Why McKinsey and others use case interviews to select employees

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Top-tier management consultancies employ multiple case interviews to evaluate their potential employees. In practice, you will have 3 to 6 interviews with different consultants of the firm who ask you to solve real-life business problems.

Beforehand, the company screens your vita to establish that you have the potential to be a good candidate.

In the interviews, they then want to test your aptitude and potential to develop into a world-class consultant. In the end, they have to put you in front of the client where you represent the heavy legacy of your firm from day one.

As a result, what the consulting interviewers end up testing is exactly the same skillset that you need to become a successful consultant.

The skillset of a McKinsey, BCG, and Bain consultant

The ability to structure, investigate and solve complex problems

During the interview, you need to grasp quickly what is going on and what you are solving for. In order to do this properly, you need to split the problem into its components, ask the right questions to work your way through the case, analyze the facts given to you and eventually draw proper conclusions. Never forget the implications of your analysis, the so-called  ‘so-what’, in the end. This part tests your analytics, creativity, logic, and ability to reason.

Quantitative skills

Consultants and clients love to think in numbers. Here you need to show your ability to express difficult situations and relationships quantitatively in a quick manner, as well as to establish elegant equations and calculations. You also need to demonstrate mastery of quick mental math and flawless instantaneous paper calculations.

Communication skills

In front of the client, junior consultants need to appear mature as they will present to and even coach client leadership twice their age. For the case interview, this means that you need to guide the interview confidently through your analysis and present findings in an effective and highly structured manner. Learn how to make a good argument and tailor your message to the audience and the context at hand. Do not use empty phrases or stumble your way through the interview. You can train this skill by giving elevator pitches to describe certain situations. Don’t forget to pause every now and then, ask for time to think or take notes – you are human after all, and not a machine. Relating to this, be amicable and create a friendly and energetic atmosphere; the trick is not to make it appear difficult (even though it is).

Proactiveness and leadership

Consultancies aim to hire only people that have the potential to be future leaders in the business world. As such you need to demonstrate that you are able to work independently and can fix a problem on your own. In the interview, take charge of the situation and confidently and proactively guide the interviewer through your thinking and the solution. Treat her or him as a client.

Ability to work under pressure

Consultants repeatedly need to adapt to new teams, locations, clients,  problems, and constantly work towards tight deadlines. They need to function in foreign environments, adhere to the highest professional standards, and get up to speed quickly. As a result, you need to demonstrate resilience and the ability to work under pressure. To demonstrate this skill, as described above, make solving the case seem easy. Breath and focus! Additionally, be prepared to encounter some surprises the interviewer might through at you. A flexible mindset will help you with that challenge.

All these elements above will be tested in case interviews. While this might be terrifying, remember two things. First, think of case interviews as a chance to see if you actually like the typical work and working style in management consulting. Second, try to enjoy the process of solving complex problems. The best candidates are the ones that sincerely are having fun doing case interviews.

How we can help you ace the consulting case interviews

If you want to improve your case interview and problem-solving skills and learn the key habits and tricks that make you succeed in any McKinsey, BCG, and Bain interview, try our case practice.

Together, we spent 9 years with McKinsey and coached 100s of candidates to receive their desired offers. Our mock interviews have a 100% satisfaction rate and 9 out of 10 candidates that go through our Consulting interview coaching program receive the offer.

If you want to get the same knowledge in an extensive 40-part video series, check out our Ready-for-McKinsey video academy.

If you need to brush up on your math skills, we have created a program with detailed insider learning materials, 25 videos and a guidebook as well as 2,000 practice drills that mimick the McKinsey, BCG, and Bain case interview math as well as the aptitude and analytics test math for you here: the Case Interview Math Mastery.

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