What’s Different Between a First Round and Final Round Interview at Bain, BCG or McKinsey
Most McKinsey, BCG and Bain offices use two rounds of interviews before making a final hiring decision. If you’ve been invited to interview then you can count yourself as being in the top 10% of applicants. However, the work has just begun!
Now here’s the good news: if you make it to a final round interview with McKinsey, BCG or Bain your odds of receiving an offer are ~50% and therefore higher than the ~25% chance of passing a first-round interview.
However, the calibre of the candidates is much higher in the final round and, despite its similarities with the first round of interviews, the final round can be fraught with surprises.
In this article, we outline the main differences between the two rounds of interviews and what to expect from each.
Same but different
Broadly speaking, the first and final round interviews follow similar formats. You can expect to go through 2-3 full interviews in each round, including both a case and fit interview.
That said, there are some regional and firm variations. While some firms may have three interviews in the final round, some may only have two, and others may have a full fit interview as one of the interviews. Make sure to confirm the types of interviews you can expect when applying to your local office.
Although the interview format is the same, a major difference is the seniority of the interviewers. In your first round, you can expect to be interviewed by MBA or manager level consultants. In the final round, your interviewers will be more senior and include at least one Partner.
The first round case interviews may often seem more off the shelf and scripted, whereas the final round cases can be less structured because the Partners have used their case for years and can deliver them without a script. Either way, it is important to be able to lead the case.
The decision is different
For a first-round interview, the interviewers are simply asking the question: is putting you in front of a few Partners for another 2-3 hours going to be worth their time? In the final round, the decision is a much bigger one, because the interviewers are deciding whether to extend a job offer.
With this in mind, the firms are likely to be more lenient in the first round where they will allow for slip-ups in some elements of the interview, if they see potential in other elements. The interviewers will then provide feedback to see whether you can manage to implement it and improve in the final round of interviews. They are much less likely to take a risk on an imperfect candidate in a final round.
For a final round to go successfully the interviewers need to be more than convinced one way or another and are less likely to give the benefit of the doubt
Expect the unexpected
As you’ll be meeting Partners in the final round interviews you can never be too sure of what’s going to happen.
If you put yourself in the shoes of a typical Partner interviewer, you will be able to appreciate that they definitely don’t want to go into the final decision meeting with the other interviewers at the end of the day and not have an opinion on you.
This means the final round interviewers are more likely to poke and prod in the places that they’re most uncertain about. This might result in unexpected things taking place, such as a full fit interview and a ditching of the case, an interrogation of your CV, or it may result in a numeracy heavy case to test a candidate who’s an Arts major.
Making an offer is a big decision for the Partners, so they will want to get it right. If they’re unsure in any way you’re unlikely to succeed in the final round.
To give yourself the best chance of success we highly recommend putting the time and effort into learning how to nail consulting interviews by using the best resources available and investing in coaching to identify your weaknesses and to polish your case skills.
You can do both these by purchasing a coaching package with one of our former consultants here.
Get our free prep material
Free case studies. Free interview videos. Free expert advice.
How to Ace McKinsey’s Digital Assessment
Imagine that you are immersed in a natural environment populated by different kinds of plants and animals. You learn that some animals are quickly succumbing to an unknown illness. You have to stop this epidemic. This is McKinsey’s Digital Assessment: the ground-breaking video game that the firm has introduced to assess candidates’ cognitive abilities. To […]
An Example of a Great Consulting Interview
A great consulting interview is one where candidates not only demonstrate that they have all of the skills needed to become a high performing consultant, but also it’s one that gets the interviewer excited about having the candidate on their team. In this article, we outline the three key aspects of the interview and what […]
How to Write a Resume to Land an Interview at the Top Consulting Firms
In this article, we walk you through the three most important aspects to think about when preparing your resume for McKinsey, BCG, Bain or other top consulting firms. If you want to understand each of these points in more detail, including how to use networking to your advantage and what the application process really looks […]
How to Write a Cover Letter to Land an Interview at the Top Consulting Firms
Are you mind-blanking in your cover letter? Are you wondering if it’s good enough? If so, you’re in the right place! Here we’re going to share the most important aspects of a cover letter for consulting roles at top firms such as McKinsey, BCG and Bain. Cover letters won’t land you an interview, but they […]
How to Join McKinsey, Bain or BCG as a Fresh Graduate
The top strategy consulting firms solve their client’s most complex and challenging problems, so you’d be forgiven for assuming that McKinsey, BCG and Bain only employ tenured people who have been around the block, or to assume that they wouldn’t hire a fresh graduate right out of university. But you’d be wrong! The Top 3 […]
Everything You Need to Know About the Recruitment Process for McKinsey, Bain and BCG
With a typical hire rate of less than 1%, interviews with top consulting firms such as McKinsey, BCG and Bain are some of the most challenging in the world. The selection process is divided into screening and interviews. 1. The application screening Screening is typically based on selecting CVs or resumes that show the most […]
What are the Best Parts About Being a Consultant at Bain, BCG or McKinsey
If you’ve read our article on the Cons to a Life in Consulting, then you may also want to know about the Pros and highlights, too. The good news is that consulting at the Top 3 firms is full of unique benefits you rarely find in other industries. In this article, we cover the top […]
The Cons to a Life in Consulting
While a consulting job at McKinsey, BCG and Bain has numerous benefits, there are of course a few downsides worth preparing for as you enter the world of a top consultancy. Creating a work-life balance can be challenging The client’s success is the top priority for consultancies. The team often does all they can to […]
Why Some Consultants Don't Make Partner
Only a small percentage of consultants who join top consulting firms like McKinsey, BCG and Bain make it to Partner. Based on best estimates, we suspect it’s less than 5% of consultants who make it. However, the majority of consultants aren’t interested in pursuing Partnership and only stay in consulting for 2-3 years to gain […]
What It's Like Being an Entry Level Consultant at Bain, BCG and McKinsey
If you’re comparing consulting with other career options or if you just landed yourself an offer with McKinsey, BCG, Bain or another top firm and are now wondering what being an entry-level consultant is really like then you’re in the right place. In this article, we share what life is like for the newbies on […]