The Bain Hypothesis Planning Case Interview is a specific case interview format. This type of interview is not always part of the assessment yet we are receiving occasional reports from our clients having to go through it. All of them have reported feeling clueless about this format, but with a better understanding of what it entails, you can prepare yourself to perform well.
In this article, we want to exactly tackle that and help you prepare for the Hypothesis Planning Case Interview.
The format of the Hypothesis Planning Case Interview
The Bain Hypothesis Planning Case Interview consists of two parts.
The first part involves planning a hypothesis to solve a specific project workstream. You will be given a client problem and have 30 minutes to draft your analysis. You need to jot down your ideas on scratch paper or create 1-2 PowerPoint slides outlining your hypotheses backed by an issue tree. After this, you will be required to present your hypothesis to the interviewer in the second part of the interview.
During your 30-minute presentation, the interviewer will challenge you on how you would test your hypothesis. For instance, if your project workstream involves increasing the customer satisfaction of an airline and your hypothesis is that poor on-time performance of flights is the cause of low customer ratings, you may be asked how you would validate this hypothesis. In this scenario, you could explain that you would conduct a customer survey and run an analysis comparing on-time flight performance and customer rankings of competitor airlines.
The interviewer may also ask follow-up questions on how you would analyze the data, then work towards a solution. You might also be asked how you would implement your proposed solution. For our customer satisfaction case, you would want to validate your hypothesis and if proven true, work on an implementation of improving the on-time performance of flights, which is mostly an operational issue. You could discuss things such as adjusting the flight schedule, hiring more pilots and flight attendants, changing the maintenance schedule, etc. For bonus points, you could also talk about points not directly related to the core problem but about the communication around it (e.g., creating more transparency for airline customers and offering refunds).
How to prepare for this interview
At its core, the Bain Hypothesis Planning Case Interview is a normal case interview with a twist. It is a written case that gives you more time to think and develop your approach. You need to structure a case around certain hypotheses using an issue tree, the same as you would do in any other case interview.
You would need to guide the interviewer through your thinking and answer some of their questions. In that sense, you are bouncing between elements of a candidate-led case and an interviewer-led case where you need to present your analysis (a framework), then answer questions in a brainstorming kind of manner. Both question types are part of case structuring/problem deconstruction.
You would not need to engage in any math or interpret charts in the normal format. Rather, you have to draft charts for your analysis.
Hence, it makes sense to focus on structuring drills to learn how to structure and deconstruct problems and quickly answer brainstorming questions. It makes also sense to work on chart interpretation drills as they will show you how top-tier firms draft slides and presentations.
For specific practice and preparation, think through your issues tree on a deep level for 30 minutes. Not only consider the areas you want to look at to understand the problem/test your hypotheses but also think about how you want to do that, what data you would need, where you would get that data, etc.
For instance, if asked why our machines break down differently at different locations, you could come up with the following issue tree.
You can also practice your critical thinking and problem-solving skills by working on case studies and real-world examples. When practicing, pay attention to your thought process and make sure you are asking the right questions to arrive at a logical conclusion. It is also important to practice your presentation skills since you will need to present your hypotheses and analyses clearly and convincingly.
To perform well in the Bain Hypothesis Planning Case Interview, it is essential to prepare thoroughly and learn about the types of projects Bain typically undertakes and the different industries Bain works in. This will give you an idea of the types of challenges you might face during the interview.
How to approach the Bain Hypothesis Planning Interview
Have a plan ready
Since time is limited, you should have a plan on how long you want to spend on each task of the assignment beforehand. For the 30-minute thinking period, take
- 20 minutes to plan your approach and think of follow-up questions (i.e. what will be your hypotheses, what data do you need to test them and how can you get it, what metrics are you interested in, what information is important, how can you disprove your hypotheses, what analyses could help you, what output documents do you have to draft)
- 10 minutes to draft and populate your output slides (doing this early helps you to focus your analytical efforts). You will likely think of more ideas once you start bringing your ideas into a nicer format.
Instead of just taking two minutes to build the framework, you have a full 30 minutes and go broad, deep, and insightful, much more than in a usual case interview.
Be prepared to answer questions that are designed to test your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. For instance, you may be asked about what data you need to disprove your hypothesis and what specific metrics you would use. You may also be asked how you would obtain the data you need. These questions are meant to assess your ability to think on your feet and come up with practical solutions to complex problems.
Draft compelling charts with visually appealing outputs
Create a top-down storyline of your issue tree and analysis. Draw the main points you want to look at then break them apart and use more concrete buckets to look at with even more concrete analysis linked to each.
In practice, you would have one key slide with your issue tree, i.e. the areas you want to look at and how, then you would have 1 or 2 supporting slides, covering questions that you can already anticipate, i.e. what data you need and where to get that data from, etc (see above). Demonstrate that you can think ahead.
As for the slide design, use an action title on each, then some visual aid like a graph (remember to have a graph title as well) and some supporting bullet points, or if not applicable, just bullet points.
- The action title should convey the so-what of your analysis. You need to show the implication of what you present rather than a description of what you want to do.
- The headings of each slide together should tell the full story. Everything below the heading is a detail of the story and should support your key message.
Communicate and defend your insights
If you have to present your analysis to the interviewer or answer their questions, follow a top-down approach Be confident and engaging when going through your arguments.
First present your headlines, e.g. “There are 5 things we need to look at, First,…Second,…”; then move on to the details of your analysis. Prioritize at the end and tell the interviewer what part of your analysis you would want to start with, just like in a normal case interview. Tell them why you want to start there and what specific data you would want to look at.
Clarify when you are using hypotheses and assumptions that you were not able to verify.
Lastly, be open and ready to debate. The interviewers will definitely challenge your insights and discussion points. It is important that you confidently stand your ground unless they make you aware of an obvious mistake on your part. In the latter case, demonstrate that you are coachable and save the situation by providing a plan of action on how to re-do the analysis to cross-check and improve your results.
How we can help you to break into Bain
In conclusion, the Bain Hypothesis Planning Case Interview is a new format that requires candidates to think critically, be creative, and demonstrate their problem-solving skills. With the right preparation, you can excel in this type of interview and secure a position at one of the world’s leading management consulting firms.
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