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Project Manager from Big4 to MBB

BCG First Round project managent
New answer on Oct 30, 2023
5 Answers
3.8 k Views
John asked on Feb 04, 2019

Hi all,

I will keep this short for your convenience.

I've applied to a consulting project manager position for a specific industry at BCG. I have been invited and am currently preparing for a first round interview with a managing partner. My background is 5 years of Big4 experience with a healthy mix of Strategy/Operations consulting in Central/Western Europe.

I would kindly ask for your insights on the following questions:

1. What can I expect from the first round partner interview, and provided I make it, the subsequent rounds?

2. What are the main differences in expectations between a Manager at BIg4 and a Manager at MBB, specifically BCG? (culture, work ethic, knowledge, etc.)

3. Is it generally acceptable to try and contact a peer working at the company in advance to try and get some insights before the interview?

Many thanks for your responses in advance!




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Content Creator
replied on Oct 25, 2023
Ex-BCG Principal | 8+ years consulting experience in SEA | BCG top interviewer & top performer


Sharing my perspective on these questions:

1. What can I expect from the first round partner interview, and provided I make it, the subsequent rounds?

  • Interview formats are still the same as any other consulting role
  • You should expect a mixture of behavioural + case
  • They may also carve out some short time to discuss your industry expertise

2. What are the main differences in expectations between a Manager at BIg4 and a Manager at MBB, specifically BCG? (culture, work ethic, knowledge, etc.)

  • This is hard to describe in detail on a post like this, here are my thoughts based on having transition from T2 to MBB
  • Bulk of the work that is done is in theory similar → e.g. problem solve, drive a process, communication etc
  • The difference between MBB and T2 is in terms of the intensity of the pace and expectations of the quality of output

3. Is it generally acceptable to try and contact a peer working at the company in advance to try and get some insights before the interview?

  • This is acceptable
  • If you are already part of the formal process, you could even ask HR to introduce you to a peer to get more insights/practice

Hope this helps to clarify!

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Content Creator
replied on Oct 30, 2023
#1 rated MBB & McKinsey Coach

Lots of great answer below already.

Adding one more perspective on final round interviews:

  1. Work on the feedback provided in the previous rounds. Most firms communicate the feedback from the previous rounds to the final interviewer. It's important then to show the final interviewer that you have a growth mindset and are reactive to feedback. This matters immensely. Make sure you are clear on your development areas and that you get the right support to polish them before the final interview.
  2. Expect less structure. Senior interviewers already have the confidence that you are a decent candidate, your skills having been already vetted by their younger colleagues. They are rather more interested in your as a person and your way of thinking. So they might present you with an unusual case, or one that is created on the spot or no case altogether. Expect anything.
  3. Focus on excellent communication. Senior interviewers care a lot about how clearly you communicate and how you manage to forge a connection with the interviewer. It's important to be top-down and concise as much as possible with your answers, while allowing the conversation to flow in a natural way.
  4. Put yourself in their shoes. The one question senior interviewers are asking themselves throughout the interview is what will happen when they'll put you in front of a client they've groomed for years? Make sure that even based on this first impression you seem somebody who can be trusted and who can work with any client regardless of how difficult they might be.



Practicing for interviews? Check out my latest case based on a first-round MBB interview >>> SoyTechnologies  

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replied on Feb 04, 2019
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


If you really have enough experience to get directly on a PL level at BCG, I can give you some guidance regarding the interview since some of my friends have done that.

You will have a pretty much standard case interview process (and you can search here what are the standard MBB interviews about). However 3 major differences

  1. During the cases, they would ask additional managerial questions. E.g. what will be the workstreams on the project, team composition, key deliverables, etc
  2. The fit part is even more important. In all of your stories you should demonstrate the MBB-level skillset
  3. Since by that time you should have a significant industry / functional experience - get ready for the questions in the areas of your expertise.


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John on Feb 05, 2019

Thank you Vlad, all very relevant comments!

replied on Feb 04, 2019
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi John!

I agree with Guennael here! In order to be hired as PRoject LEader at BCG, you would normally need to have a much more senior role at Big 4.

