Consulting Group Case Interviews: How to Prepare and Excel
What is a Consulting Group Case Interview?
Consulting group case interviews are a special variant of the traditional case interview. Before preparing for group case interviews, you should first become familiar with how to solve a traditional case interview.
Like a case interview, you’ll still be placed in a hypothetical business situation and asked to develop a recommendation or answer to a business problem. However, for consulting group case interviews, you’ll be put in a group of 3 to 6 people with other candidates that are also interviewing for the same consulting job.
The group will be given materials which contain the case background, objective, and other information needed to solve the case. You’ll initially have some time to read the information independently, but will spend most of the time discussing the case and working together as a group.
During these discussions, the interviewer will be observing and taking notes on each candidate.
For some group case interviews, you will also create a group presentation. As a group, you’ll present your recommendation to the interviewer who will ask follow-up questions on the work and findings.
Consulting group case interviews are much less commonly used than traditional case interviews, but they are as equally as important. They are typically given in second or final round interviews.
For firms and offices that use group case interviews, you will not receive a consulting job offer unless you can pass them.
Different Formats of Consulting Group Case Interviews
There are two different formats of consulting group case interviews:
- Discussion only group case interviews
- Presentation group case interviews
Discussion only group case interviews
A discussion only group case interview has the following structure:
This format of group case interview has no presentation component. The group will be given materials with the case background information and objective.
You’ll have some time to read the information independently, but then the interviewer will bring the group together and ask the group to discuss different questions related to solving the case.
The interviewer will be heavily involved in the discussion by asking questions for the group to answer and steering the direction of the discussion.
The discussion only group case interview is focused on assessing the answers that candidates contribute to the group and how well candidates communicate with each other.
Presentation group case interviews
A presentation group case interview has the following structure:
The group will be given materials that not only contain the case background and objective, but contain other information needed to solve the case. There is typically more material given in this format because you will be given more time to prepare and discuss.
The group will be given about an hour to discuss the case and create a group presentation. During this time, the interviewer will be listening in on the conversations that the group will have, but they will not interfere or answer any questions.
It is up to the group how they want to allocate their time, what topics they want to discuss, and how they want to handle creating and giving the group presentation.
Once time is up, the group will present their work and findings to the interviewer, who will ask follow-up questions.
The presentation group case interview is focused on assessing how well each candidate contributes to the group, how well candidates work with each other, and the quality of the final presentation.
Why are Consulting Group Case Interviews Used?
Consulting group case interviews are used because they are another way for consulting firms to predict which candidates would make the best consultants.
Group case interviews simulate the consulting job by placing you in a hypothetical business situation. You will need to work as a team to analyze and discuss information and then give a presentation on your recommendation. This is what consultants do every day.
These types of case interviews are used in addition to traditional case interviews because they assess a set of skills that traditional case interviews cannot assess.
Group case interviews focus on teamwork and collaboration. By putting candidates into groups, interviewers can assess how candidates work with other people and how open candidates are to other people’s ideas.
They can see how effectively candidates communicate and persuade teammates and how candidates can balance listening and leading.
What do Group Case Interviews Assess?
There are four major qualities that group case interviews assess.
Logical, structured thinking: Consultants need to be organized and methodical to work efficiently.
- Can you structure complex problems in a clear, simple way?
- Can you use logic and reason to make appropriate conclusions?
Interpersonal skills: Relationships are important in consulting. You’ll be working with teammates and clients every day, so fostering strong relationships is imperative.
- Are you easy to work with?
- Can you handle conflict or disagreement with teammates?
Teamwork skills: Consultants work closely in small teams. To be successful, consultants need to know how to work effectively in groups.
- Can you make meaningful contributions while working in a group?
- Do you bring out the best ideas and qualities in other people?
Presentation skills: Consultants need strong communication skills to present their work in a clear, concise, and persuasive way.
- Can you communicate in a clear and concise way?
- Are you articulate and persuasive in what you are saying?
