PWC (Strategy&) case interview: the only post you'll need to read

Interviewing at PWC and their strategy subsidiary (Strategy&) is very challenging compared to the interviews at a typical corporate firm. PWC uses a combination of case interviews, written presentations, and group case interviews to evaluate candidates.

This may sound overwhelming, but don't worry. We've put together the ultimate guide to PWC's recruitment process. With the information and resources below, you'll be one step closer to landing a job offer. 

1. PWC consulting is bigger than all the MBB firms

When it comes to consulting, PWC is a juggernaut. With $14bn in consulting revenue in 2018, PWC's consulting business line is bigger than McKinsey ($10bn), BCG ($6bn) or Bain ($4bn). 

    Perhaps the most incredible thing about PWC's consulting business, is how quickly it's been re-built. Just a few years ago (2002), PWC sold it's full consulting division to IBM. This came after the Sarbanes Oxley Act was passed by the US government, which imposed restrictions on the consulting activities of the Big 4 accounting firms.

    The re-establishment of PWC's consulting business has been driven primarily through acquisitions. This includes the acquisition of Booz & Company in 2014, which formed the PWC group known as Strategy&.

    PWC divides their consulting business into 2 primary branches.

    1. Strategy& focuses on executive level strategy, including capability identification, operating model, and market position. It also advises on creating growth, by increasing margins, reducing costs, and driving lean operations. 
      1. PWC Consulting focuses on digital strategy, implementation of technology tools, and integration and innovation programmes. But also M&A strategy, executing deals, restructuring organizations, and implementing post-merger improvements.

        The work you'd do in the Strategy& branch of PWC, is very similar to the work you'd find at McKinsey, BCG or Bain. Whereas the work you'd be doing in PWC Consulting is closer to the type of consulting the other Big 4 firms do.

         2. PWC (Strategy&) interview process overview

         PWC Consulting and Strategy& use 4 steps in their recruitment process:

        1. Resume and cover letter screening
        2. Online assessment tests
        3. First round interviews
        4. Second round interviews

        This is a useful overview, but keep in mind that each step may vary based on location and role. It's always a good idea to check with your HR contact, to get more specific details based on your interview track. 

        Generally, your first step will be nailing your resume and cover letter. The recruiter will be looking for specific things on your application, including problem solving and leadership skills. To optimise your documents, check out our resources for consulting resumes and cover letters.

        After the initial application, you'll face the online assessment. The assessment may be one or multiple tests. To get through to the next round, you'll need to score better than at least 50% of applicants (50th+ percentile).

        The first round interviews are typically focused on behavioral questions, but often include a case interview as well. In fact, some applicants have reported unexpected cases showing up in an interview that was advertised as behavioral. So be prepared for anything! 

        Second round interviews are usually a "Super Day", OR a case presentation. Note that the term "Super Day" is usually used in the US, and the term "Assessment Centre" is more common in Europe. 

        See an overview below:

        • Super Day (Assessment Centre)
          • All-day evaluation at a PWC facility
          • 2 behavioral interviews
          • 1-2 standard case interviews
          • 1 group case interview
        • Case presentation
          • Receive a case from the recruiter
          • Prepare a PPT deck with your analysis
          • Present in-person and engage in Q&A

        In the following sections, we'll provide more details on the recruitment steps for PWC Consulting and Strategy&, including tips and resources for how to prepare.

        3. PWC (Strategy&) online assessment tests

        If your resume and cover letter get through, you'll move on to the online assessment.  Many consultancies are using aptitude and problem solving tests to screen candidates. Here's a snapshot of the assessment tests used at PWC Consulting (note: you can expect similar tests at Strategy&).

        PWC (Strategy&) Online Assessments

        A lot of candidates are eliminated at this stage, so it's a great opportunity for you to get a leg-up on the competition. With the right preparation, you can crack the online tests and give your application a huge boost.

