Posts Tagged ‘interview tips’


Famous sketch note artist, Sacha Chua, put together the ultimate product manager interview cheat sheet. This beautiful one-page visual summarizes tips, advice, and framework from my book, Decode and Conquer, the world’s first book focused on product management interview preparation.

Sacha’s cheat sheet covers all the goodies from the book:

  • CIRCLES Method™ for answering product design questions
  • AARM Method™ for answering metrics questions
  • DIGS Method™ for answering behavioral interview questions

And her cheat sheet doesn’t stop there. It has reminders on how to solve technical, estimation, strategy, and stress interview questions.

There wasn’t enough room to fit all the interview answers from the book, so do check out Decode and Conquer.


Thank you everyone for all the positive feedback, comments, and suggestions on this article since I published it back in September 2013.

I’ve updated this article to reflect the latest questions, interview reports, and comments I’ve received about the Google product manager process through Impact Interview’s 1:1 work with clients.

You can find the updated article and tips at this new location:

How to Prepare for the Google Product Manager Interview

Photo Credit: Antonio Manfredonio


Source: Interview Math Book, Market Sizing Example

What are estimation questions?

Estimation questions test your ability to approximate a value. Here are some examples one might encounter in an interview:

  • What is the market size of disposable diapers in China?
  • Estimate annual sales for Starbucks’ retail stores in the United States.
  • Estimate summer sales of Disneyland tickets in the United States.

Some candidates refer to estimation questions by its catchier portmanteau, guesstimates.

What are the different types of estimation questions?

There are different types of estimation questions; market sizing and revenue estimations are two of the most common.

What is a market sizing question?

In the phrase “market sizing questions,” “market size” refers to a total addressable market. That is, what would be a company’s revenue if it had 100% market share of a category? For example, an interviewer may ask you the following market sizing estimation question: “What is the market size of disposable diapers in China?”

Market size is usually stated in terms of revenue, but some interviewers may define it in terms of units sold. To minimize miscommunication, clarify with the interviewer.

Examples of market sizing questions include:

  • What is the market size of women’s rain boots in Seattle?
  • What is the market size of toothbrushes in the United States?
  • What is the market size of real Christmas trees in the United States?

What is a revenue estimation question?

For revenue estimations, a candidate is expected to calculate company, product, or service revenues.

Examples of revenue estimation questions include:

  • Estimate annual sales for Subway restaurants in the United States.
  • Estimate annual sales of Target’s brick-and-mortar stores in the United States.
  • Estimate annual sales of Netflix online streaming subscriptions in the United States.

Why do interviewers ask these questions?

Interviewers use estimation questions to evaluate a candidate’s:

  • Problem solving skills. Can a candidate take an unfamiliar problem and develop a plan to solve it confidently?
  • Communication skills. Can the candidate clearly communicate his or her action plan to the interviewer? Is it easy-to-follow? Or does the interviewer have to ask an excessive number of clarifying questions to unravel the candidate’s thoughts?
  • Analytical dexterity. Can the candidate confidently calculate numbers in real-time? Or is the candidate hesitant? Does the candidate rely on using a calculator or computer to crunch numbers? Or does the candidate needlessly round up numbers to oversimplify calculations?
  • Judgment. Does the candidate choose reasonable assumptions, backed by logical thinking? Or is the candidate too casual and sloppy?

Some may deride estimation interview questions as not having real-world applicability. However, estimation is a skill that helps professionals do their jobs. For example, if you are store keeper, your responsibilities include figuring out how much inventory to order. If you are an equity analyst, you may estimate a firm’s future enterprise value.

Estimation can also help with decision-making. Here is an example: let us say we are evaluating a business decision; we want to open a new McDonald’s in our city. To breakeven, we need to generate $500,000 in sales. There are several McDonalds’ stores already, which means we are not going to get many customers.

Given this constraint, let us say for the sake of argument, we deduced that each visitor needs to spend $150 to breakeven. Yikes! We just identified a flaw in the investment thesis. A typical McDonald’s customer spends $8; getting customers to spend $150 per visit is a big stretch. To summarize, the estimation example showed how our calculations identified a faulty sales per visitor assumption.

What are they looking for in an ideal response?

Here is what interviewers would consider as a top notch answer to an estimation question:

  • Logical plan of action that is easily understood. Interviewers want to feel confident (and you should feel confident too) that you have a clear plan when solving an ambiguous estimation problem. Good candidates communicate a plan that not only gets them to the right answer but also easy for the listener to follow along.
  • Communication skills. Interviewers do not just want to hear the answer. They also want to hear the thinking too. So candidates who silently solve a problem on their own and resurface in five minutes will not do well. Communicating one’s thoughts is critical to sharing knowledge and gaining buy-in to one’s approach.
  • Choose reasonable assumptions with clear explanations. Interviewers would like you to use reasonable assumptions. Silly assumptions such as “there are 100 billion people in the world” show that a candidate is out-of-touch, which minimizes the individual’s credibility with clients, executives, and co-workers. Furthermore, it would be polite to explain why you chose a particular assumption.
  • Accuracy. Some estimations are the basis for decision-making. Thus, accuracy is important. But clearly, accuracy will improve if there is more time to work on it. Given an interview scenario, most interviewers would like candidates to spend at most 15 minutes and as little as 5 minutes on an estimation question. Candidates must tradeoff between accuracy and speed – and get the most accurate response possible in a 10 minute timeframe.

Do you have an example of a market sizing question?

We’ve included two examples of market sizing questions and their solutions:

  1. What is the market size for smartphone cases in the United States?
  2. How many TV ads are shown in the US each day?

You’ll find sample answers for each question at the top and bottom of the article, respectively.

How do I find more market sizing examples?

You can find more market sizing examples from Lewis C. Lin‘s book, Interview Math.


Source: Interview Math Book, Market Sizing Example


If you’re preparing for a product management interview, you’ll encounter case interview questions. I’ve included 12 case interview questions relating to strategic, business, and product design issues here.

Strategic & Business Issues

  • Amazon cannot get enough Nintendo consoles.  What should Amazon do when visitors find that it’s out of stock?
  • There is no That is, citizens in the Czech Republic cannot purchase from Amazon. What issues should Amazon evaluate before deciding whether they should start selling in the Czech Republic?
  • The US government recently submitted a bill to tax all online sales. Pick a pro or con side of the argument, and explain your position.
  • Walk me through Amazon’s marketing plan for the new Xbox.
  • How can Amazon convince users to write more product reviews?
  • Should Amazon decrease payouts to Amazon Associates?
  • What is the lifetime value of a Kindle user?
  • How can Google+ get its users to add more friends to their network? How would that help Google+?
  • Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?
  • Create a mobile app to help adults learn new hobbies.
  • Design a new shopping app.
  • Pick a product from the kitchen and redesign it.

For more PM case interview questions, along with sample answers, check out my book, The Product Manager Interview.

The 20 Best Behavioral Interview Answers

March 27th, 2013 by lewis

SEE ALSO: 10+ Killer Salary Negotiation Scripts

The quickest way to get the hiring manager to say yes to the interview candidate is through behavioral interview stories.  However, there’s one thing that a lot of interview seekers fail to do when they tell their stories at the job interview, they don’t pour in the drama.

Why is it important to tell a story with an emotional hook?  Susan Weinschenk, a designer with a PhD in psychology, explains that anecdotes are always more powerful that just data.  A story invokes empathy, which triggers an emotional reaction.  With emotional reactions, it’ll help people process data and feelings.  It’ll also help activate one’s memory centers.

So when interviewing, always use anecdotes, preferably one with emotion.  Here are 15 of our favorite interview story answers from Quintcareers:

1. Best interview answer: convincing a supervisor

Last summer, I wanted to help organize a summer camp for local low-income children. My supervisor knew the demand would be there but feared we would not have enough staff. I convinced her that since I went to the facility daily, I could network with acquaintances and convince them of the importance of this camp. My supervisor trusted me. We had hundreds of children sign up for the program, and I had reached so many people that we were able fully staff the camp, as well as have a backup supply of people who were willing to volunteer their time and services to the organization.

2. Best interview answer: receiving criticism

Another manager became upset with me since some projects were not being completed. Without discussing the situation with me first, she criticized me in front of one of the employees I directly supervised. I was upset that she made me look bad in front of my workers, but I remained calm and asked her to step into the office so that we could talk about it in more detail. We discussed the problem, and she learned that the non-completion of the tasks was not my fault. Another manager did not receive his instructions telling him the tasks he needed to complete. After that I learned not to jump to conclusions when dealing with others that I work and that sometimes a miscommunication can lead to a much larger problem. I’ve learned to get the complete facts.