Just as an example: one good friend of mine left BCG at a Senior Consultant (Pre-Project Leader!) to joind a Big 4 Advisory as "Senior Manager" (Post-Manager at Big 4!). So a transition from "Big4-Manager" to "MBB-Project Leader" would be pretty unheard of I have to say.

Cheers, Sidi

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John on Feb 04, 2019

Thanks Sidi, I understand. While I have applied for a PL role with BCG, their thinking may be to hire me lower, based on my profile. However that is not to say that I don't have significant project management experience, which align quite well with the expectations Guennael has written below. As for your reverse example, I do find that interesting since at a Big4 you'd usually expect a Senior Manager to have at least around 8 years of experience. Assuming the Senior Consultant at BCG had 3-5, that's still a huge jump from what I know, and not a jump to an "equivalent" position. Question: What are concrete expectations of a Project Leader at BCG, which so substantially exceed those of a strong Project Manager with a Big4 that they warrant a much more senior role? Thanks, John

Sidi on Feb 05, 2019

Hi John! I can not comment on that questions, since I never worked at a Big 4. I just gave a spot evidence, which in itself might of course be uncommon. Just one general remark: classical "Project Management Skills" are just a very very small part of what you need to master at the MBB PL level. It has been showing again and again over the decades that it is practically impossible to bring someone from the outside and expect him to perform at the required level as a PL/EM at MBB without having been groomed and accustomed to the pace and intensity for some time.

replied on Feb 04, 2019
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

John, I am not familiar with "project manager" jobs at MBB" or "1st round interview with a Partner". The lower level of manager is a "Project Leader" at BCG, but your profile doesn't suggest to me that you'd be qualified for this quite yet => is there a significant part of your background that you are leaving out? I mean, kuddos to you if this is truly what you are in the running for, but it defies pretty much anything I've seen so far.

Generally speaking, all interviews have a mix of a case interview (for which you will have to prepare, they are much harder than what you've faced to enter Big4) and fit. Partner-led interviews might be a bit less structured (they own the company and basically do what they want), but even they typically still give a case. If you are truly interviewing for a PL position and meet a Partner in your first round though, all bets are off in terms of what to expect. I'd still highly suggest you do a solid case interview prep and work with a coach in particular. It's taken most of us well over 100 hours of dedicated prep to really understand how to crack a case, please don't dismiss this part.

In terms of the expectations, I'll again have to assume you'd be a PL at BCG. If so, the expectations would be higher at MBB: you will need to drive the project (small projects don't even have a Principal above you, so you become the face of BCG on a day-to-day basis); you will have to craft the story with the help of a partner, and mentor your consultants and associates + ensure they are all working towards a consistent message. Compared to a Big4, you are much more likely to have to create a new solution vs. reusing a cookie-cutter one, but will also benefit from solid mentoring inside the company as needed. Just don't hesitate to ask for help, especially at first.

Regarding your 3rd question lastly- yes, definitely yes: reach out to anyone you know there to get insights

Good luck.

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John on Feb 04, 2019

Hi Guennael, thank you very much for your extensive reply. To address some of your points: The position I am applying to is Principal/Project Leader - obviously with me, it would be the latter. I haven't really disclosed my profile other than 5 years of experience. I guess what makes me stand out a bit is that I've risen through the ranks at Big4 relatively fast, I have a diverse project background, consistent positive feedback and good academic background (Although no fancy schools) - I am however applying in mainland Europe, which may be different to the US/UK hiring practices. I am meeting a managing partner in the first round (surprise to me as well), with his/her secretary telling me it's going to be a "fit interview", and not a "standard interview". I understand from what you're saying that I should be fully prepared for a case study already at this stage. I fully appreciate the amount of prep work that needs to be done I'll definitely get on that asap. In terms of expectations, I have anticipated a reply like that, thank you. Expectations seem to be the same to what I'm doing now, which is good. And finally, regarding the last point: Is it also ok to do so with people you might not really know? i.e. very polite and no pressure cold messages via linked in? Or is that generally frowned upon? Thanks, John

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