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McKinsey Case Interview

Case Interview McKinsey
Edited on May 29, 2024
8 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Mar 20, 2024

Hi there! I want to ask several questions regarding the case interview at McKinsey.

  1. Is it common to request some silent time to jot down answers for business opinion, brainstorming questions, quantitative questions, and summary + recommendation, similar to how it's done during structuring frameworks?
  2. I've noticed that some case problem examples are labeled with difficulty levels like easy, medium, or hard, or with ratings like 1 to 5 stars. Could you elaborate on what factors differentiate the difficulty levels in these problems? Additionally, in McKinsey interviews, what is the typical difficulty level?
  3. Do consulting companies (especially McKinsey) typically create brand new case problems for each interview, or do they have a repository of case problems that can be reused over time? If there exist, where can I find the repository?
  4. Continuing from question 3, is it possible for some problems in casebooks or other references to be slightly or entirely similar to the case questions used in the upcoming interviews?

     

(edited)

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Ian
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Content Creator
updated an answer on Mar 21, 2024
#1 BCG coach | MBB | Tier 2 | Digital, Tech, Platinion | 100% personal success rate (8/8) | 95% candidate success rate

Hi there,

You need a mindset shift here. Please look at the following:

End-to-end case interview training – from beginner to advanced 

How to Shift Your Mindset to Ace the Case
 

Candidate-Led Cases: What to Expect With Example Cases

1. Is it common to request some silent time to jot down answers for business opinion, brainstorming questions, quantitative questions, and summary + recommendation, similar to how it's done during structuring frameworks?

Yes! Be smart about where you do this though. Sometimes you have to (and should). But if you're doing it 5+ times in a case there are issues.

2. I've noticed that some case problem examples are labeled with difficulty levels like easy, medium, or hard, or with ratings like 1 to 5 stars. Could you elaborate on what factors differentiate the difficulty levels in these problems? Additionally, in McKinsey interviews, what is the typical difficulty level?

Always assume hard. Real life interviews are harder than what your peers give (and generally easier than what case coaches give).

Difficultly is based on # and complexity of charts/exhibits, math, prompt, industry, etc.

3. Do consulting companies (especially McKinsey) typically create brand new case problems for each interview, or do they have a repository of case problems that can be reused over time? If there exist, where can I find the repository?

 

I have a repository of REAL case interviews questions asked worldwide.

Most firms require each interviewer to create their own case based on their own project(s). Some have centralized/standardized cases.

I recently supported a BCG Partner in creating their case (1.5 hour call to build his case for interviews)

 

4. Continuing from question 3, is it possible for some problems in casebooks or other references to be slightly or entirely similar to the case questions used in the upcoming interviews?

yup!

So all 10,000 cases out there for practice have overlap with all of the 50,000 possible case questions you'll have in real interview!

The Most Common Pitfalls in Case Interview Preparation
 

Dos and Don'ts in a Case Interview
 

How to Shift Your Mindset to Ace the Case
 

Candidate-Led Cases: What to Expect With Example Cases

(edited)

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Udayan
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replied on Mar 20, 2024
Top rated Case & PEI coach/Multiple real offers/McKinsey EM in New York /12 years recruiting experience

Some answers to your Questions below : 

1. Requesting time 

In McKinsey case interviews, it is quite common (and honestly encouraged) to request time to think through your approach, especially during the initial structuring phase of the case. For subsequent sections, like brainstorming, quantitative analysis, and especially when summarizing with recommendations, requesting brief silent periods is also both useful and encouraged. 

The crucial part is to use this time efficiently and not excessively, as the ability to think quickly and articulate your thoughts under pressure is part of what the interviewers assess. 

2. The difficulty levels (e.g., easy, medium, hard) or ratings (1 to 5 stars) in case problem examples usually reflect a combination of factors, including:

Quantitative analysis required: The difficulty and complexity of the calculations and data analysis can vary significantly.

Solution path: More challenging cases might have multiple valid approaches with no clear "right" answer, requiring clear judgment and reasoning.

3. Repository - McKinsey has a repository of cases that can be reused or adapted over time. However, they also continuously update their case bank with new scenarios to reflect the current business landscape of various industries. 

4. Similarity to casebooks - theoretically It's possible for some problems in casebooks to be very  similar to the case questions used in interviews as they typically draw from past interview experiences.  However, McKinsey is aware of this and solve for it by constantly changing the problems and types of questions asked. I have found that the sample cases on the McK website is often the closest to what you can expect in an actual interview. 

Best,

Udayan

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Francesco
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replied on Mar 21, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

 1) Is it common to request some silent time to jot down answers?

It is totally fine, and actually a good idea, to ask for time during the interview. 

2) I've noticed that some case problem examples are labeled with difficulty levels like easy, medium, or hard, or with ratings like 1 to 5 stars. Could you elaborate on what factors differentiate the difficulty levels in these problems?

If you are referring to cases like the one available on PrepLounge, the difficulty is something provided by the content creator so that candidates can choose a level appropriate to their preparation.

3) Do consulting companies (especially McKinsey) typically create brand new case problems for each interview, or do they have a repository of case problems that can be reused over time? If there exist, where can I find the repository?

Normally they use the same case for multiple interviews. The case repository is not publicly available.

4) Is it possible for some problems in casebooks or other references to be slightly or entirely similar to the case questions used in the upcoming interviews?

Depending on the source, there might be cases similar to those that have been actually used (I have a DB with 1500+ real questions asked at MBB and top consulting firms).