3.Best interview answer: coming up with an innovative solution

The trucks at Wal-Mart come loaded by personnel at a distribution center, box-by-box. After receiving a few trucks, I noticed that my employees were unloading broken merchandise that took a lot of time to clean up before the rest of the truck could be finished. The broken glass, paint, or whatever material it was, prevented the employees from proceeding farther into the truck, causing more person-hours than normal. I noticed that the merchandise was broken because heavier boxes were on top of lighter boxes. After a couple of days of this situation, productivity decreasing, I learned that the rest of the stores in my district faced the same problem. As a result, I asked each store to take pictures of the mess so the distribution centers could see exactly what was happening. I also asked each one to write down how many additional person-hours it took to clean up the mess. After we gathered this information for a four-week period, we had a pretty a good estimate of how much the company was losing, approximately $9.50 per person-hour… an average of $125 per store times 15 stores times 30 nights a month, amounts to a substantial sum. We took the information as a group to our district manager. Once he realized how much money his district was losing each month because of broken merchandise in the trucks, he contacted his regional manager, and the trucks after that were loaded more carefully. The district made our Profit and Loss the next month by a 9 percent increase.

4. Best interview answer: getting along with others

When I worked for a law firm, my co-workers and I had a huge mailing to complete. We had the choice of working more efficiently as a team — or individually in a much more time-consuming manner. My two co-workers did not care for each other and they wanted to complete the mail-out on an individual level. When I presented them with the evidence that we would finish at least an hour earlier by working together, they decided that working together was the right path to take. As a result, we finished the mail-out in a short period and could work on other tasks that day.

5. Best interview answer: going above and beyond

The day we had inventory at Best Buy, I worked a 13-hour day. I did this because I knew we were understaffed and that a lot of the lower-level employees who would be working with the inventory team were very nervous about being in charge of the inventory when many of them had never done it before. Conveniently, I used to work for the inventory company that was handling our store, so I still had a fairly deep understanding of their processes and methods. I typically work 8-9 hour shifts, but I stayed longer after my shift to ensure that our lower-level employees felt comfortable and that the inventory got started on time and that it took off in the right direction. I met with a few of these employees, and I told them a few tips on how to solve problems they may encounter, and it worked; they all seemed to feel a little more comfortable. Then I walked the store and made sure that it was presentable for our guests and in case we got a surprise visit from headquarters. I couldn’t stay for the inventory myself because it would’ve put me over my 40 hours for the week, but I was glad I could stay long enough to make everyone feel a little more comfortable, and that I had time to make them all feel appreciated.

6. Best interview answer: showing initiative

During my internship with World Market, we were asked to pick an area or a problem and create a way to improve World Market process. I noticed that our food vendors were not really pulling their weight — with the economic downturn and the price of gas especially, our sales are down right now, which often means decreased payroll — so at this juncture, it was critical that our vendors perform up to par so we didn’t have to waste our payroll hours doing their work. Initially I just wanted to change our vendor survey. The survey had 4 questions for each vendor, who got rated green (good) or red (bad) on each question. So I turned it into 10 questions that each fell under the categories of one of the initial 4 questions. I also changed the rating scale to a 1-5 scale, 1-2 were red, 3-4 were yellow, and 5 was green. I did a Likert scale rather than a simple red, yellow, green concept because I wanted to be better able to track improvement. This didn’t seem like enough to me; I decided there were so many other ways I could tweak the process. So then I created a new vendor scorecard (their feedback — this shows them their weekly ratings in each area) and a new Vendor notes card (this is where any comments go and shows them any specific dates we had problems with their products, like spoiled milk, for example). I also created a new vendor expectations guide that was a little more professional and attuned to be consistent with the changed I made to the survey. Finally I created an idea for development, putting the survey on a hand-held scanning device so the Team Leader in charge of that area of the store could take the scanner around with her as she did the survey, increasing its accuracy. The survey would also show the vendors’ scorecard history (last month, quarterly average, biannual average, and annual average) so we could determine whether or not the vendor was improving.

7. Best interview answer: dealing with a difficult customer

While managing a high-end mall jewelry store in which the clientele are usually quite well-mannered and soft-spoken, I returned from a lunch break to find one of our newer sales associates struggling with an irate and somewhat irrational customer. Voices were escalating, with the customer spewing negative comments that could be heard from within the mall. While maintaining good relationships with our customers is a hallmark of our company, this particular situation was not ordinary by any means. I could tell the sales associate was in over his head with this encounter, so I quickly walked into the conversation — argument — and proceeded to ask the customer several key questions so that I could both calm her down while also discovering more about her situation so that I could then defuse the confrontation and restore order in the store. In the process of talking with her, I found we had a common love of dogs and were able to talk about our dogs — sharing some funny stories — before getting back to her specific problem with the store. In the end, it turns out the company that handles our credit card had been double-billing her account, and I was able to make a phone call and solve her problem.

8. Best interview answer: apologizing for a mistake

Recently I had a situation where I was giving a presentation to a company and one of the upper managers had to step out during my presentation. He returned after I was done and was taking down my setup, and he asked if he could ask a question, I jokingly replied “no more questions” and then offered, “yes, of course, I would be happy to answer a question for you.” Despite the fact that he had laughed at my initial joke, it was clear to me that it had not been received well. I then made certain that I went up to him and apologized and made it clear that I meant no disrespect and that sometimes I just become comfortable with people very quickly. He told me that I needed to be aware of my audience. This is something I have always known, but I believe the sting of this specific event has really brought it to light for me.

9. Best interview answer: dealing with a difficult boss

I had a boss who would micro-manage every single project, often causing missed deadlines and frustration throughout the department. We all worried about our department’s reputation within the organization, but since he was our boss, we felt helpless to try and change anything. It was indeed frustrating knowing you could complete a project on time, only to have your boss need to stop you and question what you were doing and suggest changes. But I got the idea that maybe if I talked with the boss and showed him that we could get more done as a department if we all worked together to have better communications and to trust each other to ask for help and direction when we needed it. Since we worked together, rather than against each other, the boss gained confidence in us to do our jobs, and we were able to do our jobs and also regain the reputation of the department.

10. Best interview answer: biggest accomplishment

Last semester my organization raised more than $1,500 for a local organization, The Children’s Home Society. It was a last-minute fundraiser. We did this over the course of a week, and it was right before the holiday season. There were 16 children who we were looking to help, and the goal of our campus was to raise $200 per child. Ultimately the campus just took the total amount raised and divided it by the number of children; it came out to about $179/child. This money was to help give these underprivileged kids who came from broken homes a good holiday season. What the math comes out to is that we made this happen for approximately 9 children. I was the one who took on this challenge and made and distributed fliers to the business-school faculty. I orchestrated the event, and I like to think that everyone in our organization feels as good about it as I do. I get goose bumps talking about it because it is one of the things of which I am most proud — I really feel like I had a positive impact on a few lives, and that is what I live for — I hope I made others in my organization feel the same. I am fairly certain I did.

11. Best interview answer: ethical dilemma

I worked for a magazine that had two main competitors, and at the time I worked there, the economy was a bit slow, and the competition for readers and advertisers among these three publications was fierce. We had just finished a market-research study that showed that our audience was just a bit larger and more attractive (better educated, higher incomes) than our competition. We sent the good news to our publisher, who called us in for a meeting to tell us he wanted to combine some numbers to make our position appear even stronger — and then put those numbers in an ad campaign touting how much better we were than our competition. We told the publisher that he was mistaken and that you could not combine the numbers the way he suggested, but he replied he knew that, but no one else would, and it would strengthen our position in a bad market. It took a lot of courage, but after the meeting, I went back and talked with him one-on-one so as not to embarrass him in front of my colleagues, and told him that what he was doing was dishonest — and could get us all fired. I knew I risked getting fired for even talking to him this way, but I felt pretty sure he was not dishonest at heart. He did not decide right then, bit he did call back the next day to say he decided not to run the ad.

12. Best interview answer: biggest obstacle

The day after I turned 15 I had to get a job to help support my Mom and myself as my Mom struggled to find employment. During my sophomore year of high school I worked two jobs, approximately 45 hours a week, to help pay the bills. It was tough managing homework, six extracurricular organizations, and two jobs, but in the end I learned a valuable lesson about hard work and the value of a dollar.

