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Francesco

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8

How do I improve creativity, and how different is McKinsey's final round from round 1?

Just got invited to McKinsey round 2 for the BA position in a month, and am wondering what to do from here. My feedback from round 1 was very short - very strong on everything else overall but I can stand to improve my out of the box thinking.

Aside from that, how often do Partners go off script in round 2, and what should I expect in terms of PEI and case difficulty?

Thanks!

Just got invited to McKinsey round 2 for the BA position in a month, and am wondering what to do from here. My feedback from round 1 was very short - very strong on everything else overall but I can stand to improve my out of the box thinking.

Aside from that, how often do Partners go off script in round 2, and what should I expect in terms of PEI and case difficulty?

Thanks!

8 answers

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Hi there,

In terms of what to expect in the final, the structure of the rounds is the same (fit + case+ your questions); however in finals there is usually more emphasis on communication and fit.

Specifically, the main differences you may find in a final round with partners is that at that stage they:

  1. Spend more time on fit questions and your alignment with the company
  2. Check more closely your communication (eg how you react to challenging questions)
  3. May not have a “proper” structured case to present – during one of my finals I had one interview which was made by two market sizing questions and a brainteaser, without any business case. That's because during the final they know you can structure and crack a case (you passed 1 or 2 rounds already) and are more interested in your logic, personality and fit with the company. Having said that, cases at McKinsey are quite standard in finals in many offices.

So in order to prepare I would concentrate on the following:

  • Review in detail your fit stories. Be sure to review your PEI stories with experienced candidates or consultants and to have at least a backup for each dimension
  • Work on your communication (reaction under pressure, how to gain time when you do not have a structure ready, connect with the interviewer, etc). This is something you can do almost exclusively in interviews with peers.
  • Prepare cases as you did for the first round. If you got feedback on a specific area such as creativity, focus more on that part.

In terms of creativity, whenever you get a question on brainstorming in the case, I would recommend the following:

  1. Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
  2. Present a first level of the structure with MECE buckets
    1. You can do that even if you have never seen that question before. If you have no idea on how to structure a first level, you can use a structure as X vs Non-X.
    2. Potential examples include: Long term vs short term; Current vs New; Financial vs Non-financial.
    3. The more you practice cases in the right way, the more you will be able to derive appropriate MECE buckets fitting a case.
  3. Brainstorm options in each bucket
    1. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done.
    2. If you are weak in creativity for one specific industry, the most effective strategy is to go through cases of a good consulting MBA casebook for that industry.
    3. There are many casebooks available for free online – although not all are good. Screen the list for the industries interesting for you and work on them. MBA casebooks are not good in terms of the structure of the case but can help to develop creativity.

Below you can find an example of how to brainstorm in a structured way.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Interviewer. So, generally speaking, how would you decrease the cost of raw materials?

► STEP 1: ASK FOR ONE MINUTE OF TIME

Interviewee. That’s an interesting question. Do you mind if I take 1 minute to think about it?

Interviewer. Please take your time.

► STEP 2: IDENTIFY MECE BUCKETS

Interviewee. Thanks; I believe there are two key areas to decrease the cost of raw material; we may decrease the cost of each unit, or we may decrease the number of units we buy. I would like now to go a bit deeper into these two components.

(Note that even if you are brainstorming, you are first presenting a list of the MECE areas. This is fundamental to brainstorm correctly)

► STEP 3: BRAINSTORM OPTIONS IN EACH BUCKET

Interviewee. Well, in order to decrease the cost per unit we may do a couple of things, keeping in mind we want to maintain revenues at the same level:

  1. we may negotiate a lower price;
  2. we may look for other suppliers.

In order to decrease the number of units, we may do the following:

  1. we may start to use a more efficient technology for our raw material, so that we have less waste;
  2. we may use a new kind of raw material for which there is less waste.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you want to learn how to brainstorm and structure all the major common questions, please feel free to PM me – I do a session exactly on that.

Best,

Francesco

Hi there,

In terms of what to expect in the final, the structure of the rounds is the same (fit + case+ your questions); however in finals there is usually more emphasis on communication and fit.

Specifically, the main differences you may find in a final round with partners is that at that stage they:

  1. Spend more time on fit questions and your alignment with the company
  2. Check more closely your communication (eg how you react to challenging questions)
  3. May not have a “proper” structured case to present – during one of my finals I had one interview which was made by two market sizing questions and a brainteaser, without any business case. That's because during the final they know you can structure and crack a case (you passed 1 or 2 rounds already) and are more interested in your logic, personality and fit with the company. Having said that, cases at McKinsey are quite standard in finals in many offices.

