Preparing for McKinsey, BCG or Bain interviews

Updated: Dec 5, 2018

So you just applied or have an interview already scheduled. What now? Well this article is for you...

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There is a ton of resources out there to read about interview preparation. Forums, blogs, books, it is easy to get lost and feel overwhelmed. And that is why we are centralizing all the information you need on to prepare in one place!

There are really only 3 sources you need to read, so no need to browse for hours:

1. The website of the firm you are applying to, and in particular the recruitment section. Below are the links for a few top consulting firms. Of course, there is a lot of overlap, so don’t create confusion for yourself and only read about the firms you are applying to:

- McKinsey

- BCG

- Bain

- Deloitte

- Accenture Case and Accenture Skills interviews

McKinsey case interviews are slightly different from Bain and BCG interview style. McKinsey is interview-led (they ask a question, you answer) while Bain and BCG are interviewee-led (you lead the case solving). Make sure to practice the right style!

2. Case in point, by Marc Consentino. My advice is simple, although controversial: learn the 12 frameworks by heart. Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t learn any frameworks, but what they really mean is that you shouldn’t use generic frameworks during a case, which I totally agree with. But learning the 12 frameworks will give you valuable inspiration, a basis upon which you can built and adapt your framework, a mental crutch to lean on when all you have is 1 minute, a blank sheet of paper and a consultant staring at you.

3. The ZeroToMBB website of course! Sign-up to to receive our free preparation package when the pop-up window appears.

Pre-write and rehearse

While it is impossible to anticipate which case you will get, there are some other parts of the interviews that you can actually prepare, which will save you a lot of stress, improve the quality of your answers, and ultimately give you a valuable edge:

1. Your elevator pitch: 2-3mn maximum. Keep it simple by answering the following questions:

a. Which roles and skills have you taken on/developed in the last 5 years?

b. Why did you choose such role/skills? Consultants love passionate people!

c. Why is now a good time to join management consulting + this particular company + this particular location?

Example: my name is Richard, I am currently a MBA candidate at school SchoolBiz. After working for company TechCorp for 4 years, and focusing on R&D projects and product conformity, I had gained many technical and team management skills but was also curious about more general business skills. I therefore decided to do my MBA and what I really liked about this experience was X, Y Z. Besides work, I am also passionate about photography and dedicate a lot of time to it. Beside getting a lot of joy from doing it, I also think it has helped me develop an attention to details and patience, both aspects being very useful in my professional life. I am now looking to join management consulting at McKinsey in London because I want to broaden my horizon in business, especially in the financial sector and in marketing&sales, which I know is a big part of the work locally. I am also pretty excited about the quality of the people at this company based on my interactions with your colleagues.

2. Your personal experience stories. Click here to learn more about how to prepare for this.

3. Questions for the consultant. At the end of the interview, you usually have time to ask 1-2 questions to the consultant. I recommend that you prepare them in advance to save you some stress. Just keep in mind that they need to be targeted because you will usually only have 2-3mn left at the end of the interview. Avoid “what projects have you done so far?” or “what do you like and dislike about consulting?”. Instead, focus on something you really want to know, and that is not available online easily.

Examples: “What is the thing you like the most about this company?”, “How much coaching do you get as a new-joiner?”, “What level of autonomy do you have on a project?”, “How much exposure to senior executive have you had so far?”, “what is the most impactful project you have done so far?”

Practice, practice, practice

This is the most important part of your preparation. Here are some tips on how to prepare:

Practice with an experienced consultant. Do not practice with your friends, family etc. if they don’t have a clue about consulting and interviews. Not only this is a waste of time for you and them, it is also counterproductive. Practice with someone who has worked in management consulting and who has experience in interviewing and coaching. If you don’t know anyone, welcome to ZeroToMBB where all our coaches are experienced interviewers from top firms! Also, when you apply and get invited for interviews, make sure to ask for a “buddy”, i.e. a consultant from the company who will accompany you through the preparation process, in particular you can ask him/her to do a practice case. Lastly, you may dream of getting into a specific consulting firm, but remember that you will increase your chances if you apply to several consulting firm at the same time.

Pro tip: First schedule interviews for the firm you like the least, so you can get some free practice!

Focus on 5 skills for case interviews: structure, creativity, chart analysis, quants, and synthesis. We have made a methodology video for each skills so you know exactly what to do at each step of the case. You can download them here or sign-up with a package

Use your brain, not your memory! I have come across candidates who have joined a consulting club, done over 100 cases, and read all the preparation books in existence. There is no problem with that fundamentally, but the tendency is then to think that 'I have seen everything' and start force-fitting structures and ideas from past cases. Remember that you should learn the skills, not the cases! Of course, your business acumen will also increase with practice, but use it to increase your intuition of where to look, what questions to ask, and not to copy/paste frameworks and repeat the same marketing idea that interviewers have heard 1000 times. Yes, increasing your number of customers base by starting a marketing campaign is always a god idea, but for what segment of the population, using which channel, what content? Tailor it to the case!

How much to practice? Of course candidates have different starting points and feel they need more or less practice to feel confident and ready. Atfer learning the methodology, practice cases by yourself (full methodology videos and self-service practice cases available with any 1-1 coaching packages from ZeroToMBB). Make sure to cover at least one case of each type (pretty much along the 12 framworks from Case in Point). Then practice 2-5 cases with an experienced coach from a top consulting firm (like those at ZeroToMBB) and work on your feedback between each sessions by practicing cases by yourself. For example, if you need to work on your structure, just focus on building structures between each session and see how your coach feedback changes! Once you feel more comfortable, ask your coach for more atypical cases, in order to keep your thinking out of the box. Make sure you are being coached with the style of the firm you are aiming for: BCG case interview practice should be different from McKinsey case study interview practice. A couple days before the interview, review the cases you have already done, but make sure to give yourself a day of rest before the interviews! Good luck!

What now? Check out our next article on preparing your personal experience stories!

Also, sign-up to receive our our free preparation package which includes a free MBB-level practice case with answers, videos and more!