ZS Associates Case Interview: Everything You Need to Know
ZS Associates interviews consist of case interviews, a written case interview, and behavioral or fit interview questions. There are typically three rounds of interviews that candidates must go through before being extended an offer.
- First round: 30-minute phone screen with a recruiter. The interview will be focused on behavioral or fit interview questions.
- Second round: Two 30-minute interviews. One interview will be focused on a case interview while the other is focused on behavioral or fit interview questions.
- Third round: Three 30- to 40-minute interviews and a 45-minute written case interview. For the 30- to 40-minute interviews, two will be focused on case interviews while the third will be focused on behavioral or fit interview questions.
If you have an upcoming ZS associates interview or are expecting to interview with them, we have you covered. In this article, we’ll cover:
- The 6 steps to solving any ZS Associates case interview
- ZS Associates case interview examples
- How to ace the ZS Associates written case interview
- The 10 most common behavioral or fit interview questions
The 6 Steps to Solve Any ZS Associates Case Interview
Acing your case interviews is the single most important factor that determines whether or not you will receive a consulting job offer from ZS Associates.
A case interview is a special type of interview that nearly every single consulting firm uses. ZS Associates case interviews simulate what the consulting job will be like by placing you in a hypothetical business situation in which you are asked to solve a business problem.
ZS case interviews, also known as case study interviews, are all candidate-led. You will be in the driver’s seat of the case interview and will be expected to ask the right questions, probe for data, and propose each next step to solve the case.
According to ZS’ business consulting career website, they look for the following six core skills:
- Excellent critical thinking and problem-solving
- Desire to innovate and transform organizations
- Client service orientation
- Emotional intelligence, empathy, and adaptability
- Orientation to quality and creating positive impact
- Strong communication skills and ability to persuade
Follow these six steps to solve any ZS case interview or case study interview:
1. Understand the case
The case will begin with the interviewer giving you the case 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, the company, and the objective of the case.
2. Verify the objective
Understanding the business problem and objective of the case is the most important part of the case interview. Not addressing the right business question is the quickest way to fail a case interview.
Make sure that you ask clarifying questions to better understand the business situation and problem. Then, confirm that you understand the case objective with the interviewer. This ensures that you start the case on the right track.
3. Create a framework
Develop a framework to help you tackle the business problem. A framework is a tool that helps you structure and break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable components. With a framework, you’ll be brainstorming different ideas and organizing them into different categories.
Afterwards, walk the interviewer through your framework. They may ask a few questions or provide some feedback to you.
4. Develop a hypothesis
After creating a framework, you should develop a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess on the answer based on the data and information that you have so far.
Your hypothesis does not need to be correct. You’ll be continuously testing and refining your hypothesis throughout the case. The purpose of having a hypothesis is to guide your analysis and ensure that you are spending your time answering the right questions.
5. Test your hypothesis
The majority of the case will be spent testing your hypothesis.
After stating your hypothesis, it is up to you to lead the direction of the case. Depending on the context of the case, you may want to ask for data to do some analysis. You may also want to explore qualitative questions that you have. As you uncover more information, your hypothesis will likely have to change.
Sometimes, your hypothesis will be completely wrong and you’ll need to develop a completely new hypothesis to test. Other times, your hypothesis may be on the right track, but you’ll need to refine or narrow it down further.
Throughout the rest of the case, you’ll be answering a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions. Make sure that after each question, you explain how your answer impacts your hypothesis or answer to the case.
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 summarizing only 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 yet or lingering questions that you do not have great answers for.
ZS Associates Case Interview Examples
Example #1: Disposable Diapers
Proctor & Gamble (P&G) is an American consumer goods company that specializes in personal health, consumer health, and personal care and hygiene. One of its most revolutionary products is the company’s disposable Pampers Premium diaper.
Kimberly Clark has also entered the disposable diaper market and has been constantly improving and marketing its own brand, Huggies. What can P&G do in response to maintain Pampers’ market share?
Example #2: Entry Level Car Model
Our client is a multinational automotive manufacturer headquartered in Japan. They are the fourth largest automaker in Japan. Our client currently offers two car models, a mid-level car and a high-end car.
They are considering introducing an entry level car in the United States that they already sell in other countries. However, the United States market is different from that of other countries because there are numerous entry level cars available. How would you decide whether or not our client should introduce its entry level car model?
Example #3: Financial Software
Our client is a software and information technology based in San Francisco, California. Their software allows individuals and businesses to receive payments over the Internet. Our client provides the technical systems, fraud prevention, and banking infrastructure needed to operate online payment systems.
We have been hired to help them determine how they can increase the number of people using the online bill pay feature. What would you recommend?
Example #4: Luxury Watchmaker
Tissot is a Swiss watchmaker that manufacturers watches in the $300 to $3,000 price range. They sell watches through three distribution channels: department stores, specialty watch stores, and online through its own website.
Online purchases of Tissot watches have increased drastically over the past year to the point that sales from department stores and specialty watch stores has decreased dramatically. Owners of these two types of stores have begun to voice their objection to online sales. What can Tissot do to resolve this sales channel conflict?
Example #5: Party Goods
Your client is a leading American manufacturer and distributor of party goods. They sell everyday products and seasonal goods. Recently, major customers have complained to management stating that prices of your client’s products are too high.
Your client is looking to decrease prices to keep their existing customers. To be able to do this, they would need to significantly reduce its cost structure. How would you look for opportunities to cut costs?
