Consulting case interviews are – to a certain degree – a learned skill. We have seen that preparation time strongly correlates with candidates’ performance.
However, for how long should you prepare for your interviews with McKinsey, BCG, or Bain to improve your skills to be up-to-par with what is expected of a successful candidate?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Depending on your background and problem-solving experience you might fare better or worse than others. To make sure you are at your peak when you go to the real case interviews, you should prepare until you are able to tackle every problem thrown at you during case practice.
How long does this usually take?
Consulting interview preparation timeline
Structuring the preparation process
In general, we recommend candidates we coach to invest a minimum of two weeks full-time and no longer than 2 months on the side into case interview preparation. You’d need the minimum time to learn and internalize the case habits, and then be able to solve a significant amount of cases using this toolkit. We set a maximum because the marginal returns of your invested time decrease the longer you practice or – as we have seen – even turn negative after a certain point.
In the end, it also depends on how much time you are able or willing to invest each day. We recommend spending at least a few hours every day preparing for the upcoming interviews.
First, apply an 80/20 approach to focus on the key skills needed to pass the interviews. The more time you have available thereafter, the more you can refine your skills and work on the last 20 percent.
Consulting interview preparation plan
- Take a day or two to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of the McKinsey case interview to learn and understand key skills and habits. We stress the importance of understanding the key habits to crack any case and put great emphasis on it during our coaching sessions. If you want a head-start in this regard, check out our 40-part video series on McKinsey interviews that details every single question you will face and how to answer them as a McKinsey consultant would
- Then, over the next 2 to 4 weeks, dive into case practice with friends, peers, and professional coaches as well as preparing for case interviews on your own
- Generally, the better the mock interviewer and the more realistic the case practice the quicker you will progress towards your goal to ace the case interviews. If you are on a tight deadline or want to make quick progress, consider substituting more peer-group case practice with professional mock interviews
- Build up stamina as you progress and increase the number of mock case interviews on a single day, ideally in an instant succession to simulate the stress and exhaustion of the real experience
- Focus on your weaknesses! For instance, if you are bad at structuring problems, practice structuring drills. If you struggle with math, practice basic pen-and-paper calculation and derivation of formulas,…
- Once you feel confident and have performed well in several subsequent professional mock interviews, attend a few real case interviews or recruitment days with 2nd and 3rd tier consulting firms to get the real interview experience and exposure. Besides the valuable learning experience, if MBB does not work out, you’ll have the fallback option to take up one of those offers. Make sure to apply and schedule these interviews well in advance to make your schedule work, which can involve quite a bit of planning. Consulting interview days are mostly on Friday or in larger offices on Friday and Monday, hence, you can – at max – attend 2 interviews per week
- Give yourself a break for 1 or 2 days every now and then. Use weekends to refresh your mind. Don’t neglect other responsibilities or interests. Don’t stop exercising or go all crazy about the upcoming interviews (we see this a lot). Make sure to get enough play-time during your preparation. These periods will improve your performance over time and make sure that the learned habits will actually stick and you will not burn out in the process
- Don’t forget the personal experience interview. Do not allocate 100% of your preparation time solely to case interviews. Save some slots to prepare strong stories for the McKinsey Personal Experience Interview or the personal fit interviews with BCG and Bain
- Rest 1 or 2 days before the big interview days. If you want to work on something you may strengthen your answers to personal interview questions. Other than that, relax. You want to be hungry to solve the cases when its time for the real interviews
By diligently sticking to the plan outlined above your preparation should suffice to ace every given case challenge without running the risk of over-preparation.
How we can accelerate your preparation
We have specialized in placing people from all walks of life with different backgrounds into top consulting firms both as generalist hires as well as specialized hires and experts. As former McKinsey consultants and interview experts, we help you by
- tailoring your resume and cover letter to meet consulting firms’ highest standards
- showing you how to pass the different online assessments and tests for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain
- showing you how to ace McKinsey interviews and the PEI with our video academy
- coaching you in our 1-on-1 sessions to become an excellent case solver and impress with your fit answers (90% success rate after 5 sessions)
- preparing your math to be bulletproof for every case interview
- helping you structure creative and complex case interviews
- teaching you how to interpret charts and exhibits like a consultant
- providing you with cheat sheets and overviews for 27 industries.
Reach out to us if you have any questions! We are happy to help and offer a tailored program to help you break into consulting.
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