        The tests used by PWC Consulting and Strategy& are similar to the McKinsey PST and BCG Potential Test. If you want to accelerate your preparation, you can check out our training programmes for these two tests here and here

        PWC also has a few practice questions on their website here, and here.

        4. Top behavioral interview questions asked at PWC (Strategy&)

        Behavioural interview questions asked at PWC Consulting and Strategy& fall into two main categories:

        1. Fit questions. These are generic questions such as “Why consulting?” or “Why PWC?”.
        2. Personal Experience Interview (PEI) questions. These are questions such as “Tell me about a time when you lead a team through a difficult situation.” Or “Tell me about a time where you had to manage a team conflict”

          We've written extensively about consulting fit / PEI questions in the past. But in summary here are the top 5 fit and PEI questions you should prepare for at PWC, Strategy&, or other consulting firms.

          Top 5 fit questions:

          • Why PWC?
          • Why consulting?
          • Walk me through your resume
          • Tell me about something not on your resume
          • Tell me about your greatest accomplishment

          Top 5 PEI questions. Tell me about a time when ...

          • You lead a team through a difficult situation
          • You worked in a team and had to manage a conflict
          • You had a disagreement with a colleague / boss
          • You had to change someone's / a group's mind
          • You overcame a really difficult challenge

          If you would like guidance on how to answer PEI questions, you can check our article on the topic here.

          Now, let's crack some cases!

          5. PWC (Strategy&) case interviews

          Case interviews at PWC Consulting and Strategy& are candidate-led. The style is similar to what you will experience in a BCG case interview or a Bain case interview.

          For a candidate-led case interview, there are 7 types of questions you need to prepare for:

          • Situation
          • Framework development
          • Framework exploration
          • Quant question – Data provided
          • Quant question – No data provided
          • Creativity question
          • Recommendation

          You can read more about these 7 types of questions in our article on case interview questions types. You can also get a sense of what candidate-led case interviews are like, using the video below. As we mentioned, case interviews at PWC Consulting (and Strategy&) are typically candidate-led and therefore use the same format as BCG and Bain.

          6. PWC (Strategy&) group case interviews

          As mentioned in the overview above, group case interviews are sometimes used in the second round at PWC Consulting and Strategy&. Here is the key information you need to be aware of for this type of interview:

          • Candidates get divided into groups of 4 to 6
          • Each group is given information about a case (i.e. a client facing a problem)
          • You are given 10mins to review the materials by yourself or with another person in your group
          • You are then asked to discuss a few questions about the case for 20mins with the rest of your group in front of your interviewers
          • The interviewers will ask a few questions to the group for 15 to 20mins

          This type of case mainly tests your ability to work with others. Interviewers won't intervene during the group discussion. They will just observe the group dynamics and mark each participant based on how they are contributing to the discussion.

          Here are the top 3 things you should aim to do in your group interview:

          • Speak with a purpose. At the beginning of a group discussion, a lot of candidates will want to speak their mind as they know participating is important. But participating is not enough. The QUALITY of your input is crucial. Sometimes, it's better to let two or three people get the discussion started. And to then make a very thoughtful point based on how they started the discussion. Focus on the quality of your input, not the quantity.
          • Involve everyone. Another tip that's easy to apply is to 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 be heard by saying something like: "We haven't heard everyone's opinion on this yet. John, Rebecca what do you think?"
          • Summarise. Finally, at the end of the 20 minutes group discussion it's a good idea to summarise the different points people have made. This will position you as the person bringing everyone together and making sure all candidates are on the same page. It is something some partners in consulting like doing with clients in real life and will therefore reflect positively on you.

          And the top 3 things you should really avoid doing:

          • Being easy to read. Group interviews is the time to put your poker face on. Everyone is stressed in a group interview. But you need to try your best 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.
          • Interrupting 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.
          • Dominating the conversation. Finally, some candidates are so eager to participate in the conversation that they end up completely dominating the rest of the group without realising it. A good tip to avoid 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%.

