Why do the styles of interviewing differ between McKinsey and BCG?

BCG Case styles Interview MBB McKinsey
Recent activity on Apr 17, 2019
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Anonymous A asked on Apr 16, 2019

Hi all!

I know that the firms are not puristic in terms of interviewer-led or candidate-led case studies, and that elements of both styles can be found both within McKinsey and BCG interviews. However, the difference between the two is still significant. I just wonder - why is this the case? Aren't these two firms searching for the same qualities? And if so - why do they focus on different capabilties (leading the analysis vs. sharply responding to questions)?

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replied on Apr 16, 2019
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi Anonymous!

During my time at McKinsey and at BCG I have interviewed many applicants in both styles, hence I believe I can give a comment here. ;)

You are right - there is no such thing as a "pure McKinsey style" or "pure BCG style"), since in both firms the cases will vary on a continuum between the extremes. However, in the aggregate there is a systematic difference, which 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 get 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).

Cheers, Sidi

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replied on Apr 17, 2019
MBB | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi Anonymous,

*Please note that this response is a generalization and differs across practices, geographies, and individuals. I also am not speaking on behalf of either organization and am presenting a viewpoint from materials I have read and my experiences.

Looking to get specific on your answer, it's because of the company cultures/values and ways of working. Cases represent what you'll do on the job, and so, the styles are adjusted to how you'll operate in each company.

Ways of Working:

BCG: Belief in taking the client through the journey. They believe in solutioning with the client to come to a conclusion/solution/implementation together. This means "bespoke" solutions that are tailored specifically to the client. They believe that, while this generally takes longer and has more roadblocks, it leads to real buy-in and committment to to end-product, which allows for a stronger result and one that lasts after BCG leaves. The negative view is that their answer is "what the client wants".

McKinsey: Belief in applying tried and true methods that they know work. They believe that solutions are better arrived at without undue influence from the bias that may come from close interaction with clients. They believe that better solutions can be achieved faster through this. The negative view is that their approach is "dust off another report"

The Result for Cases:

BCG: Creative, "out of the box" thinking desired. Candidate-led style as you'll need to drive the client and adjust to their responses AND "flatter" company structure means you need to drive your own module.

McKinsey: You better know your frameworks. Apply grounded principles to a case and be far more structured. Interview-led as more senior people as company will tell you what they want done.

I could go on, but I think you get the point :)

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replied on Apr 16, 2019
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Same reason that companies have different cultures, or that people behave differently in the same situations: we all want the same, but personal & cultural differences will lead to different paths being taken.

Ultimately ,someone doing great at interviewer-led will do great at interviewee-led - and vice-versa. And people who do terrible at one will also do terrible at the other. The differnce is more noticeable for people who are just ok.

I'm typically a huge proponent of the "why" do something vs. another. Here is an exception in my mind: Control what you can control. Just focus on doing interviewee-led perfectly, it will have significant carry over to interviewer-led and you'll be set for most every type of interview

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Sidi gave the best answer


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