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How to plan applications?

Anonymous A asked on Jul 03, 2018 - 3 answers

Hi all! I am looking for some advice on how to plan my applications. I think it might make sense to only apply to one firm at a time to first "test the waters" and see how I perform. Is this a sensible strategy? My goal is MBB, but I am not sure whether going all in and directly applying to all of them is the best strategy. Any thoughts?

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replied on Jul 03, 2018
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 100+ candidates secure MBB offers
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Hi Anonymous!

This is a topic which I frequently discuss with my mentees. Indeed, it might make sense to adopt an approach which follows several "stages". The following strategy has proved to give outstanding results in terms of MBB offers:

1. Concentrate on proper preparation with excellent case partners/experts (several weeks)

2. Make sure your written applications (CV, cover letters, referrals) are on point!

2. Once you feel really comfortable on fit, cases and your application, apply to several Tier2 firms

3. Continue practicing cases!

4. Schedule interview days with the Tier 2 firms that get back to you

5. Once T2 interviews are scheduled, apply to MBB

6. Continue practicing cases!

7. Go through T2 interviews and get used to the setting (if you focused your preparation on MBB, you will realize that interview formats and cases might be a bit different at T2 firms, but don't get irritated by that fact). Try to get at least one offer (this is a great psychological help!)

8. Schedule interview days with the MBB firms that invited you

9. Continue practicing cases!

10. Nail interviews with MBB firms and celebrate your offer(s)!

Cheers, Sidi

replied on Jul 03, 2018
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Hi Anonymous,

I agree with what Sidi and Vlad have already said - I think the most important point is to make sure you feel comfortable with solving cases and are sufficiently prepared for the behavioral fit part.

However, there is one issue I often adress with my mentees: Is it really necessary to go through tier 2 interviews before applying to MBB (if this is what you want)? From my experience, that pretty much depends on how comfortable and safe you feel with your preparations and how likely you are to somehow lose motivation over time.

  • Is it the first time you do consulting interviews? Probably not a bad idea to experience the interview situation where stakes are not as high
  • Have you already had the chance to complete consulting interviews successfully? By now, you should know how to prepare and be able to realistically assess your level of preparations - if you feel you know what you are doing, no need to go through multiple interview processes before applying to MBB. Rather, put all your effort into the interviews you really want to nail.

I very often make the point that one of the most important things is that you "feel the fit" with a particular consultancy - and this may not always be one of MBB but rather a Tier 2 firm. Hence, it may be worth it going through tier 2 interviews nevertheless, but not necessarily solely for practice purposes but also in order to find the firm that is right for you.

Hope this helps!


replied on Jul 03, 2018
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It's really hard to predict the exact order of applications to MBB companies for the following reasons:

  1. Not all MBB may invite you
  2. The wait time for an answer may be up to a month in some countries (if you don't have a referral) and up to several months in the most popular offices (NY, SF, London)
  3. The interview process varies across MBB companies (e.g. at McK you'll have a month to write PST; you'll have a test and written case at BCG)

The best way to approach it is the following:

  1. Understand whether the tests will be the bottleneck. Do one full case from the McKinsey website in 60 min. Check your score. Target score is 22 out of 26 correct. If you do 17-18 correct you have great chances to improve in 1-2 weeks. Also, you have great chances for BCG Test since it's a bit easier than PST. If you scored lower - you'll need a couple of months just to spend on test prep. More details here:
  2. Start preparing for the cases. You may find the details of my prep plan here:
  3. Meanwhile, you can apply for Tier 2,3 companies that require less prep with cases / tests and respond quite quickly
  4. Learn how to answer the Fit interview (behavioral) questions and polish your Fit Interview stories on these Tier 2,3 interviews. More details here: and here
  5. Once you are halfway through with cases (20-30 cases with experienced partners good feedback) and know that you can pass the test (or you are almost there) you can apply to MBB.
  6. Continue preparation while waiting for the invitations