The Most Common Pitfalls In Case Interview Preparation

While Mary Tyler Moore once said “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow” she
probably was not faced with a handful of make-or-break interviews in a condensed timeframe.
Rather, it might be more prudent to take a line out of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote book: “Learn from
the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” After years of coaching and hundreds of candidates coached, I’d like to help you learn from the mistakes of others. So, what are the most common pitfalls I’ve seen when it comes to case interview preparation?

Waiting Until You Have an Interview to Begin Preparation

The worst thing you can do to yourself in this recruiting journey is to shorten your timeline. The
fewer weeks/months you have, the more you have to do each day. Worse, that relationship it not
one to one. 10 hours spread across 5 weeks is worth more than 20 hours spread across 1 week.

Why? Your brain needs time and minimal stress to process the vast amount of information coming
its way. If you shorten your timeline, you move into fight-or-flight mode and your learning becomes
limited. You fall short on sleep, wear yourself thin, and don’t allow yourself the time, space, and
energy to recharge – you don’t let your subconscious work through problems on its own.

Give yourself ample time (months, not days/weeks) to prepare. Apply to the role when you are 80% ready.

Using The Wrong Resources

There is so much information out there. Unfortunately, a lot of it is misleading, oversimplified, or
simply incorrect. Even if it is correct, it might not be presented or taught in the optimal way, and it
might even contradict other (correct) information you have learned elsewhere!

How do you make sense of this information? First, get organized. Figure out what you need to learn and recognize that different resources are good for different things. For example, did you know that Rocketblocks is a fantastic resource for charts/exhibits, but an absolutely horrendous one for frameworking? If you’re organized, you can start to learn what is best for what, and save yourself hours of wasted time!

Second, lean on others. Find others who have gone through and successfully completed the journey. While you should always take their advice with a grain of salt, find out from them what worked and what didn’t.

Going Cheap

There are good, free resources out there. If you simply cannot afford paid resources and coaching,
that is ok – you can succeed without them. However, what is success worth to you?

If you’re willing to spend $50 on a dinner or a few hundred on a weekend trip, why wouldn’t you
spend that to ensure your professional success? In the grand scheme of things – and in the context of a six figure annual salary just to start – what is a few hundred or even a few thousands dollars? The signing bonus alone can pay for your investment many times over. If paying for a premium resource and/or an expert coach increases your odds by even 10%, it’s worth it.

I’ve worked with candidates who went the free route two years in a row and failed. In their third
attempt, after multiple sessions and tailored advice, pointers, and a trained mindset shift, we were
able to get them the offer. The line “I just wish I had invested in my case prep sooner” is one I hear
all too often.

Trying to Boil The Ocean

I can’t tell you how many candidates ask me for the 20+ industry deep-dives I have created (as the
only resource that they want). Or how many ask for every single case/casebook I own. Or, how many want to print out my World of Frameworks and memorize it.

That is not how casing works and that is certainly not how consulting works! I had a candidate reach out to me recently, utterly surprised by the fact that a full 80% of his interviews were unconventional. Memorizing frameworks and trying to do 100+ cases is not the way to go.

Think about it this way: Does a strategy consultant get faced with the exact same issue in the exact same industry from project to project? Not a chance! I worked in LNG Vertical Integration, switched to Mining IT PMO, then worked on a Telco Digital Transformation. I knew nothing about these topics nor these industries when I joined those teams.

Remember that a case is really just a metaphor for a project. Projects change. Projects do not have a set plan/outcome. Each case is its own. You need to learn how to approach any problem in an objective-driven structured way, rather than memorizing “everything” and trying to predict your

Stay flexible. Stay adaptable. Don’t be ready for any one thing. Be ready for anything.

Final Mistake - Not Investing in Resources to Pass the Screening Test

If you have been invited to take McKinsey or BCG’s screening tests, then make sure to invest the time and resources required to pass their test. These tests are the gatekeepers – you need to do well in them to even have a shot at the job (i.e. be invited to interview).

If you’ve been invited to take McKinsey’s Imbellus test, then we highly recommend the #1 Simulation in the market They have a money back guarantee if you don’t pass – it’s a no brainer!

McKinsey Imbellus Problem Solving Game

If you’ve been invited to take BCG’s Casey Chatbot, then we highly recommend MConsultingPrep’s thorough simulation and practice test pack Use code IANGLENNON for a discount!

Recommended For You

Want to learn how to ace your interview and avoid the pitfalls that others before you have made? We recommend the following to help you level up and get that offer:

The scariest and riskiest part of case preparation is not knowing what you don’t know. Instead of wasting time using the wrong resources, prepping for the wrong things in the wrong way, and ingraining bad habits, skip the mistakes that cost time, energy, and, ultimately the offer. Get coaching!


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