How to Solve Consulting Group Case Interviews
Solving consulting group case interviews follows the same steps as solving traditional case interviews. There are four main steps:
- Understand the problem
- Create a framework
- Answer quantitative and qualitative questions
- Develop a recommendation
1. Understand the problem
The first step to solving a consulting group case interview is to fully understand the problem or objective. What is the overall business question that the group is trying to answer?
Answering or solving the wrong business problem is the quickest way to fail a group case interview.
2. Create a framework
Next, as a group, you’ll want to create some kind of framework to help you solve the case. A framework is a tool that helps you structure and break down complex problems into simpler, smaller components.
For group case interviews, your framework will help guide the group discussion. The framework collects and organizes all of the topics that the group needs to discuss and all of the questions the group needs to answer.
3. Discuss and answer quantitative and qualitative questions
Once your group has aligned on a framework to use, you can move onto the discussion. During the discussion, you will answer many of the questions that were raised in the framework that was created.
Some of these questions will be qualitative, requiring only business knowledge and judgment to answer. Other questions may be more quantitative, requiring some calculations or estimations from the case information provided.
It is up to the group what order they want to answer and discuss the questions. It is also up to the group whether they want to tackle these questions as an entire group or if they want to split up into smaller groups.
Discussion will continue until the group has reached an answer or conclusion that is accepted by everyone.
4. Develop a recommendation
Once you have finished discussing and answering all of the important questions, you will need to align on an overall recommendation.
To do this, review all of the answers and conclusions that the group has drawn. Identify which recommendation they collectively support.
If the group case interview has a presentation component, you will also need to decide how to split up the presentation across the different members of the group.
How to Stand Out in Group Case Interviews
The best way to stand out and distinguish yourself in a group case interview is to focus on adding as much value as you can to the group.
There are six different ways you can add value to the group.
Lead or facilitate the discussion
If the interviewer is not leading the discussion and just observing the group, one way to add value is to lead or facilitate the discussion.
You can propose what topics to discuss, the order they should be discussed in, and how much time should be allocated to each topic. When the group gets off track or goes on a tangent, you can bring the group’s focus back together.
Leading or facilitating the discussion establishes you as a group leader, which will leave a positive impression on the interviewer. However, because this role has so much responsibility and visibility, many people will try to take on this role.
Therefore, a group may have multiple leaders or facilitators. When trying to lead the group, make sure you remain respectful and do not interrupt other people when they are speaking.
Expand upon other people’s ideas
Another way to add value is to expand upon other people’s ideas. If a group member suggests a great idea or raises a good point, you can build upon it.
Wait until the group member has finished speaking and then jump in and compliment that person’s idea. Add more details or give more examples to make the idea more concrete.
Another easy way to add value to the group is to synthesize information that other people have said. A synthesis is simply a reconciliation of different viewpoints and ideas together. This requires minimal effort, but adds tremendous value to the group.
What is the best way to synthesize information?
First, concisely summarize the major ideas that group members have made. Then, state what you like about each idea. Finally, propose an idea that consolidates the best points of each idea.
Synthesizing information does not require much thinking because you are simply repurposing the ideas of other people. This makes it an easy way to contribute to the group.
Keep track of time
Time goes by very quickly in a consulting group case interview. Therefore, a simple way to add value is to be a time keeper and make sure that the team is on track.
In the beginning of the discussion, you can propose a schedule or plan to make the most of the limited time that the group has. You can then volunteer to keep track of the time so that the group can finish discussing and deciding on everything that it needs to.
Play devil’s advocate
Another way to add value to the group is by playing devil’s advocate. You can help the team develop strong points and ideas by testing the team’s thinking and considering potential risks or downsides.
When the team has decided on an idea, bring up potential risks or downsides that the team should consider. This helps the team develop a more fully thought out answer or recommendation.
Be careful when playing devil’s advocate. You do not want to be attacking ideas or bringing them down. Instead, you want to be offering constructive feedback to test the idea and make it stronger.