Example #6: Patient Analytics Software
Your client is Healthcare Co., a software and information technology startup. They operate a software as a service (SaaS) business in which software is licensed to customers on a subscription basis. Healthcare Co. hosts the software on their own servers and customers access the software through a web browser.
Your client has developed an innovative software solution for hospitals that would enable hospitals to better track patient outcomes and use advanced analytics to recommend treatments. You have been hired to help them determine how to maximize revenue. How would you go about this?
How to Ace the ZS Associates Written Case Interview
Here’s how the ZS Associates written case interview works:
- You’ll be taken to a meeting room and given either a packet of 8 - 10 slides or a laptop that has all of the case information. You may also be given a list of 4 - 5 questions
- You’ll have 45 minutes to read through the slides, answer the given questions or develop a recommendation, and create PowerPoint slides
- At the end of the 45 minutes, you’ll present to the interviewer and have a discussion
Follow the steps below to perform well on the written case interview.
1. Understand the business problem and objective
The first step in completing a written case interview is to understand what the objective is. What is the primary business question you are trying to answer with the data and information provided?
2. Read the list of major questions
Your written case interview may provide you with a list of 4 - 5 key questions that you will be expected to address or answer. Read through these questions first since these will be the questions that you will want to prioritize.
3. Skim the materials
Next, flip through the information packet that is provided to see what information is available. Identify what data you have and what data you do not have.
The goal in this step is not to read and analyze every slide. That would take too much time. Instead, by seeing what information exists, you will be able to better prioritize what you spend your time reading and analyzing.
4. Create a framework
Before you begin reading and analyzing the information in the slides in more detail, you should create a basic framework to help guide your analysis. The list of key questions will help set the foundation of your framework.
5. Read and analyze the material
Afterwards, read and analyze the information that is relevant to each area of your framework. As you begin answering questions and drawing insights, make sure to write a one or two sentence summary. This will make it easier to decide on a recommendation later.
6. Create your slides
Once you have a recommendation, it is time to start filling in your slides. Write your executive summary first and make sure that it tells a clear and logical story that leads to your ultimate recommendation.
Then, write the headlines for your slides. Make sure the headlines summarize the key point of each slide. If the interviewer were to only read the headlines of your slides, they should be able to understand your entire presentation.
Afterwards, fill in the content for that slide to support the headline.
7. Prepare for potential questions
If you have any time remaining, brainstorm potential questions the interviewer may ask you during your presentation. They may want to know how you performed your analysis or how you reached your conclusions.
Preparing for these potential questions will help your presentation go much more smoothly. You will also feel much more confident while presenting.
The 10 Most Common Behavioral or Fit Interview Questions
In addition to case interviews, you will likely be asked a few behavioral or fit interview questions. There are ten questions that are most commonly asked.
1. Why are you interested in working at ZS Associates?
How to answer: Have at least three reasons why you’re interested in working at ZS Associates. You could mention that you loved the people that you have met from ZS Associates so far. You can talk about ZS Associate’s massive global presence and expertise in consulting, software, and technology. You can speak to how ZS Associates provides strategy and implementation, so you can see the impact of your work. Finally, you can talk about their fantastic company culture.
2. Why do you want to work in consulting?
How to answer: Again, have three reasons why you’re interested in consulting. You could mention the fast career growth opportunity, the opportunity to develop soft and hard skills, or the level of impact that you can make by working with large companies on their most challenging issues.
3. Walk me through your resume
How to answer: Provide a concise summary of your work experience, starting with the most recent. Focus on emphasizing your most impressive and unique accomplishments. At the end, tie your experiences to why you are interested in consulting.
4. What is your proudest achievement?
How to answer: Choose your most impressive, unique, or memorable accomplishment. Structure your answer by providing information on the situation, the task, the actions you took, and the results of your work.
5. What is something that you are proud of that is not on your resume?
How to answer: This is a great opportunity to highlight an accomplishment that is not related to your professional work experience. Perhaps there is a non-profit that you volunteer at, a side project or business that you work on, or a hobby that you have won awards or recognition for. Choose something that is impressive and interesting.
6. Tell me about a time when you led a team.
How to answer: If possible, choose a time when you directly managed a person or a team. For this question and the following questions, make sure that you structure your answer. Structure your answer by providing information on the situation, the task, the actions you took, and the results of your work. This is known as the STAR method and is commonly used to answer behavioral or fit interview questions.
7. Give an example of a time when you faced conflict or a disagreement.
How to answer: When answering this question, focus on emphasizing the steps you took to resolve the conflict or disagreement. Speak to the interpersonal skills you had to use in order to mediate the situation. Interviewers want to know that you are a great mediator and that you can handle conflict in a constructive way.
8. Tell me about a time when you had to persuade someone.
How to answer: Choose a time when you were able to change someone’s mind. Focus on emphasizing the steps that you took to persuade that person and what impact and results this had. Interviewers want to know that you are a great communicator and a good people person.
9. Describe a time when you failed.
How to answer: Choose a time when you failed to meet a deadline or did not meet expectations. Focus on emphasizing what you learned from the experience and how you used that experience to deliver even better results in the next opportunity that you got. Interviewers want to see that you don’t get discouraged from failure and that you treat those experiences as learning opportunities.
10. What questions do you have for me?
How to answer: This is a great opportunity to get to know the interviewer on a more personal level. Ask them questions about their experience in consulting or their career. Express genuine interest in what they have to show and ask follow-up questions. The more you can get the interviewer talking about themself, the more likely they will have a positive impression of you.
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