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Preparation for McKinsey style interviewer led cases

Experienced Hire Interviewer-Led vs Candidate-Led cases McKinsey
New answer on May 21, 2024
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Apr 30, 2024

I will going to be interviewing with an experienced role for McKinsey in the next few weeks. Is there any differences in terms of way of preparation for the McKinsey style of interviewer-led interview? Is there more emphasis on structuring especially in a MECE way? Is there more emphasis on analysis rather than estimation or market sizing, since there were no market sizing questions on the examples released by McKinsey? Finally, how similar in terms of difficulty are the case interviews released on McKinsey websites compare to the actual interview

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Sidi
Expert
replied on Apr 30, 2024
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi! 

It seems like people always obsess about candidate-led vs. interviewer-led, but there is no such thing as a pure "candidate-led structure" or "interviewer-led structure". It simply does not exist!

  • Firstly, firms will conduct cases on a spectrum between both extremes, and there will almost never be a "pure style". 
  • Second, your structure is completely independent on whether the interviewer is leading throughout the case or not! 
  • Moreover, learning how to address and navigate cases MUST be done in a candidate-led way. There is no way you can learn how to properly deal with cases in a purely interviewer- led style! Once you master this, then interviewer-led cases are actually easier, since a major element (i.e., prioritization of scrutinized analyses) is mostly taken over by the interviewer

So, to answer your question: it does NOT matter whether your interview at Bain will be more “candidate-led” or “interviewer-led”, because your structure is completely independent from this. 

You will still HAVE to build your case solving muscle in the candidate-led way - learning how to rigorously approach the question, narrow it down to its answer, criterion, breaking down the criterion, and running the required analyses to test the criterion. 

Once you master this, solving interviewer-led cases in the McKinsey style is not a problem anymore and, in fact, much much easier!

Cheers, Sidi 

_______________________

Dr. Sidi Koné 

(🚀 Ex BCG & McKinsey Sr. Project Manager, now helping high potential individuals join the world's top Strategy Consulting firms (McKinsey | BCG | Bain))
 

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Cristian
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Content Creator
replied on Apr 30, 2024
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

By and large, McKinsey cases are not that different from MBB cases in general. 

Yes, they are ‘interviewer-led’ which in practice means that the discussion can be more segmented and it's the interviewer who presents the actual question you need to ask. 

But like in a regular ‘candidate-led’ interview, you, as the candidate, should still be leading and suggesting the next steps. 

Yes, market sizing questions still pop up (my final interview was a market sizing question). 

You can check a few of my cases that are based on recent McKinsey interviews:

Best,
Cristian

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Anonymous A on Apr 30, 2024

Thanks, Cristian. Would you say for the time being, it is more likely that market sizing will come only in the second round vs. first round? Also, since I will be a candidate for experienced hire, should I expect cases that focus more on the industry specialization of the position vs. more generic types of cases?

Cristian on Apr 30, 2024

Hard to tell when it will show. It depends on the interviewer. And on whether you should expect industry specific cases, you should ask the recruiter that. In most cases, even if you're applying as an experienced hire, the cases will still be from across industries

Francesco
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 01, 2024
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ interviewoffers.com) | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi there,

1) Is there any differences in terms of way of preparation for the McKinsey style of interviewer-led interview? Is there more emphasis on structuring especially in a MECE way?

Based on my experience, there are 4 main differences you will find between McKinsey and BCG/Bain interviews (keeping them as a reference for the candidate-led approach).

The main implication in terms of difference in preparation is related to the fit part for the PEI. Given that there is usually one out of four dimensions asked in each interview, you can prepare quite more accurately for the behavioural part, as, in practice, you already know the questions that they will ask.