The final way to add value to the group is to take notes for the team. By taking notes and keeping track of what other people are saying, you’ll be able to recall what has been discussed if any group members have questions.
This way of adding value to the group is not as recommended as the other strategies to add value.
Taking notes deprives you of opportunities to speak. Therefore, it is better to focus on understanding what other people are saying to identify opportunities to speak up rather than to focus on taking the best notes.
Consulting Group Case Interview Tips
Below are the seven biggest group case interview tips. Follow these tips to give yourself an edge over other candidates.
Tip #1: Treat your group members as teammates, not competition
While you may feel like you are competing against members of your group for a job offer, this is not the case. Multiple people or even all people in your group can receive job offers.
Rather than treating your group members like competition and trying to make yourself look better than them, treat your group members as teammates. You should think about the group case interview as your team versus the case, not you versus your teammates.
If you work well as a group and deliver an outstanding discussion or presentation, that increases the likelihood that members of the group will receive offers. If the group spends all of their time attacking each other’s comments and fighting for speaking time, the group will likely deliver a poor discussion or presentation, which makes everyone in the group look bad.
The key is to focus on delivering an outstanding result and not to focus on competing with other teammates.
Tip #2: Don’t speak too much and don’t speak too little
How much should you speak in a group case interview?
The problem with speaking too little during a group case interview is that you won’t have many opportunities to demonstrate your interpersonal, teamwork, and presentation skills. Interviewers may also think that you are shy and afraid of speaking in a group, qualities that are not ideal for a consultant.
The problem with speaking too much during a group case interview is that you may be seen as too aggressive and controlling. Speaking too much reflects poorly on you because you are taking away opportunities from other teammates to speak and contribute. You may come off as rude and disruptive if you interrupt people and talk over them.
If you were to rank order all of the members in your group by how much each person spoke, you would want to fall right in the middle. That is the perfect balance of speaking and listening.
Tip #3: Speak only if you are adding value to the group
Just because you speak a lot during a group case interview does not mean that you are doing well. The quality of what you are saying is much more important than the quantity.
If you are speaking a lot, but not adding that much value to the group, you will be seen as a poor teammate. A great teammate knows when to speak and when to listen.
Therefore, you should only speak if you are adding value to the group. Do not speak just to reach your participation quota.
Tip #4: Don’t interrupt or talk over people
The most common way to fail a group case interview is to come off as a jerk. Consultants work closely in small teams and no one wants to work with someone that is a jerk.
How do you avoid this?
First, don’t interrupt or talk over people. If someone is speaking, allow them to finish what they are saying before jumping in with your own thoughts. Second, don’t attack other people’s ideas. You may bring up your concerns and disagreements, but you should never blatantly tell someone that their idea is bad.
As long as you are a nice and respectful teammate, you will be miles ahead of anyone that is overly aggressive, pushy, or rude.
Tip #5: Involve other people
An easy way to demonstrate that you are a great teammate is to involve other people.
If you notice that someone has not spoken in a long time, ask them what their thoughts are on the discussion. If you notice that someone was cut off when speaking, ask them to finish their thoughts after the person interrupting them finishes what they are saying.
All of these actions require minimal effort, but add tremendous value to the group while making you look like a great teammate.
Tip #6: Don’t spend too much time reading independently
In the beginning of the group case interview, your group will be given materials on the case background, objective, and other information needed to solve the case. Your group members will likely spend the beginning of the group case interview reading the materials by themselves.
Do not spend too much time reading the material independently.
The purpose of the group case interview is to have discussions and work together as a group. The more time your group spends reading the material independently, the less time the group has to demonstrate interpersonal and teamwork skills.
Tip #7: You don’t need to have your idea or recommendation chosen
Remember that multiple or even all people in your group can receive job offers. Therefore, you do not need to have your own ideas or recommendations chosen in order to receive an offer.
Fighting or pushing too hard for your own ideas and recommendations may actually harm you. It may suggest that you are not open to other people’s ideas and not willing to support your teammates.
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