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Which philosophies stand behind Interviewer-led and Interviewee-led case interviews?

Anonymous A asked on Dec 11, 2018 - 2 answers

I try to understand the underlying reasons firms see to adopt either the interviewer-led oder interviewee-led style? Does it mean that they look for different types of skills in candidates? Why do they believe that one or the other style is superior to the other? Any thoughts on this?

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updated his answer on Dec 11, 2018
McKinsey Engagement Manager & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 100+ candidates secure MBB offers
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Hi Anonymous,

from my experience in doing recruiting for both McKinsey and BCG, and having interviewed many applicants in both styles, I believe I can give a comment here. :)

The difference is essentially rooted in two different philosophies.

Candidate-led case style (BCG et. al): Here, the candidate's conceptual thinking ability, his ability to hypothesize and prioritize, as well as his leadership capacity to drive problem solving forward are under scrutiny. The interviewer will try to get a holistic picture of the candidate! And over the course of 4-6 interviews, consistency of the candidate's process rigour is verified. Most firms have adopted this style.

Interviewer-led case style (McKinsey): McKinsey believes that a defined and limited set of qualities and abilities determine a consultant's success within the Firm. Hence, interviewers double down on these abilities in order to test them in a very focused way. This leads to the interviewer-led case style, which sometimes feels like multiple mini-cases under a common thematic umbrella. You can also see this philosphy in how McKinsey runs the fit part, which is much more focused compared to other firms: the Personal Experience Interview (PEI) at McK scrutinizes 3 defined dimensions in extreme detail (vs. more open discussion formats at other firms like BCG).

That being said, the difference between the interviewing styles of both firms is not that clear! Also at McKinsey, you might encounter candidate-led cases - especially in later rounds with more senior interviewers who often do not adhere to a "script" but prefer to open the conversation after the basic problem solving boxes have been "ticked" in previous rounds.

Cheers, Sidi


Vlad replied on Dec 12, 2018
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McKinsey has both interviewer-led and candidate-led cases so you should be prepared for both. Since candidate-led cases are a bit harder - it makes sense to prepare most of the time in a candidate-led way.

Any other discussion here is not productive.


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Interviewer-Led vs Candidate-Led cases

Case Interviews can be led by the candidate or by the interviewer: In Candidate-led cases the main challenge is the structure. In Interviewer-led cases the main challenge is to adapt quickly

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