Economic Consulting Case Interview: What You Need to Know
If you’re looking to become an economic consultant, you’ll need to ace your economic consulting case interviews. Nearly every major economic consulting firm uses case interviews in their interview process. These firms include:
- Cornerstone Research
- Bates White
- NERA Economic Consulting
- Charles River Associates
- The Brattle Group
- FTI Consulting
While economic consulting interviews may seem intimidating and challenging, know that they can be mastered by learning the right strategies and getting enough practice. In this article, we’ll cover:
- What is an economic consulting case interview?
- The 4 types of economic consulting cases
- The 6 steps to solve any economic consulting case
- Economic consulting case interview examples
What is an Economic Consulting Case Interview?
Economic consulting is a specialized type of consulting that serves governments and organizations to help solve problems and disputes in economics, business, and law. Economic consultants solve problems ranging from estimating future liabilities to helping settle legal disputes.
Your economic consulting case interviews will give you a taste of what it would be like to be an economic consultant. You’ll be placed in a hypothetical business situation and will have 20- to 30-minutes to work with the interviewer to come up with an answer to a broad business problem that relates to economics or law.
Along the way, you’ll answer a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions to help you build support for a final recommendation that you’ll present at the end of the case.
Examples of potential business questions you could get asked in an economic consulting case interview include:
- Determining the exact extent of revenue losses caused by a competitor’s intellectual property theft of a client’s proprietary technology
- Preparing a testimony on behalf of a client to fight litigation against shareholders who are suing the company for neglecting their fiduciary responsibility to keep shareholders appraised of significant changes in business
- Determining how a client should respond to expected political instability in the future
Economic consulting firms heavily rely on case interviews in their interview process because they can assess a variety of different qualities and traits in just a 20- to 30-minute exercise. Economic consulting case interviews primarily assess five qualities:
Logical, structured thinking: Can you structure complex problems in a clear, simple way? Can you use logic and reason to make appropriate conclusions?
Analytical problem solving: Can you read and interpret data well? Can you conduct the right analyses to draw the right conclusions?
Business acumen: Do you have a basic understanding of fundamental business and economics concepts? Do your recommendations make sense from a feasibility perspective?
Communication skills: Can you communicate in a clear, concise way? Are you articulate in what you are saying?
Personality and cultural fit: Are you coachable and easy to work with? Are you pleasant to be around?
Make sure to keep these qualities in mind when going into your economic consulting case interview.
The 4 Types of Economic Consulting Cases
While there is a broad range of business situations and problems you could face in an economic consulting case interview, there are four major types:
Corporate / Advisory Cases: These cases include topics such as corporate governance and compliance, risk advisory services, transaction advisory, M&A support, and valuation.
Finance Cases: These cases include topics such as bankruptcy, consumer protection in financial services, financial institutions and banking, and financial risk management.
Litigation Cases: These cases include topics such as antitrust and competition, class action lawsuits, commercial litigation, intellectual property, international arbitration, labor and employment, mass torts and product liability, and securities and finance.
Regulatory Cases: These cases include topics such as auctions and regulatory economics.
As you can see, compared to traditional case interviews, economic consulting cases may require more specialized knowledge of economics, finance, or law. The extent to which you are expected to have this knowledge depends on the tenure of the role you are interviewing for.
If you are interviewing for an entry level economics consulting role, you likely won’t be expected to have deep expertise in these topics. You should be able to solve your economic cases without having to rely on outside knowledge.
However, if you have many years of work experience and are interviewing for a more senior role, there’s more of an expectation that you have expertise in some of these topics.
The 6 Steps to Solve Any Economic Consulting Case Interview
The approach to solving economic consulting cases is generally the same as traditional case interviews. Generally, you’ll want to follow these six steps.
1. Understand the case
Your economic consulting 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.
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.
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.
4. Solve quantitative problems
Economic consulting cases typically have some quantitative aspect to them. For example, you may be asked to calculate a certain profitability or financial metric.
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 simple execution of math.
5. Answer qualitative questions
Economic consulting case interviews will also typically 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 particular 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.
6. Deliver a recommendation
In the last step of the economic consulting 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.
Economic Consulting Case Interview Examples
We have compiled all of the economic consulting practice cases and examples that we could find below:
- Bates White Practice Case: Your client is a major cellphone manufacturer that is looking to investigate the impact of potential collusion between suppliers of cellphone batteries between 2009 and 2010. Collusion may have resulted in price-fixing, which would have led to your client overpaying their suppliers.
- Cornerstone Research Case Example #1: Your client is ACME Manufacturing. They believe that Duff Corporation has used manufacturing techniques that ACME has patented. The use of these techniques enabled Duff to steal customers, ultimately resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost earning opportunities. You have been hired to help ACME make a case for intellectual property theft.
- Cornerstone Research Case Example #2: Your client, Zilo Corporation, is being sued by shareholders for neglecting their fiduciary responsibilities to update shareholders of major changes to your client’s business. You have been hired to help your client prepare a testimony to defend itself against these allegations in court.
- NERA Economic Consulting Case Example #1: Your client is a North American construction company that is considering taking on a public-private-partnership project to build a stretch of interstate highway for the federal government. The construction costs $1B, but your client would earn revenue by collecting toll for the next 10 years. Determine whether this project is worth taking on for your client.
- NERA Economic Consulting Case Example #2: Your client is a steel manufacturer. They have one steel mini-mill in California that is fairly old and marginally profitable. A competitor has recently built a new steel plant about 200 miles away from your client’s mini-mill. How should your client respond? Is the new plant a competitive threat?
- NERA Economic Consulting Case Example #3: Your client is one of the largest shipping companies in the world. You have been hired by their board of directors to help the company raise its return on equity (ROE). Historically, your client has earned an average ROE of 10%, but the board wants to increase this to 15% in the next two years. How should they go about accomplishing this?
- NERA Economic Consulting Case Example #4: Your client is a major broadcasting company that is considering placing a bid for the exclusive rights to broadcast the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. How much should they bid?
- NERA Economic Consulting Case Example #5: The Philadelphia Orchestra is exploring the possibility of increasing their ticket sales. Historically, they have heavily relied on corporate donations and government grants for revenues, but they would like a greater proportion of revenues to come from ticket sales. How would you help them accomplish this goal?
We recommend working through the Bates White practice case before your upcoming economic consulting case interview. You can look at the other case interview examples to practice thinking about how you would structure an approach to solve those cases.
Resources to Prepare for Economic Consulting Cases
If you found this article helpful, you’ll love our comprehensive case interview course. The material in the course has helped 6,000+ students across 13+ countries land offers at top-tier consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG, and Bain.
While the course is focused on preparing candidates for management or strategy consulting roles, many of the strategies and frameworks can be applied to economic consulting roles.
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If you are considering alternative resources to use, below are the two books we recommend. They are available in digital or paperback format on Amazon.
- Hacking the Case Interview: Learn exactly what to do and what to say in every step of the case interview. This is the perfect book for beginners that are looking to learn the basics of case interviews quickly.
- The Ultimate Case Interview Workbook: Hone your case interview skills through 65+ problems tailored towards each type of question asked in case interviews and 15 full-length cases based on real McKinsey, BCG, and Bain interviews. This book is great for intermediates.