Associates case interview examples

 

  • How to prepare for Charles River Associates case interviews

 

  • Charles River Associates case interview tips

 

  • Recommended Charles River Associates case interview resources

 

If you’re looking for a step-by-step shortcut to learn case interviews quickly, enroll in our case interview course. These insider strategies from a former Bain interviewer helped 30,000+ land consulting offers while saving hundreds of hours of prep time.

 

Charles River Associates Interview Process

 

Charles River Associates typically has two rounds of interviews. You will be asked a mix of behavioral questionscase interviews, and for some candidates, a group case interview.

 

Consulting behavioral interview questions ask you to draw upon a time or experience in the past in which you demonstrated a particular skill or quality. Examples include:

 

  • Tell me about a time when you resolved conflict

 

  • Give an example of a time you used data to solve a problem

 

  • Tell me about a time when it was difficult to be honest

 

In addition to behavioral questions, you should expect several case interviews. Some candidates will also be given a group case interview to assess how well they work with others.

 

Your Charles River Associates interview process may look like the following:

 

  • Application: Resume and cover letter submission

 

  • First round interview: Two interviews consisting of a mix of behavioral questions and case interviews

 

  • Final round interview: Three to five interviews consisting of a mix of behavioral questions, case interviews, and a final group case interview

 

The exact interview process that you go through may vary slightly depending on the specific office or role that you are interviewing for.

 

For some roles, you may be asked to take a numerical, writing, or critical thinking assessment.

 

What is a Charles River Associates Case Interview?

 

Like most consulting firms, Charles River Associates uses case interviews to assess candidates.

 

A case interview, also known as a “case” for short, is a 30 to 60-minute exercise in which you and the interviewer work together to develop a recommendation or answer to a business problem.

 

These business problems can be anything that real companies face:

 

  • How can Uber increase its profitability?

 

  • What can Nike do to decrease shipping times?

 

  • How should Apple price its latest product?

 

  • What geography should McDonald’s enter next?

 

Charles River Associates case interviews simulate what the consulting job will be like by placing you in a hypothetical business situation. Cases simulate real business problems that Charles River Associates solves for their clients. Many Charles River Associates case interviews are based on actual projects that interviewers have worked on.

 

While consulting projects typically last between 3 to 9 months, Charles River Associates case interviews condense solving the business problem into just 30 to 45 minutes.

 

Charles River Associates case interviews can cover any industry, including retail, consumer packaged goods, financial services, energy, education, healthcare, government, and technology.

 

They can also cover a wide range of business situations, including entering a new market, launching a new product, acquiring a company, improving profitability, and growing revenues.

 

Although Charles River Associates case interviews cover a wide range of industries and business situations, no technical or specialized knowledge is needed.

 

Nailing your Charles River Associates case interviews is critical to getting a job offer. You will need to pass every single one of your Charles River Associates case interviews.

 

What Does a Charles River Associates Case Interview Assess?

 

Charles River Associates case interviews assess five different qualities or characteristics: logical and structured thinking, analytical problem solving, business acumen, communication skills, and personality and cultural fit.

 

Logical and structured thinking: Consultants need to be organized and methodical in order to work efficiently.

 

  • Can you structure complex problems in a clear, simple way?

 

  • Can you take tremendous amounts of information and data and identify the most important points?

 

  • Can you use logic and reason to make appropriate conclusions?

 

Analytical problem solving: Consultants work with a tremendous amount of data and information in order to develop recommendations to complex problems.

 

  • Can you read and interpret data well?

 

  • Can you perform math computations smoothly and accurately?

 

  • Can you conduct the right analyses to draw the right conclusions?

 

Business acumen: A strong business instinct helps consultants make the right decisions and develop the right recommendations.

 

  • Do you have a basic understanding of fundamental business concepts?

 

  • Do your conclusions and recommendations make sense from a business perspective?

 

Communication skills: Consultants need strong communication skills to collaborate with teammates and clients effectively.

 

  • Can you communicate in a clear, concise way?

 

  • Are you articulate in what you are saying?

 

Personality and cultural fit: Consultants spend a lot of time working closely in small teams. Having a personality and attitude that fits with the team makes the whole team work better together.