13. Best interview answer: dealing with deadlines

While working at K-mart, I was one of three people to work in the electronics department. One day upon arriving at work, I was told the district manager was coming the next day to do a store inspection. The were two other people who worked in electronics. Neither could lift heavy objects, and one refused to work at all. As a result, the electronics department was usually left to me to keep stocked with product and kept in order. I had about five hours of work time to get the entire department in shape. Those five hours passed, and there was still a substantial amount of work to be done. I asked the store manager if I could stay and work after hours while the overnight stockers were there. He said that because of the employment budget, he could not let me. I was faced with bringing the entire store’s rating down, so I suggested a creative staffing solution, allowing me to work the extra hours while temporarily reducing the hours of the other two members of the department. Because of this solution, in a matter of hours, the department was in tip-top shape — and still under budget. And the results? The electronics department got an inspection score of 95 out of 100.

14. Best interview answer: communicating a difficult sitaution

As an Administrative Coordinator, I had a staff of 27 students. Having such a large student staff all working different shifts and having varying class schedules meant that meetings could not be held with everyone at one time. I needed to communicate with everyone about important policies and information often, so I came up with the idea of designing a Web page for my staff with written announcements. Each Desk Assistant was required to check the Web page daily at the beginning of his/her shift. I also sent email communications by a distribution list that allowed each Desk Assistant to keep informed about anything. The one situation that stands out in my mind is a last-minute summer camp that decided to come in a day early with only one day’s notice. I had no staff scheduled to check in the campers or to organize the keys. I posted an update to the Web page and sent an email. Within four hours, I had the following day completely staffed and desk assistants there to organize room keys for the campers that night.

15. Best interview answer: disagreed with a decision

When I worked at Home Depot as an assistant manager, I was always looking for way to boost my employees’ morale. Unloading trucks is a very routine and physical job and can become very boring and exhausting, so to improve the unloaders’ attitude toward their duties and make the best of the situation, I put a radio in the receiving dock. It worked; however, the district manager did not approve of the radio in the workplace even though it did not interfere with any set policy or company objectives. The radio was also out of any areas where customers would hear the music. I did not agree with my DM’s decision to remove the radio; however, I understood his point of view once he explained it to me and promptly complied with his request. The employees were not happy that their radio was gone, so I found an alternative method of reward and morale boosting by implementing a program in which we provided lunch for the unloaders from any restaurant of their choice if they unloaded the trucks faster than normal. This program succeeded by increasing their unloading time from 2 1/2 hours to only 1 1/2, a savings in payroll of 8 percent of sales for that shift.

16. Best interview answer: adapting to a changing situation

The bank in which I worked instituted a policy that centralized the lending process. An application was to be taken from the client and sent off to be approved/declined, processed, prepared, and returned to the branch to be signed by the client. While the process was streamlined, it also took away valuable face-to-face knowledge about the client and the loan. If the employee did not have any prior lending experience, he or she couldn’t answer simple loan questions from the client. While I appreciated the newly created time on my schedule, I felt that the clients were being slighted. I did adjust quickly to the new procedure and did my best to help those around me by sharing my knowledge.

17. Best interview answer: getting along with experienced co-workers

When I first began working at the YMCA, I was the newest member of the staff. A co-worker, who had worked at the YMCA for 20 years, claimed she “knew the ropes” of the place. When I first got there she barely acknowledged my presence, and through word of mouth I discovered that she thought that I was too new to successfully fulfill my duties. She assumed I was immature. So I did my job and took every opportunity to make a good impression. I was a very diligent worker and behaved in a highly professional manner at all times, learning quickly the best way to do things. After about two weeks of the silent treatment from her, she came up to me and told me how impressed she was with me. She told me that I had done an excellent job and was the fastest learner that she had ever seen. She apologized to me for ignoring me and took me under her wing and shared what she knew with me.

18. Best interview answer: suggestions for employer

After examining several sources, including your company’s annual report and Web site, as well as some of your competitors’ sources, I see that you have a strong product line with good demographic segments, in a growing industry. I did notice that your competitors seem to direct more of their efforts to the baby boom market, and while that is certainly a large market for your products, I think you have a great opportunity to expand your target market and increase your market share by marketing your product line to the Baby Boomers’ kids — Generation Y. These teens and preteens are extremely brand-conscious and have a high discretionary income — and you are in a great position to attract them to your product and build a very large core of brand loyal consumers on top of your existing customer base.

19. Best interview answer: keeping track of projects

I keep an electronic hand-held organizer that I synchronize with a schedule on my computer. I keep track of each task in order of priority and due date. I use an electronic organizer because it is very portable and has an alarm to remind me of about what is due so I don’t have to waste time by looking at my organizer every hour. I start with the projects with the closest due date and the highest priority. I take these tasks and then schedule times in my calendar for me to work on them to ensure I meet deadlines. I stay focused by going over my organizer each night before bed so I know immediately what I have accomplished and where I need to start the next day. Here let me show you…

20. Best interview answer: solved a business problem

When I was working as a receptionist at an apartment complex, a tenant argued that he had turned in his rent payment the day it was due. He stated that he had slipped it under the door because our office was closed for the day. I decided to consult my manager because I realized that maybe the office needed a sign that stated that we did not accept rent money that is slipped under the door. My boss agreed, and we posted the sign. We never again had a problem with tenants who claimed they’d paid their rent that way.

127 Brand Management Interview Questions

December 8th, 2012 by lewis


SEE ALSO: Brand Management Interview Questions and Answers

Whether you’re interview with Procter & Gamble, Kraft, or Clorox, the top brand management companies have similar interview processes and questions. To help you get prepared, here’s a list of 127 brand management interview questions. We also have a course on preparing for brand management interviews.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are your goals (short, medium, and long term)? How does our firm fit in with those goals?
  • Why did you choose to attend your school? What are your concentrations? Why did you choose them? What have you learned so far?
  • Why are you interested in marketing? What do you know about marketing? How are you currently preparing for a career in marketing? How do you know you will excel at it?
  • Why are you interested in our organization? What do you know about our organization?
  • What would you contribute to our organization? What unique skills and experiences can you bring to us? Why should we hire you?
  • What personal or professional qualities are you proudest of? How have they helped you achieve your goals?
  • Discuss your career progress to date. How do you feel about it?
  • In your most recent position, what were your most significant accomplishments? What skills did you employ to arrive at those goals?
  • Describe one or two of your most important personal accomplishments. Discuss the hurdles that made them challenging.
  • How do your co-workers describe you? Members of your study groups at school? Your friends?
  • How would you add to the diversity of our organization?
  • Tell me about a time when you were most satisfied in your work. What were you doing? What was the most satisfying?

