NERA Case Interview: Step-By-Step Guide (2024)

NERA case interview


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

 

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

 

  • NERA interview process

 

  • What is a NERA case interview?

 

  • What does a NERA case interview assess

 

  • How to solve a NERA case interview

 

  • NERA case interview examples

 

  • NERA case interview tips

 

  • Recommended NERA 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.

 

NERA Interview Process

 

Unlike many other consulting firms, NERA does not have a standardized interview process. The exact interview process that you will go through will vary depending on the office you are applying for.

 

The types of questions that you’ll be asked in NERA interviews will also vary tremendously depending on the interviewer that you get.

 

You should expect anywhere from two to three rounds of interviews at NERA. Your interviews will consist of a mix of questions based on your consulting resumebehavioral interview questions, motivational questions, and case interviews.

 

Consulting resume questions will ask you to provide further details on your work experiences, accomplishments, and anything else that is interesting on your resume.

 

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 disagreed with someone

 

  • Give an example of a time you successfully led a team

 

  • Tell me about a time when you failed

 

Motivational questions ask about your motivations and interests. You’ll likely be asked why you are interested in consulting and why you want to work for NERA.

 

As for case interviews, the majority of candidates will receive at least one NERA case interview during the interview process. However, there is a small proportion of candidates that will not be given any case interviews.

 

Regardless of this, you should still be prepared for NERA case interviews just in case you are given one.

 

What is a NERA Case Interview?

 

Like most consulting firms, NERA 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 Coca-Cola increase its profitability?

 

  • What can Amazon do to increase customer satisfaction?

 

  • How should Apple price its latest product?

 

  • What geography should Uber enter next?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What Does a NERA Case Interview Assess?

 

NERA 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 NERA case interviews so effective in assessing consulting candidates.

 

How to Solve a NERA Case Interview

 

There are generally six steps to solving a NERA case interview.



 

1. Understand the case

 

Your NERA 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.

 

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

 

4. Solve quantitative problems

 

Your NERA 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 NERA 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.

 

NERA Case Interview Examples

 

NERA does not provide any case interview examples on their website. However, we’ve pulled together case interview questions and topics that were asked in previous interviews to give you a better sense of what a NERA case interview could look like.

 

Example #1: NERA has just been retained by a US national television network that is trying to decide how much to bid for the rights to broadcast the upcoming Olympic Games. How much should they bid?

 

Example #2: A gold mining company has recently seen its revenue decline by 20% over the past month. NERA has been hired to help investigate the cause of the recent revenue decline and help reverse the trend. How would you go about it? What should the company do?

 

Example #3: A long rope is tied around the equator of the Earth, drawing a circle centered at the center of the Earth. If you added 200m to the length of the rope, but kept it centered at the center of the Earth, how high above the ground would the new rope sit?

 

Example #4: A construction company is evaluating the prospect of taking a public-private-partnership project for the construction of an interstate highway. The construction would cost $800M, but in exchange, the construction company would earn revenue by collecting toll for the next 10 years. Evaluate whether this project is worth taking on.

 

Example #5: A home design retailer would like to improve their profit on a particular type of shag carpet product. How would you go about helping the client?

 

Example #6: An Australia based winemaker has two products: bottled wine and boxed wine. Recently, profits have been decreasing and the CEO believes that this is due to losses in the boxed wine division. What factors would you consider to determine whether the boxed wine division is a good business?

 

Example #7: You are meeting with the head of new product development for Coca Cola to discuss a new type of vending machine. This vending machine would change prices of its products depending on the temperature. For example, if it’s hotter outside, the price of the soda cans in the vending machine would increase. How would you evaluate this idea of implementing this new type of vending machine?

 

Example #8: The owner of an American footwear company wants to sell the company in 3 to 5 years. Before doing this, they want to double EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) to get a higher selling price. You have been hired to help achieve this goal. What should the company do?

 

NERA Case Interview Tips

 

Below are our top ten tips for preparing for NERA case interviews.

 

1. Start preparing early

 

Mastering NERA 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 NERA 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 NERA Case Interview Resources

 

To prepare for NERA case interviews, you can use a variety of different case interview prep books, online courses, and coaching. We'll cover each of these different categories of resources in more detail.

 

NERA Case Interview Prep Books

 

Case interview prep books are great resources to use because they are fairly inexpensive, only costing $20 to $30. They contain a tremendous amount of information that you can read, digest, and re-read at your own pace.

 

Based on our comprehensive review of the 12 popular case interview prep books, we ranked nearly all of the case prep books in the market.

 

The three case interview prep books we recommend using are:
 

  • Hacking the Case Interview: In this book, 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: In this book, hone your case interview skills through 65+ problems tailored towards each type of question asked in case interviews and 15 full-length practice cases. This book is great for intermediates looking to get quality practice.

 

  • Case Interview Secrets: This book provides great explanations of essential case interview concepts and fundamentals. The stories and anecdotes that the author provides are entertaining and help paint a clear picture of what to expect in a case interview, what interviewers are looking for, and how to solve a case interview.

 

NERA Case Interview Courses

 

Case interview courses are more expensive to use than case interview prep books, but offer more efficient and effective learning. You’ll learn much more quickly from watching someone teach you the material, provide examples, and then walk through practice problems than from reading a book by yourself.

 

Courses typically cost anywhere between $200 to $400.

 

If you are looking for a single resource to learn the best NERA case interview strategies in the most efficient way possible, enroll in our comprehensive case interview course.

 

Through 70+ concise video lessons and 20 full-length practice cases based on real interviews from top-tier consulting firms, you’ll learn step-by-step how to crush your NERA case interview.

 

We’ve had students pass their NERA first round interview with just a week of preparation, but know that your success depends on the amount of effort you put in and your starting capabilities.

 

NERA Case Interview Coaching

 

With case interview coaching, you’ll pay anywhere between $100 to $300 for a 40- to 60-minute mock case interview session with a case coach. Typically, case coaches are former consultants or interviewers that have worked at top-tier consulting firms.

 

Although very expensive, case interview coaching can provide you with high quality feedback that can significantly improve your case interview performance. By working with a case coach, you will be practicing high quality cases with an expert. You’ll get detailed feedback that ordinary case interview partners are not able to provide.

 

Know that you do not need to purchase case interview coaching to receive a consulting job offer. The vast majority of candidates that receive offers from top firms did not purchase case interview coaching. By purchasing case interview coaching, you are essentially purchasing convenience and learning efficiency.

 

Case interview coaching is best for those that have already learned as much as they can about case interviews on their own and feel that they have reached a plateau in their learning. For case interview beginners and intermediates, it may be a better use of their money to first purchase a case interview course or case interview prep book before purchasing expensive coaching sessions.

 

If you do decide to eventually use a case interview coach, consider using our case coaching service.

 

There is a wide range of quality among coaches, so ensure that you are working with someone that is invested in your development and success. If possible, ask for reviews from previous candidates that your coach has worked with.

 

Summary of the Best NERA Case Interview Resources

 

To prepare for NERA 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