 

  • Are you coachable and easy to work with?

 

  • Are you pleasant to be around?

 

All of these five qualities can be assessed in just a 30 to 60-minute case interview. This is what makes Charles River Associates case interviews so effective in assessing consulting candidates.

 

How to Solve a Charles River Associates Case Interview

 

There are generally six steps to solving a Charles River Associates case interview.



 

1. Understand the case

 

Your Charles River Associates case interview will begin with the interviewer giving you the case background information. While the interviewer is speaking, make sure that you are taking meticulous notes on the most important pieces of information. Focus on understanding the context of the situation and the objective of the case.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions if you do not understand something. You may want to summarize the case background information back to the interviewer to confirm your understanding of the case.

 

The most important part of this step is to verify the objective of the case. Not answering the right business question is the quickest way to fail a case interview.

 

2. Structure the problem

 

The next step is to develop a framework to help you solve the case. A framework is a tool that helps you structure and break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components. Another way to think about frameworks is brainstorming different ideas and organizing them into different categories.

 

Before you start developing your framework, it is completely acceptable to ask the interviewer for a few minutes so that you can collect your thoughts and think about the problem.

 

Ideally, you want your framework to be as MECE as possible. MECE stands for mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. You want each element of your framework to have zero overlap with the other elements. Additionally, you want the sum of the elements of your framework to cover all of the important issues or areas of the case.

 

Once you have identified the major issues or areas that you need to explore, walk the interviewer through your framework. They may ask a few questions or provide some feedback.

 

For a complete guide on how to create tailored and unique frameworks for each case, check out our article on case interview frameworks.

 

3. Kick off the case

 

Once you have finished presenting your framework, you’ll start diving into different areas of your framework to begin solving the case. How this process will start depends on whether the case interview is candidate-led or interviewer-led.

 

If the case interview is a candidate-led case, you’ll be expected to propose what area of your framework to start investigating. So, propose an area and provide a reason for why you want to start with that area. There is generally no right or wrong area of your framework to pick first.

 

If the case interview is interviewer-led, the interviewer will tell you what area of the framework to start in or directly give you a question to answer.

 

Charles River Associates case interviews are generally interviewer-led, but you may occasionally be given a candidate-led case.

 

4. Solve quantitative problems

 

Your Charles River Associates case interview will most likely have some quantitative aspect to them. For example, you may be asked to calculate a certain profitability or financial metric. You could also be asked to estimate the size of a particular market or to estimate a particular figure.

 

The key to solving quantitative problems is to lay out a structure or approach upfront with the interviewer before doing any math calculations. If you lay out and present your structure to solve the quantitative problem and the interviewer approves of it, the rest of the problem is just simple execution of math.

 

When doing case interview math, make sure to talk through your thinking and calculations out loud. The interviewer should be able to easily follow what you are doing in each step of your calculations. Once you have calculated the answer, explain how your answer impacts the recommendation that you are beginning to form.

 

5. Answer qualitative questions

 

Your Charles River Associates case interviews will likely also have qualitative aspects to them. You may be asked to brainstorm a list of potential ideas. You could also be asked to provide your opinion on a business issue or situation.

 

The key to answering qualitative questions is to structure your answer. When brainstorming a list of ideas, develop a structure to help you neatly categorize all of your ideas. When giving your opinion on a business issue or situation, provide a summary of your stance or position and then enumerate the reasons that support it.

 

When you finish answering a qualitative question, connect your answer back to the case objective. How does your answer impact the recommendation that you are beginning to form?

 

6. Deliver a recommendation

 

In the last step of the case interview, you’ll present your recommendation and provide the major reasons that support it. You do not need to recap everything that you have done in the case, so focus on only summarizing the facts that are most important.

 

It is also good practice to include potential next steps that you would take if you had more time or data. These can be areas of your framework that you did not have time to explore or lingering questions that you do not have great answers for.

 

Charles River Associates Case Interview Examples

 

Charles River Associates does not provide any specific case interview examples on their website.

 

Instead, we’ve pulled together a few examples of common types of case interview topics you could be asked below.

 

Market entry case interview

 

Market entry cases assess the viability of entering a new market or launching a new product or service.

