What are the best ways to prepare for interviews with top-tier management consulting firms (i.e., McKinsey, Bain, BCG)?
The top-3 firms typically only hire 1% of their applicants. However, by preparing for your interview well, you can vastly improve your odds - the 500+ candidates we have worked with have had a 1 in 4 success rate in receiving an offer at Mckinsey, Bain or BCG. These successful candidates all did three crucial things:
- They brushed up on numeracy
Before preparing our candidates for case interviews, we make sure that they are able to handle the numerical portion of these interviews. You need to do the same.
To succeed at case interviews, you do not 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 you will face in a consulting interview only requires high-school level math skills. 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 be magnified.
This means that you need to make sure you know very well how to do basic math on paper: the four operations, fractions, percentages, weighted average, discounting. You can find free arithmetic classes at the Khan Academy, for instance.
You also need to practice extensively, for instance by finding opportunities to do calculations in your daily life, or doing calculation drills every day. You can also practice the numerical sections of the SAT or the GMAT.
Numeracy is a muscle that you need to exercise, and you will need to be on top of your game for these interviews!
2. They prepared a lot
We have never seen anyone getting the job without doing 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, like synthesis, the firms will be testing you on. 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.
Practicing cases on your own is not a substitute for live practice with other candidates. However, structuring cases on your own is a great addition to your practice plan and will help you build us this critical skill to succeed at the case interviews and get familiar with a variety of case questions.
3. They prepared well
Learning the wrong habits can be fatal to your consulting interview performance. It is therefore very important to choose your sources of learning very carefully.
- Choose good practice partners
Practicing with other novice candidates can be the equivalent of the blind leading the blind. You will learn from their feedback and from observing what they do well. It is, therefore, important for you to practice with the best candidates you can find.
- Practice with current or former consultants
All the 100+ candidates we have placed at top-3 firms did at least 3 cases with our former consultants.
We recommend that you have such a session at the very beginning of your preparation to get a good understanding of what you are assessed on. We also recommend that you have one or two more sessions closer to the interview date, to address any remaining development needs and to get a realistic preview of the interviewing experience.
- Practice more than the case
All our successful candidates have prepared seriously for the fit interview. They have identified the most powerful examples in their experiences and learned how to tell such stories in a compelling way.
While you practice with other candidates, we recommend that you get feedback on your presence and communication, as these are key factors in the impression you will make to your interviewer. Consulting is a client-facing role that requires such skills!
- Do a test run
You can also do some test runs by interviewing with other firms. This is a great way to gain confidence and to highlight the areas you may struggle in when under pressure.
- Choose good quality learning material
We have not found good interview preparation material in the market, so we have created our own. This has allowed us to place 1 in 4 of the candidates we selected and prepared, at a top-3 firm. We now share this material on.
We recommend our candidates to avoid:
- Best-selling case preparation books, such as Case in Point, which encourage candidates to memorize frameworks and force them onto cases. Top-tier firms move away from the more common types of cases, so you will need a flexible approach that allow you to solve the most unexpected case questions
- 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 newsletter on .
If you would like to learn more about how to prepare for interviews with Mckinsey, Bain or BCG, enrol now.