When it comes to preparing for consulting interviews, we recommend spending at least six weeks learning how to navigate the interview format and building up the skills that are going to be assessed. Memorizing a few standard frameworks simply won’t cut it.
However, if circumstances prevent you from investing this much time, or you’re invited to a consulting interview at short notice, you might be wondering if it’s possible to ‘cram’ for an interview at McKinsey, BCG or Bain and still be in with a chance of success. The short answer is that it’s possible – but tough.
If you find yourself in this situation, here are five steps that we recommend taking to make the most of your remaining preparation time.
1. Schedule two practice cases a day with a variety of partners
In our experience, nothing can beat live practice with a partner and candidates can’t expect to receive an offer if they attempt to practice full cases alone.
We recommend that you practice at least 25 live cases with a variety partners before your interview to develop muscle in the core assessment dimensions of structuring, math, creativity, judgment and insights, case leadership and synthesis. If you only have two weeks to prepare, you should therefore practice two cases a day, which will take you up to a total of 28 sessions. Daily practice will serve as a regular pulse check for monitoring your progress, particularly in areas of weakness.
At CaseCoach we can connect you with a diverse community of fellow candidates who are all available for case interview practice in our Practice Room. In each session, you and your partner will have the opportunity to play the roles of both interviewer and interviewee. This will give you the opportunity to gain a robust understanding of the assessment dimensions, as well as hone your own case-cracking skills.
2. Practice specific skills on your own with drills
Practicing full cases with a partner is essential for successful case interview preparation, no matter how little time you have available. However, at 90 minutes each, these sessions aren’t the best place for building your proficiency in specific assessment dimensions such as structuring, math and interpreting data. That’s where solo practice with drills comes in.
Drills are exercises that pose rapid-fire questions and then provide instant feedback. They help you build your skills and confidence in specific case dimensions quickly over a short period of time. This means that when you practice live cases with a partner, you can use the time to practice demonstrating these skills, rather than trying to build them up.
Our Interview Prep Course includes drills to help you practice the skills of structuring, calculation, solving case math problems and interpreting the data in charts. Combined with practicing full cases with partners in our Practice Room, a daily dose of drills can give your last-minute case interview preparation a real boost.
3. Invest in coaching to accelerate your preparation
With more expertise than fellow candidates and the ability to provide feedback and guidance based on real experience, coaches can help you accelerate your preparation significantly. High-quality case and fit interview coaching can therefore be a worthwhile investment, particularly if you don’t have a lot of time to spare.
Our team of coaches at CaseCoach are all former consultants and interviewers who are among the alumni of top firms such as McKinsey, BCG and Bain. They’re available to take you through mock interviews in a realistic setting and provide you with personal feedback and practical advice. Get some tips on choosing the right coach in our article about how consulting interview coaching can help you prepare for interviewing with a top firm.
4. Watch or listen to lectures on case interview preparation
When you’re preparing for a consulting interview at short notice, it’s important to make the most of every moment. Watching or listening to lectures is a great way to fit some extra case interview preparation into your day, perhaps on a commute or during a long walk or run.
Lectures can provide you with additional knowledge on case dimensions and best practice advice for interview preparation. However, unfortunately much of the video and audio content available online is unsuitable because it either provides information that is false or unhelpful or it fails to go into the necessary level of detail. It’s therefore important to choose your content carefully.
We recommend watching videos of interviews where clear feedback is provided by a present or former consultant or interviewer, so you can build a clear picture of what a great case interview looks like in practice. In our Interview Prep Course, you’ll find a comprehensive series of video lectures on all the dimensions of the case interview. The course also includes videos of former top consulting interviewers giving case interviews to candidates and providing feedback on their performance.
5. Don’t forget to prepare for the fit interview
When faced with the challenge of preparing for a consulting interview at the last minute, it can be tempting to focus solely on getting ready for the case interview. However, a candidate’s fit interview performance can easily be their source of distinction, so it’s vital not to neglect this aspect of your preparation.
Designed to test whether you have the skills and character to deliver challenging projects and succeed in consulting, the fit interview carries 50% of the assessment at top firms like McKinsey, BCG and Bain. You can learn more about approaching this part of your preparation in our guide on how to ace the consulting fit interview.
Meanwhile, our Interview Prep Course includes fit interview training videos that demonstrate how to introduce yourself, describe your motivation and pitch your achievements, which is a requirement of McKinsey’s Personal Experience Interview.
Run out of time? A note on postponing or rescheduling your interview
Proceeding with a consulting interview when you feel genuinely unprepared may be a decision that you come to regret. Consulting firms keep track of candidates’ performance and are unlikely to extend a future invitation to someone whose initial interview was a disaster.
If you feel like you are genuinely not ready to go ahead with an upcoming consulting interview, speak to your recruiter about the possibility of rescheduling. Some recruiters might be able to delay your interview or add you to a future interviewing cycle.
If your interview is postponed or rescheduled, be sure to take advantage of the additional time and give the remainder of preparations your full attention.