What if you could easily create amazing, customized structures to any case interview problem?
Structuring Drills is a program tailored for you to learn to structure any problem by practicing 40 case questions with in-depth answers - on your own time
Isn't it funny that people spend hundreds of hours in case interview preparation, yet never really learn how to structure problems like real consultants?
I see this all around...
They do tons of cases with other candidates (sometimes even to the point when they feel they're not improving anymore).
I wonder what she might have learned in case #273 that she didn't up until case #272...
They look for frameworks for "market entry", "pricing", "new product launch", and even more exotic case types such as "deregulation" or "verticalization".
I bet it hasn't crossed their mind to ask how do real consultants run cost reduction projects.
They hire expensive coaches to help them improve their case skills.
They even waste hours and hours reading industry reports and articles from consulting firms to find insights that will make their structures stand out.
Wanna hear something from the trenches? During all my time at McKinsey, I've never seen anyone actually reading something from "The McKinsey Quarterly".
But even though they're well-intentioned and hard-working, doing these things barely touches the ONE issue that will most likely throw their offer at a top consulting firm to the garbage.
And that reason is on plain sight...
The truth about consulting rejections
Ask any case interview expert or seasoned interviewer at a consulting firm and they will give you a laundry list of skills that you need to show during the case in order to succeed:
- You need to be great at asking good questions, but don't forget to bring your own perspective to the table
- You must always be structured, but make sure you're not "overprepared" and/or sound like a robot
- You need to know the core consulting frameworks, but make sure you don't use them in a way that makes it obvious to your interviewer (wait, what?)
- Be likeable, try to connect with your interviewer on a human level
- Be professional - speak and act as a professional
Now, all these tips are true and well-meant, but they have a significant flaw: they don't let you focus on what is truly important.
And you want to hear the truth? The vast majority of candidates don't get offers for the very simple reason that they suck at structuring problems.
I mean, they may know 18 different frameworks and they may have practiced 100+ different cases with "advanced" candidates, but they still fumble when they get a problem that they've never seen before...
They still answer questions in an unstructured way when this question comes packaged in a "casual" conversational style...
And guess what? Interviewers know it.
And they take advantage of every bit of that knowledge.
They create unusual cases. They twist usual cases so that they're not so simple anymore. They ask you casual questions within the case (usually Brainstorming questions) to see if you keep thinking in a structured way well after you've presented the initial framework.
Heck, some even ask you to answer their questions without pausing to think, without using pen and paper, just to check if you're able to answer in a structured way naturally.
But, but... Why do they do it? Are they simply wicked creatures that take pleasure in seeing the anguish in your face as you see the chances of you getting the offer to evaporate right in front of your eyes?
Here's the thing... Consultants want to hire other people who can do the consulting job with them.
They want to hire peers.
And to do so, they need people that can think like a consultant when solving their client's business problems. One of the secrets of consultants to solve problems so quickly is that they have their own mental model (which, by the way, is the same regardless of the firm).
Even "The Economist" knows that consultants have a knack on how to make complex problems simpler!
And the cornerstone of any top management consulting firms' problem-solving methods is to structure their problems well.
Not "knowing about a framework" that roughly applies to that problem.
Not "using 'a' structure to solve a problem".
But actually creating a good structure that breaks the specific problem that needs to be solved in a logical, insightful way.
And guess what? Everyone working in a top consulting firm can do it easily and naturally. It's how consultants work, think and speak.
(And my guess is they would breathe in a structured way if they could too!)
"Am I in love?", the consulting version...
Heck, even the support staff (HR, IT, partners' personal assistants) can structure problems better than most candidates - it's really hard to be respected and listened to within a consulting firm if you don't learn to break down problems in a logical way.
But most candidates never learn to do this before their interviews.
And here's the truth: they should.
Structuring is so important in consulting and so few candidates are good at it that, if you show throughout the case that you can naturally think and speak in a structured way, if you show that you can easily break down any problem in a way that makes sense to solve it, all other sins are forgiven.
Made a math mistake? "That's okay, we all get confused with numbers from time to time."
You and your interviewer didn't connect? "Well, maybe the candidate and I just have different personalities, but you know what? I could see him/her fitting in the firm."
I once had a first-round interview at Bain where my feedback was that I should wear a more "neutral" shirt in my final round interviews. Implied in that statement was that (1) if you structure really well you get away with not knowing what to wear (my shirt was indeed ridiculous that day, fashion is not my forte) and (2) she knew I was gonna go to final rounds, even though I still had another first-round and a whole second-round before I got there.
How did she know it? Well, my structuring skills were really strong, and she knew candidates who are strong in this just get the offer.
But I wasn't always good at structuring problems...
