BCG rejection: how to create strong structures?

Cases MBB Structure
New answer on Mar 11, 2020
5 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Mar 10, 2020

Hi! I just try to rebound from a very frustrating experience when interviewing with BCG. I had practiced about 30 cases prior to the interviews, and especially the last 10 practice cases went very well. I always came to the right solution without needing significant help from the case parter. Feedback was also very positive and stable. I had good confidence when walking into the interviews.

During the interviews and cases at BCG I also had a very good feeling, and I finished every case with a clear recommendation. However, the feedback then confused me big time. I was later told that each of my structures covered all areas and where very exhaustive (I have developed more detailed custom structures based on some of the standard frameworks from Case in Point for example), but nonetheless my structuring was perceived "weak in a methodical way". They told me "just outlining the areas is not enough - make clear what you want to analyze!". So what do they mean with this? I told them what I want to analyze! I am at a complete loss here.

I also want to apply to McKinsey and Bain. But after this experience I am unsure if I need to do other/different preparation?

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Sidi
Expert
replied on Mar 10, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 300+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi!

I believe it is quite clear what has happened to you. I have also seen this with many candidates who saw themselves as "well prepared" after having practiced based on what is commonly available in terms of case literature. However, there is a very important thing that most people are unfortunately completely unaware of: the structures in the most popular casebooks are mostly arbitrary and suffer from a fundamental lack of rigor. They are usually written by authors who have not been long enough in MBB firms to have acquired the skill of logic-based top-down structuring (which you usually only start using systematically as an experienced project leader, once you start designing (not creating!) proposal documents for clients). So here are a couple of fundamental points to understand:

  • Creating a strong structure does NOT mean to just tell the interviewer which areas you want to look into. This is not a structure! It is just a bucket list. Even if it contains dozens and dozens of elements!
  • In order for a structure to be strong, it has to be a logic - the logic according to which you will answer the question at hand. It is ideally rooted in a top-down disaggregation of the criterion by which the client objective is met. This client objective underlies the core question.
  • The disaggregation is best done with a driver tree, which allows you to identify the conceptual drivers and sub-drivers of your focus metric (thereby you create a (mostly) quantifiable operationalization of the client's objective).
  • Only AFTER this is completed (i.e., the logic is established), then qualitative elements (such as consumer demand, market structure, company operations, etc. --> the "buckets") can be outlined and mapped to the sub-branches of your driver tree!

This is how you create an integrated approach which is focused, rigorous and does not rely on industry knowledge, gut feeling or just luck - contrary to the typical "bucket frameworks" that you can find in most canonical case books. These frameworks usually have a lot of good content, but lack the most important part - the inherent logic of what you are testing for! They emerge from a quite immature way of thinking, similar to what people are conditioned for in most schools or even universities (aka, learning things by heart, which goes against everything that MBB firms are testing for and which explains why such bucket lists are seen as an indicator for inherently weak thinking).

Cheers, Sidi

P.S.: It takes some time to learn and internalize this. But speed should not be your focus when learning this! Even if you need five minutes or more at the beginning, this is totally fine! It is like learning an instrument - you first have to play 10x slower! Otherwise you will NEVER learn in properly!

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Francesco
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replied on Mar 11, 2020
#1 Expert for Coaching Sessions (3.700+) | 1.300+ Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG | 8+ Years of Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

given the feedback you received, I believe what is missing in your approach is the connection with the goal of the client when you present the structures - this is indeed a common mistake some advanced candidates do.

This means your structures are probably MECE, but the interviewer can’t see why you are mentioning the points in your list – he/she is feeling you simply memorized a list of buckets and blindly repeating them, without any personalization related to the goal of the client.

Improving this point doesn’t take very long and once fixed I believe you could apply at McK and Bain without major issues, assuming the content of your structures is good. I do a specific session focused on that and fixing any weak points in your structures, please PM me for more info.

Best,

Francesco

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Robert
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replied on Mar 10, 2020
McKinsey offers w/o final round interviews - 100% risk-free - 10+ years MBB coaching experience - Multiple book author

Hi Anonymous,

Based on the small portion of feedback you received it's more guessing what it could have meant .. but to me it sounds a little bit as you were quite strong in grouping your thoughts in some nice buckets, but possibly it was not specific enough what (and why) exactly you want to cover inside those buckets?

If you are interested in McK specific prep (both case and PEI) you can message me and we can try to find some slots for a coaching session!

Hope that helps!

Robert

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Clara
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Content Creator
replied on Mar 11, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Honestly, to me, this feedback sounds a bit "generic", and it´s not the 1st time that I see something like this. Was this told in person or via message?

Cheers,

Clara

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Udayan
Expert
Content Creator
updated an answer on Mar 10, 2020
Top rated MBB coach with many offers /Ex McKinsey EM in New York /6 years McKinsey recruiting experience/Real cases

Hi,

let me give you an example of what this could mean based on what you have written. Let's say you have a profitability case and you are looking at the standard revenue and cost buckets - for now we can say that this is about declining sales of mobile phones

Here is how you could look at revenue bucket of price e.g., - "I would like to look at price of mobile phones, specifically I believe that the pricing here can be highly variable depending on factors such as geography, phone software, phone hardware and brand perception. I would like to see if therre has been a change in pricing strategy based on the identified factors above."

A strong candidate has a great structure and a detailed understanding of why each of the bullets in his/her structure is important to investigate.

Hope this helps,

Udayan

(edited)

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Sidi gave the best answer

Sidi

McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 300+ candidates secure MBB offers
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