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1. Fit

  • McKinsey includes the PEI (Personal Experience Interview) as part of the fit section. They will usually ask for one story out of four possible dimensions (Inclusive Leadership, Personal Impact, Entrepreneurial Drive, Courageous Change – more on that here) in each interview.
  • BCG and Bain may or may not ask for similar stories on those dimensions. Consequently, there is more variety in the questions they may ask.
  • At McKinsey, they usually go deeper with follow-up questions. At BCG and Bain, they won’t usually ask as many follow-up questions.
  • In a few countries, Bain is occasionally doing rounds with case-only, without fit.

 Recommendation: Prepare for the 4 PEI dimensions when interviewing with McKinsey.

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2. Interview style (interviewer vs candidate led)

  • McKinsey usually follows an interviewer-led approach. This means that after presenting the answer to a question, the interviewer will ask you the following question planned, irrespectively of where you want to move the analysis.
  • BCG and Bain usually follow a candidate-led approach. This means you have to propose a plan of action and the interviewer will leave it to you to follow that approach, only occasionally directing you (meaning you have to lead the case).
  • The interviewer-led approach is easier to follow for most candidates, meaning that, if you know how to manage a candidate-led case, you should not have issues with it. You can follow the same approach you would use for candidate-led cases, and then leave it to the interviewer to drive the case when he/she wants.
  • The opposite is not true - if you only know how to navigate interviewer-led cases you may have issues driving a case in a candidate-led case. So if you are interviewing with BCG and Bain you have to learn how to lead the case.

 Recommendation: Prepare using a candidate-led approach, as it works for all formats.

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3. Initial Structure

  • Given the format is interviewer-led and you might not have an option to go deeper into your structure later on, at McKinsey your structure should expand all the possible drivers to answer the question, usually with several levels.
  • I would recommend structuring with multiple levels and expanding the drivers also in candidate-led cases, as there is no downside to it. Thus, as long as you are answering the question asked in a MECE way, you can use the same deeper approach as well.

 Recommendation: Prepare using a MECE structure expanding all the drivers.

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4. Conclusion

  • McKinsey cases often don’t have conclusions. 
  • At BCG and Bain, you usually have to structure a conclusion at the end.

 Recommendation: For BCG and Bain, prepare expecting to provide a recommendation at the end.

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BONUS: Case content

  • The interviews at McKinsey tend to be more standardized. They almost always include a structuring question, a math/graph question and a creativity/brainstorming question. 
  • BCG and Bain have a flow that could be quite different. For example, at Bain in some countries they will just ask a market sizing question as the whole interview question. And that’s it. Just a single estimation.

 Recommendation: Prepare expecting the case content indicated above for McKinsey.

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2) Is there more emphasis on analysis rather than estimation or market sizing, since there were no market sizing questions on the examples released by McKinsey?

Market sizing questions are rare at McKinsey, however they are occasionally asked in some countries, in particular in final rounds. 

In terms of the difficulty of the questions you found on the website, I would recommend indicating the exact source/case for a more accurate answer. 

Good luck!

Francesco

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Florian
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Content Creator
replied on May 01, 2024
1300 5-star reviews across platforms | 500+ offers | Highest-rated case book on Amazon | Uni lecturer in US, Asia, EU

Hi there,

Congrats on the interview! :-)

The core difference is the following:

McKinsey has moved away from typical business cases and traditional frameworks as described in most case books and the focus is rather on creative cases and questions. While other firms have done the same, McKinsey has gone a bit more extreme.

In turn, it is all about the process of how you arrive at an answer than about specific content. 

At the core, McKinsey wants to see creative ideas communicated in a structured manner, the more exhaustive the better.

Your goal should be to come up with a tailored and creative answer that fits the question. The framework should - broadly speaking - follow these three characteristics:

  • Broad
  • Deep
  • Insightful

You would need to go into detail and qualify your answer with practical examples and more details.

