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When to apply during preparation process?

application process Bain BCG case practice Interview Scheduling MBB MBB MBB Cases Mck
New answer on Sep 15, 2020
4 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Oct 24, 2018

Hello, I was wondering if anyone had advice about when to apply during the preparation process.

Background: currently working and finishing my MA Thesis on very tight deadline. I practice maths when I can/listen to LOMS on commute. With a humanities background and work experience only in teaching languages, I have a lot of studying/practicing to do for cases. I can start preparing full-time end of November when my job ends and Thesis is complete.

I know it depends on each person’s preparedness/speed of application office/etc. but I’m wondering at what point in preparing for cases I should apply? I have referrals from current consultants who told me to let them know when I’m ready to apply and they’ll refer me. I know it’s an odd time to apply with the holidays in December and if I am offered an interview I don’t want to be unprepared if I haven’t had enough time with cases. However, I also don’t want to have spent a full month or two preparing only to find out I don’t have any interview offers either.

I know this is ultimately a personal decision, but I really value different opinions/suggestions so I’d appreciate any thoughts. I’m from Germany and will be applying to MBB and 2nd tier firms here (I have referrals for MBB not 2nd tier yet).

Thank you!

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updated an answer on Oct 24, 2018
#1 Coach for Sessions (4.500+) | 1.500+ 5-Star Reviews | Proven Success (➡ | Ex BCG | 10Y+ Coaching

Hi Anonymous,

I agree with Guennael, it makes sense to prepare in advance, as there is a relevant amount of preparation to do before interviews (100-150 hours) and it is quite unfeasible to find so much time between the invitation and the interview (although it is often possible to reschedule the interview).

But there is also another reason why starting the preparation in advance can be useful - in this way you are committing to secure an interview. Let me explain.

If you plan to start preparing after you have an invitation, you are telling yourself you are not really sure you are going to receive it in the first place. This will also unintentionally decrease your attachment to the outcome, as you won't be fully invested in obtaining your goal.

If you start to invest time and money on your preparation in advanced, instead, you are creating a sunk cost you won't recoup if you don't succeed. This will make you more likely to succeed, simply because you don't want to lose what you already invested in (in psychology this is called the sunk-cost bias). From a practical point of view, this may push you to invest more time in your CV and Cover preparation, 2nd tier referrals, better MBB referral, or anything else that can maximize the fact you are called for an interview.

The extreme case is when the only option for you is to succeed - think about Cortes destroying his ships. Overall this won't guarantee success but will maximize your chances to indeed be successful.

To directly answer your question, as for personal experience based on the people I helped in securing offers, the best results are achieved by those who start the preparation at least 2-3 months before the interview. In their case, the application took place in the mid of preparation, thus with a minimum of 1-1.5 month invested in practice.

Hope this helps,



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replied on Oct 24, 2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Great question, which we get asked often.

I would (and did) absolutely start preparing long before the actual application. Do a few cases (at least one or two with current/former consultants), to know 'what good looks like' and how far away you are. Doing mental math and listening to LOMS is a great use of your time as well.

Once you apply and start getting interviews lined up, you will obviously need to step up your game and go all in.

In general, most of us need over 100 hours of practice, spread out over 2 or 3 months so our brain has time to absorb the learnings and make it 2nd nature. Just cramming over the couple of weeks before a phone call and the interview generally doesn't cut it. Looks like you are preparing well ahead of time, good job - keep it up!

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Anonymous replied on Sep 15, 2020

Hi A,

The best option would be to start preparing in advance because time's gonna be tight. You need over a hundred hours of preparation in general.

So in order to get it through without any rush, you better start now and spend about 3 months preparing, to apply in the middle of the preparation process, as my colleagues have mentioned.

Best, André

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Anonymous B on Sep 15, 2020

Why answer a question from 2 years ago?

replied on Oct 25, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


It's more about quality rather than quantity:

  1. Don't count the cases you've done yourself
  2. Don't count the cases you've done from the casebooks
  3. Count the cases you've done with experienced candidates (50+ cases solved / passed the first round) who can give you a real case and a good feedback.

In that case, you need 40-50 cases depending on the role, office, etc (e.g. MBAs in top schools need just a bit of practice compared to regular candidates. Both because of their knowledge and because the on-campus hiring is not that tough)

If you take a good coach, you can make it in 20-35 cases. The coach will give you the right knowledge. Partners will help you integrate the skill. At the end of the day, it's just a skill that can be trained.

Why do you even need partners and coaches? When you are stressed during the case interview and out of energy having the 3rd case in a row, 90% of your questions and reactions should be fully automatic. Otherwise, it's extremely hard to solve the case, trying in find out what you've memorized from v.Cheng book.


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Francesco gave the best answer


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