How does a non-business major prepare for case interviews?

gg2's picture
Rank: Senior Monkey | 73

I've heard English majors who haven't taken any econ/finance/stat courses break into consulting.

How do people like them study for case interviews without that basic knowledge? Do they just memorize frameworks?
Is there anyone on this board that made it through being a non-business major and can shed some light on this?

I was a history major (my preview post) and have taken micro and macroeconomics, but that doesn't seem to help much for case interviews.

Would seriously appreciate any advice you guys have because I might have to interview soon...

Comments (6)

Aug 11, 2013

I don't think the preparation that a business major does should be all that different from a non-business major. I did my case preparation with somebody from a non-business background and we both approached it in essentially the same way. Of course you want to know some of the basic vocabulary used in business (profit, revenue, costs, supply chain, etc.), but that is something most people should know even without a degree in finance or marketing. Frameworks are good to organise your thinking (whether a business major or not), but I wouldn't ever rely on them as my sole source of thought.

This is based on the 10 or so case interviews that I did.

Aug 11, 2013

I think you're overestimating the econ/finance/math component of case interviews. While there are usually analytical portions of cases there will never be something like pricing a bond or calculating a regression. The analytical portions are more like "here's the 4 routes our client airline runs, here's some costs and estimated demand for them, how many and which of them should we do?". You want to be able to do the math quickly, know the terminology, and accurately estimate percentages/growth rates/etc, nothing you would need a major in any specific subject to do.

The biggest part of case interviews is approaching them in a structured and logical method to uncover the data and then having some insights once you've found the relevant data. Know how to use frameworks, but personally I don't memorize them because you want to stay sort of flexible as you go through them.

As for preparing, it all depends on what resources are available to you and how much time you have. But as it's been said on these forums before you should practice with another person, preferably someone who gives interviews, made it through interviews, or at least is also interviewing. I really like Victor Cheng's LOMS as well as "Case in Point" (although I don't like all of Case in Point's frameworks there are too many and I think it's a waste to memorize all of those). And, of course, the biggest thing you can do is just practice a ton, practice the quick math, practice the market sizing, and practice cases as much as possible, no amount of reading about case interviewing will help as much as practicing them.

Disclaimer: I'm a non-business major who messed up on some case interviews but is preparing for more soon. I was told that I was lacking "business acumen" which I've found to be less about reading WSJ or taking business courses, and more about having done a variety of cases prior to interviewing so I had a broader background of solutions to drawn upon to come up with insightful ways to approach the problem in the case.

Aug 11, 2013
Lerg:

I was told that I was lacking "business acumen" which I've found to be less about reading WSJ or taking business courses, and more about having done a variety of cases prior to interviewing so I had a broader background of solutions to drawn upon to come up with insightful ways to approach the problem in the case.

As someone who's gone through the process successfully, I completely disagree with business acumen being "less about reading WSJ." (I do agree that taking classes won't necessarily help you.) You can go through hundreds of cases and cover all the possible industries you could think of.

But business acumen, in my opinion, is an ability to make quick, instinctive decisions in an open-ended situation. And knowing what kinds of challenges various companies have faced (many of which consultants are hired to help solve), how they responded, how successful the solutions were, and what kinds of unpredicted difficulties arose help you develop that instinct.

Reading WSJ/Economics/etc. is also a great way for non-business majors (and business majors) to become acquainted with business terminologies, various industries, major trends within them, and best practices. There's a reason why the vast majority of the consultants you talk to advise candidates to read at least one business periodical REGULARLY.

Of course, that's not to say that you can't get an offer without it. Of course you can, and I know people who have. But doing so will make cases come much more naturally to you.

tl;dr - Read the Wall Street Journal every day if you can. It'll help you immensely.

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Aug 12, 2013

ok cool, thanks for the input pnb. I put that disclaimer hoping that people with more experience than myself would chime in with further advice.

Aug 12, 2013

+1 on reading the WSJ (particularly the Marketplace section) to get a better sense of general business practices.

Aug 13, 2013
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