 

Example: Imagine you're advising a tech startup considering entering the European market with a new mobile app. How would you assess the feasibility and potential challenges of this market entry?

 

Profitability case interview

 

Profitability cases focus on identifying opportunities to improve a company's profitability.

 

Example: You're consulting for a manufacturing company experiencing declining profits. Can you identify the root causes of the profitability issue and recommend solutions to improve the situation?

 

Mergers & acquisitions (M&A) case interview

 

M&A cases involve evaluating the potential benefits and risks of acquiring or merging with another company.

 

Example: Consider a pharmaceutical company contemplating the acquisition of a biotech startup. How would you evaluate the strategic fit, potential synergies, risks, and financial implications of this acquisition?

 

Growth strategy case interview

 

Growth strategy cases revolve around developing strategies to achieve sustainable growth.

 

Example: You're advising a retail chain aiming to expand its market share. What growth strategy would you recommend to maximize revenue and profitability, considering factors such as consumer trends and competitive landscape?

 

Pricing case interview

 

Pricing cases involve setting or optimizing pricing strategies for products or services.

 

Example: Imagine you're consulting for a software company preparing to launch a new subscription-based service. How would you determine the optimal pricing strategy to maximize revenue and market penetration?

 

Operations improvement case interview

 

Operations cases focus on optimizing operational processes to enhance efficiency and reduce costs.

 

Example: Consider a logistics company facing delays and inefficiencies in its supply chain. How would you identify bottlenecks and streamline operations to improve performance and reduce costs?

 

Product launch case interview

 

New product cases involve developing strategies for launching a new product or service.

 

Example: You're advising a consumer electronics company that is about to launch a new smartphone model. How would you develop a comprehensive launch strategy to ensure a successful market entry?

 

Market sizing

 

Market sizing cases require estimating the size of a market or segment.

 

Example: Imagine you're guiding a food delivery startup planning to expand into a new city. How would you estimate the potential market size?

 

How to Prepare for Charles River Associates Case Interviews

 

There are seven steps to preparing for Charles River Associates case interviews.

 

1. Understand what a case interview is

 

The first step in preparing for Charles River Associates case interviews is to understand exactly what case interviews are.

 

When you are familiar with what case interviews are, it is important to know what a great Charles River Associates case interview performance looks like.

 

Knowing what a great Charles River Associates case interview performance looks like will facilitate how quickly you learn case interview strategies in the next step.

 

Before continuing onto the next step, you should be familiar with:

 

  • The overall objective of a case interview

 

  • The structure and flow of a case interview

 

  • The types of questions you could get asked

 

  • What a great case interview performance looks like

 

2. Learn the right strategies

 

Now that you have sufficient background knowledge, the next step in preparing for Charles River Associates case interviews is to learn the right strategies to build good case interview habits.

 

It is much more effective to learn the right case strategies the first time than to learn poor strategies and try to correct them later.

 

The quickest, most efficient way to learn these strategies is to go through our Comprehensive Case Interview Course.

 

If you prefer reading case interview prep books instead, the three I recommend are:

 

 

 

 

Hacking the Case Interview provides strategies on exactly what to do and what to say in every step of the case interview. It is a concise and straight to the point guide. I recommend this book as the first book to read for beginners.

 

Case Interview Secrets teaches core concepts such as the issue tree, drill-down analysis, and a hypothesis driven approach. It illustrates these concepts through stories and anecdotes. If you have read Hacking the Case Interview, I recommend also reading this book to get perspectives from a second author. Check out our full review of Case Interview Secrets.

 

Case in Point provides a ton of specific and complex frameworks. However, you likely won’t be using many of these in an actual case interview because many of them are overly complex and specific. If you have time, it may be useful to skim through this book. Check out our full review of Case in Point.

 

At the bare minimum, read either the first or second book. If you have the time, read the first two books so that you can get strategies from two different authors.

 

Make sure to spend sufficient time learning the right strategies before starting to practice cases. It is ineffective to practice cases if you have no idea what strategies to practice and refine.

 

Before moving onto the next step, you should at least have strategies for the following parts of a case interview:

 

  • Developing unique and tailored frameworks

 

  • Solving quantitative problems

 

  • Answering qualitative questions

 

  • Delivering a recommendation

 

3. Practice 3-5 cases by yourself

 

Once you have learned the right strategies, the next step in Charles River Associates case interview prep is to practice.

