How to Prepare for Your Interview with a Top-Tier Management Consulting Firm
McKinsey, BCG and Bain typically only hire 1% of their applicants. However, by properly preparing for your interview you can vastly improve your odds. Time and time again we see that the successful candidates all do three crucial things.
They brushed up on numeracy
When preparing for case interviews, it’s important that you can handle the numerical portion of the case problem.
To succeed at case interviews, you don’t need to be a human calculator. You only need to be able to i) lay out a clear approach when asked to solve a numerical problem, and ii) calculate correctly and independently on paper.
The complexity of the numerical problems in a consulting interview only requires high-school level math. However, you need to be able to solve these problems reliably and confidently in an interview setting, In this situation, any insecurity or rustiness will likely be magnified.
You need to make sure you that you can confidently do basic math on paper: the four operations, simplifying fractions, percentage changes, weighted averages, and simple equations. You also need to practice extensively. Find opportunities to do calculations in everyday life and regularly do calculation drills. You can do this inside our Interview Prep Course where you’ll find our Math Drills.
Numeracy is a muscle that you need to exercise, and you’ll need to be on top of your game for consulting interviews!
They prepared a lot
We don’t see candidates succeed without having done at least 25 live cases with other candidates. This is a minimum and will equate to about 40 hours of practice time. You will need to anticipate this taking around 6-8 weeks.
Your first 15 live cases should focus on mastering each of the key assessment areas the firms will test you on. This includes structuring, insight and synthesis.
Once you have internalized these skills, you can focus on cracking the case question itself and exhibiting more advanced skills, like case leadership, to help you stand out.
Structuring cases on your own is a great addition to your practice plan and it will help you build this critical skill to succeed at the case interviews and get familiar with a variety of case questions. However, practising cases on your own is not a substitute for live practice with other candidates.
But be sure to practice more than just the case itself. All successful candidates also prepare seriously for the fit interview. They identify the most powerful examples in their experiences and learn how to tell such stories in a compelling way.
They prepared well
Learning the wrong habits can be fatal to your consulting interview performance. It’s important to choose your sources of learning carefully.
Practice with the best candidates you can find. Practising with novice candidates can be the equivalent of the blind leading the blind. You learn from receiving feedback and from observing what others do well.
You should practice with current or former consultants. We recommend that you do a mock interview at the very beginning of your preparation to get a good understanding of what you will be assessed on. We also recommend that you have one or two more coaching sessions closer to the interview date to address any remaining developmental needs and to get a realistic preview of the interview experience. You can book coaching sessions with former consultants here.
While you practice, get feedback on your presence and communication, since these are key factors in the impression you will make. Consulting is a client-facing role, after all.
It’s important to do a test run. Test runs can also be done by interviewing with other firms. It’s a great way to gain confidence and to highlight the areas you may struggle with when under pressure.
You must also choose good quality learning material. We couldn’t find high-quality interview preparation materials in the market, so we created our own and launched the Interview Prep Course.
In addition to the above, we also recommend you avoid:
- Best-selling case preparation books (e.g., Case in Point)
These books encourage candidates to memorize frameworks and force them onto cases. Top-tier firms have moved away from the more common types of cases, so you’ll need a flexible approach that allows you to solve the most unexpected case questions. We teach these exact skills inside our Interview Prep Course.
- MBA case books
Having access to realistic case material with good suggested solutions is an essential part of good preparation. MBA case books are developed by students, not by interviewers, and generally, have poor quality flow and suggested answers.
You can get some of our free case material by signing up to our mailing list below.
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