          Your performance in regular and group case interviews will play a big role in the firm's decision to give you an offer. If you'd like to learn more about group case interviews, check-out our separate detailed guide here.

          7. PWC (Strategy&) case presentations

          The final type of case interview used by PWC Consulting, is a written case presentation.

          Here's a quick overview of what to expect:

          • Receive the case 2 days in advance
          • Prepare PPT slides with your recommendations and supporting data
          • On the day of your interview, you'll have a...
            • 15-30 minute rehearsed presentation
            • 15-30 minute Q&A discussion with the interviewer

          PWC Consulting does written cases a bit differently than other firms. For example, BCG would only give you 1-2 hours to prepare, but PWC Consulting sends the case 48 hours in advance. 

          For this type of interview, Strategy& more closely resembles BCG and Bain, because they may not provide the case until you're at the interview location. 

          As a note, a written case presentation is MUCH different than a normal case interview, so don't think you can get through on your normal case interview skills. In order to prepare, we recommend you study our in-depth written case interview guide.

          8. Become really confident at maths

          You have a calculator on your phone, we get it. But unfortunately, you won’t be able to use it in your PWC or Strategy& interview. Your recruiter will expect you to do mental maths calculations quickly and accurately.

          In our experience the best candidates brush up ahead of their interview, so they can have confidence in their maths skills. If you do the same, this will give you a polished reaction during interviews, which recruiters will notice.

          This refresher is well worth it. We’ve helped over 30,000 applicants, and those who get offers in consulting, usually begin with maths preparation. This is the first step candidates take when they enroll in our case interview training programme.

          9. Develop a consistent method to crack cases

          One of the hardest things about interviewing with companies like PWC Consulting and Strategy&, are the case interviews. Depending on the specific job, you might have as many as 5-10 interviews!

          As a result, it’s critical for you to have a consistent approach for cracking cases. Case interviews can be broken down into very specific types of questions, including the following:

          1. Situation.
          2. Framework development.
          3. Framework exploration.
          4. Quant question (with and without data).
          5. Creativity question and recommendation.

          If you can crack each type of question (within a case), then you can crack the case.

          At IGotAnOffer, we were frustrated with the absence of a consistent approach for solving case questions. This is why we created a step-by-step method to solve cases that we teach in our case interview training programme.

          10. Practice cases out loud

          Thinking about your answer, is only half the battle in case interviews. The second half is communicating your answer in a clear and structured way.

          A great way to practice this, is to do case interviews with friends or with former consultants who do coaching interviews. However, this isn’t always possible.

          So we encourage you to practice out loud. Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer. That means you should ask questions and answer them (out loud), in the same way two people would do in an interview.

          This will feel odd at first. But trust us, in our experience candidates who use this approach are much more likely to get an offer.

          11. Learn from every mistake you make

          Successful candidates find it more valuable to do 20 cases thoughtfully, than to rush through 40 cases.

          Sure, there is a minimum number of hours you need to put-in, to develop good case interview habits (probably ~30h+). However, you should go for quality over quantity.

          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. For example, after you have done case #20, you could go back to case #1, to make sure you are not repeating the same mistakes.

          This will help you make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

          Additional resources

          If you would like to fast track your case interview preparation and maximise your chances of getting an offer at PWC / Strategy& come and train with us. More than 80% of the candidates training with our case interview programmes end up getting an offer at their target firm. We know this because we give half of their money back to people who don't.

          You can find a link to our BCG & Bain Case Interview Training Programme below. As mentioned previously, PWC / Strategy& use the same type of case interviews as BCG and Bain. So you can therefore use that programme to prepare for PWC / Strategy&.

          BCG & Bain Case Interview Training Programme

          BCG & Bain case interview training programme

          Any questions about PWC case interviews?

          If you have any questions about case interviews, do not hesitate to ask them below and we will be more than happy to answer them. All questions are good questions, so go ahead!

          The IGotAnOffer team