 

When practicing case interviews, it is usually better to practice with a case interview partner than to practice by yourself. Casing with a partner better simulates the real case interview experience.

 

However, when you are just starting to practice, I recommend doing the first 3 – 5 cases by yourself.

 

There are three reasons for this:

 

  • You can get the hang of the case interview structure and format much more quickly working by yourself rather than having to wait to schedule a time with a partner

 

  • There are many aspects of case interviews that you can practice without a partner, such as structuring a framework and solving quantitative problems. You can get much more practice working through these parts by yourself

 

  • You may have difficulty finding a case interview partner if you are a complete beginner. Without having done any cases, you likely won’t know how to properly give a case or provide good feedback

 

4. Practice 5-10 cases with a partner

 

The next step in preparing for Charles River Associates case interviews is to case with a partner.

 

Casing with a partner is the best way to simulate a real case interview. There are many aspects of case interviews that you won’t be able to improve on unless you practice live with a partner.

 

When practicing cases with a partner, ensure you are spending enough time after cases to deliver feedback.

 

For a case that takes around 30 – 40 minutes, spend at least 15 – 20 minutes for feedback. Much of your learning and improvement will come from these feedback sessions.

 

Do not move onto the next step until you have done at least 5 – 10 cases and are beginning to feel comfortable with case interviews.

 

5. Practice with a former or current consultant

 

At this point, I highly recommend asking former or current consultants to give you a practice case. This will significantly help you prepare for case interviews.

 

Doing a mock case with a former or current consultant is highly advantageous because they know exactly how to run cases and give feedback. You’ll receive incredibly helpful feedback that your previous case partners likely missed.

 

If you feel that you are plateauing with your case partner, that is a sign you should do a mock case interview with a former or current consultant.

 

You can find former or current consultants among:

 

  • Friends

 

  • Classmates

 

  • Colleagues

 

  • People you met during the consulting recruiting process

 

  • Your broader LinkedIn network

 

I would not ask a consultant that is involved with the consulting recruiting process for a case too prematurely. Although these practice cases are not evaluative, some firms will actually make note of how well you perform during the practice case.

 

At this point, you will have accumulated a long list of improvement areas from all of the different people you have cased with.

 

6. Work on your improvement areas

 

In this step of preparing for Charles River Associates case interviews, you will work on strengthening and fine-tuning your improvement areas. Examples of common improvement areas include:

 

  • Creating a more complete and mutually exclusive framework

 

  • Performing math calculations quicker or more smoothly

 

  • Providing more structure to your qualitative answers

 

  • Leading the case more proactively

 

  • Delivering a more succinct recommendation

 

Try to focus on improving one thing at a time. This is much more effective than trying to improve everything at once.

 

For some areas, such as math, it will be better to work independently. For other areas, such as learning to proactively lead the case, it will be better to work with a case partner.

 

If you are looking for more cases, look at the resources listed in step four. If you are looking for specific drills or practice problems for a particular part of a case interview, check out The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook.

 

Do not move onto the next step until you have finished working on all of your improvement areas.

 

7. Stay sharp

 

If you have progressed this far, congratulations! You have almost finished preparing for Charles River Associates case interviews.

 

Once you feel that you have no more improvement areas to work on, the key is to not burn yourself out by doing too many unnecessary cases.

 

While each case that you do makes you slightly better, there is a point when doing too many cases can create case fatigue right before your interview. Case fatigue can negatively impact your interview performance.

 

On the other hand, you also don’t want to go weeks without having done a case. You may end up forgetting strategies or become rusty and slow.

 

Once you have achieved case mastery, I recommend doing no more than 2 cases per week in the weeks leading up to your interview. This ensures that you remain sharp for case interviews, but don’t have case fatigue.

 

Charles River Associates Case Interview Tips

 

Below are our top ten tips for preparing for Charles River Associates case interviews.

 

1. Start preparing early

 

Mastering Charles River Associates case interviews takes time. Many of the skills and techniques needed to solve cases can’t be learned in just a day or in a week. Ideally, start preparing for your case interviews at least a month or two in advance to give yourself enough time to learn and practice.

