Case Preparation – Case Commandments

These Commandments are the result of years of research. Cosentino has interviewed recruiters, consultants, partners and debriefed hundreds of Harvard students.

  • Listen to the Question
    Listening is the most important skill a consultant has. The case isn’t about you or the consultant. it’s about the client. What are they really asking for? Pay particular attention to the last sentence – one word can change the entire case.

  • Take Notes
    Taking notes during the case interview allows you to check back with the facts of the case. As someone once said, “The palest ink is stronger than the best memory.” If you blank out, all the information is right in front of you.

  • Summarize the Question
    After you are given the question, take a moment to summarize the highlights out loud:

    • It shows the interviewer that you listened
    • It allows you to hear the information again
    • It keeps you from answering the wrong question
    • It fills the otherwise awkward pause when you’re trying to think of something intelligent to say

  • Verify the Objective(s)

    Professional consultants always ask their clients to verify their objective(s). Even if the objectives seem obvious, there could be an additional underlying objective. When the objective seems apparent, phrase the questions differently: “One objective is to increase sales. Are there any other objectives I should know about?”


  • Ask Clarifying Questions

    You ask questions for three main reasons:

    • To get additional information that will help you identify and label the question
    • To demonstrate to the interviewer that you are not shy about asking probing questions under difficult circumstances (something you’ll be doing on a regular basis as a consultant)
    • To turn the question into a conversation. Nothing turns an interviewer off quicker than a five-minute monologue.

  • Organize Your Answer
    Identify and label your case, then lay out your structure. This is the hardest part of a case – and the most crucial. It drives your case and is often the major reason behind whether you get called back.

  • Hold that Thought for “One Alligator”
    The interviewer wants you to think out loud, but think before speak. If you make a statement that is way off-base in an interview, the interviewer will wonder if he can trust you in front of a client.

  • Manage Your Time
    Your answer should be as linear as possible. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Answer from a macro–level and move the answer forward. Stay focused on the original question.

  • By the Numbers
    If possible, try to work numbers into your answer. Demonstrate that you think quantitatively and that you are comfortable with numbers.

  • Be Coachable
    Listen to the interviewer’s feedback. Is she trying to guide you back on track? Pay attention to her body language. Are you boring her or is she enthralled?

  • Be Creative and Brainstorm
    Consulting firms like liberal arts candidates with intellectual curiosity who can “think outside the box” and offer up a new and interesting perspective.

  • Exude Enthusiasm and a Positive Attitude
    Recruiters want people who are excited by problem solving and can carry that enthusiasm throughout the entire interview.

  • Bring Closure and Summarize
    Create a sense of closure by summarizing the case. Review your findings, restate your suggestions, and make recommendations.