Communication and Persuasion

  • Discuss examples of situations when you had to persuade a person of a different point of view to agree with you on an issue.
  • What are some of the best ideas you ever sold to a superior or peer? What were your approaches?
  • Describe a time when you had to use several approaches because your initial approach failed to persuade others.
  • Describe your most satisfying experience in attempting to gain upper management’s support of an idea or proposal. What was the situation, and how did that turn out?
  • What oral presentations have you made? What were the most successful? Why?
  • Have you ever done any public speaking? Tell me about one of these events.
  • Give an example of when you made a presentation to an uninterested or hostile audience.
  • What are examples of the most difficult writing assignments you’ve ever had? Why?
  • Describe a time when you had to convince someone, who didn’t directly report to you, to do something they didn’t want to do.
  • Please compare your verbal communication skills to your writing skills. Which skill has most strongly enhanced your career progress? Why? What are specific strengths and weaknesses of your verbal and written skills?
  • Describe an ethical dilemma which you had to face during your career. How did you resolve the issue?
  • Describe your character.
  • Have you ever been involved in a situation in which a co-worker showed dishonesty on the job? If so, how did you deal with that situation?
  • Sometimes strict company rules make it very difficult to get our work done. Can you think of a time when you had to bend a rule to get your work done more efficiently?
  • Have you ever been asked to do something that you didn’t think was right? What did you do?
  • Have you ever been in a meeting when your boss said something to make him/her or you “look good” and you thought the statement was inaccurate? What did you do?
The Organization
  • What are our brands or services?
  • What have you learned about our organization?
  • What have you learned about our organization?
  • What have you heard about our organization that concerned you?
  • What’s the most important thing you would look for in an employer?
  • How did you structure your research about our organization?
  • What was your first impression about our company?
  • What did you think of our corporate presentation?
  • What ideas have you developed that were creative or innovative?
  • It’s difficult to develop new ideas every day, so sometimes it’s important to combine existing ideas creatively to seize a new opportunity. Tell me about a time when you did this successfully.
  • Sell me this pen.
  • Describe a situation in which you worked with others to develop a unique and resourceful solution to a difficult problem. What was your role?
  • Tell me about a time when your standard approach to problem solving didn’t produce the desired solution. What did you do?
  • In your last job, what did you do different from your predecessors? Why?
  • How important is creativity in your personal life? How do you express this?
  • Did you express any new ideas to your boss in the last 6 months of work? What were these ideas and how did your boss respond to them?
  • We all know that some problems just don’t have a solution. Tell me about a problem you tried to solve but couldn’t. What solutions did you try? How did you come up with these solutions.
Business Analysis
  • Discuss a project which best demonstrates your analytical skills.
  • Describe a complicated business analysis issue you have had to deal with on your job or at school, how did you identify or gain a better understanding of the problem?
  • Which type of thinking is more important in marketing – analytical or creative thinking? Why?
  • Describe a situation in which you identified key problems early on in a project and were able to avert a crisis.
  • Describe the steps involved in analyzing a brand’s share declines. Why is each step important?
  • Walk me through a situation in which you had to research and analyze the results for one of your projects.
  • We’ve all had occasions when we were asked for ideas in solving work issues in which we didn’t have much knowledge or experience. What have you done when this has happened?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to analyze or interpret numerical or financial information.
  • Describe a project, situation or assignment that challenged your business analysis skills. How did you handle the situation?
  • What information did you use in choosing your school? And how did you decide to eventually go to that school?
“Marketing” Questions
  • What is the best commercial you’ve seen in the last few months and why do believe that is effective?
  • Briefly describe a marketing plan for yourself.
  • Name some of the most recent new products launched by a consumer products company in the last 6 months? Which of these impressed you? Why? Do you believe that they will be successful in the marketplace?
  • Let’s pretend that today is your first day at work as a brand manager on Brand X. What are the 10 most important questions you would ask to find out most about the brand?
  • If you had your choice among all the brands/products in the United States, which would you want to market? Why? Which would you not want to market? Why?
  • Describe a situation in which you had a conflict with another person in a corporate or school setting, and how you resolved it.
  • Everyone has some development opportunities within his/her leadership style. What are yours? What have you done to overcome them?
  • Accomplishing team goals requires that all team members fulfill their responsibilities. Tell me about a situation in which you have helped to clarify team members’ roles and responsibilities.
  • Discuss some situations in which you successfully supervised a diverse group of people towards a difficult goal. What skills did you employ in supervising them? What did you learn?
  • How would your subordinates describe you as a leader? How would they describe your weaknesses?
  • Describe your leadership style. Do you believe in giving others a free rein, or do you prefer close supervision?
  • Describe a situation in which you had to lead a group towards a goal despite difficult opposition from others.
  • Sometimes team get off track when working toward a specific project or goal. Describe a time when this happened and you had great difficulty in getting your team back on track. What did you do?
  • Describe a situation in which you had to provide constructive feedback to a co-worker or team member.
  • Have you held leadership roles in extracurricular activities? How did you lead? Give me an example.
  • Team members don’t always agree about how to get things done. Tell me about a situation in which you had to resolve disagreements among team members. What did you do?
  • All of us have been in situations where we assigned work to other people and they didn’t follow through. Can you tell me about one of these? Why did it happen? What did you learn from that experience?
  • There are many obstacles that can prevent a team from accomplishing its goals. Describe a time when you were able to remove obstacles so your team could achieve a goal.
  • Think of a time when you had a major role in developing a team that became very successful. What did you do to contribute to the team success?
  • When have you inspired someone to work hard to do a better job? How did you do that?


  • Are you a team leader or follower? Give me examples of your teamwork style.
  • Discuss examples of how you effectively dealt with difficult individuals in your workplace.
  • Tell me about a time you were on a team and had to involve other team members in decisions and actions. What was your approach?
  • Discuss an incident at work where you were angry at someone or at a situation. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a situation in which you were able to build team spirit during a time of low morale.
  • When making decisions, how much consideration do you give the needs/feelings of team members? Give examples.
  • Describe a situation in which other team members views conflicted with your own views. What did you do?
  • Describe a time when you intervened to get your team back on track because they couldn’t resolve or decide on an issue.
  • Describe a situation in which you wished you’d acted differently with someone in your work group. What happened?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with someone who wasn’t as cooperative as you needed him/her to be. What did you do?
  • Have you ever had difficulty in getting along with co-workers? How did you handle the situation?
  • Tell me about some of the toughest groups with which you’ve had to work. What made the group tough? What did you do?
  • Describe the most effective techniques you’ve used to encourage team members to contribute their talents to the team’s function or goal. Give me a specific example of a time when you used one of these techniques.
  • Have you ever been in a group with an unproductive person? How did you handle the situation?
And Finally, Some General Questions
  • What do you do in your free time?
  • What has been the most useful criticism you have ever received?
  • Describe the biggest crisis in your life or your career.
  • What is your biggest disappointment in life?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What motivates you best?
  • What kind of boss gets the best work out of you?
  • Do you feel that your grades at school accurately reflect your abilities?
  • How well do you take criticism? What’s the most painful criticism you have ever received?
  • School can be stressful. What aspect of school is most stressful for you? Why? How do you respond?
  • Tell me about your most spectacular failure.
  • Tell me about a time when you weren’t very pleased with your performance.
  • What are the highest-pressure situations you have been under in recent years? How did you cope with them?
The Strangest Interview Questions
  • “Let’s say I’m an anthropologist. How would you explain the importance of brand management to me?”
  • “Everyone lies on their resume. Where on your resume did you lie? Come on, there must be something!”
  • “Which continent would you like to be and why?”
  • “How would you plot brand management companies on a perceptual map?”
  • “Give me three reasons why we should NOT hire you. Then, give me three reasons why we should hire the person who’s interviewing AFTER you.”
  • “Is money important to you?”
  • “What were your favorite cartoons as a child? How did they shape your character?”
  • “How would you react if we fired you after a week on the job?”
  • “Wow, I really like your shoes. can you take one off and show me what the lining is made of?”
  • “What were you thinking when you were sitting outside waiting of me to call you into my office for this interview?”
  • If you were a piece of art, what kind of art would you be?
  • “I believe that an occasional demonstration of anger on the job is healthy. how do you choose to express anger at work?”
    “Okay, tell me the truth. The fact is, you don’t really want this job, do you?”
Smart Questions to Ask of the Interviewer
  • What is the one thing you would change about the company you work for today?
  • What is your biggest disappointment with this company?
  • What distinguishes your organization from the other packaged good companies?
  • Is your organization growing in just a few areas, or just a few select categories?
  • What would you do differently if you were going through the recruitment process out of school again?
  • Among your company’s marketing managers, what is the balance between internally developed and outside hires?
  • In two years, with a good track record, where do you see me in the company?
  • Describe the training process and the skills the company wants every manager to have. Is there a process in place to ensure that these skills are taught? How often is that process reviewed?
  • What unexpected things have happened to you here at this company?
  • Why did you decide to join this company? Have your expectations been met? Why or why not?
  • Tell me about a typical day here.
  • What is the most exciting thing about your job?

Source: SC Johnson Brand Management Interview Guide

160 Consulting Case Interview Questions

January 5th, 2010 by lewis

SEE ALSO: McKinsey interview questions and answers, BCG interview questions and answers, Bain interview questions and answers

Interviewing at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, or other management consulting firms? Get ready with this list of 160 case interview questions.

