Being Good at Consulting Cases Is Not Enough

Why the case solving skill is not enough

Is it all just about cases? Nope

Preparation for an interview in consulting companies for most people is associated with solving business cases and brain teasers: assessing the size of the market, analyzing a decline in profitability, introducing a new product to the market, synergy from mergers and acquisitions, optimization of the logistics chain, and so on. The reason is clear: it is believed that the daily work of a consultant consists in solving business cases for different clients in various industries. Therefore, candidates must demonstrate proficiency in business cases.

Proficiency in cases is necessary but not sufficient for getting consulting  job offers

Think how any consulting company works. As soon as the project is confirmed and agreed with the client, the scope of work and deadlines are determined, and the team is appointed, the analytical part of the work begins, in essence very similar to solving business cases. Define the problem and structure it, form hypotheses and select the methods for testing them, collect information, make calls to experts, analyze the data, form a complete story. Consultants solve business cases.

But before the project is confirmed, it should be sold to the client

The client should make sure that it is your company (and not a competitor!) that will most accurately understand his business, improve his work and will generate the cash effect above the consulting expenses. To this point, consultants prepare a special presentation – letter of proposal (LOP), or a proposal for cooperation. Most often, the presentation consists of two parts – (a) the proposed approach to solving the client’s problem and (b) experience and qualifications of the company’s consultants (company expertise).

The “Company expertise” part is devoted to the company’s general knowledge of the area of ​​interest, examples and conclusions from comparable previous projects in different countries and industries, as well as experience, education and skills of partners and potential members of the project team. In fact – it is a standard set of 30-40 slides, which is used for most projects in this particular industry and business function. It tells the client that the company’s consultants are experts on a wide range of issues, but it does not explain why in this particular case the client should work with them, and not with someone else.

Approach to problem solving

In turn, the section “Approach to problem solving” consists of 15-20 specially prepared slides with a preliminary analysis of the situation in the client’s company and the first hypotheses. Looking at them, the client should understand how the vast experience of the consulting company is applicable to his particular case, and how the consultants can be useful to him, and not to someone else. Very often, all other things being equal, the consulting company with the most convincing “Approach to problem solving” gets the right to do the project with the client.

How does all of the above mentioned relate to the selection process? Let’s recall that partner consultants are looking for candidates among those who are able to carry out all stages of work better than others, and let’s draw the following parallels:

  1. Case solving ~ = daily work of a consultant.Structuring and analysis of business problems, synthesis of solutions. The skill is extremely necessary, but not sufficient to work in consulting.
  2. Preparation of resume, all previous experience of study and work ~ = part “Experience and Qualifications”(company expertise) of the proposals for cooperation. It refers to the caliber of a candidate, but does not explain why the latter will be able to stay in the firm and provide benefit.
  3. Preparation of the motivational part (motivation letter, motivation stories, the so-called fit part) ~ = part ” Approach to problem solving “.It is this part that summarizes all your knowledge, skills, abilities and experience and makes it clear why this combination is necessary for the consulting company and why you are a suitable candidate for the position you are interested in.

How much time should the fit-part take?

All parts are important for successful case interviews, and all of them should be given due attention. We are sure that almost all people, at least for some time engaged in preparation for consulting, will consider this statement a truism. At the same time, very few of them pay  “due” attention to the motivational part. In consulting, LOP precedes any project, which means that the fit-part of the projects is worked through with the same frequency as the analytical part. If we assume that the preparation of the fit-part takes 2 weeks, and the project lasts an average of 2 months, then we conclude that fit takes about 25% of the time spent on analytics. Transferring this proportion to case preparation, it turns out that for every 4 solved cases there must be at least one motivation story or an answer to a fit question.

How many cases have you already solved and how much time have you spent preparing for the motivational part? Is this ratio respected in your preparation process? If so, congratulations – you are on the right balanced path, keep it going. If not, pay more attention to motivation. Especially if you still have the final round of the interview left. This article is mainly on motivation.

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