It's no secret that leading consulting firms use case interviews to evaluate candidates before extending offers. But over the last several years, group case interviews have become more common at top firms like McKinsey, Deloitte, and EY.
Group case interviews demand the same analytical and communication skills as normal case interviews, but they take things a step further. They also evaluate a candidate's ability to work well with others in a high-pressure team environment.
In this guide, we'll examine group case interviews, their different formats, and key tips you can use to maximise your chances of getting a job offer. Here's an overview:
- What is a group case interview?
- Group case interview process
- Group case interview preparation
- Group case interview tips
- Group case interview examples
1. What is a group case interview? ↑
A group case interview is a case interview performed by a team of 3-6 candidates. The cases themselves are similar to what you'd find in a normal case interview, but the added challenge is solving it collaboratively as a team.
Group case interviews are usually not used in the first round and typically come up in the second or final round of interviews. For example, PWC uses group case interviews for their Super Day (e.g. Assessment Centre), which is usually held during the second round of interviews.
To fully understand group case interviews, it's critical to first understand normal case interviews. If you'd like to learn more about the fundamentals of case interviews, check out our ultimate guide to case interviews.
Like in normal case interviews, the quality of your analysis and communication will be important in group case interviews. But, you will also be evaluated on additional collaboration and interpersonal skills.
You should approach a group case interview like you're solving a real business problem with your team. Don't focus on the fact that you are competing with the other candidates. Instead, concentrate on working together to come up with the best solution possible.
The consulting firm may actually award multiple offers to members of your group, so your first priority should be developing a great solution.
As a general rule, if something would be helpful and positive in a real work environment, it will probably reflect well on you during a group case interview. Similarly, if something would be rude or unhelpful in the real world, don't do it during your interview.
Let's now look at the process you can expect when facing a group case interview.
2. Group case interview process ↑
A. Types of group case interviews
First, it's important to know that there are different types of group case interviews. Each firm, and even different internal groups or geographies, may approach group interviews differently. But in our experience, there are two primary formats:
- Interview format
- Presentation format
The interview format uses a similar style of questions as normal case interviews. But with these, you would be working through the process with a group of 2-5 other candidates.
Presentation format requires you to analyse provided materials, in order to prepare a presentation with your group. After preparing, your team will present to a panel of interviewers, who will typically ask follow-up questions for a few minutes.
To further clarify the process, let's look at each of these two formats in more detail. Before you read the snapshot of each format below, it's worth noting that the details can vary, so check with your recruiter ahead of time if you're already in the application process.
B. Interview format
Here's a snapshot of what you can typically expect with the interview-format, group case interview:
- Candidates get divided into groups of 3 to 6
- Each group is given information about a case (i.e. a client facing a problem)
- You are given 10 minutes to review the materials by yourself or with another person in your group
- You are then asked to discuss a few questions with your group, for about 20 minutes in front of your interviewers
- Finally, the interviewers will ask a few questions to the group for 15 to 20 minutes
Okay, now let's take a look at the presentation format, which has some similarities and also important differences.
C. Presentation format
Here's what you can typically expect with a presentation-format, group case interview:
- Candidates get divided into groups of 3 to 6
- Each group is given information about a case (i.e. a client facing a problem)
- You are given 1 hour to review, and prepare a group presentation
- An interviewer will watch during your prep time, but they won't intervene
- Your group delivers a 15-minute presentation to a panel of interviewers
- After you present, the interviewers will ask questions for 15-20 minutes
After reviewing the details on each format above, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect in your upcoming group case interview. As an additional note, for any type of case interview where you need to analyse written case materials, you may benefit from the tips outlined in our written case interview guide. Now let's turn our attention to preparation.
3. Group case interview preparation ↑
There are a few things you should do to prepare for your group case interview, that can make a huge difference in your performance.
Some of these steps apply to both group case interviews and normal case interviews, while others are specific to group case interviews.
Use the steps below, to help you maximise your chances of success:
A. Become really confident at maths.
Similar to normal case interviews, being able to perform maths calculations quickly and accurately, can mean the difference between an offer and no offer.
Check out our free guide for case interview maths if you'd like to learn more.
B. Develop a consistent method for cracking cases.
If you can't solve a case on your own, you probably won't know where to start in a group case interview. So it's important that you have this foundation.
C. Practice cases out loud.
For a group case interview, the ideal preparation would be to do mock interviews with a group of 3-5 other people. This might be possible if you are in a consulting club, professional organisation, or if you have a great network.
However, if this isn't realistic for you, you can still practice by yourself. Just ask and answer case questions out loud. This may feel odd at first, but it will help you hone your thinking and communication.
D. Learn from every mistake you make
During practice for both group case interviews and normal case interviews, you'll want to go for quality over quantity.
For example, successful candidates find it more valuable to do 20 cases thoughtfully than to rush through 40 cases.