Link to:

Market Estimation Questions

  • How many gas stations are there in the US?
  • How many garden hoses were sold in the US last year?
  • How many pairs of boxes are sold in the US each year?
  • How much does a 747 weigh?
  • How many NetFlix DVDs get lost in the mail each year?
  • Estimate the size of the bubble gum market in the US.
  • There were 165,000 American children born with autism last year. What % of the babies born that year are autistic?
  • Estimate how many shoes are sold in the U.S. each year.
  • Estimate the number of gallons of gasoline the typical gas station pumps in a given weekday.
  • Estimate the total industry wide sales of lipstick in the U.S.
  • Estimate how many tires are sold in the U.S. each year.
  • Estimate how much time it would take a single average size dump truck to move an average size mountain from one location to another one located 1 mile away.
  • How many hair salons are there in Japan?
  • How many light bulbs are in this building?
  • How many cars are in Los Angeles?
  • How many airplanes takes off from JFK airport each day?
  • Estimate the frozen banana market in NYC.
  • What should it cost to rent Central Park for commercial purposes?
  • How many cases of Red Bull are sold in San Francisco each day?
  • What is the size of the market for disposable diapers in China?
  • How many golf balls are sold in the U.S. in one year?
  • How many hot dogs are sold on the corner of 76th and Lexington in NYC on a Wednesday in August?
  • How many golf carts are in the US?
  • How long does it take a Starbucks to serve enough coffee to fill the gas tank of a Hummer?
  • Having fallen on hard times, your consulting firm has decided to serve a notorious bank robber. He has asked you to determine how many briefcases he must bring with him in order to steal $10MM in cash, all $100 bills, in bundles of 1,000 bills each.
  • How many unique horse jockeys ride in races in the United States on an average Sunday?
  • How many fire trucks are sold every year?
  • How many personal computers are used in the U.S. today?

