Consulting case interview: 23 practise questions for ambitious grads

Ambitious grads look no further, GradAustralia brings you 23 case interview questions to help you get your big break in the consulting industry.
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It’s time to practise!

We’ve collated a bunch of business cases that we’ve seen bandied about in the past – whether that was in the real-life interview (yep, really!), in recruitment sessions with consultancies or as part of a practise round in case societies (yes, they do exist – see if you have any on your campus!).

We suggest grabbing a buddy and working through these together. It can be a useful exercise to play the role of interviewer too and see how you might be able to throw your friend a curveball or two.

Businesses Cases

  • Your client is a fashion retailer. Over the past three years, profit margins have fallen 20 per cent and market share has declined to 15 per cent of the market from 25 per cent. What’s happening?
  • A major airline is considering the purchase of 12 new planes. They are not sure how this purchase might affect their business performance in the short and long-term. How might you assess this situation?
  • You are a consultant for a large passenger cruise line company. Your client is deciding whether or not to invest $300 million in a new, 2,000 person passenger ship. The CEO has recently declared publicly to investors that she intends to deliver 10 per cent returns on all major investments. Does this investment fit the bill?
  • GlovesCo is the leading manufacturer of latex surgical gloves. Recently, they have seen a significant price erosion and are losing share in their market. The CEO believes that there are still significant growth opportunities for their product and has asked you to develop a strategy to exploit them.
  • Your client is a school bus manufacturing company that has just been purchased by a leading international truck manufacturing company. The CEO of the truck company has asked the president of the newly acquired school bus company to improve the organisation’s profits. The president of the school bus company, has, in turn, asked us to help determine what areas will provide the best results.
  • An agricultural products manufacturer has invested in a new product called, ‘Green Fertiliser’. This helps farmers by allowing a variable fertiliser rate. The company is interested in a pricing strategy and go-to-market options. What would you advise?
  • Your client is a software manufacturer that only has one product. The CEO would like to know if the company should offer multiple products instead of one.
  • An energy firm has a lot of extra cash and wants to know if they should be acquiring heating, ventilation and cooling service firms in Melbourne. Your role is to determine if this is a viable investment they should consider.
  • We are working on a project for a tissue paper manufacturer. Their products include facial tissue, napkins and bathroom tissues. The client has a consumer business and a commercial business. The CEO of the firm is facing pressure to improve the firm’s profitability. To improve profitability, the CEO is considering increasing the average price on commercial products by 10 per cent and wants to know whether she should do it. What do you need to know and what would you recommend?
  • Our client is a coffin maker. He has seen a substantial change in the market in recent years and is contemplating the future of his business. Until now, he has been in the business of building high-quality, handcrafted coffins largely by hand with a skilled labour force. Recently, however, he has become aware of technology that would allow him to make machine-built coffins with much less labour. Should he invest in this new technology, and should he remain in the coffin business even in the first place?
  • The CEO of a marketing agency is worried because there is a downturn in corporate spending and other outsourced services in the last two quarters. After some discussion with peers at other agencies, she has learned that other companies are predicting reduced demand for their services. What can she do to address this issue?
  • A financial investor is interested in investing in a startup national security company. The security company sells and installs alarm systems and then provides monitoring, patrolling the neighbourhood and following up if the alarm goes off. You have been hired to size the market, conduct due diligence and determine if this is a good investment or not.
  • Your niece comes up to you and says she wants to open a lemonade stand to earn money. How would you advise her?
  • We are working with a private equity firm. They are considering taking private a leading manufacturer of bicycle helmets. Should they?
  • Your client is a bank vault manufacturer, focusing on the large walk-in type. It’s a very mature business and they are the largest supplier in the industry. The client recently bought a company that specialises in high-technology security devices. The strategic rationale behind this was to diversify their business and provide growth. One of the company’s biggest and most promising products was a high-tech pen that recognises if the person signing is, in fact, the owner of the pen. The client would like you to do the following:
    • Who would be the customer of this new technology?

    • How do we market to them?

    • What is our value proposition?

  • Your client is a retailer that has grown through acquisitions, acquiring 45 retailers in the past five years. They operate 750 stores nationally. They have already decreased costs through operational improvements but the firm now has 15 brands, which has left customers confused. As a result, the company is undergoing a rebranding effort. The company is concerned that they have no information on their customers, only sales data, and therefore cannot segment customers across product lines or genres.
  • The client wants to implement a loyalty program to identify and understand their customers. They want you to help figure out how to construct the loyalty plan. How would you develop the business case for this initiative, quantify the benefits and determine the cost?
  • We are on a project working for a consumer packaged goods company. Specifically, the company produces frozen dough for things like bread loaves, pizza crusts, cookies, bagels and so on. This is a family-owned company with $2 billion in annual sales with two primary distribution channels. You have been hired to assess a problem that the company is having with spoilage. The client is experiencing a significantly higher spoilage rate than that of its competitors. For example, a competitor’s spoilage rate was about 2.5 per cent on average last year compared to our client’s which was 10 per cent. Our client has since succeeded in reducing the spoilage rate to 7.5 per cent by implementing a strict First-in-First-Out inventory management system at its warehouses and by instituting a program that carefully tracks the number of days left in the shelf life of the dough and once it gets close the inventory is donated to a charity for a tax break. Despite all the effort, they are still significantly higher than competitors. What can be done to further reduce the spoilage rate?
  • Your client is a major sports shoe manufacturer. It has been watching the growth in skateboarding-type shoes in recent years and is wondering whether to start producing these shoes and add them to the existing line. What would you recommend?
  • You have just joined a sports company. Let’s call it SportsCo. The division that you’ve joined was formed eight months before your arrival. This new division designs and manufactures shirts for hip, young, fashion-forward yogis who are into ‘activewear’, made in a similar style to those of several other activewear makers who’ve burst onto the fashion scene in recent years. Your division is losing a significant amount of money and your manager has assigned you the project to determine what should be done. What do you need to know, and what would you do to assist your new division at SportsCo?
  • Your client is a large grocery store player. Most of its stores are located in typical, suburban locations such as malls. However, that market is almost completely saturated and competition in the grocery industry is fierce, especially with larger supermarket chains aggressively expanding their reach. The client is looking for new growth options. One idea in front of the CEO is to expand into inner-city communities that have typically been underserved by retailers in general. How might you evaluate this strategic option?
  • A bank is trying to increase its operating efficiency. Your consulting team has been asked to look at its distribution network, including bank branches, to cut costs. How would you determine the potential size of the opportunity for operating efficiency? What issues might arise?
  • A large food and beverage consumer packaged goods (CPG) company is the client. They have a 40 per cent market share in traditional CPG channels, like large format grocery. They have a 17 per cent market share in food service. They hired us to help them grow that food service business. What would you do and how would you structure it?

Did you just work through those questions? What a champ!

It’s true that the amount of practise you could do for case interviews is endless. While no case is ever the same, you will find that some cases begin to naturally group together – there’s the declining profits case, the new market entry case, the change in government regulation case and so on.

That’s not to say that you should always say the same thing or stick to the same frameworks, instead the point of practise is to become familiar with the potential types of cases that could occur and be comfortable that you can work through it.

We hope that these questions and case studies have given you a taste of what consulting cases are like and how you might talk your way through one (and crunch the numbers at the same time!).

Last but not least, you can check out the ultimate glossary for consulting case interviews (for real) for any key terms you might not know.