 

2. Learn the right strategies the first time

 

It is much more effective to learn the right case interview strategies the first time than to learn poor strategies and then trying to correct them later. Building good case interview habits takes time, so you want to develop good habits from the beginning.

 

3. Practice with a case partner

 

Practicing Charles River Associates case interviews with a partner is the best way to simulate a real case interview. There are many aspects of cases that you won’t be able to work on if you are doing mock cases by yourself. Casing with a partner lets you practice your communication, presentation, and collaboration skills.

 

4. Sense check your numbers

 

Accidentally missing zeroes or adding extra zeroes during your case interview calculations is the most common math mistake. To avoid this, you can do a quick sense check after each calculation to confirm that your answer is the right order of magnitude.

 

For example, if you are multiplying 115 million by 22, you should expect your answer to be in the billions because 100 million * 20 = 2 billion.

 

5. Predict what the interviewer is going to ask you next

 

A great way to stand out in a case interview is to answer the interviewer’s follow-up questions before they even get the chance to ask them. After each question that you answer, try to think of what follow-up questions may be asked. Answer or address these questions immediately after giving your answer.

 

6. Have a firm recommendation

 

You do not want to have a flimsy recommendation in which you switch back and forth between two different recommendations. Instead, have a recommendation that takes a firm stance. Remember that there is no right or wrong recommendation. As long as your recommendation is supported with data and evidence, your recommendation will be accepted.

 

7. Be coachable and easy to work with

 

During a case interview, you not only need to demonstrate that you can solve the case, but you also need to demonstrate that you would be a great fit for the consulting firm. At the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask themself: “Would I want to work with this person?”

 

An easy way to pass this is to be coachable and easy to work with. When the interviewer provides suggestions or guidance, take them. When the interviewer challenges your answer, politely provide your rationale but acknowledge that you understand the interviewer’s points.

 

8. Use a hypothesis-driven approach

 

During the case interview, you should have a hypothesis of what the answer to the case is. A hypothesis is simply an educated guess based on the knowledge that you have. As you analyze data and gather more information, make sure to be constantly changing and refining your hypothesis.

 

There are two benefits to using a hypothesis to drive the direction of the case. One, it ensures that you are focusing on relevant areas that will help you solve or answer the case. Two, by the time the interviewer asks you for a recommendation, you will already have a refined hypothesis on what the answer or solution to the case should be.

 

9. Be 80/20

 

You have limited time during a case interview to solve the case. Therefore, you won’t be able to cover all of the different areas in your framework and get answers to every single question that you have. Therefore, focus on the most important issues and use the 80/20 principle.

 

The 80/20 principle states that 80% of the outcome comes from 20% of your effort. During a case interview, focus on the most important questions or areas that will have the biggest impact or effect on developing your answer or recommendation.

 

10. Be enthusiastic

 

During the interview, display enthusiasm. This not only makes the interview more fun and interesting for the interviewer, but it also demonstrates that you are passionate about consulting and working at the firm. Interviewers want to hire candidates that love their job and work hard. Displaying enthusiasm is an indicator for these characteristics.

 

Recommended Charles River Associates Case Interview Resources

 

To prepare for Charles River Associates case interviews as well as case interviews from other consulting firms, we recommend the following resources:

 

  • Comprehensive Case Interview Course (our #1 recommendation): The only resource you need. Whether you have no business background, rusty math skills, or are short on time, this step-by-step course will transform you into a top 1% caser that lands multiple consulting offers.

 

  • Hacking the Case Interview Book (available on Amazon): Perfect for beginners that are short on time. Transform yourself from a stressed-out case interview newbie to a confident intermediate in under a week. Some readers finish this book in a day and can already tackle tough cases.

 

  • The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook (available on Amazon): Perfect for intermediates struggling with frameworks, case math, or generating business insights. No need to find a case partner – these drills, practice problems, and full-length cases can all be done by yourself.

 

 

  • Behavioral & Fit Interview Course: Be prepared for 98% of behavioral and fit questions in just a few hours. We'll teach you exactly how to draft answers that will impress your interviewer