Business Case Questions

  • An asteroid is going to hit the earth and destroy 100% of it. You have several options: create a missile to destroy it (blowing it into several particles which will still impact the earth but destroy only 50%), or create a missile to push it out of the way (this only has a 50% chance of working though). Which alternative do you pick?
  • My grandfather had just died and left me an oil tanker. I need a valuation for tax purposes, and I have hired you to tell me what it’s worth.
  • You have been retained joint by a disposable diaper company and a federal commission on waste management. Estimate the volume percentage of disposable diapers in the total U.S. household garbage.
  • Your client, a U.S. firm, owns a meat packing plant in Spain. Over the last few periods profits have steadily declined, despite the fact that sales are growing. You have been hired to figure out why.
  • A corn feed company has eight manufacturing plans located in the Midwest. These plants services the entire U.S. Their plant in Ohio is in need of refurbishing. The company has four possible options: refurbish the existing plant, build a larger plant at the current location, build a similar size plant at a new location, and build a larger plant at a new location.
  • I was sitting in one of Chicago’s new specialty “Cigar Bars” around the end of August with a friend. It was a Saturday night and the weather was fair. While enjoying one of the bar’s finest stogies and sipping a cognac, I asked my friend how much he thought the bar was worth. On the back of the envelope, how would you go about determining the value of this bar?
  • Supplies Mate, a distributor of office supplies in Central London, has experienced declining profitability over the past five years. How can the distributor address this profitability trend? (Accenture)
  • The general manager of a popular ski resort has called on you to help her figure out why her resort has been experiencing declining profits over the past three years. How would you help her?
  • Your client is a large agricultural equipment manufacturer. Their primary product line, farming tractors, is losing money. What questions would you ask of your client to help them solve their profitability problem?
  • How would you determine a pricing strategy for a hotel chain?
  • Should Great Burger acquire Heavenly Donuts as part of its growth strategy?
  • How can Magna Health improve its financial situation?
  • Your client is an energy company that has both an upstream and downstream business. Their upstream business consists of exploration and production while their downstream business includes refining and marketing & distribution. They receive 20% of their revenue and 90% of their profits from the upstream side, 80% of their revenue and 10% of their profits from the downstream side. This is the first meeting you’ve had with them and the focus is on getting the engagement. Keys – Why does upstream, with a small portion of revenues, generate nearly all the profits? Upstream and downstream business run as separate entities and enjoy no special advantages through their relationship. (AT Kearney)
  • Your client is a financial services firm, specifically the Treasury services department. This division has its own software/IT group that created a breakthrough Web case management system that has netted awards and new clients. Your firm recently merged with larger firm that made this platform the enterprise standard. All current clients must migrate to this system while requirements from older clients form a serious backlog. Finally, the new firm is losing market share in its ForEx currency trading operations due to technology-based issues and has fallen from 1st place to 4th worldwide. How do you prioritize these demands and how do you restructure to successfully meet demand? What impact will your recommendations have on the Treasury Services department and on clients? (AT Kearney)
  • Your client is a large electric utility that serves Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas. You have 2 large nuclear plants and are one of the nation’s largest natural gas buyers. The new Chief Procurement Officer. (your client) serves 4 divisions – his own (Procurement) and the Nuclear, Fossil Fuels, and Transmission/Distribution divisions. He wants to know how we can use IT to improve procurements and thus the overall competitive position of the enterprise. (AT Kearney)
  • There is a steel industry and it was the dominant player till 10 years ago. Now market has opened up and competitors have entered. It has four plants each headed by a manager and two divisions of marketing and planning which are run by managers as well. All managers are independent decision makers. Marketing gets an order, gives it to planning and then planning decides which plant to give it to. The problem being faced is that inventory is going up and delivery time is going up thus causing customer dissatisfaction. What do we do? (BCG)
  • Your client is one of the local telephone companies (Bells) and had a regional monopoly. They charged a rate that the government deemed fair. However, the technological boom of the mid-90’s showed that the Bells had become choke points and were inefficient. The government decided to open up the market to competition and tipped the scale in favor of new competitors in 3 ways. 1) They get to choose which segments to serve whereas the local Bell must serve everyone. 2) They can charge any price. 3) They can lease the local Bell’s lines at a price the government deems fair so they don’t have to invest in building infrastructure. The CEO of your client saw this as an opportunity to enter other local Bell’s markets and started a new division with this goal. The new division grew its customer base to 1 million over 2 years, but has lost money the whole time. The CEO now wants to shut down the division. Is this the right thing to do? (BCG)
  • A new product that can be used by firms which lay fiber optic cable over both short and long distances to cut costs. Visual information was provided to show how the product works and also to show how existing methods (PVC pipe instead of the firms new product) work. What is the viability of this technology compared to other existing alternatives? What different markets should be entered? Should the product ultimately be pursued by our firm? (BCG)
  • A steel company in another country was experiencing large amounts of inventory and customers which complained about long wait times for orders. Company used to have a monopoly however deregulation had allowed for competition starting 10 years ago and the firm now had 40% market share. Firm had four plants, two made mostly flat steel products and two made pipe like steel products. For all plants half the products were specialized and half were standard. What should be done to solve the problems? (BCG)
  • Your client is a non-profit hospital. They serve both insured and uninsured patients but their revenue comes from insured patients only. They are concerned because the number of uninsured patients using their services has been increasing. They’ve hired 2 Patient Financial Advocates whose responsibility is to contact these patients to set up payment plans. They receive daily reports with data on uninsured patients treated in the last 7 days. However, they don’t have enough time to contact patients on this list because they are barely able to handle patients being referred to them each day. What should the hospital do?
  • Soybeans are a commodity product. Your client is a soybean manufacturer, which processes soybeans for food and energy. 80% of production is for food, 20% is for energy. The soybeans your client processes are in North America, but majority of energy demand today is in Asia/Pacific. The CEO has hired you, the consultant, to understand what is the most efficient method of delivering the product to Asia. You need to decide whether to process all in North America and then ship to Asia/Pacific, or ship raw to Asia/Pacific and then process (McKinsey)
  • Client, Private Equity Co. (PEC), is looking to acquire Personal Care Co. Personal Care Co. offers a diversified product line of health & beauty products into several market segments. PEC would like to sell the acquisition in 2-3 years for a profit. The new management team PEC would put in place is unsure where to focus Personal Care Co.’s growth efforts and, therefore, which segments to target with new product launches. PEC is asking Bain to provide guidance to help them decide to purchase this firm or not. They also expect Bain to tell them where to focus their efforts.
  • Your client is going to build a skyscraper, but is not sure how many stories to build, how should he/she decide?
  • The NBA is contemplating a bigger expansion into China, should it?
  • A copper mining company is losing money. The CEO asks you to figure out why and what to do about it.
  • A ski resort is having a poor revenue year due to light snowfall. Should it invest in snow making equipment? The CEO asks you to figure out why and what to do about it.
  • For a gas station convenience store, what is the optimal layout for where different types of goods are arranged within the store?
  • A steel manufacturer is contemplating buying one of its competitors. Should it?
  • A bank is considering offer loans to sub-prime borrowers, should it? The CEO of a retail store client is losing money and asks you for help. What do you do?
  • The year is 1980, your client has invented a new piece of office equipment called a fax machine. They are debating whether or not to invest in manufacturing and marketing this product. What factors should they consider and should the launch it or not launch it and why?
  • Your nephew is running a lemonade stand during his spring break. The stand will only be open for the 5 days of his spring break. On Monday, he only sold 3 cups of lemonade. He asks you for help to increase sales, what do you do?
  • A leverage buyout firm is considering buying a company that owns proprietary database of real time Federal Aviation Administration database on every commercial flight in America and its current flight status. Should they buy the company?
  • Your client is a car manufacturer, and it’s revenues are declining. What is the problem, and how would increase revenues?
  • An electronics store’s profits are declining. Determine what the problem is.
  • A city mayor hires you as a consultant, his city population is declining. Describe your preparation for the analysis, the analysis, and approach.
  • The total widget market is $170MM and our sales are $30MM. What % of the market share do we hold?
  • Every three minutes an American woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. How many American women will be diagnosed this year?
  • American Express is facing stiff competition from a host of new credit cards that have no annual fee and low interest rates. In response, American Express is considering dropping its $50 annual fee. What are the economics of dropping the $50 fee?
  • Your client manufactures hair products. It’s thinking about entering the sunscreen market. Is this a good idea?
  • Your client is a retail bank in the U.S. There has been no growth over the last couple of years in the domestic market so you are considering pursuing growth overseas in emerging markets. How would you evaluate whether or not you should enter a given country? What is the potential market in the US? How would you estimate the percent of market to install the device?
  • Your client is an international manufacturer of electronic equipment for industrial customers. The R&D department has developed a new product — a device that could replace all energy costs (electric, gas, etc.) using solar technology. The estimated price to the customer would be $5,000/house, with a pay back in 2 to 3 years. The R & D department says the estimated investment is $100 million.
  • A major furniture retailer has experienced declining profits for four quarters, yet that same time period, it has experienced a 25% growth in sales and has opened many stores. Why are profits declining?
  • A fast food company is thinking about putting a franchise in an airport. They hire you to see if they should do so.
  • A bread division of a large food company is facing increasing competition in its market and wants to know if it should exit the market.
  • A car company is interested in developing a new car. What marketing related issues should it consider before doing so?
  • What factors influence the revenue potential of a new pharmaceutical product?
  • Citibank is considering purchasing another credit card company. If the acquisition is made Citibank will gain access to 100,000 new cardholders. What is the estimated value of this acquisition? A commercial bank is re-evaluating the number of branches it operates, and whether they should increase the number of branches or close some down. How would you suggest they go about it?
  • A large conglomerate company is facing declining profits in its railroad company division and is considering shutting it down. You have been hired to determine if this is the right course of action and identify potential alternatives. New York City has hired you to determine what optimal route or what destination taxi drivers should go to when they do not have a customer.
  • Our client is thinking of acquiring a diversified company that has holidays in three different industries. One of those industries is entertainment. Our client knows nothing about the entertainment industry and has asked us to do an analysis. What do we analyze?
  • Ben & Jerry’s is buying a mid-size cream cheese manufacturer. Does this make sense? What should they be thinking about?
  • Our client has developed a new biodegradable product, which is both a soft drink and a car wax. What should they be thinking about?
  • Our client has developed a new Hollywood screenwriting software package. How are we going to price it? What’s our strategy and why?
  • XYB has a high cash reserve (lots of cash on hand). How can we best use that money to grow the company?
  • Two brothers from Ireland want to start a travel magazine. They’ve come to us for strategic advice and to develop a business plan for getting started. What do you tell them?
  • Sperry Topsider has developed a new non-slip sailing shoe that has been eating into the sales of our bestseller, The Commodore 2000. How can we respond?