So in order to prepare I would concentrate on the following:

  • Review in detail your fit stories. Be sure to review your PEI stories with experienced candidates or consultants and to have at least a backup for each dimension
  • Work on your communication (reaction under pressure, how to gain time when you do not have a structure ready, connect with the interviewer, etc). This is something you can do almost exclusively in interviews with peers.
  • Prepare cases as you did for the first round. If you got feedback on a specific area such as creativity, focus more on that part.

In terms of creativity, whenever you get a question on brainstorming in the case, I would recommend the following:

  1. Ask for one minute of time to structure your thoughts
  2. Present a first level of the structure with MECE buckets
    1. You can do that even if you have never seen that question before. If you have no idea on how to structure a first level, you can use a structure as X vs Non-X.
    2. Potential examples include: Long term vs short term; Current vs New; Financial vs Non-financial.
    3. The more you practice cases in the right way, the more you will be able to derive appropriate MECE buckets fitting a case.
  3. Brainstorm options in each bucket
    1. Your creativity in this area is directly correlated with the number of cases you have done.
    2. If you are weak in creativity for one specific industry, the most effective strategy is to go through cases of a good consulting MBA casebook for that industry.
    3. There are many casebooks available for free online – although not all are good. Screen the list for the industries interesting for you and work on them. MBA casebooks are not good in terms of the structure of the case but can help to develop creativity.

Below you can find an example of how to brainstorm in a structured way.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Interviewer. So, generally speaking, how would you decrease the cost of raw materials?

► STEP 1: ASK FOR ONE MINUTE OF TIME

Interviewee. That’s an interesting question. Do you mind if I take 1 minute to think about it?

Interviewer. Please take your time.

► STEP 2: IDENTIFY MECE BUCKETS

Interviewee. Thanks; I believe there are two key areas to decrease the cost of raw material; we may decrease the cost of each unit, or we may decrease the number of units we buy. I would like now to go a bit deeper into these two components.

(Note that even if you are brainstorming, you are first presenting a list of the MECE areas. This is fundamental to brainstorm correctly)

► STEP 3: BRAINSTORM OPTIONS IN EACH BUCKET

Interviewee. Well, in order to decrease the cost per unit we may do a couple of things, keeping in mind we want to maintain revenues at the same level:

  1. we may negotiate a lower price;
  2. we may look for other suppliers.

In order to decrease the number of units, we may do the following:

  1. we may start to use a more efficient technology for our raw material, so that we have less waste;
  2. we may use a new kind of raw material for which there is less waste.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you want to learn how to brainstorm and structure all the major common questions, please feel free to PM me – I do a session exactly on that.

Best,

Francesco

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Congrats on progressing to the final round! Having been a McKinsey interviewer for both rounds, a few thoughts based on your questions:

+ PEI: you should expect the same as first round, covering the same PEI dimensions but I would practice telling your stories in a more engaging way, really honing in on the key challenges, as most final round candidates will have good stories and so you want to come across as someone that your interviewer is impresssed and interested in as well as evenutally wanting to work with

+ Case: the case structure will be the same but the difficulty will typically go up where your interviewer will expect you to work with more ambiguity but also with more depth in your answers to same types of cases (e.g., profitability, market entry, etc.), really capturing the issues behind the problem but in a collaborative way with the interviewer. You may come across one slightly abstract case that is not as well structured and defined as a typical McKinsey case (e.g., should Heathrow Airport build a third runway?) but the problem solving skills you are being tested on are still the same where it becomes even more important for you to drive the thinking but ask thoughtful questions and work collaboratively with your interviewer

+ Out of the box thinking: there are loads of tricks that have been shared in this forum (e.g., use analogous examples, etc.) but my top tip is to structure your thinking using mutliple dimensions (e.g., internal vs. external drivers behind the five stages of a customer journey - which gives you a 2x5 matrix to fill and helps you think more hollistically)

Good luck!

Congrats on progressing to the final round! Having been a McKinsey interviewer for both rounds, a few thoughts based on your questions:

+ PEI: you should expect the same as first round, covering the same PEI dimensions but I would practice telling your stories in a more engaging way, really honing in on the key challenges, as most final round candidates will have good stories and so you want to come across as someone that your interviewer is impresssed and interested in as well as evenutally wanting to work with

+ Case: the case structure will be the same but the difficulty will typically go up where your interviewer will expect you to work with more ambiguity but also with more depth in your answers to same types of cases (e.g., profitability, market entry, etc.), really capturing the issues behind the problem but in a collaborative way with the interviewer. You may come across one slightly abstract case that is not as well structured and defined as a typical McKinsey case (e.g., should Heathrow Airport build a third runway?) but the problem solving skills you are being tested on are still the same where it becomes even more important for you to drive the thinking but ask thoughtful questions and work collaboratively with your interviewer

+ Out of the box thinking: there are loads of tricks that have been shared in this forum (e.g., use analogous examples, etc.) but my top tip is to structure your thinking using mutliple dimensions (e.g., internal vs. external drivers behind the five stages of a customer journey - which gives you a 2x5 matrix to fill and helps you think more hollistically)

Good luck!