To come up with the framework you have 1-2 minutes (2 minutes is kind of a soft limit). Then, in a McKinsey interview, you can take up to 6-8 minutes to present your structure, your qualification, and hypotheses. This is due to the interviewer-led format that McK employs. The interviewer will only ask 'what else' if you

  • haven't gone broad or deep enough
  • did not explain your ideas well enough for them to stand out (again, you have time here)

The firm wants to see exhaustive and creative approaches to specific problems, which more often than not do not fit into the classic case interview frameworks that were en vogue 10 years ago...

Again, this only applies if everything you say

  • adds value to the problem analysis
  • is MECE
  • is well qualified
  • includes a detailed discussion of your hypotheses at the end

Summing up the core differences of McKinsey cases vs. other firms, focusing of on the structure:

  • You have more time to think about it
  • You have more time to lead the interviewer through your structure
  • You need to go wide and deep to create an exhaustive and creative structure, whereas in BCG/Bain you rather need to be focused and quickly zero in on the key points where the problem of the case is most likely buried
  • Questions tend to be more creative and not suitable for classic frameworks, especially on the lower levels of the framework
  • Instead of drilling through your framework, in the end, to look for answers to solve the case, in a McKinsey-style, you need to discuss what part of your framework you would want to prioritize

The difference in format and way of answering a question is the reason why I recommend preparing differently for McK interviews vs. other consultancies. 

Because of that you should focus your prep on the HOW much more than on the WHAT.

As regards charts and math, there are no big differences. 

Again for brainstorming, McKinsey expected broader, deeper, and more structured answers vs. other firms.

Lastly, don't forget the PEI!

If you want to learn more about the McKinsey interview, I wrote two articles on PL with a bit more depth.

All the best,

Florian

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Hagen
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 21, 2024
#1 Bain coach | >95% success rate | interviewer for 8+ years | mentor and coach for 7+ years

Hi there,

First of all, congratulations on the invitation from McKinsey!

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

  • First of all, there should be absolutely no difference in terms of case preparation, regardless of which firm you apply to. The only slight difference between McKinsey and all other consulting firms is that once you have made a proposal for the next step in your analysis, you wait for the interviewer to take the lead.
  • Moreover, the cases presented by McKinsey on their website are often somewhat less complex than those in actual interviews. I would highly advise you to prepare for more nuanced scenarios that test a wider range of your analytical abilities.

You can find more on this topic here: How to succeed in the final interview round.

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

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Dennis
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Apr 30, 2024
Ex-Roland Berger|Project Manager and Recruiter|7+ years of consulting experience in USA and Europe

Hi there,

the main difference is that here you can expect an interviewer-led case whereas with other firms, you may or may not get an interviewer-led case. 

But in your preparation, you should focus on getting good at candidate-led cases anyway because then it won't be a problem for you if the interviewer is more active in guiding through the different case components.

Sure, take a look at some examples for interviewer-led cases so you get a general feel for them but practice your casing like you would for any other company. 

The absence of market sizing in the examples you have seen should not be interpreted as an indicator for the likelihood of you not getting a market sizing case in your interview. You should be prepared to face any type of case. Also, market sizing can also just be a component of a case but does not have to make up the entirety of the case. 

Often times, “difficulty” is rather subjective. You will probably perceive your interview case as more difficult for you because you are in a stressful test situation. In contrast, the cases on the company website you probably just read without time pressure. So it's not really a comparison that will give you much useful guidance. Even if someone told you that the example cases on the website were actually “more difficult”. What would you do with that piece of information? Would you practice less? Probably not.

Best of luck

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

No, you prepare the exact same way. The only difference is that the interviewer is more evident when changing a case direction or asking for specific questions (which also happens in other consulting firms, even if they call it “candidate led”).

You have to know how to do estimates and market sizing. Actually, it is a skill that everyone should be very good at, because most likely you'll have to answer one (and estimations are a superb way to prepare most relevant consulting skills: structuring, communication, math, problem solving).

Honestly, it feels like you are trying to see if you can cut corners, but honestly, you can't, and you shouldn't.

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Sidi gave the best answer

Sidi

McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers
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