  • BBB Electronics wants to increase its sales so it can claim that it is the largest distributor of the K6 double prong lightning rod. How can BBB Electronics reach its goal?
  • A publishing company is having a cash flow problem and needs to reduce its costs, otherwise it will have to lay off staff. How should the company proceed?
  • Our client manufactures high-end athletic footwear. Sales are up but profits are flat. What do we need to look at?
  • AAS Company is in trouble and you’ve been brought in to save it. What do you do?
  • Our client is a major commercial bank in Mexico. Despite the fact that the bank has experience increased revenue growth, for the past two years its profits have declined and even become negative. You have a meeting with the CEO of the bank in a week and you have to come up with answers to two questions: what is the main cause of this decline in profits, and what can we do to restore the bank’s profitability.
  • Our client is a mid-size training company that serves New England and the Atlantic Seaboard regions. It offers a variety of computer training and consulting services. The company just found out that IBM is going to enter into its segment of the market. What does it do?
  • Coca-Cola is trying to boost profitability domestically by raising its prices. It’s focusing on the grocery store market where the volume is high but the margin is low. What are the economics of raising the prices and is this a good idea?
  • DuPont has just invented a lightweight, super-absorbent, biodegradable material that would be perfect for disposable diapers. What should they do with it?
  • Our client is the New York City Opera. They want to develop a growth strategy for the next five years. What would you advise them to look at, and what are your recommendations for growth?
  • Our client is a retailer of fine and expensive oriental rugs in Manhattan. They are experiencing declining profits. Why and what can they do about it?
  • A ski resort profit is declining. They hired you to turn around the company.
  • Should a spirits manufacturer enter a new geographic market?
  • Company A is a luxury boat manufacturer and is debating offering a financing option to customers in order to stimulate sales. (From here he gave a brief overview and some financial data and then asked you to infer based on this data whether this would be a sound decision and what the returns expected might be given different scenarios.)
  • A client company installed an ERP system 3 years ago, spending a cumulative $100M to do so. The CEO asks you, was this a financially sound investment?
  • How would you fight malaria in an African country? Come up with a strategic framework for doing so.
  • Why are XYZ Manufacturing Co.’s profits declining?
  • Should ABC Drug Co. decide to build a remote call center?
  • We are working with the Port Authority of a large city, who is trying to gain some information about the types and patterns of people entering and leaving the city. What should we look for, and what should we do?
  • An elevator company wants to know why their sales have fallen and with it their profits. Quantify the loss they have made. Tell me how we need to get around it.
  • The client is a paper manufacturer. We focus on the paper towel division. Their revenue has been flat. You are hired to help them grow their bottom line.
  • A healthcare company trying to launch a new headache curing drug. Should or shouldn’t they invest when they already have a general painkiller in the market?
  • A bank has a new credit card product. How would you price it?
  • What sort of factors should you take into account when developing a customer segmentation for a retail banking business?
  • You are a manager of a gym and recently found out that a neighboring office space has just become vacant. You are thinking of renting this as a day care center for gym members. Explain how you would make your decision.
  • A major US university is experiencing declining profits. (1) Please discuss the drivers of profitability for the organization. (2) How might you improve the profitability of this university?
  • Should a car auction company hold a special, one-day antique car auction event?
  • What can a state university that is struggling because of the economic downturn do to increase its profits?
  • Company is considering purchasing a smaller one. Estimate market attractiveness and then make a recommendation.
  • Company is failing, you have been brought in to save it, what do you do?
  • How would company x increase revenue without incurring a significant cost?
  • You are a consultant working for a bubble gum manufacturer. The CEO of the gum manufacturing company is concerned because his company is experiencing declining margin. My questions to you are: (1) the reasons behind declining profitability (2) your suggestions for improving profitability.
  • A widget manufacturer in Brazil has a 60% national market share and has a leadership position in South America. However, it only has a 5% international market share. The top 20 clients buy 80% of its products and the manufacturer is concerned with increasing margins and exploiting new sources of revenue. Their CEO has asked you to gather data and brainstorm potential ideas for increasing margins and market share.
  • A bank based in a developing country in Southeast Asia has hired us to determine how it can grow in the local market, specifically in retail banking. What are the factors you would look at to assess the situation? What is your recommendation for our client? Our client is a company that owns and operates retirement homes in US. They just opened a new retirement home in Chicago about a year ago and they have concerns about its profitability. How do you fix it?
  • You are part of our team working for a pharmaceutical manufacturer. We’ve been asked to look at their current R&D portfolio and assess whether they’re maximizing their potential with their current projects. My questions to you are: (1) How can you help them decide what information you would need and (2) What components do you think would round out a portfolio for this company?
  • Office Vending Services Inc. is a global leader in vending machines services for small and large businesses. They provide a full service to their clients. This includes installing machines at client site, refills and repair. They collect revenues only from snack sales and choose the variety of products they sell in their vending machines themselves. Over the past few years, their profits have dropped significantly and the CEO is unable to figure out why. The CEO asks Bain to identify the root causes of the problem and propose actionable solutions.
  • Your client is a U.S. defense contractor that manufactures the Mohawk Light Fighter Jet for the British Royal Air Force. The company has produced the $20 million fighter jet for the past 12 years. The British government has decided to put the contract out to bid, however, and to win the program, the client’s purchasing agents have estimated, the company will need to cut its costs by 5 percent. It has asked BCG to help it reduce costs.
  • Your client is the sugar cereal division of Foods Inc., a U.S.-based distributor and manufacturer of packaged foods. According to the division president, Foods Inc.’s traditional strength has been with grocery stores, which still account for the majority of its $1.1 billion in sugar cereal sales. But Big M Mart, a discount chain, has been growing at a healthy rate of almost 15 percent per year and has now become Food Inc.’s largest customer. Your client is not sure how to react, and has asked BCG for assistance with its distribution strategy.
  • Your client is the largest discount retailer in Canada, with 500 stores spread throughout the country. Let’s call it CanadaCo. For several years running, CanadaCo has surpassed the second-largest Canadian retailer (300 stores) in both relative market share and profitability. However, the largest discount retailer in the United States, USCo, has just bought out CanadaCo’s competition and is planning to convert all 300 stores to USCo stores. The CEO of CanadaCo is quite perturbed by this turn of events, and asks you the following questions: Should I be worried? How should I react? How would you advise the CEO?
  • Duraflex is a German footwear company wiht annual men’s footwear sales of approximately 1.0 billion Euro. They have always relied on the boot market for the majority of their volume and in this market they compete with three other major competitors. How big is the work boot market (expressed in euros)? Does Duraflex get more of its revenue from work boots or casual boots? Explain why Badger is outperforming Duraflex in the work boot market. What changes would you recommend to Duraflex’s work boot strategy? Why? Would you recommend they introduce a sub-branded boot line?
  • A major retailer of clothing and household products has been experiencing sluggish growth and less than expected profits in the last few years. The CEO has hired you to help her increase the company’s annual growth rate and ultimately its profitability. The retailer has 15 stores located in shopping malls in metropolitan and suburban areas. Total revenue from the 15 stores has declined, despite major back-end cost savings.
  • A fast food chain recently bought a bovine meat-processing outlet to supply it with fresh hamburgers and other meets. The shop process is: cows enter from one end of the shop, meat gets processed in the middle, and then the meat gets packaged and delivered at the other end. The manager of the butcher shop however could not decide whether to have the cows walk or run into the meat processing room. Can you help him?
  • A major producer of juice is in the business of processing and packaging fruit juice for retail outlets. Traditionally, the producer has packaged the juice in 18-ounce carton containers. Recently, in response to demand from the market, the producer purchased a machine that packages the juice in plastic gallons (36 ounces). Over the next couple of years, sales continued to grow on average of 20% per year. Yet, as sales continued to increase, profits steadily decreased. The owner cannot understand why. He hires you to help out.
  • A major chemical manufacturer produces a chemical product used to preserve foods in containers. Despite an increase in market share, the manufacturer has experienced a decline in profits. The CEO of the company is worried about this trend and hires you to investigate.
  • A tire manufacturer in Vietnam, VieTire, has been the only player in that market due to high tariffs on imports. They dominate the tire industry. As it stands, the tariff is 50% of the total cost to produce and ship a tire to Vietnam. Because of the forces of globalization and lower consumer prices, the Vietnamese government decided to lower the tariff by 5% a year for the next ten years. VieTire is very concerned about this change, as it will radically alter the landscape of the industry in Vietnam. They hire you to assess the situation and advise them on what steps to take.
  • A cable TV company from Canada, World View, had recently entered the US market in the northeast to expand its market share. World View saw this move as an opportunity to capture a large part of the US market (4MM consumers) in a market with very little competition. However, in the last couple of years, much to the surprise of management, World View has been unable to make a profit. You have been hired to figure out why and advise them on their next move.
  • A French soft drink company, Le Seine, is looking to diversify its holdings by investing in a new fast food chain in the US. You are hired to determine whether they should pursue this path and, if so, how they should go about execution.
  • A major US beer company, Beer Brew, recently entered the UK market. Two years after entry, the company is still losing money. Despite a high per capita consumption of beer in the UK market, sales have been very disappointing. What explains this phenomenon?
  • A major auto service chain, Wheeler Dealer, has enjoyed healthy returns on its 30-store operation for the past 10 years. However, management feels that the chain needs to expand, as the current geographical areas in which they are based have become saturated. For the past couple of years, they have aggressively pursued a growth strategy, opening an additional 15 stores. However, it seems that this approach has had negative returns. For the first time in over a decade, the chain’s profits dropped into the negative zone. You were hired to figure out why.
  • A travel agency makes a 10% commission on all of its travel bookings. Their current profit before taxes is $1MM, while the industry average ranges from $2MM to $3.5MM. Why are they making less than the industry average?
  • Our client is a 350-bed hospital in a mid-size city. The organization has historically exhibited strong financial performance, and had a 1-3% operating gain each year for the last five years. However, they are projecting a $12 million operating loss this year and expect this situation to worsen in the future. As a result, the CFO believes that they will be out of cash within five years. They have asked us to identify the source of this sudden downturn, and to come up with alternatives to restore them to a break-even position. They are one of the largest employers in the market, and will not consider layoffs as a possible solution.
  • The client is a grocery store chain that is considering whether or not they should enter the emerging Internet-based grocery shopping/delivery market in the Boston area. This regional chain is currently one of the leaders in the traditional grocery store market in northern New England. In their core market, two competitors have emerged in the Internet/at-home grocery shopping business, and are rapidly gaining market share. One of the companies that has already entered this new marketplace is the client’s primary competitor in the traditional market. The second player is a chain that does not have grocery stores in the target region, but has entered the Boston area with Internet shopping delivery services. Should the client enter the market? If so, how, and what concerns should they have? If not, how do they protect market share from the emerging market that is threatening to steal business?
  • The client is a manufacturer and distributor of infant formula. They sell their product nationwide, and are in the middle of the pack in terms of market share. They are currently trying to boost their market share while maintaining profitability.