A great way to do this is by keeping a notebook, where you write down mistakes and improvement opportunities after each case. Then you can check your progress by re-doing old cases later. This will help you make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
E. Learn how you come across to others
A central focus of group case interviews is to evaluate interpersonal skills. You'll want to put your best foot forward and come across as someone the interviewers would like to work with.
It's very difficult to objectively evaluate your own tone and communication style. As a result, it can be really helpful to ask friends and colleagues for feedback.
Ask them to be honest, and you may be surprised what you learn. Now is the time to identify if you have any tendencies that sound abrasive, dismissive, etc. You'll want to be aware of these, so you can work on them before your interview.
F. Practice the art of debate
I would consider this an optional preparation step, but it could give you a leg-up on your competition.
An important skill for a group case interview is the ability to persuade others with grace and supporting evidence. Great consultants are skilled at communicating with tact and can disagree with a client in a way that creates a positive impression.
A good way to practice this type of communication is through academic style debate. Perhaps you can get involved with a local debate club, or participate in a Toastmasters event. Or, simply initiate a discussion with a friend.
4. Group case interview tips ↑
Now that we've reviewed preparation steps, let's turn our focus to the day of the interview. Here are 8 tips to follow during your group case interview, that can really set you apart from other candidates.
Tip #1: Speak with a purpose
A lot of candidates will want to speak their mind as they know participating is important. But, participation alone is not enough.
The QUALITY of your input is crucial. Sometimes, it's better to let two or three people speak first, and then make a very thoughtful point based on how they started the discussion.
Focus more on the quality of your input, and less on the quantity.
Tip #2: Involve everyone
Keep an eye on who's participating in the conversation and who's not.
If you identify a member of the group who's struggling to make themselves heard, you should not hesitate to help them by saying something like: "We haven't heard everyone's opinion on this yet. John, Rebecca what do you think?".
This is a sign of leadership, and will also help you develop a more thoughtful and balanced solution.
Tip #3: Summarise
Plan to summarise key points. This can be done during team discussion, when answering case questions, or when delivering a presentation.
Summarising will position you as the person bringing everyone together. It will also contribute to better alignment within the group and clearer communication with interviewers.
This is a skill used by partners in real-world conversations with clients. You should aim to do this at least once or twice during your interview.
Tip #4: Anticipate questions
This is most helpful for interviews that include a group presentation. However, it could also help you prepare for follow-ups to a normal case question.
While preparing your analysis, you may notice some weaknesses. It's good to carve out a couple of minutes, to think through potential challenges from the interviewers.
It can also be helpful to ask yourself questions, like "if I was hearing this for the first time, what would I ask about?". The interviewers won't always ask the questions you most expect, but if they do, you'll be prepared with a thoughtful response.
Tip #5: Don't be easy to read
A group interview is a good time to use your poker face.
Everyone is stressed, but you need to come across as confident. A good way to do this is to focus on basic body language: look at people in the eye, sit confidently, don't cross your arms, etc.
Tip #6: Don't Interrupt others
Consultants need to be client-friendly, and interrupting someone in a discussion is not client-friendly at all.
You should listen carefully to what others are saying. Try to have a genuine interest in what they think. Before making your point, summarise their point to show that you understand what they mean.
Tip #7: Don't spend too much time reading
It's important to understand the case materials, but if you're not careful it could consume your full preparation time.
A great way to prepare efficiently is to first scan through the provided materials and form one or two initial hypotheses. Then you can search for specific data points that confirm or disprove it before you finalise your approach.
Tip #8: Don't dominate speaking time
Some candidates are so eager to participate that they end up completely dominating the rest of the group without realising it. Don't be that person!
A practical way of avoiding this is to keep an eye on how much time you talk. If you are in a 5-person group you should aim to speak 20% (1/5th) of the time and really no more than 25%.
Interviewers pay close attention to this, so be intentional about balancing your speaking time. Not too much, not too little.
5. Group case interview examples ↑
At the end of the day, a business case is a business case.
You may solve the case independently or with a team. The content will vary, and the amount of data provided can differ, but the basic premise remains the same.
As a result, you can prepare for a group case interview, by practicing with cases from normal case interviews.
When searching for sample cases, it can be really difficult to know where to start. Especially when the quality of cases is unclear. That's why we put together this list of the best free practice cases available.
It contains links to cases provided directly by leading consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, and more. It also contains case books from consulting clubs at leading target schools, like Harvard, London Business School, and MIT. This list is a great place to go for example cases.
6. Mock interviews
The best way to improve at case interviews is to practise interviewing out loud, and you can do that in three main ways:
- Interview yourself (out loud)
- Practise interviewing with friends or family
- Practise interviewing with ex-interviewers
Practising by yourself is a great way to get started, and can help you get more comfortable with the flow of a case interview. However, this type of practice won’t prepare you for realistic interview conditions.
After getting some practice on your own, you should find someone who can do a mock interview with you, like a friend or family member.
We’d also recommend that you practise 1-1 with ex-interviewers from top consulting firms. This is the best way to replicate the conditions of a real case interview, and to get feedback from someone who understands the process extremely well.