Landing an offer with a top consulting firm like McKinsey, Bain, or BCG (also known as the MBB firms), is tough. In this article, Davis Nguyen of My Consulting Offer brings you his ideas and methods for how to do it. My Consulting Offer is a team of former McKinsey, Bain, and BCG recruiters and interviewers who have already helped over 300 people begin their career in management consulting.
They make offers to only about 1% of the people who apply. In 2019, McKinsey has 800,000 applicants and gave out less than 8,000 offers.
But it is not impossible to get a job with these firms if you have the proper preparation.
After working with over 400 people to get their job offer in consulting, I’ve learned a few things.
Successful candidates know that consulting firms use a particular type of interview question — the case study interview.
Successful candidates know that recruiters are looking for structured problem-solving in their answer. They use a structured approach to solve these case interviews.
Here is the 4-step approach we recommend:
- Use the Opening to gather information. Ask all the questions you need to understand the client’s problem.
- Structure how you’d solve the problem. List all the factors relevant to the problem and organise them in a complete and logical manner. For example, if the case is about growing revenues, you need to consider how they are making their current revenues and how competitors make their revenue.
- Analyse the potential causes of the problem. Gather data on all the factors you identified in the “structure” section. This will help you understand which factors are the most important to solving the client’s problem.
- Share your conclusion with “the client” to help them improve their business. Present your recommendation to your interviewer, in a way that leads with your answer, summarises the issues you analysed in a logical manner, and is persuasive.
This structured approach was what made the difference for Daniel. Other coaches told him he didn’t have enough structure, but this helped him see exactly what to do differently.
Using the first sample case question above, let’s walk through a structured problem-solving approach:
In the opening of the case, you might ask how about Coffee Bean. How many cafés it has, where they’re located, what they sell, what their competition looks like, and if they noticed if the revenue has been dropping because of a certain product.
In structuring the case, you might tell your interviewer you’d like to use the profitability equation. First, break down the declining sales into units sold and price to understand which component of revenue is the source of the problem, or whether both are down.
Next, frame this in terms of the number of customers walking in the door and the size of their orders.
You could also recommend analysing competitive cafes. Has a new competitor entered the market or have existing competitors changed their product, their pricing or their promotion strategy?
In the analysis of the case, you dive down into each aspect of the case you laid out in the structuring phase. You do any calculations required to interpret the information you receive from your interviewer.
At the conclusion of the case, you’ll summarise the client problem, and what you found in your analysis of the problem. At last, you provide a persuasive recommendation for how Coffee Bean can turn their revenues around.
If you want to see all four of these parts in action, have a look at the video series on this page, where I run through a case interview with a former McKinsey Engagement Manager.
Know the different case study interview formats you could encounter.
- Candidate-led. The candidate breaks down the business problem and decides which part to probe first (most common).
- Interviewer-led. The candidate identifies the key elements of a thorny business issue. After they do that, the interviewer tells them which aspect of the case to address first (used by McKinsey).
- Written interview. The candidate is given a packet of PowerPoint slides. They then review them and create a presentation to give to their interviewer(s).
- Group interview. Multiple candidates discuss a case together and then present their solution to an interviewer (least common).
Take advantage of available resources out there to help you prepare.
Whether, like Daniel, you use this guide I created that has helped hundreds of candidates or not, don’t try to do it alone.
Like trying to scale Mt. Everest, you could try to do it on your own. However, you are probably better off learning from those who’ve already made it and building on what they know so you get there even faster and safer.
I created these resources to make learning to case faster and easier so you can spend more time with your friends and family, avoid potential pitfalls, and ultimately get an offer from the consulting firm of your choice!