  • There is a government welfare program called WIC (Women, Infants, Children) that allows individuals living below the poverty level to receive vouchers for infant formula for their children. Unlike most welfare programs, this one is subsidized by the actual producers of infant formula. On a state-by-state basis, infant formula producers bid for the right to be the sole supplier of infant formula to welfare recipients in that state. In addition to paying the government for the WIC contract, the client also provides rebates to retailers for WIC sales. As a result, income received from WIC sales is substantially less than that received from normal formula sales. In fact, sales to mothers that remain in the WIC program for more than 12 months result in a net loss. In trying to determine how much to bid on a WIC contract for a given state, what factors should you consider?
  • Our client is the U.S. pharmaceutical division of a multi-national corporation. In about six months the division will receive FDA approval to launch an anti-depressant drug. Despite this apparent good news from the FDA, the U.S. division is not elated. It has concerns over the market potential for this drug and its ability to reach the key prescribers in this therapeutic category. We have been asked to help determine whether they should 1) launch alone, 2) co-market with a partner, or 3) sell, license or swap the drug. The concerns over market potential center on whether the drug can gain adequate competitive advantage in a market segment having two dominant, patent-protected competitors and nearly 100 generic competitors. Additionally, a higher technology antidepressant, which appears to offer therapeutic advantages, was recently introduced by a competitor.Gaining the professional endorsement of psychiatrists is crucial to success in this therapeutic category since they write approximately half of the prescriptions for antidepressants. However, the division has no experience marketing drugs to this physician group. Consequently, it would have to hire a sales force and/or enter into a co-marketing agreement to gain access to psychiatrists through someone else’s force. The client would be able to leverage its existing sales force to reach the other half of the prescribers (Internal Medicine Specialist and Family and General Practitioners). How would you help them decide whether to 1) launch alone, 2) co-market with a partner, or 3) sell, license or swap the drug to a third party?
  • Regional Jet Corporation is a U.S. manufacturer of regional airplanes-airplanes with 100 seats or less. Its business consists of two types of aircraft: (1) jet engine, 80 to100-seat aircraft and (2) propeller, 20 to 30-seat aircraft. In fiscal year 1999, Regional Jet delivered 100 jet engine aircraft and 150 props. This represented a unit volume increase year-over-year of 10% and 5%, respectively, and revenues of $730 million and $225, million, respectively. Although overall profitability for Regional Jet in 1999 was a competitive 5% economic profit margin, profitability varied significantly by business. The prop business generated a stellar 30% profit margin, while the jet engine business was unprofitable with a margin of 3%. Over the past several years, Regional Jet has experienced eroding profitability in its jet engine aircraft business. Its prop business, despite being profitable, has been flat in most recent years. At a January 5th analyst conference (a meeting with the investor community) Regional Jet’s senior management team announced that the company was committed to managing for value. To this end, Regional Jet has hired you and a team of consultants to help the company develop and implement the value-maximizing strategies for its businesses.
  • You’re a new senior strategy associate and have just finished your orientation training. You are immediately assigned to our British Times team. The British Times is an upscale, highly respected newspaper. It is the most widely read newspaper in Great Britain, especially its very strong business and financial section. The paper is a cross between the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, both in content as well as in reputation. The team has already had one meeting with the newspaper’s online spin-off: You are going to join the team for the second meeting, which will be held with only the CEO of the Currently, their web site is nothing more than an online version of the newspaper, otherwise called brochureware. The newspaper’s and the web spin-off’s single biggest asset is the highly respected brand name: British Times. The purpose of this second meeting is for the consulting team to present its response to the CEO’s current predicament: how to realize greater revenues from their current online spin-off (
  • It’s a Friday afternoon. You’ve just accepted an offer to join our consulting company as a Senior Associate in the Business Strategy Competency. You’ve just called in to confirm your start time on your first day and find out you have an excellent opportunity to be the lead business strategist on a high profile project. We have partnered with a leading bricks-and-mortar children’s apparel retailer to help them analyze, design, and build their Internet strategy. There will be a kick-off meeting for the project with the client (including the client’s CEO) on Monday morning. The Principal/Engagement Leader on this project has asked you to lead a discussion about how the client should think about opportunities on the Internet. Right now, the client only has a marketing and informational presence on the web (a.k.a. “brochureware”). The Principal/ Engagement Leader wants the client to think about the range of opportunities and challenges the Internet presents and whether the client should invest aggressively in pursuing any initiatives.
  • Two business school classmates laud their entrepreneurship intentions and mock your interest in entering the management consulting industry. They decide that despite trends that indicate otherwise, what is needed is a video rental store closer to the HBS campus. They try to convince you to join, but in your infinite wisdom you instead join a prominent strategy consulting firm in Boston. Their first two years meet unprecedented success. They buy matching Porsches and a townhouse in Beacon Hill. Needless to say, each time you meet up for social occasions, they share with you (mostly with tongue in cheek) their success and a “I told you so” attitude. You handle their jabs well, as you feel you have had a terrific experience at your consulting firm. The story, however, changes in about 12 months. Despite two and a half years of dramatic profit and revenue growth, profits have dramatically fallen. They call you (with a fair amount of egg on their face) and say “we don’t know what happened and our mortgage and car payments are getting tougher to meet. Can you help us? We know that you help CEO’s of large companies get to the bottom of their issues.” With more than a little satisfaction and justice in your voice you agree to help. What do you think the problem is?
  • Assume you are the new pastor of a rural English church in the late nineteenth century. Over the last three years, attendance has been declining. Your boss has just come to town to tell you that she is considering shutting down the church. You have two weeks to diagnose the problem and come us with possible solutions. How would you think through what these problems might be and the possible solutions?
  • You are HBS’ Dean. A wealthy benefactor has come to you with the news that she will give HBS $100 million. The grant is contingent, however, upon you using the money effectively. You have 1 week to propose to the benefactor where you would use the money before she will finalize the transfer. How would you, as the Dean, propose to use this money?
  • Six months out of HBS, a frustrated classmate calls you to complain that the fast food burger joint that he bought has been steadily losing money for the last 3 months. He wants to know what you think he should do about it. Where do you start?
  • The director of marketing at an automobile manufacturer suggests changing the current design, where two separate keys operate the ignition and the doors to a design where one key operates all lock mechanisms. How do you think about whether this a good idea or not?
  • You are a new consultant and your managing partner has just given you the following task: The CEO of a hospital is concerned about: 1. declining profits, 2. falling revenues, and 3. rising costs at her hospital.
  • The partner of your firm wants YOU to prepare the proposal that will convince the hospital to retain your firm’s consulting services. Your managing partner is the resident expert on healthcare issues and you have ten minutes to query him for information before he departs to London for another client engagement. How would you structure this problem and what questions you would ask of him?
  • The client is a high tech company that manufactures crystal giftware. The market for crystal giftware is growing at 3% a year yet the client is experiencing declining sales and shrinking market share. Why is market share declining? What can we do about it?
  • Your client is a publisher of romance novels that sells to retail bookstores. The standard arrangement in the industry is that publishers must reimburse their customers at the end of the year for any unsold inventory. In this case, you are to assume that any inventory that is sent back to the publisher must be destroyed, and has no resale value. One of your client’s customers has made a proposal: for a 10 percent discount on wholesale prices, they will no longer send back any books at the end of the year. Should the publisher do the deal?
  • A non-profit in Baltimore runs two separate after-school clubs for children. Although the organization has been in existence for more than a decade and is considered to be an important part of its community, it is suffering financially in a struggling economy and fears that it will soon need to cut services and programs in order to continue operating. What steps should it should consider taking?
  • An overseas construction firm wants to establish its presence in a growing regional US market. What advice would you give them?
  • A medical equipment manufacturer in the southeastern US has called you in because it feels its working capital requirements are much higher than those of its competitors. How will you help it solve its problem?
  • Your client is a telephone company trying to reduce the costs and improve performance in the repair service operation. How do you approach the problem? How would you go about implementing your solution?
  • You have been called in by an accounting firm that is experiencing declining profitability in its auditing operation. What levers would you push to help improve profitability?
  • The client is the largest package delivery service in Canada. Over the past 30 years, the firm built a network that allows it to deliver parcels to “every address in Canada.” Until last year, competition was non-existent and profits were very strong. Starting about 15 months ago, a new company began parcel pickup and delivery to three (and only three) Canadian cities—Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Although overall parcel traffic has declined by only 10% for our client, profits have declined by almost 30% from last year. Outline your hypothesis for the profitability decline. Explain what analytical measures you would use to diagnose the problem and what data you would gather to perform your analysis. What approach would you offer to our client for the restoration of reasonable profits and what strategy would you employ to prevent further deterioration of profits?
  • Your client is in the trucking industry. Their profits are declining, and they have already determined that their cost structure is comparable to competitors. What is the problem?
  • Over the past few years, our client, a retail bank, has gone from one bank in one state to eight banks in eight states. Although some of the banks are profitable, the company as a whole is losing money. Specifically, four individual banks are losing money. How would you analyze this problem?
  • I am a manufacturer of railroad cars in a declining market. My firm is losing market share and money but I think the industry may rebound in the near future. What should I do?
  • You have been working on an engagement for the president of a medium-sized manufacturing company that has been suffering drops in profit margins. The president’s staff includes the VP of Operations, VP of Marketing, and VP of Finance. Although equal in title, the VP of Operations has the most influence on the president, and has been worried about losing some of that power to the other two VP’s. The results of your work indicate the Operations organization is the trouble spot: it is overstaffed by approximately 40%, and has seen rising costs and falling productivity. You know that in order to implement your suggestions for improvement, the President as well as his staff need to “buy into” your solution. How do you tell everyone?
  • Your client is a large electric utility. Consolidation has been widespread in the utilities industry and your client wants to know if they should be jumping on board this trend. What advice would you give them?
  • You client is a large real estate development company considering buying a piece of real estate in Colorado. How do you analyze the investment?

SEE ALSO: Salary Negotiation Letter Sample: A Magical One-Minute Script

“What is your biggest weakness?” is one of the most common interview questions a candidate will get. Talking about one’s shortcomings is never fun.  But look at this as an opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness as well as self-confidence in one’s flaws.

If you have a readily apparent weakness, discuss how you’ve addressed it and why it won’t be an issue in the job.  For example, if you’re a non-native English speaker, you might want to mention your accent as a weakness.  Hopefully you’ve already demonstrated that an accent hasn’t prevented you from communicating effectively and getting your point across during the interview.  And let’s say you participate in your local Toastmasters Club, a worldwide, nonprofit organization committed to helping over 200,000 people to improve their public speaking, then mention it!  The interviewer will be impressed by your commitment to improving your weakness.