What follows is a question from a student about if case interviews are different for a non-business undergraduate vs an MBA as well as my answer to this question.

Student Question:

I found out at the end of last week that I have a final round case interview at Monitor Deloitte, which consists of a 1-hour case. Being an engineering major, and not business, I was wondering if an interviewer takes a candidate’s background into consideration when deciding on a case?

As a previous case interviewer for McKinsey, did you interview both undergrads and graduate students and how did your approach differ? I was wondering how much of your video is targeted toward MBA students versus undergraduates. Is there anything in your video that an undergrad should focus more on, or should we be familiar with all of it?

My Response:

The cases are generally the same. I interviewed as an undergrad originally. As an interviewer, I interviewed only candidates with graduate degrees. The cases I received and the cases I gave were the same. I had colleagues who interviewed across the spectrum and never saw a difference.

Most cases are based on the actual consulting work done by that particular interviewer (it’s easier for us to remember the data that way).

When interviewing people with non-business backgrounds, I generally would not care if the person did not use proper business jargon and terminology but got the insight right.

For example if a PhD candidate or an undergrad art major said, “It looks like the client is in trouble financially because they are charging less for their product than what it costs them to make. But it also looks like most of their costs are tied up in the cost of the factory, as opposed to materials, so if the client was able to use more of the factory’s capacity, this ought to help them get out of their financial bind.”

That answer would be perfectly acceptable to me.

An MBA might answer the same question as follows, “The client has high fixed costs and overhead. Their variable costs are low. While gross margins are good, the manufacturing volume is too low to defray overhead. So fundamentally, the economics of manufacturing this product are good, but only for those players who have sufficient economies of scale. The client basically needs to “go big” and scale up, or exit this business.”

In my book, both answers are acceptable… though clearly the 2nd one has more business terminology in it.