When other people saw me passing round after round in each consulting firm I was applying to, when they saw me having to decide whether I was gonna take the offer from McKinsey or the offer from Bain, they all thought I was a "natural".
They thought I had it easy because I had just what these firms were looking for.
But few people knew that I had tried to get a consulting job just a year before and was rejected from every single firm because my structuring wasn't good enough.
The reality was more nuanced: I used to be really bad at structuring problems, and then I learned how to do it.
Notes from the fabled "Red Moleskine" I used to prepare and get offers from McK and Bain after being rejected from 10+ firms. Later I gave this notebook to a friend who used it to get offers from Bain and BCG. He gave it to Julio who used it to get into Bain and later became my partner at Crafting Cases.
And when I did, everything started to make sense. Cases weren't a constant exercise of fear and self-doubt anymore. They started to be fun, engaging problems to be solved.
And the best part?
I knew I could solve any case, no matter how hard, no matter how different from everything that I saw before.
Most people never get to that level. They go through the process hoping for the best, hoping that they'll get a case akin to what they've seen before and that they won't get stuck.
Some people are indeed lucky and never get a situation tougher than the one they practiced for. Others aren't so lucky, get rejected and move on with their life, telling themselves they "just weren't born for consulting".
They tell themselves that maybe if they were taught how to think differently when they were younger, or maybe if they had full-time access to a bunch of MBB consultants that could teach them these skills, then they would get multiple offers and have the career of their dreams.
What few people do is to take control of the situation and learn this skill.
And they don't do that because of 3 deeply held beliefs...
Belief #1: They think knowing a few frameworks from well-known books will do the trick
It's what everyone's doing, they tell themselves...
And I don't blame them. I thought for a long time that mastering the "profitability framework" and the "business situation framework" would be my ticket to a career in solving interesting, billion-dollar problems surrounded by smart people.
What I seemed to forget is that real-life problems worthy of calling a consulting firm can't be solved purely with these pre-made frameworks. They need custom solutions, so it only makes sense that McKinsey and other firms would select people who can come up with these custom, structured solutions.
Wanna hear a hard truth? I once worked with a manager at McKinsey who said he had to reject a candidate "because he was trying to solve his pricing case using Case in Point's framework, while everyone knows that cost-based pricing makes no sense nowadays"
Any problem that can be solved with a generic formula or model doesn't need expensive, world-class consultants.
Belief #2: They think being good at structuring is just for "naturals"
I was guilty of this one too.
Here's the thing: some people are indeed naturals.
They've always thought in a structured way - since they were children. Maybe it's how their brain is wired, maybe they were nurtured in such a way by their parents... I can see how the children of consultants would have an unfair advantage should they pursue the path.
We all start at different levels, but everyone can improve in this. More importantly, everyone who gets to the interview is smart enough to become really good at this.
I am proof that this can be learned.
Guess what? It's normal to not feel "smart" enough if your resources aren't teaching you what you ought to learn...
Most of my peers at McKinsey weren't "naturals", they had learned (and were still improving) it.
And Julio and I have taught hundreds of people who went on to learn it and get their offers, sometimes multiple offers, too.
Belief #3: They think "doing more cases" is the solution to their problems
When you start out and ask people what to do to prepare for your upcoming case interviews, 9 out of 10 candidates will hear that they should read one of the introductory books (Case in Point, Victor Cheng) and practice 10-30 cases.
That's not bad advice, but it's not complete either.
See, if you are indeed a "natural", this may be enough for you. But most people aren't. Heck, most people within McKinsey weren't "naturals" themselves.
And if you are a normal, smart, hard-working human being, doing more and more mock-interviews won't help you improve. Just ask anyone who's practiced 30-40 cases and chances are you'll hear them saying they've "plateaued" and are not learning much from each case anymore.
What's that saying about madness again? About doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
Well, there's reason for that.
When you're starting out, learning the very basics and getting a bunch of practice is the way to go. In that stage, quantity is quality.
So, how do you learn to play basketball? Well, you learn the rules, the basic moves and you start playing.
But if you just do that, you'll reach a plateau very soon. You'll stop improving.
At a certain point, you need technique AND targeted practice.
So in the basketball example, you might want to learn to shoot the ball better. Well, you need to learn the proper technique (one that works well and has been tested by other players) and you need targeted practice (shooting the ball hundreds of times in a controlled environment until you get it right).
Then you go back to court and apply your new shooting skills in a real game scenario.
And here's where most candidates make a mistake - they try to improve their structuring by doing more mock-cases. What they should be doing instead is to get targeted practice and to get detailed feedback to improve their technique.
But hey, it's hard to get targeted practice and really improve your structuring when no one's teaching you how to structure out there, isn't it?