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“Case Interview Frameworks” is one of the most searched phrases in consulting prep. Indeed, it’s one of the core concepts in case interviews that every candidate should understand really well. Simply put, case interview frameworks are like standard templates, used to structure and break down common business problems. Since it’s a template, it is usually very well organized and written. However, as you know, a template won’t fit every situation. You have to choose templates for different purposes and sometimes even customize them.

Common misconceptions:

Myth No.1: The more frameworks I know, the better!
When I was interviewing with the Big 3, I only studied several “building-blocks” frameworks. I emphasized more on the ability to draw specific case interview frameworks suitable to each context. By doing this, I was well prepared for anything the interviewer threw at me.

Myth No.2: There must be a framework out there that fits this case
The truth is: there are a lot of cases to which no framework ever built can be applied.

Myth No.3: The fancier the framework, the more impressed the interviewers are
In actual fact, whether a framework is fancy or not is none of their concern. What would impress them is an appropriate framework that really applies to the provided context.

Myth No.4: The ability to draw frameworks is only relevant to the candidate-led format. In interviewer-led cases, I am not driving… so why should I need the map?
The truth is, in Interviewer-led cases, the interviewer may ask “framework” questions.

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Now, we will start with some comprehensive ones then move to some more generic frameworks.

Comprehensive frameworks

1. Comprehensive framework No.1: Profitability framework
The idea behind this well-known framework is to mathematically break down profit until you have gathered enough information to conclude or to switch to a more qualitative framework. Specifically, in this case interview framework, we break down profit mathematically into Revenue and Cost.Then Revenue can be mathematically split up into Price and Unit Sales, while total cost can be divided into Fixed Cost and Variable Cost.
2. Comprehensive framework No.2: 3C & P
This is an extension of the famous 3C: Customer, Company, and Competition. The P stands for “Product”. Of all the frameworks ever developed, this is probably the most comprehensive and applicable. This can be applied to almost all cases. Like most things in life, there are always 2 sides of the same coin. Along with its applicability is its unfortunate generic nature. A really high level of customization and flexibility is needed to successfully use this framework. I have seen so many candidates mechanically apply this framework without thorough consideration of the specific situation. 
3. Comprehensive framework No.3: McKinsey M&A framework
There are 3 major aspects:
  • First, how is the targeted company doing? What are their values, core strengths & weakness? Etc. The term we at McKinsey often refer to this bucket is: “the stand-alone value” of the targeted company.
  • Second, is it a good fit? Collectively, is the whole better than the sum of each individual company?… And the official term for this is: “Synergy”.
  • The third bucket is for any other miscellaneous factors such as: feasibility, culture fit, legal issues, etc. 

Mini frameworks

1. Mini framework No.1: External & Internal
This is one of the most popular mini frameworks out there. When you need instant structure or when you are not sure which approach to use, breaking down factors into external and internal groups is a good place to start. The “internal” often refers to the company itself, but sometimes it can refer to individuals, a department, or any entity. The “external” then refers to anything outside of that entity. 
2. Mini framework No.2: Qualitative & Quantitative
Though it can be widely used in various contexts for instant structure, this framework is particularly good at structuring reasons and evaluations. For example, in an M&A analysis, you were evaluating the stand-alone value of company A. How are you going to structure your analysis?A very good way is to divide your work into two groups. You would look at quantitative factors like profit, growth rate, leverage, etc. Then on top of these are qualitative factors such as: brand name, capability, etc. 
3. Mini framework No.3: Cost & Benefit
Like other mini frameworks, this one can be applied in many different contexts. However, the Cost & Benefit framework is particularly helpful in decision making. 
4. Mini framework No.4: BCG 2×2 framework
Let’s say we have 5 business lines, and we would like to focus on just a few based on 2 factors: how profitable they are and how much intangible benefit they are creating for the company? We would then draw a “scatter-plot-like diagram“, put the two evaluating factors on two axes. Give it a scale, then place 5 business lines into it. Now the picture hopefully gives us a better idea on how we should approach with these 5 lines. Sometimes, even before placing the 5 dots into the plot, we identify up front the nature of the four areas. The top-right corner can be called “super-star“. The bottom-left corner is “consider closing“. The top-left corner is for lines to focus in capital-constrained periods while the bottom-right corner contains lines only kept for socially-focused and financially-sound companies. 
If you are new to Consulting Case Interview Prep, these concepts can be difficult and confusing. It is very important to be patient and try to get a little better at this every day. Everything is hard until you know how to do it! If you wish to look at examples of real cases and how different frameworks are used, you are welcome to join me and hundreds of other candidates around the world in our Case Interview End-to-end Secrets program. Hope to see you there!

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Tags: Case Interview practice, Case Interview Example, Case Study Interview, Case Interview Questions, Case Interview Prep

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  • Jason Chaw

    Short and easy to understand. Your article really shed light on many misconceptions of framework using, also very applicable too. Thanks Kim!

  • Lynn Phan

    I think most of us have these misconceptions. Thanks so much for pointing out Kim!