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The loved and hated consultancy case study…

How many consultants does it take to change a light bulb? Three – one to change the bulb and two to write the standards and tell him what he did wrong. This tongue-in-cheek joke is just a bit of light-hearted fun, but is not dissimilar to the kinds of questions management consultants can be faced with in the loved and hated case study interview. Candidates at Monitor Group were asked “how many horses are there in theUSA?” and “how many ping pong balls can fit into a Boeing 747?” Booz candidates have been asked whether it would be more convenient for a professional Manhattan thief to rob a flower store, a bakery or a chandelier store and BCG candidates have had to estimate how many hotel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner are produced worldwide annually.

Of course not all case studies are so abstract, many consist of candidates being given a business case which they then have 20mins to study and make recommendations based on their findings. However, it is still the most intimidating part of the consultancy recruitment process for many and yet often the most important as it really “separates the wheat from the chaff.” In theory, any management consultant worth their salt should be able to pass a case study interview as it tests the key consultancy skills; analytical thinking, business-oriented creativity, understanding of basic business concepts, communication and presentation. But in practice nerves, time constraints and lack of appropriate preparation can get the better of even the most capable consultant. So BLT have decided to come up with some tips and advice, based on previous case study feedback from both clients and candidates, and our in-depth, specialist industry knowledge of course, to help you through even the weirdest of case studies.

The number one thing that interviewers want to see is that you are a good problem-solver; they are not nearly as interested in your final answer as they are in the process you implemented to reach it. Don’t panic if you don’t manage to reach a final decision, provided that you have structured your work and can clearly communicate your train of thought. It is also important to make sure that you plan your time effectively and keep an eye on the time. Secondly they want to see that you can suggest a viable and useful solution so make realistic recommendations and be pragmatic, anticipate any concerns or questions that your recommendations may raise. Thirdly make it a business discussion, not an interview, show that you can have an intelligent, insightful conversation rather than just ask and answer questions.

It’s always a good idea to round your numbers when doing calculations as it minimises mistakes and communicates to the interviewer that you know what you’re doing. However be careful that rounding doesn’t change the figure by more than 10% or you risk inaccuracy. When making numerical assumptions, aim to choose ‘friendly numbers’ (ie. 5% rather than 7%) to make calculations simpler. Last but by no means least, presentation and communication skills are also essential components, as the interviewer wants to see evidence that you will be able to stand up in front of clients without shaking like a leaf and stammering. Practicing in front of a mirror may feel silly but is a great opportunity to study your own body language and communication style and how they could be improved. Don’t forget, open body language, good eye contact, big smiles and speaking slowly are the markers of a great presenter.

The internet is rife with practice case studies, practice ‘guestimates’ and further tips and advice. Reviewing general business problems, current or past, and putting yourself in the CEO’s shoes is a great way to get those creative case study juices flowing. We recommend practicing at least two business cases studies and at least two guestimate case studies before going for interview. That might seem excessive but the more you practice with different case studies, the less likely it is that you’ll feel out of your depth and  be confronted with something you have no idea how to approach. The most important points to remember are to structure your response carefully, manage your time and communicate your findings with confidence and a smile.

To get you started we’ve come up with our own BLT case study, and there’s a yummy Carluccio’s hamper in it for the person with the most accurate responses! Email responses to and we will contact the winner.

  1. How many CVs has Don looked at over the course of his career?
  2. Estimate the annual cost of teabags consumed by the Management Consultancy team of 6 people.
  3. How many people have BLT placed over the last 26 years?
  4. If we were to line Chancery Lane with candidates from top to bottom, how many people would we need?



Diary of a Trainee Indirect Tax Recruitment Consultant – Tom Slater – 6th Entry

I had been briefed on every detail of the week ahead. I had read and then re-read the holiday notes. This trainee was ready to step up and take on the responsibilities of a more experienced recruiter. My time had come to show that I was reliable and ready as my colleague Guy Barrand departed for annual leave. I was prepared.

Day 1 – the phone rings. A new job, excellent! Hold on a minute…there are no notes for this… Oh no…I’m going off-piste!!

Immediately I had gone off script. After all the rehearsals here I was ad-libbing and it was fine. I took the job, sent the terms, received the spec and the client’s requirements and then began searching our database for the right candidates. As the week went on I contacted candidates, put them forward, arranged interviews and then prepped them. I had taken a job and acted on it by myself for the first time… and all without notes!

A valuable lesson had been learnt here: in recruitment you have to be prepared to adapt. You can be up to date with developments, but then the human element of recruiting comes in to play and situations well…develop!

The next call came in, a candidate this time, looking for interview feedback. “Please wait a moment.” I say. “Let me consult my notes…”

Diary of a Trainee Indirect Tax Recruitment Consultant – Tom Slater – 5th Entry

It’s been an incredibly busy few weeks here at BLT for the Indirect Tax Team as the last fortnight has been dominated by the 2013 Indirect Tax Awards.

Read More

Deloitte – State of the State Report

BLT attended Deloitte’s launch of its State of the State Report. [ ]

The prospects for consultants in central government policy implementation and social care are improving rapidly. Contact Sarah Erickson if you’d like to get involved in public sector consulting.

ICSA Company Secretaries Conference and Exhibition 2013

Jamie and Nicola went to the ‘ICSA Company Secretaries Conference and Exhibition 2013’.

It was a very busy day with a variety of interesting talks – including a number of respected speakers such as Paul Mason (Broadcaster and Journalist) and Richard Murphy (Director, Tax Research UK).

It helped Jamie develop his knowledge of the CSS world and provided a good platform for Nicola to network.

Recruiter Core Competencies Introduction Day

Tom and Alyce went to the ‘Recruiter Core Competencies Introduction day’ on Wednesday 18th & Thursday 19th September 2013.

Both enjoyed the course over the two days and benefited from it a lot.

For more information see

The Indirect Tax Awards 2013

It’s the morning after the night before and the dust has settled on what was a fantastic night at the 2013 Indirect Tax Awards. The great and the good of the Indirect Tax world had gathered at the Law Society in Chancery Lane to celebrate the achievements of all those shortlisted for this year’s awards.

The winners for this year and each of their categories are listed below:

Rising Star within Indirect Tax – Nicole Smith, KPMG
Best Indirect Tax Consultancy Team: Winner – Baker & McKenzie
Best Indirect Tax Consultancy Team: Special Commendation - The VAT Consultancy
Best In-house Indirect Tax Expert or Team – Rio Tinto
Outstanding Contribution to Indirect Tax – Bruno Giordan

BLT wants to once again congratulate all of the deserved winners and those that were shortlisted. It’s a real pleasure for everyone here at BLT to run the Indirect Tax Awards and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those in attendance and hope that you enjoyed your night as much as we did.


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