Many candidates make a cardinal mistake when preparing for their consulting interviews. They don’t have a proper preparation plan when starting out.
Having a set plan to execute when going for the McKinsey, BCG, and Bain interviews goes a long way. In this article, we want to give you some guidance on how to structure your preparation most effectively. We answer the following questions:
- How long should you prepare for?
- How much time should you invest?
- How should you divide your time between cases and personal fit questions?
- What are the most effective ways to prepare?
How long should you prepare for consulting interviews
The answer is: It depends on two things.
First, can you devote a significant amount of your time to the interview preparation? Second, do you have a business background? If the answer is yes to both, you could potentially prepare within 3 weeks. If you are working a full-time job and have no business background, you should rather invest 2-3 months.
In the latter case, you would need more time to get up-to-speed with business concepts and need to manage your time more carefully to avoid burning out before the interviews.
How much time you should invest when preparing for cases?
When preparing for cases, split your time between
- reading business publications, McKinsey and BCG insights (5-20 hours)
- familiarizing yourself with potential frameworks and different industries (2-10 hours)
- conducting structure, math, exhibit drills on your own (50-200 hours)
- reading through cases (5-20 hours)
- performing full-mock interviews with peers (20-50 hours)
In total, spend around 100-300 hours on case interview preparation. The exact time you need depends on your skill-set related to problem-solving, idea generation, math as well as business acumen, and communication.
- A free guide on consulting case interviews
- The insider perspective on the McKinsey case interview
- How to create frameworks and structures in a case interview
- How to interpret charts and data in case interviews
- How to perform math in case interviews
- Case interview examples for practice (McKinsey, BCG, Bain, tier-2 firms)
- How to prepare for case interviews alone and conduct drills
Focus on quality over quantity. Doing 50+ cases does not mean much if you are not applying the right habits to score high and do a detailed debrief after every case to improve. You want to move from bad to good for your weaknesses and good to great for your strength. Use the feedback from your previous experience, case coaches, and peers to tailor your prep accordingly.
Consider booking at least an initial coaching session with a professional coach and interviewer to get a detailed and objective evaluation of your performance. This will act as a productivity and skill multiplier since you will learn the right habits for every case regardless of context and framework right from the start. Additionally, you will get a tailored preparation plan out of the session that will set you up for effective and efficient preparation. By just reading Case in Point and Victor Cheng, you do not cover the full range of more creative cases that are common nowadays in MBB. In short, approach and mindset > framework
Practice drills alone (structure, chart, math) and practice full cases with other excellent candidates that know the right habits and approach. It is crucial that you are practicing with really good peers, otherwise, you are wasting your time. Practicing drills on your own is a huge effectivity and efficiency booster since you can go over many more questions in a shorter amount of time compared to practicing with peers. Do both in parallel!
For your preparation, tailor the cases to the firm you are applying to. McKinsey cases for instance are quite different from BCG and Bain.
Invest extra time into case math. Math is the common most reason why candidates fail. If math is a weakness of yours invest 2 hours per day on a. setting up the math logic and b. conducting number drills
What about the personal fit part or the McKinsey PEI?
Fit questions are often neglected as candidates mostly focus on cases. For personal fit questions and behavioral questions devote your time in the following way:
- Prepare answers for all the typical fit questions and McKinsey PEI stories within 4-6 hours.
- Rhearse them a couple of times with friends, peers, and family within 5-7 hours.
In total, spend around 10-15 hours on personal fit questions.
Consulting interview preparation plan
Now, in total, you should spend around 110 to 315 hours on the preparation. Depending on the time you have available per week as well as on your skill level and experience, you should decide how many weeks you need to prepare. Two examples are below:
Experienced interviewer with a full-time job: 6 weeks
- You have done case interviews before and now want to get a a job at McKinsey
- You reckon that you would need 110 hours to prepare
- You are working a full-time job with 50 hours per week and decide you can spend 20 hours per week on interview prep
- You would need to start preparing roughly 6 weeks before the interview
Non-business background, available to practice full-time: 8 weeks
- You have never done a business interview before, and have little knowledge about business concepts
- You reckon that you would want to invest around 300 hours in the consulting interview prep
- You can spend 40 hours per week
- You need to start your preparation around 8 weeks before the interviews
Please note that these are just recommendations based on our experience.
Most candidates prepare significantly less than the proposed hours. While we understand the constraints with regards to timing and preparation, please note that most candidates also fail to secure their offer with around 1% of applicants actually being able to start their McKinsey careers. Similar numbers apply to BCG and Bain.
Find a number that works for you and consider including rest periods or days to avoid burning out and keeping your mind fresh.
How a good coach can help you
If you want a headstart, consider booking a coach or going through a program such as our Ready-for-McKinsey Academy below. A good coach can reduce the time needed to prepare by more than 50% as you will learn to ace cases right from the start, get access to the best materials out there, and receive a diagnostic, followed by a tailored preparation plan.
McKinsey Interview Academy (Case and PEI)
EUR 249 / EUR 149