Best,

Francesco

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Pedro
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replied on Mar 20, 2024
Bain | Roland Berger | EY-Parthenon | Mentoring Approach | 30% off first 10 sessions in May| Market Sizing | DARDEN MBA

1. Yes, you can take some time

2. Consulting firms do not use those difficulty levels. It's the candidates that prepared the case book that assigned difficulty level (although yes, some cases are more complex than other). You can get any “difficulty” level. What is being evaluated is your performance, it's how you think… it's not whether you can get to the “right” answer. This means that you may struggle with a difficult case and pass vs. do well in an easy case and fail.

3. Both. Some interviewers create their own case. But they have a repository. It's proprietary, you won't find it.

4. Yes, you will find similarities… but just like in real life the context is always slighty different (or the question slightly different). And it's how you integrate those specificities that really makes a great consultant (and candidate).

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Cristian
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replied on Mar 21, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Hi there!

These are great questions. Let me take them one by one.

  1. Is it common to request some silent time to jot down answers for business opinion, brainstorming questions, quantitative questions, and summary + recommendation, similar to how it's done during structuring frameworks?
    1. That's absolutely fine. Please take the time. You are not expected to answer on the spot. If you have to choose between quality and speed, always choose the former. Almost nobody gets rejected because of speed. 
  2. I've noticed that some case problem examples are labelled with difficulty levels like easy, medium, or hard or with ratings like 1 to 5 stars. Could you elaborate on what factors differentiate the difficulty levels in these problems? Additionally, in McKinsey interviews, what is the typical difficulty level?
    1. Difficulty levels are basically how difficult it is. Rating is how good is the quality of the case based on candidate reviews. 
    2. In practice, in the actual interview, the difficulty is adjusted by the interviewer based on how much they choose to help the candidate or give them freedom to explore the case context
  3. Do consulting companies (especially McKinsey) typically create brand new case problems for each interview, or do they have a repository of case problems that can be reused over time? If there exist, where can I find the repository?
    1. They have a repository that is a firm property and thus cannot be shared. Many interviewers however create their own cases.
  4. Continuing from question 3, is it possible for some problems in casebooks or other references to be slightly or entirely similar to the case questions used in the upcoming interviews?
    1. Definitely. Sharing below a couple of my own cases that were developed based on McKinsey interviews done by candidates of mine in the last year. 

Best,
Cristian

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Florian
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replied on Mar 21, 2024
1300 5-star reviews across platforms | 500+ offers | Highest-rated case book on Amazon | Uni lecturer in US, Asia, EU

Hi there,

1. Yes it is!

2. Where did you see that? McKinsey does not have this rating system but a relatively standardized case difficulty for all applicants across the globe. They are never too difficult in theory but what is difficult in practice is that you are doing it under the watchful eyes of an interviewer, are stressed, and need to generate insights on top of the standard answers you might think about on the spot.

3. Most cases are based on the interviewer's project experience, simplified and sanitized/client data removed.

4. Possibly in theory, not in practice. Don't try to guess what case you will get but you need to learn problem solving and communication skills to woo a McKinsey interviewer.

I wrote an article about it (and a book) and you could start here: 

All the best and reach out if you have any further questions!

Cheers,

Florian

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Dennis
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replied on Mar 21, 2024
Ex-Roland Berger|Project Manager and Recruiter|7+ years of consulting experience in USA and Europe

Hi there,

  1. Yes, always think before you start talking. Especially when it is about contemplating the approach you want to take for a specific case problem. However, also think of the case interview as a type of discussion. The more natural the flow and the exchange between interviewer and interviewee, the better. Take some time if you need to, but be also mindful that requesting prolonged periods of silence “to think” after “every” question would come across as weird and not very convincing
  2. If you mean PrepLounge cases, the content creators are the ones assigning a difficulty level to a case as an indication. The stars (1-5) are an aggregate rating of the respective case based on reviews left by people who have practiced with the case - so this won't really have any impact on your actual interview situations
  3. Interviewers often have own cases based on personal project experiences. Recruiting teams of consulting firms also provide cases during recruiting cycles to interviewers centrally. It's a mix of both and can also vary by geography. You will not get access to these individual repositories - why would any company want to have their “active cases” be published anywhere? 
  4. Sure. But it would be foolish of you to expect that you'll get an exact copy of a practice case in your actual interview. That means that your preparation will need to focus on the methodology of solving any case, not on trying to memorize how to solve the X-amount of cases you have practiced

Please make sure that you give yourself sufficient time to familiarize yourself with the case interview format and to practice before you submit your applications.

Best of luck

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Hagen
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replied on May 29, 2024
#1 Bain coach | >95% success rate | interviewer for 8+ years | mentor and coach for 7+ years

Hi there,

I would be happy to share my thoughts on your questions:

  • First of all, I would highly advise you not to try to solve all the uncertainties of your upcoming interviews in advance, as you will not be able to do so anyway.
  • Moreover, please keep in mind that none of your questions are specific to McKinsey.
  • Lastly, to answer your questions:
    • Do it the way you have to do it - there is no point in not taking time when you need it or taking time when you don't need it.
    • The difficulty level given for PrepLounge cases is a qualitative assessment by the creator of the case study. Furthermore, there is no uniform level of difficulty for the actual case studies, as this also depends on the person solving them.
    • The latter is the case, but obviously you cannot get access to McKinsey's internal case study repository. However, I would be more than happy to work through several authentic McKinsey case studies with you so that you can develop a solid understanding of them.
    • The case studies in business school casebooks always differ, sometimes just a little, sometimes a lot. Nevertheless, in addition to working with an experienced coach like me, they are the best possible resource for your preparation.

If you would like a more detailed discussion on how to best prepare for your upcoming McKinsey interviews, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

Best,

Hagen

 

You can find the salary report of consulting firms in Germany here!

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Ian

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