Hi Ken, a quick question regarding your last point about structuring using multiple dimensions. Can you clarify your example? How would you exactly talk about internal and external factors regarding the different stages of a customer journey? Thanks. — Anonymous C on Nov 12, 2020 (edited)

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Creativity/Brainstorming

  1. Practice/Prepare - The more you practice cases, read case studies and articles (The Economist, The FT, etc), the more "examples" you'll have, as you just have more base knowledge to work with.
  2. Repivot and Frame - Pause. And look at the ideas you've come up with. Talk to the interview with you frame/group them. This 1) Shows them you can organise your thoughts 2) Helps you gain some time AND identify potential holes yourself 3) Gives them a window to point you in the right direction (they might say "Ok, that's a good bucket, but it's missing something" or " You're missing a bucket that relates to what you';ve said here")
  3. Ask for Help - This is a tricky one to navigate, but you can ask questions or make statements that try to glean more information from them. For example, "I'm out of ideas, but have any competitors excelled in any areas"..."Do we have any analysis on this?"..."etc. etc.

Round 2

In terms of process, you should expect nothing different. However, they have made a note of areas you showed strengths/weaknesses in. Look for them to test you weaknesses to see if they're 1) A fluk or 2) Workable.

So, focus on improving in areas you know you underperformed in - at the end of the day, same preparation as you should have been doing before!

Creativity/Brainstorming

  1. Practice/Prepare - The more you practice cases, read case studies and articles (The Economist, The FT, etc), the more "examples" you'll have, as you just have more base knowledge to work with.
  2. Repivot and Frame - Pause. And look at the ideas you've come up with. Talk to the interview with you frame/group them. This 1) Shows them you can organise your thoughts 2) Helps you gain some time AND identify potential holes yourself 3) Gives them a window to point you in the right direction (they might say "Ok, that's a good bucket, but it's missing something" or " You're missing a bucket that relates to what you';ve said here")
  3. Ask for Help - This is a tricky one to navigate, but you can ask questions or make statements that try to glean more information from them. For example, "I'm out of ideas, but have any competitors excelled in any areas"..."Do we have any analysis on this?"..."etc. etc.

Round 2

In terms of process, you should expect nothing different. However, they have made a note of areas you showed strengths/weaknesses in. Look for them to test you weaknesses to see if they're 1) A fluk or 2) Workable.

So, focus on improving in areas you know you underperformed in - at the end of the day, same preparation as you should have been doing before!

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Hello!

On top of the insights already shared in the post:

Case prep should be quite similar, if so expect less structured cases. However, prep is the same.

FIT is also the same, but gains importance in the 2nd round. If you want to deepen you knowledge, the "Integrated FIT guide for MBB" has been recently published in PrepLounge´s shop (https://www.preplounge.com/en/shop/tests-2/integrated-fit-guide-for-mbb-34)

It provides an end-to-end preparation for all three MBB interviews, tackling each firms particularities and combining key concepts review and a hands-on methodology. Following the book, the candidate will prepare his/her stories by practicing with over 50 real questions and leveraging special frameworks and worksheets that guide step-by-step, developed by the author and her experience as a Master in Management professor and coach. Finally, as further guidance, the guide encompasses over 20 examples from real candidates.

Furthermore, you can find 2 free cases in the PrepL case regarding FIT preparation:

Intro and CV questions > https://www.preplounge.com/en/management-consulting-cases/fit-interview/intermediate/introduction-and-cv-questions-fit-interview-preparation-200

Motivational questions > https://www.preplounge.com/en/management-consulting-cases/fit-interview/intermediate/motivational-questions-fit-interview-preparation-201

Behavioural questions (ENTREPRENEURIAL DRIVE) >https://www.preplounge.com/en/management-consulting-cases/fit-interview/intermediate/behavioral-questions-entrepreneurial-drive-fit-interview-preparation-211

Feel free to PM me for disccount codes for the Integrated FIT Guide, since we still have some left from the launch!

