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How to be a great case interview partner

Kenton Kivestu, ex-Google, ex-BCG, Founder at RocketBlocks
Published: April 23, 2020

We've put together a simple checklist for how to be a great peer partner on RocketBlocks.

There are five key steps:

  1. Study the interview format
  2. Learn 2-3 specific case(s)
  3. Make yourself a grading rubric
  4. Give honest feedback, kindly
  5. Be a good citizen

#1: Study the interview format

If you're doing your first RocketBlocks peer session, congrats!

First, familiarize yourself with what a case interview looks and feels like. Below, we've included a "straw man" outline:

PhaseLengthKey components
Case introduction & structuring~5 minutes
  • Interviewer introduces the case scenario
  • Candidate clarifies basics about the scenario
  • Candidate proposes a structure/framework for working through the case
Problem analysis & discussion~20 minutes
  • Candidate analyzes data (eg market sizing, growth forecasts)
  • Candidate probes for insights and relevant info
  • Interviewer provides charts, data, info as appropriate
Conclusion & next steps~5 minutes
  • Candidate states the recommendation and supports with key findings
  • Candidate highlights any key next steps and/or caveats

If you're good here, skip to step #2. If you haven't seen a case before, we recommend checking out our example videos. Part I is below (you can find Part II here and Part III here for more).

#2: Learn 2-3 specific case(s)

When you're giving a case interview to a partner, it's extremely helpful to give a case that you know well.

To learn a case, we recommend the following:

  1. Read the case: just focus on understanding the overall issue
  2. Work through the case: practice each case section and do any necessary math

Knowing the flow of the case and having done the math will make it much easier to be a strong interviewer. You'll be able to course-correct your partner if needed and give hints on math (if needed).

Go through this process with a handful of cases. If possible, always use one of these cases (e.g., assuming your partner hasn't it done it already). Repetition will deepen your understanding of the case and you'll be better at assessing the performance of your peers and providing helpful feedback.

When you're new to giving cases, giving them in an interviewer-led style (where the interviewer leads the candidate through a series of prompts) vs. interviewee-led style can help maintain order.

#3: Make yourself a grading rubric

Build yourself a common grading rubric to use when you're assessing your peers.

This will focus your attention on where your peer is succeeding (or not) and enable you to give clear, actionable feedback once the session is over. Here is a sample rubric you can use (more examples here):

  • Structuring (e.g., well structured, logical and easy to follow)
  • Quantitative (e.g., quick math, accuracy, analysis of charts and data)
  • Communication (e.g., clear, brings interviewer along with them)
  • Creativity (e.g., goes beyond the obvious solutions)
  • Style (e.g., tone, energy-level, enthusiasm for problem solving)

Over time, you can evolve and tweak your rubric but the aforementioned starting point will help you provide good, clear feedback to your partner.

#4: Give honest feedback, kindly

First, be considerate of the fact that everyone is at a different stage of their preparation journey.

Second, remind your peer that you're sharing feedback to help them improve. This helps them get ready to receive feedback and makes it easier for you to deliver honest feedback - which can be really hard especially when you've just met someone!

Third, for each piece of constructive feedback (e.g., "Your mental math performance was a little slow") try to provide a helpful benchmark that puts the feedback in context (e.g., "Other peers I've given this case to took ~2 minutes on the math and I think you took around ~5"). The more you've given a specific case, the easier this becomes.

Finally, if you've got any useful tips for how to improve on a particular skill or pain point a peer is facing, let them know. And remember, a core part of succeeding as a consultant and moving into team leadership roles is being able to provide good feedback - this is a great time to start building that muscle!

#5: Be a good citizen

Remember, everyone is busy and apply the golden rule: treat your peers as you'd like to be treated.

Tactically, this means making sure you've got a case ready, ensuring you've got a strong internet connection and blocking off enough time (1.5 hrs) to give and receive a case.

In addition, please keep in mind that cancelations, especially last minute cancelations, can really throw a peer's schedule through a loop. No one likes to wake up at 6:30AM PT to find that their peer partner canceled a meeting two hours before it was scheduled!

Finally, have fun! The skills you pick up in case interview practice will serve you well in your interviews, on the job and in life.

P.S. Are you preparing for consulting interviews?

Real interview drills. Sample answers from ex-McKinsey, BCG and Bain consultants. Plus technique overviews and premium 1-on-1 Expert coaching.