What are typical reasons why you reject interviewees?

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Recent activity on May 20, 2018
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Anonymous B asked on May 18, 2018


what are the most common reasons why you reject interviewees for strategy consulting positions concerning case interview performance? e.g. structure is not exhaustive enough or math error.

Thanks in advance,

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updated an answer on May 18, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


I would list a number of things:

Case interview:

  • Not listening to the interviewer (Forgetting the information provided, not listening to the interviewer's tips, answering the wrong question)
  • Poor structure (not enough levels, not seeing the big picture, a structure not answering the question / answering a wrong question)
  • Using "book structures" (3c, 4p, etc) or structures not tailored enough for the case
  • The candidate is not structured enough (you are structuring in the beginning, but fail to structure during the case)
  • Math mistakes (one may be ok, more than 1 - no go)
  • Not communicating the math properly (you don't communicate the way you do calculations and stay silent)
  • Lack of creativity (candidate cannot brainstorm creatively on solving the problem)
  • Lack of top-down communication (candidate does not apply the pyramid principle in his communication)
  • lack of business judgment (candidates ideas are too general / do not reflect the specifics of the industry / function)

Fit interview:

  • Can the candidate talk to the client right now?
  • The candidate does not look mature (outfit, behavior, language)
  • The candidate is too nervous (Being a bit is ok, shaking is probably too much)
  • Candidate can not provide the examples of certain traits (e.g. leadership).
  • Candidate fails to answer additional questions about his stories (i.e. the story was made up)
  • The candidate is not friendly / enthusiastic / shows no emotions
  • The candidate stories do not differentiate from the others (e.g. Leading a team in a case competition as a lead story)



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replied on May 18, 2018
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous,

over the last couple of years, the level of preparation among candidates has increased significantly. However, even amongst candidates who obviously had prepared quite intensely, there were frequently recurring issues that I encountered as an interviewer.

The top three issues I found with candidates over the last couple of years at McKinsey:

1. Lack of clear and structured approach to address the specific question at hand (most candidates use pre-memorized "Business Situation Frameworks" without rooting it in a central question to answer and employing an explorative instead of hypothesis-driven approach)

2. Insufficient depth of thinking, especially in terms of linking back gained insights to information received earlier in the case and deriving implications

3. Issues with communication / failure to take me along in their though process

Cheers, Sidi

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Anonymous replied on May 20, 2018

In reverse order of importance (to me) -- i.e. if you meet item #N+1 onwards but not #N, you are rejected "outright", but if you meet N and not N+1 onwards, then "it depends":

1. Analytical weaknesses (can't interpret graphs, data, do simple math)

2. No executive presence (lack of confidence, mumbles, poor personality, unpolished)

3. Ability to handle stress, pressure

4. Team work - collaborative

5. Arrogance, bad hiegene, etc

6. Lack of business knowledge / insights into the market

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replied on May 18, 2018
Former BCG Principal and decision round interviewer

On the reasons above I would add math mistakes. Had too many candidates making avoidable math mistakes multiple times during the case that made me question their attention to detail and therefore penalized an otherwise excellent performance. It’s more important to do math correctly rather than fast (within reason).

Hope it helps.


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Guennael on May 19, 2018

Yes! You can recover from one math mistake, not two! Same goes for non-consulting interviews btw

replied on Aug 20, 2018
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Hi Kay,

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We're happy to see that you are tapping the full potential of our Consulting Q&A!

If you haven't already, you may also want to check out the following threads on common mistakes candidates make in case studies:

What are common mistakes you make in case studies?

What are typical reasons why you reject interviewees?

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Vlad gave the best answer


McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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