Integrated FIT Guide for MBB

Hello!

On top of the insights already shared in the post:

Case prep should be quite similar, if so expect less structured cases. However, prep is the same.

FIT is also the same, but gains importance in the 2nd round. If you want to deepen you knowledge, the "Integrated FIT guide for MBB" has been recently published in PrepLounge´s shop (https://www.preplounge.com/en/shop/tests-2/integrated-fit-guide-for-mbb-34)

It provides an end-to-end preparation for all three MBB interviews, tackling each firms particularities and combining key concepts review and a hands-on methodology. Following the book, the candidate will prepare his/her stories by practicing with over 50 real questions and leveraging special frameworks and worksheets that guide step-by-step, developed by the author and her experience as a Master in Management professor and coach. Finally, as further guidance, the guide encompasses over 20 examples from real candidates.

Furthermore, you can find 2 free cases in the PrepL case regarding FIT preparation:

Intro and CV questions > https://www.preplounge.com/en/management-consulting-cases/fit-interview/intermediate/introduction-and-cv-questions-fit-interview-preparation-200

Motivational questions > https://www.preplounge.com/en/management-consulting-cases/fit-interview/intermediate/motivational-questions-fit-interview-preparation-201

Behavioural questions (ENTREPRENEURIAL DRIVE) >https://www.preplounge.com/en/management-consulting-cases/fit-interview/intermediate/behavioral-questions-entrepreneurial-drive-fit-interview-preparation-211

Feel free to PM me for disccount codes for the Integrated FIT Guide, since we still have some left from the launch!

Integrated FIT Guide for MBB

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These things are what we call business judgement or intuition. A general understanding of what drives businesses across sectors and the ability to transfer this to new sectors that you have not worked with.

Typically making these connections, especially if they are far, is not required to pass to the next round or get an offer, but they give you extra points and might balance out issues in other areas (e.g. the quant part.)

To build this level of deep understanding, you can read business newspapers and case studies consciously. Make it a habit to read the business sections of FT or Economist and reflect on the underlying issues. Read case studies on interesting dynamics of random industries to gradually build an understanding of what typical drivers are. Things like:

  • What are typical customer segments and which are more attractive for the business to please?
  • Is the industry driven by fixed or variable costs and how does this influence decision making?
  • What are typical power structures along the value chain (e.g. monopoly in raw materials) and how does this effect the relationship between players?
  • Is the business dependent on/subject to strong government regulation or do they long for a free, unregulated market?

There are many more of these questions that help you build this intuition and eventually can provide interesting insights into a case, even if not explicitly mentioned by the interviewer.

These things are what we call business judgement or intuition. A general understanding of what drives businesses across sectors and the ability to transfer this to new sectors that you have not worked with.

Typically making these connections, especially if they are far, is not required to pass to the next round or get an offer, but they give you extra points and might balance out issues in other areas (e.g. the quant part.)

To build this level of deep understanding, you can read business newspapers and case studies consciously. Make it a habit to read the business sections of FT or Economist and reflect on the underlying issues. Read case studies on interesting dynamics of random industries to gradually build an understanding of what typical drivers are. Things like:

  • What are typical customer segments and which are more attractive for the business to please?
  • Is the industry driven by fixed or variable costs and how does this influence decision making?
  • What are typical power structures along the value chain (e.g. monopoly in raw materials) and how does this effect the relationship between players?
  • Is the business dependent on/subject to strong government regulation or do they long for a free, unregulated market?

There are many more of these questions that help you build this intuition and eventually can provide interesting insights into a case, even if not explicitly mentioned by the interviewer.

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Hi there!
I can recommend the following tips:

- Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone. This can help your brain to think outside the box.
- Movement saturates the brain, improve your mood, and makes your body feel better, so you can generate more creative ideas after
- You need to support your creative spirit, for example, take some classes of art or visit. This can help you to have a creative mood and inspiration.
- Don’t forget to rest and try to decrease the number of daily routine tasks, too much stress kills creativity.
- Try to rethink the problem from different sides.


Was it helpful?
GB

Hi there!
I can recommend the following tips:

- Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone. This can help your brain to think outside the box.
- Movement saturates the brain, improve your mood, and makes your body feel better, so you can generate more creative ideas after
- You need to support your creative spirit, for example, take some classes of art or visit. This can help you to have a creative mood and inspiration.
- Don’t forget to rest and try to decrease the number of daily routine tasks, too much stress kills creativity.
- Try to rethink the problem from different sides.


Was it helpful?
GB

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congrats! which office are you applying for?

congrats! which office are you applying for?

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